Strictly speaking Bang is not a board game, but is a card game that is typically played alongside the suite of euro games. Overall I was impressed by the game having enjoyed played the physical version before, but there is something missing from a game played with the AI when a significant part of the game is about bluff and misdirection.
The game is a self-titled Spaghetti-Western duel. You play one of three to eight characters, each of which holds one of three different roles: the Sheriff, who wants to eliminate all the outlaws; the Deputy, who also wants to eliminate the outlaws; the Outlaw, who wants to eliminate the Sheriff; and the Renegade, who wants to become Sheriff by eliminating everyone else and being the last person standing.
Arguably, the Renegade has the toughest role because they’ve got to pass themselves off as a Deputy in a game of duplicity and then try to take out the Sheriff, who (if played right) will have slowly been accumulating a strongly defensive position and an ample supply of ammo while everyone else picks each other off. Also, the Sheriff can’t just off anyone they like as there are steep penalties that leave one defenseless for killing a Deputy (not to mention losing an ally).
Beyond these roles there are a variety of characters each with an unique trait and ability, sometimes compensated for by less maximum health. Characters lose health for each shot, but factors like range ( relating to how proximal that character is to yours around the table) and other defensive cards play into it.
Since only the Sheriff’s role is known from the start there is a mix of objectives and similar motivations that don’t make it immediately clear who is a friend or foe. Your task, depending on your role, is either to kill or protect the Sheriff and figure out who is on you’re side. If your character is eliminated but your side wins (the law or outlaws), then you still win. Finally, just to make sure who the final winner is, there is a scoring system depending on who killed who and who survived.
The game is designed well, and there is little I can do to fault it. The artwork is faithful to the original game artwork, rendering the characters in their wonderfully quirky manner. I can only thank the designers for not attempting to give them personality with the interjection of trope commentary and remarks throughout the game. Random and recycled comments are one way to really reduce a game to aggravation.
The animations are very well done, with both a slow and a quick version to expedite the game, and for this I am thankful. You can either indulge or speed through a game. I appreciate that the designers took a little care to ensure that even the quick animations had a flourish without intruding on the flow of the game. It’s a nice touch.
Where the game falls down is not the fault of the designers, either of the original game or ipad, but simply a fault of the medium. Since so much of the game is dependent on bluffing and duplicity it becomes really hard to discern character motives and that is part of what makes the game really fun. Instead, by going up against AIs who have pre-programmed responses and risk analyses you’re reduced to making deductions based purely on actions and plays. While technically that’s what you’re supposed to do on paper, this game only comes alive with the meta-game interaction. It’s supposed to be poker with death thrown in.
In terms of the multiplayer aspect, it only has a pass n play, which somewhat alleviates the issues about playing faceless and emotionless drones. Just be careful to ensure that passing is done with secrecy lest you give the game up to your opponent. However, getting up to eight people to sit around an ipad playing a card game can be a bit cumbersome and it just begs the question why you’re not playing the card game in the first place if you have that many people available.
Verdict: 7/10 – For around about $5 ($2 for the iPhone version) you get more than its value as an app. It’s a useful travel companion and still a good game solo in its own right for that price, but couldn’t replace the real game all things considered. Hopefully future updates will include online play.