Sunday, September 25, 2011

Design: Playing Card Stats

Following up on the OO/Excel spreadsheets I created for character abilities, I have created spreadsheets for the playing cards in BANG!. This should be useful for modders, who want to think about what card types/values are used (and for balancing), as well as players of BANG!, helping them recognize card type trends and card count. As with the previous spreadsheets, I have tried to be very meticulous in my descriptions of the cards. The statistics include BANG!, Dodge City, Robbers' Roost orange module (RRO), Robbers' Roost purple module (RRP), and Robbers' Roost complete (RR). It does not cover any of the event cards, such as those is A Fistful of Cards, High Noon, and Wild West Show.

The spreadsheet contains the following information on playing cards:
  • Card Names.

  • Expansion included in.

  • Color.

  • Card Type. There are 19 types that I broken the cards into: Basic Attacks, Special Attacks (like Duel, Indians!), Defensive, Life Point Modifiers, Discard, Steal, Draw, Gun, Offensive Sight Modifiers, Defensive Sight Modifiers, Random Damage (Dynamite), Turn Skipper (Jail), Perma-Defensive (Barrel), Duel Modifier (Standoff), Special Defensive, Disabler, Special Steal, Passer, and Swapper.

  • Value Trend. This tales you if cards with a specific name tend to have a certain suit, color, and/or number value. For instance, "Cat Balou" tend to be higher-valued diamonds. With some cards I note percentages where suits are heavily split. So I note BANG! are 38% clubs/45% diamonds, and Missed! are 38% clubs/54% spades. This can be useful for a modder in the following ways: (1) When adding cards to balance the new cards he introduces to BANG!, he can be given a good idea of what values he should assign; (2) When adding new cards that are a similar type to cards in BANG!, he is given a starting point for assigning a value them. For players this can be useful in considering, for instance, what cards Apache Kid is immune to.

  • Values. This column provides in an itemized manner the values of cards with the same name. NOTE: BANG! and Dodge City values are not separated here. If this is desired, I can split them into another column.

  • RR Values. This column provides in an itemized manner the values of cards with the same name in the RR expansion. I recognized that many modders would not want these values included in the BANG!+DC values. This would help them create their own modules. On the other hand, I wanted to include the values to (1) show how RR integrates into BANG!, and also (2) provide the resources for making modules compatible with RR. I hope the BANG! Community will aim at compatibility amongst its modding projects.

  • Range. This column explains at what distance seen a card can be played. When it is played on one's self specifically, I give it a value of "N/A." When it applies to any player seen at distance 1, I give it "1." If it can reach within a distance (such as with Toss, Dive, or Push), I put "within [insert distance seen]." When it depends on the gun in play, I put down "Gun-based" (although it is of course modified by the offensive/defensive sight modifiers as well; gun-based is simply a lazy way of putting it). If it reaches all players, all players, or any player at any distance, I put down "Any."

  • Impacts. This column notes whom the played card impacts. This typically involves one of the following values: self, 1 player (which could include one self), 1 other player, 1 random player (for Dynamite), all other players, other players in a line of fire (for Cannon and Artillery), and all players. Sometimes it is a combination. For the orange and purple cards the impact value is more specific: attacking player, attacker, defending player, 1 other hit player (for Gaping Wound), player whose turn it is (Confiscate, Hit Me), and player with defensive sight modifier (for Track Down).

  • Activator. This column notes which agent makes the card playable: one self (like in Gatling), another (like in Missed!), or both (like in Beer: playable on your turn, or when you lose your last life point due to another player's attack).

  • Activating Event. The column describes the specific event that makes this card playable. Often, this is as simple as it being one's playing phase or one being the target of a basic attack. However, this can be more complicated, such as for last chance Beers. This is especially for orange cards, which can only be played at many specific events: when another player takes a hit, when a player targets another player with a basic or special attack, when a player plays a card to avoid an attack, when a player plays any card, another player's drawing phase, and so forth.

  • Extra Details. Several cards have extra details about them that are important to note. For instance, only 1 BANG! can be played during a playing phase by default. Beer have no effect if played when only 2 players remain. Jail cannot be played on the Sheriff. Some cards in both Dodge City and Robbers' Roost require discarding a card to play them (Springfield, Rag Time, Brawl, Bandage, Warpath, etc.). Wells Fargo, Stagecoach, Pay Day, and Hit Me activate Wild West Show event cards. In this column, I put in these extra details for playing cards. I also place the benefits of having a specific blue card in play here.

  • Outcome of Playing. This column explains what happens when the card is played. This is often just a breakdown of the text or symbols on the cards. Some other items are noted, such as when a gun comes into play it replaces any non-duplicate gun card already in play (if a duplicate, it could not come into play in the first place). I note the initial/latent effects for the purple cards here.

  • % Columns. The card data concludes with 6 columns breaking down the probability of drawing a specific card from a specific deck setup. For instance, there are 25 BANG! in the base game, so there is a 31.25% chance of drawing it from a complete 80-card base deck. These deck set ups can vary; hence, the 6 columns. However, in BANG! + Dodge City there are 29 BANG!, so there is a 24.20% chance of drawing a BANG! from a complete 120-card BANG! + Dodge City deck. Quite a difference, no? Since there are several deck setups, I created columns showing drawing probabilities for drawing a specific card in a deck setups for BANG!, BANG! + Dodge City, BANG! + Dodge City + Robbers' Roost orange module, BANG! + Dodge City + Robbers' Roost purple module, and BANG! + Dodge City + Robbers' Roost complete. The last column explains the reason for certain shifts of drawing probabilities in Robbers' Roost.

After the Card Data, I provided another tab for a little "Meta Card Data." This tab only provides 1 sources of information. First, it notes how many cards belong to specific types in the different deck setups. So in BANG!, there are 5 cards with unique names belonging to the gun card type. In BANG! + Dodge City + Robbers' Roost there are 7. Secondly, I note the probability of randomly drawing a certain type from a complete deck setup. The earlier card data probabilities only noted the chances of drawing a card with a specific name, like BANG!. This data notes the chances of drawing the type (like "basic attacks") from a complete deck. It explores the probabilities in the 5 different deck setups like before.

