Thursday, July 28, 2016

The fight has commenced...

I really enjoy Bang!, but it's often a struggle to get together a large enough group to make the game interesting. Additionally, I find the game's "guess what role everyone is playing" aspect to be less interesting than the combat mechanics and spaghetti western theme.

I love the idea of a two-player version of Bang!, emulating the classic showdown at high noon seen in so many western films, so I was happy to see that it has become a reality with Bang!: the Duel. The choice to make it a separate game rather than an expansion or rules variant is interesting; the game is similar enough to the core Bang! game that I'm certain it began as a variant, with the designers eliminating cards and game features (such as the hidden roles) and adding others to support the two-player format.

Players choose to either play as the Law or the Outlaw, with a separate deck of cards for each. Unlike most "separate deck: games however, cards played go to a common discard pile, and as soon as one player runs out of cards this is shuffled together into one deck, representing the idea that as the battle progresses, each side gets more desperate and starts using the other's tactics.

As with Bang!, the game features character cards with unique abilities, but in The Duel, each player plays with a stack of characters (four in a normal game, but this can be scaled for shorter or longer games). Each player has two characters in play at a time, one "active" and one "rearguard." Only the active character's abilities are in play, but they can switch places during the player's turn or as a result of game effects. If a character is killed, the next one in the stack steps up, and the game ends when one player runs out of characters.

It's a fast-paced, simple game that is recognizably still Bang!,while making the game system work as a two-player duel, and it retains the spaghetti western flavor that drew me to Bang! in the first place. I kind of wish this version could be played with more than two...

Rating: 4 (out of 5) An easier-to-play version of the spaghetti western classic.

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