Friday, April 29, 2011

Alternate Gameplay: Rival Gangs Advanced

In a previous post, I introduced a new way of playing BANG! by having 2 gangs, with hidden leaders, fight against each other. Killing the enemy leader spelled victory for the opposing team. There are a lot of things I like about that variant, such as teams being able to collaborate on a much better basis their attacks and abilities.

However, one thing I thought was somewhat lacking from this variant was trying to deduce who you needed to kill. There was the element of the hidden leader, and the hidden characters, but there wasn't really a great means of determining who the leader was. Perhaps you could try to make educated guesses by the way one character played or how some characters played to protect another, but I felt there should be a clearer way to come to understand who the Leader is. Agreed that even the original BANG! rarely has you guessing that long, but I want something more. And so I am working on Rival Gangs Advanced. The original I have named "Basic," as I think it is fun on its own merits, and it also incorporates many elements that are expanded in this Advanced version. In the rules explanations that follow, I will include the rules explained in the Basic version. I will also explore the elements that I wish to add to the game, and will hopefully benefit from your suggestions.

Rival Gangs Advanced Rules:

This is a 4, 6, or 8 player variant (recommended for 6). I am working on a 5 and 7 player version, which includes a law man trying to restore order to the town. I will keep you posted on this in the future. The basic premise is that there are two gangs fighting each other over the control of a town.

Goal: The object of the game is for each gang to eliminate the other gang's leader.

Roles: Each gang has a leader, symbolized by the Renegade card, and has 1 or more followers. The leader has 1 more max life point than other roles like the Sheriff in the original BANG! There are 2 kinds of followers, with their own kinds of benefits. The first kind of follower is the Lackie, symbolized by the Outlaw card. The Lackie has 1 free last second beer when he is at his last life point. The second is the Thug. While there is a 3 card bonus for eliminating another team's Thug (none for eliminating your own), if a Thug dies, he gets to disseminate all of his cards remaining when he dies to his team mate(s) (this includes the cards in his hand and the cards in play in front of him). If Vulture Sam is in play, Vulture Sam gains all of the Thug's cards. Afterwards, the Thug draws the same number of cards from the draw pile as the number of cards Vulture Sam gained. He then disseminates these new cards to his team mate(s) before he dies. Thus, each role has a benefit: Leader (+1 max health), Lackie (1 free last chance Beer), and Thug (card dissemination upon death).

All roles in Rival Gangs Advanced are hidden. However, gang members are aware of one another's roles. They look at them at the beginning of the game after they are dealt out to each other and the gangs are separated. Thus, each gang is unaware of the roles of the members of the rival gang. Roles are only revealed when a player dies.

Roles are as follows for 4/6/8 player games:

4-player: Each gang has 1 Leader and 1 Lackie.
6-player: Each gang has 1 Leader, 1 Thug, and 1 Lackie.
8-player: Each gang has 1 Leader, 1 Thug, and 2 Lackies.

Characters: All the usual BANG! characters (and Robbers' Roost ones if you use it!) can be incorporated into the Rival Gangs variant. All players are dealt 1 (this can be modified with house rules of course, but this is the default), but these characters remain hidden (they are kept for down). At the beginning when gang members show each other their roles, they can also show each other their character cards. Thus again, each gang is simply unaware of the characters of the members of the rival gang. These characters remain hidden until their character ability is used. In fact, even their amount of life point remains hidden if you are using the back of another character card as life point indicator. Until the character is revealed, place all characters on the indicator at 4 life points. Adjust accordingly when either the character is revealed or the hidden 3 life point character reaches 1 life point instead (he dies). There is an exception to this rule for the Gang Leader: His extra life point remains hidden when his character is revealed. Appearing as the typical 3/4 life point character when his character is revealed, he only shows an extra life point when he loses his apparent last life point. Yet, he should not say he is doing this because of being the Gang Leader. Rather, he should claim his role allows him to do this. With this extra life point appearing, the rival team actually does not know whether he is the Gang Leader or a Lackie. Since the Lackie has the free last second beer, he also will show an extra life point. He too should claim his role allows him to do this. Thus, the Gang Leaders' extra life point will not reveal to the opposing gang that he is the Gang Leader (unless he gets back up to full health from 1), although it will reveal that he is not a Thug (in 6 or 8 player games).

Investigation Cards: Besides this incorporation of new roles into Rival Gangs Advanced, the second biggest change is the incorporation of Investigation Cards. These cards help gangs discern the roles of the opposing team. The cards are not straight forward revelations of roles, however. They will provide clues, which can cumulatively help a gang discern the appropriate roles in another gang.

Investigation cards work in the following way:

1. Once a round, each gang may discuss and select a member from the opposing gang to draw an Investigation Card before his drawing phase (this action is not required). No player has to draw 2 investigation cards in a row. Thus, Jail, Dynamite and some special abilities must be resolved before an Investigation Card is drawn. If the player is in Jail or dies before drawing the Investigation Card, they may select another member from the opposing gang to draw an Investigation Card on his next drawing phase. If this slips into the second round, then they select 2 players to draw investigation cards from the opposing team.