The hope is that this spreadsheet will enable you to both mod and play BANG! better. As with the character ability stats, I would love to get some feedback on this spreadsheet. It has taken a good chunk of time to put together, but I am sure there are typos, inconsistencies, and some poor labels. Feel free to post comments here.

Like before, I have made the spreadsheet available in both Open Office Calc and Microsoft Excel formats.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Robbers' Roost: Updated 8.5" x 11" Card Sheets Available

Gearing up for the POD-ready print-and-play files for Robbers' Roost, I have updated and provided for download new 8.5" x 11" card sheets. These updates include:
  • The new purple cards. All of the values have been changed across the board to help with modularity. The "orange" expansion can be played separately from the "purple," or together with it, with no significant imbalance to BANG!. The orange expansion is identified by the horseshoe symbols (characters were given this symbol too), while the purple expansion is identified by the oxhead symbols.

  • All the latest adjustments to the playing cards.

  • All the latest adjustments to the characters.

Furthermore, certain character abilities have been adjusted once again:

  • Jack West. I noted before how his ability was too similar to "Colorado Bill" in the upcoming Czech expansion, Valley of Shadows. My general opinion is that modders should strive for compatibility and novelty across the expansions. I will be working very hard to make RR compatible with Death Mesa, Gold Rush, Wild West Show, Valley of Shadows, and even Directors' Cuts. I also want RR to provide something new in all of its new cards. Jack West's ability has thus been changed to the following: "Whenever a card is played or used against Jack, and resolved, he may immediately discard a card of the same color to draw that card from the discard pile." I thank those that helped me consider a new ability for Jack.

  • Flint Dixon. Due to player feedback, Flint's ability has become slightly more complex: "Whenever Flint plays a BANG!, he chooses whether his target must discard a BANG! or a Missed! to avoid it. Barrel still may be utilized to avoid his shot.

  • Crazy Wolf. The change of values in the cards made me adjust his ability somewhat. Now, a sum 13+ provides a Missed!, 17 a Dodge, and 20 a Missed! + BANG! against his attacker.

  • Queen Anne. To balance her more with Pat Brennan, her ability has been modified: "Once on her turn, she may discard a BANG! and another card to discard any card in play."

  • Josey Bassett. Josey can now use cards (green) during her turn and still get her bonus. Latent effects of purple cards will also not impede the bonus: "If Josey does not play any cards during her turn, she can draw 2 extra cards at the end of her playing phase. She can always hold as many cards in her hand as her max health."

  • Laura Billion. If the "draw!" is successful, she draws the cards during her next drawing phase. This was changed so as to not create any problems with dynamite explosions, Jail, etc.

  • Lela Devere. Wording changed to be clearer: "Whenever she would directly hit 1 player, Lela may choose to steal a card from that player instead. The card may either be in that player’s hand or in play."

You may download the zip file containing all Robbers' Roost PDFs here. I would appreciate if any blog readers might print out the RR characters (even in black and white) and play test them during some games. RR characters could be played with alone, selection being done out of a bag that the print outs were thrown into. Thanks! I hope this is enjoyed by some.

As a final note, I have finally updated the Robbers' Roost page to have the most current information on the expansion.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Death Mesa: Traducción en Español

He estado trabajando con muchos aficionados españoles de BANG! para crear una traducción española de Death Mesa. He recibido mucho trabajo por Pani, slab, Jack Nolddor, y Cénaro. Yo he combinado sus esfuerzos para hacer una traducción que incluye todos los cambios más recientes introducidos en la nueva edición en Inglés. Hasta ahora, los nombres de las cartas y sus descripciones son completas. Se puede ver los resultados aquí. Voy a actualizar este puesto en el futuro para incluir a todas las materiales españolas de Death Mesa.

18" x 12" Cardsheets (Hojas de Cartas)

Death Mesa Spanish

Death Mesa Spanish

Death Mesa Spanish

Cartas en Death Mesa

MaldiciónMaldición. Un jugador vivo de tu elección debe descartar 1 carta más al final de su fase de descarte. Añádela a tu “herencia del difunto.”CementerioCementerio. Todos los fantasmas muestran sus cartas “herencia del difunto.” Elige a un jugador vivo. Este robará 2 cartas y cada jugador a la izquierda de este robará 1 también.Zumo de SangreZumo de Sangre. Elige un jugador vivo para que el recupera una vida.Luna OscuraLuna Oscura. “¡Desenfunda!” Picas: los jugadores vivos deben descartar 2 cartas o perder una vida. Tréboles: deben descartar 1 carta o perder una vida. Corazónes: deben robar una carta.
Muerte e ImpuestosMuerte e Impuestos. Elige un jugador vivo para que en su próximo turno robe 1 carta menos. Después, roba 1 carta y ponla en tu “herencia del difunto.”Viento del EsteViento del Este. Elige 2 jugadores vivos. Cuando ellos intenten atacarse hasta tu próximo turno, deberán usar 2 cartas con el símbolo de ¡bang!. Ellos eligen cuál de los efectos de las 2 cartas se produce.SequíaSequía. El jugador objetivo no puede recuperar vidas con bebidas alcohólicas (incluido Salón) hasta tu próximo turno.ProfanaciónProfanación. Descarta 2 cartas de un fantasma. Las cartas pueden estar en su “herencia del difunto" o en su mano (cartas del mazo de los hombres muertos).
DecadenciaDecadencia. Descarta 1 carta en frente a cualquier jugador vivo, a menos que juegue un ¡Fallaste!.Historias de Miedo
Historias de Miedo. El jugador de tu elección solo podrá utilizar 1 carta en su próximo turno.
VoluntadVoluntad. Juega esta carta para darle a un jugador vivo 1 carta a tu elección de tu “herencia del difunto.” Después, roba 1 carta del mazo normal y ponla en tu “herencia del difunto.”In MemoriamIn Memoriam. Elige un jugador. El puede jugar en su próximo turno tantos ¡BANG! como quiera, si el objetivo es tu asesino. Si tu asesino está muerto, el jugador puede jugar 1 ¡BANG! extra.
Merci NascosteMerci Nascoste. 1 giocatore in vita a tua scelta pesca 1 carta dal deck normale o da un tesoro sepolto a sua scelta.Tesoro OcultoTesoro Oculto. Elige un jugador vivo para que robe 1 carta del mazo o de tu “herencia del difunto.” Si la carta robada de tu “herencia del difunto” es negra, el jugador roba 1 de nuevo.Espejismo
Espejismo. Cuando un jugador sea objetivo de un ataque directo usa esta carta para desviar el ataque a 1 de los 2 jugadores adyacentes al atacante.
Entierro DignoEntierro Digno. Elige un jugador vivo. Si no juega o usa ninguna carta en su próximo turno, robará 2 cartas al final de la fase de descarte.
Poseido. Elige 1 carta de la mano de un vivo. Juegála, teniendo en cuenta las distancias del jugador poseído. La carta puede usarse contra el propio jugador poseído. Puedes jugar cartas azules y verdes en frente de otros. Si la carta no puede ser jugada, ha de devolverse al dueño.
PoltergeistPoltergeist. Todos los jugadores vivos deben descartar 1 carta que jugaron en frente de sí mismos (excluyendo la Dinamita activada). Si no pueden, pierden 1 vida.Pesadilla
Pesadilla. Elige un jugador. Este perderá su habilidad hasta tu próximo turno.
PillajePillaje. Roba una carta de la herencia del difunto de otro jugador muerto y entrégasela a un jugador vivo. Después, roba 1 carta y ponla en tu “herencia del difunto.”
¡Asustar!¡Asustar!. Bang! un jugador vivo.AdvertenciaMonito. Ofrece un ¡fallaste! para un jugador vivo. Esta carta puede ser jugada durante el turno de otro jugador.TerrorTerror. Elige 1 carta en frente de o en la mano de un jugador vivo. Ponla bocarriba en horizontal y en frente a él. No podraá usarla hasta su próximo turno.EspiritismoEspiritismo. Roba una carta de un fantasma. No puede negarse.
Tabla OuijaTabla Ouija. Elige 2 cartas en la mano de un jugador vivo. Secretamente, Míralas y muéstraselas a otro jugador. Ninguna acción puede ocurrir hasta que las cartas se devuelven.Asuntos PendientesAsuntos Pendientes. Elige un jugador que atacaste vivo. El debe "¡desenfundar!" Rojo: roba 1 carta de su mano y añádela a tu "herencia del difunto." Negro: Será objetivo de un bang! Si los jugador que atacaste están muertos, elige a otro que necesitas matar para que "¡desenfunde!"

Gold Rush: Expansion Details and Commentary

BANG! Gold Rush Expansion

Over a week ago, I noted the release of Gold Rush, the new official expansion to BANG!. I compared the expansion as incorporating elements of my Death Mesa, BANG! Tactics, and the accessory cards in Robbers' Roost beta. Today, I wanted to share some of the exciting details of the expansion.

BANG! Gold Rush Expansion Equipment Cards 2

The Equipment Cards. All of the new playing cards in Gold Rush are equipment cards. These equipment cards have a variety of border colors (the borders look like the event card borders at a glance); some being played once and then used (like brown-bordered cards), others played in front of you for future use (green/blue-bordered cards). For instance, "Pardner" is one of the brown colored equipment cards that he can be purchased. Upon playing it, a player can copy the effect of another brown-bordered card. Then it is discarded. Reminds you of Lee Van Kliff's ability, doesn't it? The "Horseshoe" card, on the other hand, is black-bordered, and so is played in front of you and used during "draws!". Equipment cards are not drawn from the normal playing deck. They instead constitute there own separate deck, much like in BANG! Tactics. 3 cards from this equipment deck are revealed at all times. During a player's playing phase (typically phase 2), the equipment cards that are revealed may be purchased. The moment one of them is purchased, a new equipment card is revealed.

Equipment cards must be purchased by spending golden nuggets. 30 of these nuggets are included in the game, but if you need more than 30, you are instructed to provide an equivalent (use pennies). They are earned 2 different ways. First, a golden nugget can be gained for each Beer card you play. Second, golden nuggets are earned by making other players take hits. Thus, if I hit a player with a BANG!, I immediately gain a golden nugget. If I hit 3 players with an Indians!, I immediately gain 3 golden nuggets. The accrued golden nuggets are placed in front of the players who earned them for all others to see.

BANG! Gold Rush Expansion Equipment Cards 1

Equipment cards cost a certain number of golden nuggets. This is displayed in the bottom right corner of the equipment card. To purchase an equipment card during a playing phase, a player only needs to expend the amount of golden nuggets described in the bottom right corner of the card. He then gains the card. If the equipment card is brown-bordered, it cannot be saved in one's hand. Rather, it is played immediately and then discarded. If it is black-bordered it is immediately put into play for its purchaser. As with other cards in play, a player cannot buy a duplicate black-bordered card. Any number of equipment cards may be purchased during his turn, and any number of types of black-bordered cards may be had in play.

Besides purchasing equipment cards during your playing phase, you may also discard equipment cards during your playing phase. This cannot be done through the typical use of a steal/discard card. Rather, you can only do so by expending 1 more than the number of golden nuggets that an equipment card costs. The owner of the equipment card cannot prevent its discard. Obviously, only black-bordered equipment cards can be discarded since the brown-bordered ones are played immediately during the purchaser's turn. It isn't clear at the moment whether or not one can discard their own equipment cards this way. For instance, I might want to discard a black-bordered card in front of me, and then purchase a duplicate of that card revealed in the equipment pile to prevent someone else from getting it.

When an equipment card is used or discarded, place it face up at the bottom of the equipment deck. When a face up card is revealed this signals that the equipment deck needs to be reshuffled. Interestingly, upon player elimination the equipment cards are discarded, but Vulture Sam does not get to pick them up (bummer for him; I can easily see a house rule made to change this).

BANG! Gold Rush Characters

Character Cards. Gold Rush adds 8 new characters to BANG!: Don Bell, Dutch Will, Jacky Murieta, Josh McCloud, Madam Yto, Pretty Luzena, Raddie Snake, and Simeon Picos. Some of these abilities are pretty neat, such as the ability to "draw!" for an additional turn, to pay golden nuggets to fire a BANG!, to gain golden nuggets when any player plays a Beer, and to have all the costs of equipment cards lowered by 1. Most of the abilities look like they depend on using equipment cards or golden nuggets, so they do have the disadvantage of being less modular. In other words, they wouldn't work well with incorporating them with just the base game. The Dodge City and Wild West Show characters, on the other hand, worked quite will with this incorporation. However, these 8 characters in Gold Rush were designed with the Shadow Gunslinger variant in mind.