2. At the chosen player's drawing phase, he draws an Investigation card. He may show it to his team mates. They can also discuss the card, if they wish, but they probably do not want to do so because it will likely reveal their roles. An investigation card requires that its possessor, upon certain conditions, perform a certain action by the end of his turn. The form of each investigation card in 6 or 8 player is this:

If you are role A or role B, and condition X is true during your turn, then you must do action Y.

In 4 player, the investigation cards are simplified:

If you are role A, and conditions X and Y are true during your turn, they you must do action Z.

So, particular examples of investigation card are:

  1. If you are the Gang Leader or a Lackie, and you have a green card in play during your turn, then you must use it if you can.

  2. If you are the Gang Leader or the Thug, and you can attack twice during your turn, then you must do so.

  3. If you are the Gang Leader or a Lackie, and you have 2 or less life points during your turn, then you must gain 1 life point.

Thus, each investigation card creates a double conditional. The possessor first checks to see if his role applies to the investigation card. Thus, in the first example, if the possessor were the Thug, then the first condition would not be true. He would not, out of necessity, have to perform the action. He could opt to do so anyway (play a green card during his turn). If the possessor were the Gang Leader or Lackie, then the first condition would be true. He might have to perform the action if the second is true as well.

The truth value of the antecedent in this second conditional is determined by discerning whether the described state of affairs is the case during the turn at any time. Thus, in the third example, let us suppose that a Lackie drew this card. He fulfills the first condition (being Lackie), but at the beginning of his turn he does not fulfill the second (he has 3 life points). However, during his turn, he plays and loses a Duel. Now that he has 2 life points, the second condition is true, and now he must gain 1 life point by the end of his turn. This necessary action can be fulfilled 3 ways:
  1. By himself: he can accomplish this through playing a Beer, Canteen, Saloon, Tequila or Whiskey. Since he is a Lackie, and has the 1 free last chance Beer, he might somehow fulfill this condition himself by also losing his last life point.

  2. By another player: (if you are using Robbers' Roost) who plays Bandage on him, or by Johnny Pope using his ability on him.

  3. Automatically: If the action is not completed by the end of his turn through his own or other's efforts, the action will automatically occur. When an automatic action occurs, the player must state, "The investigation card made me do this."

Why would a player not always opt for (3) automatic occurrence? This is due to what occurs at the end of the player's discard phase.

3. At the end of his turn, the possessor of the investigation card must hand the card over to the rival gang. If he is one of 2 applicable roles, and did not fulfill the additional condition, he may report that he "did not fulfill the card's conditions." If he did fulfill the conditions and the action was fulfilled, he may simply hand over the card without reporting anything. If the possessor of the card had the odd role out and he did not fulfill the action, he must report that he "did not fulfill the card's conditions." If he bluffed through doing the action described on the card anyway, he may simply hand over the card without reporting anything.

Now that the rival gang has the Investigation Card, they may read the card and discuss what happened during the possessor's turn. If the player reported that he could not fulfill the conditions, they may search the cards in play and the cards that were placed in the draw pile during that turn. If they suspect that the player cheated by fulfilling the conditions and not doing the action, they may call for an accounting from the possessor's team mates. If it is found that he was cheating (or forgot to do an action that he could have to do what was required), then he must state whether or not he is one of the 2 roles described on the Inspection Card. If he was truthful, then the Rival Gang will not have gained any information about his role.

If, however, the action was done that was described on the card, the rival gang can try to infer that player's role. If the action was done automatically, then they will know immediately that the possessor is one of the two roles described on the card. If the action was done by the possessor, then they do not know this necessarily. This is because the odd role out (the Thug in the third example), could have opted to do this action on his own. That way he could have bluffed that he was 1 of the 2 roles described in the Investigation Card. He could not, however, have the action occur automatically for him. That is only possible when the 2 conditions are met. So a possessor of an Investigation Card will often want to not have (3) automatic occurrence happen if he can help it.

Gangs can keep the Investigation Cards they gain from the other team, and also write down notes on a slip of paper their thoughts about other players' roles.

I think the idea of the Investigation Cards, much like the Hermit Deck in Shadow Hunters, could add an intriguing element to Rival Gangs Advanced. The conditions may be too difficult at the moment, but I am also worried about them being too easy. I would love some suggestions.

Preparation: Use the Dodge City buffalo symbol role cards for one gang, and the original game role cards for the other. If you do not have Dodge City (or the Bullet which includes it), you can simple write the roles on slips of paper. I would draw star symbols on one group of roles to distinguish 1 gang from another.

Shuffle the role and character cards and deal them out to the players. Each gang may get together and consult with one another before the game. To insure there is no cheating, gang members show each other their role cards, so they know they are in the same gang and who their leader is. Of course, each gang does not know who the other gang's leader is. The game involves deception in trying to determine the leader of the other gang while hiding the leader of your own.