BANG! Gold Rush Shadow Gunslingers

Shadow Gunslinger Variant. In this variant, eliminated players can still affect the game. When a player is eliminated, he discards all of his cards like usual, but keeps his golden nuggets. On all of his future turns, he temporarily re-enters play as a shadow version of his previous role (shadow-renegade, shadow-outlaw, shadow-deputy). He draws 2 cards, uses them if he can, and then disappears from the game again at the end of his turn. Since he cannot gain/lose life points, he is not really eliminated at the end of his turn, and so player elimination abilities (Herb Hunter, Vulture Sam, Greg Digger) do not get any benefits from this. As someone has already pointed out, this variant is basically like a permanent Ghost Town. The only difference is that the shadow players can gain gold nuggets from turn to turn. This allows them to save up to purchase equipment cards, which I imagine only the brown-bordered ones would be of any use to buy. However, you could discard others' black-bordered equipment cards. One other specification is made for shadow gameplay: Dynamite skips the shadow players for "draws!".

There are also special rules for Shadow Renegade. Death Mesa tried to keep the Renegade aspect of the Renegade through the Zombie Renegade. Gold Rush throws in the towel in trying to balance him and just appropriates him into the Sheriff or Outlaw team. While his allegiance to these teams changes, it is never his choice. On his turn, he sides with the weakest team (the team with the least amount of living players). The calculation for his allegiance is simple: Whatever team has the most face up roles cards, he joins. The "face up roles card" specification is so that it includes all shadow players, plus the Sheriff, whose role card is always revealed. If there is a tie between the two teams, he sides with the Outlaws. The Renegade has a 2-sided shadow role card to indicate which team he is currently aligned with.

Initial Thoughts. There is a lot about the Gold Rush expansion that looks good. I think accruing the golden nuggets will be a lot of fun, and the shop mechanic with it looks pretty smooth and great. I hope this will create a lot of what I envisioned in BANG! Tactics. How useful the equipment cards will be depends a lot upon their specific effects, which have not been fully disclosed at the moment. I hope they will allow for a lot more strategic gameplay. It will be interesting to see how they balance out between the more defensive versus offensive characters. Big Spencer looks like a living gold mine for accruing golden nuggets. I really enjoy the idea of accruing golden nuggets by playing Beer too.

As for concerns, I am a little disappointed that the characters are so gold nugget focused, but it may really help with the Shadow Gunslinger variant, so I will try to give it some slack. I prefer expansions that are more modular. The Shadow Gunslinger variant I am not completely sold on. It seems to give the Outlaws a better advantage as shadow gunmen, but perhaps the Renegade's switching allegiance will help? From face value, it doesn't look sufficient. Also, it seems to favor certain characters as shadow players. What good are defensive characters, life point sacrificing/regaining characters (Chuck Wengam, Bill Noface, Sid Ketchum), and card limit characters (Sean Mallory, Big Sepncer) as shadow players? Offensive characters (Slab the Killer) and card drawing/transmuting characters (Jose Delgado, Pixie Pete, Black Jack) have a huge advantage over them. While this is why the Gold Rush characters have been more specifically designed with the variant in mind, who wants to play with only the 8 Gold Rush characters? It would seem to make more sense to simply eliminate all character abilities for shadow players.

But this the designers do not want to do, because while the Shadow Gunslinger saves BANG! from many of the problems of player elimination, it sacrifices a lot of hand building continuity and planning. Some of this is made up by the accrual and usage of the golden nuggets, and the Gold Rush characters' abilities especially interact with the golden nuggets to help with that. Unfortunately, this brings us back to the favoring of certain characters problem. I think some house rules will have to be invented to sort this out. And even with these fixes, I don't know if the golden nuggets will deliver enough continuity and strategy for the shadow players.

The next problem, which really bugs me, is how much the gunslingers break up character ability gameplay since they draw from the normal deck. Kit Carlson can no longer stack up dynamite "draws!" to explode, since the shadow player in between the living player will pick it up. Similarly, an ally of Pedro Ramirez cannot stack a card on the discard pile for him to pick up if a shadow player is in the way. His jail gauntlet ability will also be completely destroyed. I tried to avoid many of these problems in Death Mesa by incorporating the Dead Men's Deck instead.

Fortunately, I think Death Mesa and Gold Rush are easily compatible. Gold nuggets will remain with ghosts upon death, and they will be able to accrue/use them just like the shadow players. Equipment cards can be purchased and discarded, but as with the shadow players, they will not be able to keep black-bordered cards at the ends of their turns. This, I hope, may provide a more satisfying solution to the player elimination problem while also incorporating the benefits of Gold Rush.

As for the Shadow Renegade solution, I do not know what to think of it. It sure makes the Renegade's life easier, and maybe that is best, instead of trying to find a way to revamp him as I do with the Zombie Renegade. On the other hand, I think the Renegade is a fun player in the game, and it is sort of sad to throw in the towel on his "last man standing" victory conditions. The verdict is out on this one.

Anyway, on the whole I am quite excited about Gold Rush, and expect it to be at least as good an addition to BANG! as Dodge City. You can check out the Gold Rush rulebook that was put online here. If you are interested in Gold Rush, check out my post on the Board Game Geek interview with Roberto Corbelli about Gold Rush. I have posted all of the characters and their abilities there.

Character Guide: Flint Westwood

Flint Westwood BANG! card game character

Character Name: Flint Westwood.

Inspired by: Clint Eastwood, who played in famous roles such as Joe (the man with no name) in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Life Points: 4.

Ability Type: Neutral, although more powerful in an Offensive sense.

Ability: "During his turn, he may trade 1 card from hand with 2 cards at random from the hand of another player." The card from his hand is not at random. As the Notes card provided in the expansion explains, "The card from your hand is your choice, not at random."

Activation: During his phase 2, whenever he has at least 1 card in his hand. This ability may only be used once during his turn. This is only cleared up in the FAQ:
Q27. How many times can Flint Westwood use his ability during his turn?
A. Only once.

Cards enhanced by Flint Westwood's ability: BANG!, Indians!, Buffalo Rifle, Derringer, Knife, Pepperbox, Howitzer, Springfield, Punch, Gatling, Duel, Cat Balou, Brawl, Panic!, Rag Time, Can Can, Conestoga, and General Store.

Good roles for Flint Westwood: All.

Characters that counter Flint Westwood well: Jourdonnais (native defensive ability built in against Flint Westwood), somewhat El Gringo (after having cards stolen and taking a hit, he will steal a card back Flint Westwood), somewhat Slab the Killer (he only needs 1 BANG! to dish out damage), Calamity Janet (losing a BANG!/Missed! to Flint Westwood is less problematic when you can use them interchangeably), to some extent Pat Brennan (he can gather defensive cards to have in play, and remove Flint Westwood's offensive sight modifiers), at times Bill Noface (losing health to Flint Westwood can help his card drawing, which he can expend all mostly during his turn), Youl Grinner (Flint Westwood's card swapping ability won't work well against Youl, as forcing him to have fewer cards will just make Youl accumulate more until his turn), Teren Kill (native defense makes it difficult for Flint Westwood to finish him off, and less important for Teren Kill to have cards in his hand to be stolen), and John Pain (card swapping with him won't hurt him much if "draw!" cards are in play).

Characters that Flint Westwood counters well: Elena Fuente (His ability will remove at least 1 card she can use as a Missed!), Suzy Lafayette (He can stack in her hand a card that she cannot use during her turn--cards from the Missed! family), Willy the Kid (Flint Westwood can pillage his built up BANG! supply), Pixie Pete (destroys his card bonus ability, and weakens his defensive hand), Sid Ketchum/Doc Holyday (removes cards they can use to convert to regain life points/play BANG!), Tequila Joe (can steal his stored up Beer quite easily), Molly Stark (he can steal a majority of the cards that she would play out of turn for a bonus), Uncle Will (General Stores played point out to Flint Westwood who to steal from), Big Spencer (can remove any stored up life point modifiers/efficacious defensive cards from his hand), and Lee Van Kliff (deplete BANG! and replicatable cards from his hand).

2-player value: Excellent. Card advantage will help him a lot here. However, his rival would be wise to store non-efficacious Beer in their hand for Flint Westwood to pick up.

General Strategy as Flint Westwood: Flint Westwood is another very OP character added in Wild West Show. Think of him as a better version of Jesse Jones meeting a better version of Pixie Pete. Flint Westwood can always draw 3 cards a turn like Pixie Pete: 2 from the deck and another from another player (the 1 card for 2 balances out a 1 card gain). This works well in providing him the additional card cost for cards like Springfield, Brawl, and Rag Time. However, unlike Pixie Pete he has 4 life points. Secondly, his third card bonus significantly hurts another player. Like Jesse Jones, he steals from a player's hand. He steals 2 at random instead of 1, and while he must give 1 card from his hand to that player, that card is of his choice. This means he can pass a card that will not be that advantageous to that player (or to himself) for 2 that that player has been storing up. In essence, Flint Westwood is quite the hooker.

Due to being OP, Flint Westwood should expect that he will be a greater target. If Flint Westwood is on a team, it will likely be to his advantage to declare his allegiances through his actions earlier on, so that his own allies do not try to weaken him out of fear. Of course, he may still wish to wait somewhat before revealing his role through his actions, so that his allies have some time to build a hand/card base, but it should be quick. When using his ability in the early game, Flint Westwood needs to recognize that it will make enemies. Try to swap cards with those who cannot reach Flint Westwood with BANG!, and swap with multiple players so that the pilfering is equally balanced. Flint Westwood doesn't want to hurt your allies too much, after all. When swapping, Flint Westwood should always have 2 things in mind: (1) Do I need this card? (2) Is this card very useful for the target player's setup? The answers to these questions should typically be "no" if Flint Westwood is going to swap out a card for 2 of another player's.

While role revelations are still getting sorted out, Flint Westwood should try to get some defensive cards in play. General Store can be useful to gather powerful cards. He can first pick up a useful card for himself, then use his swapping ability to have a good chance to steal a powerful card picked up by another player. Defensive cards in the hand are less important to focus on gathering. Flint Westwood tends to pick up Missed! with your card swapping abilities since those cards are defensive, played out of turn, and cannot easily be discarded. So gathering those is actually not that difficult. If Flint Westwood needs a Missed!, he should swap with someone he hasn't swapped with in a while. If he wants to get rid of a Missed!, he shouldn't swap up with a player he is trying to kill. Otherwise, Flint Westwood knows that firing a BANG! at him will immediately be ineffective.

Once a defensive base is established, Flint Westwood can shift towards using his swapping ability in a very offensively powerful way. Upon picking his target, Flint Westwood can look at what attack cards he has in his hand that he wants to use against his rival. Then, he can swap out a card that cannot defend against his attack cards for 2 that potentially could. A good card for Flint Westwood to swap out would be a weaker gun card if his opponent already has a stronger gun card in play. If he has other discard/steal cards in his hand, then he can deplete his opponent's hand even further. After this, he can now play his offensive cards. This should likely make his target take significant damage. For instance, say Flint Westwood had a Duel, BANG!, Indians!, and Missed! in his hand. He could swap out the Missed! for 2 cards from his rival. He picks up a Missed! and a BANG!. Then, he plays an Indians! and the Duel. With no BANG! in his hand, the rival takes 2 hits. Flint Westwood also knows afterwards that his opponent has a Missed! in his hand; he should use this knowledge for future decisions. He should be able to finish off opponents pretty quickly this way. When he needs Missed! to cover himself, simply swap from other players' hands as needed.

Playing against Flint Westwood: Flint Westwood is a very strong rival, but there are some things you can do to play well against him. First, recognize that Flint Westwood's ability only targets cards that are in your hand. As a result, it will be key for you to have cards in play to combat him. This means gathering green offensive and defensive cards, so that you can prepare against his attack after swapping with you. If he grabs your BANG! and plays Indians! or Duel you are out of luck, but you can protect yourself against his other attacks through green defensive cards, Barrel, and defensive sight modifiers (Mustang, Hideout).