The player order in the game can be done 1 of 3 ways:
  1. The order of the players is dependent on the original dealing of the roles, so that 1 gang member can be between members of the opposing gang. The difficulty here is that this stray gang member can easily be picked on.

  2. The order of the players is dependent on each gang. Each gang decides the order of their gang (half of the circle); which players are next to who. This allows player's to maximize setting up their hidden characters to be most beneficial for one another (placement of Pedro Ramirez, or Kit Carlson, could be crucial for instance), and maximize their abilities. The difficulty here is that each gang has 3 turns in a row, which can be very devastating to 1 player they choose to pick on from the opposing team.

  3. The order of the players is dependent on each gang. Each gang decides the order of their row; which players are next to who. This allows player's to stick next to each in terms of distance, and somewhat maximize their hidden characters so that they are most beneficial for one another, and maximize their abilities. Gang members sit across from one another. However, turn order is altered to go in a zig zag. After 1 player finishes his turn, the rival gang member that sits across from him starts his turn. Then it jumps to the opposing gang member that sits to the right of the player who played before him. Then, after he finishes his turn, it goes to the rival gang member across from him. This figure should help explain what I am getting at:
    Rival Gangs Player Setup 1

    So turn order does not follow range and distance. Once a player is eliminated in this model, the turn order skips that player and jumps to the next player instead. Let me explain what that means. Let's say that player 6 in the figure above was eliminated. Typically, player 1 would follow player 6 when player 6's turn is over. So after player 5's turn is over, it now jumps to player 1's turn. This figure demonstrates the new path:

    This setup should minimize the ganging up on 1 player problem, while still allowing gang's to somewhat maximize their position and character abilities. Some abilities such as Kit Carlson's and Pedro Ramirez's will be compromised, which is unfortunate. You could have a discard pile for each gang to help Pedro, and Kit could optionally place a card to the side of the draw of the draw deck for the next gang member to pick up instead. It is up to you.

To determine which player goes first, all players "draw!" (or roll dice if you have them). The player with the highest value (with Poker ranking of suits, so that an Ace of Spades is higher than an Ace of Hearts that is higher than an Ace of Diamonds that is higher than an Ace of Clubs) starts the game. If there is a tie, those players "draw!" again. "Drawn!" cards are placed in the discard pile. The rest of the game procedes like normal BANG! (besides the addition of the new roles, rules explained above, and the Investigation Cards) and the game ends when a gang leader is eliminated.

Suggestions/Criticisms? Before I go about making Investigation Cards, I wanted to get feedback from people to see if they thought this idea was intriguing or worth the effort. I also wanted to see if there is any adjustments I should make before making them too. Fortunately, since the Investigation Cards are a separate deck, they can be printed off on slips of paper and have little aesthetic touch to them. Thus, they should be easy for anyone to incorporate.


  1. The idea of investigation cards sounds like it could easily extend beyond this variant. You could have similar cards for the stock game as well, although, I feel that would be a little too much. They're interesting, no doubt, because they are not set in stone (ie a Thug could still perform the action that it says must be done by a Lackie, etc).

    I'm wondering though: what's the reasoning behind giving Lackies the free last-second Beer? Just to throw off the enemy gang? ("My role allows this, but I don't have tell you") It seems a little redundant, if anything. I like the idea of the leader being able to save himself by revealing his role and giving him or his gang one final gasp to recover. If this whole variation is designed to play differently in the roles, then it makes sense, but it seems to shield the roles perhaps make it harder to determine who the leader is.

  2. Hey Hitman, let me respond to some of your comments/questions:

    (1) I agree that the Investigation cards should not be added to the normal game. They are specifically for this variant.

    (2) The free last-second Beer is to throw off the other gang. Since the appearance of this last second beer and the Gang Leader's last life point are equivalent, the other gang will still not know whether they have attacked the gang leader or not. The Gang Leader does not have to reveal his role to get this extra life point. So yes, it is shielding the roles to make it harder to determine who the leader is. Thus, there needs to be more reliance on the Investigation Cards. And yes, the roles will be played differently.

    I thought a possibly interesting change could be that unless you kill the Thug first, he becomes the Gang Leader on the event that the Gang Leader dies. So the game does not immediately end. You have to kill the Thug and then the Gang Leader for it to end. Not sure about this idea, though. Want to get the core done first!

  3. Hey, I may have missed something here but from what I understand, the Leader will have +1 Hp and be blatantly obvious. Unless the lackie has the same exact power? Having one emergency beer instead of an extra health doesn't look the same, and it doesn't for a reason.

  4. Forget that last post, I just read the non-advanced rules and it explains it there.

  5. The problem with the extra life point isn't that it is hidden, the problem that i have not addressed yet is that it should still influence your card limit. I suppose that until that extra life point is revealed that the card limit remains at 3/4. The same goes for the hidden characters at the beginning of the game. 3 life point characters hidden as 4 can draw 4 until they are revealed.