Also, since he tends to grab half of your out of turn hand (potentially more if you have a 3 card limit, potentially less if you have 5+ card limit), do not store up cards that you typically would. For instance, there is sometimes a desire to store up Beer for "last chance" opportunities. Since Flint Westwood has such a good chance of nabbing that away, use the Beer as soon as it can be efficacious. That way he will not be stealing it from you. Other powerful cards such as Panic! and Cat Balou you should not store up. Use them on your turn, or expect Flint Westwood to steal them from you and then use them immediately on you again to further devastate your hand or the cards you have in play.

You may try to build a hand that is more resistant to the Flint Westwood's card swapping. For instance, you could try to keep duplicates of cards in play in front of Flint Westwood in your hand, so that Flint Westwood grabs them but cannot use them. The difficulty with this is that he could steal the other cards in your hand and leave you with just the duplicates: then you are wide open. So that strategy is risky at best. What of other hands to build? Since he grabs about 50% of your cards, the most resistant hand would consist of 2 Missed! and 2 BANG! if you are a 4 card limit character. However, it will be rare for you to be able to have such a hand. Building up the Missed! cards may or may not be that difficult. Upon drawing them, you cannot get rid of them easily. This means they will tend to build up in your hand. As a result, you will have to expect Flint Westwood to steal them. This isn't too problematic if Flint Westwood is not being attacked himself, since he will likely be swapping Missed! from his hand to gather cards. When he is being attacked, he will be less likely to hand out the Missed!, so then you need to be more concerned. This is where your defensive cards in play will be very useful. BANG! are more frequently drawn than Missed!, and with them you will have to decide whether to expend them so Flint Westwood does not pick them up, or keep them in your hand as a defense. If you have 2 BANG!, I recommend keeping them in your hand defensively. If you have 1, I recommend expending it. Of course, part of that decision will depend on the other characters and rivals that are in the game. Not having BANG! in your hand does open you up to special attacks.

Some last considerations will be obvious: since Flint Westwood's card swapping ability applies during his turn, placing him in Jail can give your reprieve from his ability for a round. When Flint Westwood (or anyone else) plays a General Store, be careful what you pick up. Flint Westwood will be examining the cards drawn by other players, and if they are powerful he will probably try to use his card swapping ability on them. If you are before him in the order, there is nothing to worry about as long as you play or put into play that card on your turn. If you are after him in the order, all bets are off. If you have what he wants, you may be his target.

Character Rebalance: If you think Flint Westwood is too OP (he is), try out some of these rebalances:
  • Once during his turn, he may select 2 cards at random from a player's hand. He may exchange a card from his hand for 1 of the selected cards. Otherwise, the selected cards are returned to their owner.

  • Once during his turn, he may discard a card from his hand to draw 1 card at random from the hand of another player.

  • Once during his turn, he may give 1 card from his hand to another player. Then, he selects 2 cards at random from that player's hand. He keeps all brown cards; all others are returned.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Character Guide: Greygory Deck

Greygory Deck BANG! card game character

Character Name
: Greygory Deck. 

Inspired by: Gregory Peck, western actor who starred in films like Big Country

Life Points: 4. 

Ability Type: Neutral. 

Ability: "At the start of his turn, he may draw 2 characters at random. He has all the abilities of the drawn characters." However, the Notes card included in Wild West Show specifies (as well as the WWS FAQ) that "The only valid characters are those from the basic game" [i.e. Dodge City, The Bullet, Wild West Show, Gold Rush, Valley of Shadows, and Armed & Dangerous characters are excluded]. The amount of abilities Greygory Deck has do not compound (2 more a turn), but rather the 2 he possesses can be swapped out for another 2 at the beginning of his turn. The Notes card states, "At the beginning of your next turn, you decide whether to keep the characters or to change them. If you choose to change them, you must change both of them." So Greygory Deck first opts whether or not to keep his current 2 abilities at the beginning of his turn. If he opts to swap them, he must swap them both out. However, he does have the opportunity to draw them both again, as the Wild West Show FAQ states:
Q1. When Gregory Deck opts to change the characters whose abilities he is using, does he set aside the character cards whose abilities he was using, or does he shuffle these cards back with the rest of the others so that he might potentially draw them again? A. Gregory Deck must mix these character cards in with the others, and then randomly draw 2 (which could also be those he just discarded).
Activation: At the beginning of his turn, before his drawing phase, but after resolving Jail and Dynamite. It also activates at the beginning of the game (regardless of whether it is his turn or not), as the Notes card explains: "This ability also applies at the beginning of the game." Special Considerations for the Combinations drawn from the Basic Game Characters: The Wild West Show FAQ specifies how to resolve certain ability combinations that might throw you off when it comes to Gregory Deck:
Q31. What happens if the abilities of original game characters drawn by Gregory Deck contradict one another or influence a similar aspect of the game, such as how to draw during a drawing phase? A. If the two skills are in absolute conflict, Gregory Deck picks only 1 of them to use (he does not get to draw another character). If the conflict is not absolute, then combine the abilities. For example: 1) If the 2 characters drawn are Jesse Jones and Kit Carlson: You can take a card from the hand of a player (using Jesse Jones' ability) and then see the first 3 cards from the deck and choose the second card that you wish to draw. 2) If the 2 characters drawn are Jesse Jones and Pedro Ramirez: You have the choice of drawing your first card from the deck, a player's hand, or from the top of the discard pile. 3) If the 2 characters drawn are Kit Carlson and Black Jack: Look at the top 3 cards of the deck, select 2, and show the second one you selected. If it is red, draw a third card from the deck.
Cards enhanced by Greygory Deck's ability: Depends on the abilities he copies. 

Cards less powerful when played against Greygory Deck: Depends on the abilities he copies.

Cards more powerful when played against Greygory Deck: Jail; besides this, it depends on the ability he copies. 

Good roles for Greygory Deck: All. 

Characters that counter Greygory Deck well: It depends on the abilities he copies. 

Characters that Greygory Deck counters well: It depends on the abilities he copies, but on the whole he will always be better than his copycating partner, Vera Custer

2-player value: Excellent; he does not have the copycatting constraints that Vera Custer has in being only able to copy from the living characters in play, nor does he have the 3 life point disadvantage. He can swap out his 2 character abilities for ones that are more valuable during 2 player (get rid of Vulture Sam's for instance). 

General Strategy as Greygory Deck: Greygory Deck is the most OP of the Wild West Show bunch, gaining a distinctive advantage over other BANG! characters by always possessing 2 character abilities. While these are from the basic game alone, there are still very powerful abilities and combinations that he can be dealt. Furthermore, when he is in a scenario where his current set of abilities is not particularly useful, he swap out those abilities for 2 random ones. Pretty crazy! 

He also lacks a lot of the downsides of Vera Custer. He has 4 life points, making him far less defensively weak, and giving him a strong advantage when copying 3 life point character's abilities (Paul Regret, El Gringo). Second, he doesn't have to copy abilities from those living in play. Thus, he doesn't have to worry about the 2-player showdown. He doesn't have as good an ability to choose the ability he copies (Vera Custer can directly select one), but he does have a bigger pool to choose from than Vera Custer. He gets 2 abilities; she gets 1. When Greygory Deck is put in Jail, he retains his 2 character abilities. When Vera Custer is in Jail, she lacks an ability until her next turn. Vera Custer has no ability at the beginning of the game making her an easy target for early game aggression; Greygory Deck starts with 2 character abilities at the beginning of the game. Vera Custer's only real benefit is being able to copy non-basic game character abilities if non-basic game characters happen to be in play. Doesn't sound fair, does it? Well, it's not. It's wild. 

Strategy for Gregory Deck is more sporadic due to not only the abilities he copies, but also by the fact that the abilities dealt are random. Of course, at the beginning of the game he will want to try to gamble and get defensive abilities (Paul Regret, El Gringo, Jourdonnais, Lucky Duke, Sid Ketchum, Bart Cassidy; Calamity Janet's is also useful) or neutral abilities granting greater card accrual or selection (Black Jack, Kit Carlson, Pedro Ramirez). Abilities of these types will give Greygory Deck some time to build a hand and get good offensive and defensive blue/green cards in play before bullets start flying. 

Whether or not to transition from the character abilities he currently has depends much on his role and the position of his allies. Typically, once the defensive base is in place, he should try to transition to more offensive and offensively capable abilities (Slab the Killer, Suzy Lafayette, Willy the Kid, Rose Doolan, Calamity Janet, Jesse Jones). The player elimination bonus of Vulture Sam would be particularly useful at this time as well. If he has expended a lot of cards or is hurting, making a gamble in hopes to transition back to defensive abilities isn't a bad idea either. Try to remember your gambling probabilities: 4/16 original game characters are clearly offensive, 6/16 clearly defensive, and 6/16 neutral. Of course, these probabilities change when there are characters from the base game already in play. He should pay very close attention to how that can affect his chances of getting a nice setup. 

Playing against Greygory Deck: One obvious strategy for handling Greygory Deck is "meta" -- the fewer characters you allow to be drafted by players (say you removed the Dodge City, Bullet, etc. characters), the more likelihood you'll hand them out original game characters, and as life point counters, which may impede Greygory Deck's character choices, especially if you nab the strongest ones. House rules for getting to pick from 2, enables you to restrict him from getting the strongest ones.

Since Greygory Deck's abilities are randomly dealt to him, he is a difficult character to anticipate. He may choose to swap out his abilities and end up with a far better or far worse combination when it comes to helping him complete his goals. Despite his sporadic nature, since he possesses 2 abilities at all times he will be a very powerful ally or enemy. Make sure that you do not weaken him too much at the beginning of the game (he could be your ally), but do give him some pressure to reveal his role. That way you can no if you should be spending any of your time on him. Once he is determined to be your rival, play close attention to the abilities he possesses at any given time, and form your strategy against him based on those abilities. This requires a lot of familiarity with the base game characters, so make sure to read those character cards, and the character guides I have written about them if you have the chance. Jail can always be a useful card to play against Greygory Deck, in making it likely for him to be unable to swap out his abilities for a round. This hang up can work out somewhat nicely when Greygory Deck needs to transition to a new set of abilities to accomplish his goals (or stay alive), or if he has been randomly dealt a very non-complimentary setup.

Character Guide: John Pain

John Pain BANG! card game character

Character Name
: John Pain. 

Inspired by: John Wayne, enough said. 

Life Points: 4. 

Ability Type: Neutral. 

Ability: "If he has less than 6 cards in hand, each time any player "draws!", John adds the card just drawn to his hand." 

Activation: When any player causes a "draw!" or resolves a "draw!" due to a card a player played (event cards excluded). 

Cards enhanced by John Pain's ability: Barrel, Jail, and Dynamite

Good roles for John Pain: All. 

Characters that counter John Pain well: Pat Brennan (he can remove heavy "drawing!" Barrels and Dynamite), characters with defensive abilities not dependent upon "draws!" (Molly Stark, El Gringo, and Elena Fuente), most card transmutation characters that can discard Barrel and Dynamite in useful ways (Jose Delgado, Sid Ketchum, Doc Holyday; not Uncle Will), characters that constrain the number of cards in hands (Youl Grinner and Gary Looter), and Vera Custer (she can copy his ability and if closer in a clockwise direction from the player with the "draw!" triggering card or ability, she nabs the cards instead -- see WWS FAQ Q11).

Robbers' Roost: Queen Anne/Lela Devere (they can remove heavy "drawing!" Barrels and Dynamite), Turd Ferguson (inherent Missed! makes him less dependent on Barrel), Josey Bassett/Julie Bulette (hand efficiency abilities makes them less dependent on Barrel), Crazy Bull/Eva Place (strong defense outside of "draws!")

Characters that John Pain counters well: Jourdonnais (anytime he "draws!" for a BANG!, John Pain will likely draw the card), Lucky Duke (John Pain draws both cards that Lucky Duke "draws!"), Teren Kill (picks up the "drawn!" card when resolving whether Teren lives or not), Belle Star (see explanation below), Uncle Will (General Store will reveal too many "draw!" cards), 3 life point characters that desperately need Barrel (Sean MalloryPixie Pete, and Claus the Saint), Big Spencer (needing a Barrel for defense, John Pain can draw many cards as a result), and characters that depend on Dynamite strategies (this often goes with player elimination abilities, like with Vulture Sam, Greg Digger, and Herb Hunter).

Robbers' Roost: Job Musgrove (anytime he "draws!" in response to an attack, John Pain will likely draw the card), Anne Rogers (copying cards with "draw!" trigger only empowers John Pain further), Maggie Mae (swapping Barrel around doesn't get rid of the "draw!" trigger), Laura Billion (her "draws!" will occur on every next turn where she has used a card, significantly empowering John Pain)

Special Consideration with Belle Star: Belle Star's ability makes card in play in front of other players have no effect on her turn. However, this does not mean that cards in play in front of other players cannot be utilized on her turn. Why would this be useful? Because John Pain can still "draw!" cards from his and other players' ineffective Barrel "draws!" -- in other words, while a heart "drawn!" from a Barrel will not provide a missed! when Belle Star attacks someone, John Pain can still gain the "drawn!" card. 

2-player value: Okay. Depends on the "draw!" cards he has and and can get into play. 

General Strategy as John Pain: John Pain is a nuisance like many of the Wild West Show characters in altering how the rest of the other BANG! players play. Youl Grinner often makes players expend more cards, while Gary Looter encourages players to insure they use cards so that they do not have cards over their limit during their discard phases. John Pain makes players be concerned whether or not they have cards affecting "draws!" in play--namely Barrel, Jail, and Dynamite. This is very difficult on characters that need the extra defenses a Barrel provides, or the havoc that Dynamite creates. It also constrains abilities that are dependent upon "draws!" such as Jourdonnais, Lucky Duke, and Teren Kill. John Pain's goal should be for him (and his allies) to get high "drawing!" cards in play: Dynamite and Barrel. This, of course, means that John Pain should try to gain steal cards and use them whenever necessary to steal those from an enemy. General Store can be especially useful in getting 1 of these "draw!" cards for himself or one of his allies. 

With Dynamite, John Pain needs to remember that 2 Dynamites can be in play simultaneously, as the Dodge City rules specify (see specific Dynamite rules). 2 Dynamite are never in play in front of 1 player; rather, 1 Dynamite hops over the player with a Dynamite already in front of him. Dynamite is the best time for John Pain to draw cards because players have no choice but to "draw!" in an attempt to resolve it. Since he will be racking up tons of cards, he should try to use as many cards as possible during his turn to gather more. This is because he has a 6 card limit for this drawing bonus, and so he should try to maximize the amount of cards he can get from it. A Volcanic will be very useful here, in helping both get rid of BANG!, while also helping John Pain accrue tons of ammo to fire at his rivals. 

When rivals have Barrels (or a "draw!" ability), John Pain could try to shoot at them and see if they are willing to "draw!" on his shots. Smart ones will decline the opportunity. There may also be situations where John Pain could shoot at a well defended ally who possesses a Barrel. If John Pain really needs to get a better card, he could expend the BANG!, have his ally "draw!" and then hope to get a better card with the "drawn!" card. Of course, the ally might have to still expend a defensive card, but it could be useful depending on John Pain's needs and sight constraints. The Barrels in front of John Pain and his allies also create a diversion for John Pain's rivals. Each time they shoot at one of them who has a Barrel, John Pain will draw a card. Fire will likely be directed to the ally without the Barrel as a consequence, so John Pain should prepare for that. 

Playing against John Pain: Tread carefully when playing against John Pain. Consider the situation very carefully before playing a Barrel, and do not automatically use it as you are prone to do. Weigh how a "drawn!" card could benefit John Pain before you utilize the Barrel. The same goes with "draw!" abilities like Jourdonnais and Lucky Duke. Look at the consequences before using their abilities. Teren Kill doesn't have a choice with his, so he is simply out of luck when "drawing!" for his last life point. You must also be concerned about firing at John Pain or his allies when they have Barrels in play. Since they are guaranteed to use the Barrel, so that John Pain can gain the card, decide whether you should shoot at that player and not another lacking the Barrel instead. Using a Volcanic+BANG! on a player with a Barrel seems like an especially bad idea in most scenarios. Try to remove those Barrels wherever possible. 

When it comes to Dynamite, I would recommend never playing it when John Pain is your rival. If you have a card transmutation abilities (like Sid Ketchum's), discard it for the extra benefit. If another player puts a Dynamite into play, try to discard it immediately, or steal it, and discard it during a discard phase. You fortunately have 1 round before the Dynamite activates and the "drawing!" begins, but hurry up since John Pain will about to become a demon. Remember that you cannot knock out 1 Dynamite by putting another Dynamite into play. While Jail activates a "draw!", it is only a 1 time occurrence, so I would not fret too much. It can be a good means of silencing a John Pain who has already racked up 6 cards. Throw him in Jail, and he cannot gain the "draw!" benefit. He will have to sit in Jail for the following round unable to gain any new cards either.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Gold Rush: Release Date Announcement

BANG! Gold Rush expansion

Gold Rush, the next official expansion to BANG! the card game that will reach a worldwide audience, is slated to be introduced at this year's International Gaming Fair in Essen, Germany (going on from October 20-23, 2011). It will be debuted in Italy during the Lucca Comics & Games Festival from October 28-November 1, 2011. It should be in major gaming stores come early November.

Gold Rush will be a pretty exciting expansion, which I hope will rival the likes of Dodge City. It incorporates many of the elements into BANG! that I have tried to introduce in both Death Mesa and my alternate gameplays such as BANG! Tactics. Let me explain:

  • Like Death Mesa, eliminated players will remain in the game. They remain in the game like Death Mesa ghosts, able to determine the victory of their faction. This is part of the reason I was told to remove Death Mesa from the Superior POD publisher's warehouse. It created competition in trying to resolve one of BANG!'s gameplay problems. However, I am interested to see if the Renegade stands a chance in Gold Rush. The Zombie Renegade might provide a better solution. I will work hard to compatibilize Death Mesa with Gold Rush, but it may be the case that you will have to choose one or the other.

  • Like BANG! Tactics, Gold Rush incorporates a shop into BANG! By accruing gold nuggets (there are a total of 30), players can purchase powerful cards for the shop. This adds a much better strategic element to the game.

I am hopeful that Gold Rush will be the opposite of the Wild West Show expansion. It will include 8 characters, which I hope will not be so wild, while also helping deal with a problematic game mechanic (player elimination) and furthering strategy (not randomness) through the shop.