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Bang! gets rave reviews from every source. However I can't see how to play it other than in a very predictable and routine manner. It seems like every game generally follows this routine:

  • Everyone waits for the first shot.
  • Outlaw shoots at sheriff.
  • Deputies/Renegades shoot anyone who shoots Sheriff
  • Renegade eventually turns on Sheriff

People say "try to figure out who people are", but how? There's no information, you just wait until they shoot, and then you know for certain.

The only divergence in the strategies I've found is for the Renegade, pretending to be a deputy at first.

I'm sure this is a great game, and I want to convince my friends of it, but I just don't know how.

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It's a good question, but a difficult one to answer objectively I think. There are lots of games that are "fun" and extremely popular without actually being very good games (Munchkin is the one that sprang immediately to my mind). Assuming that your group's play is at fault, rather than the game's design, is possibly over-self-deprecating... –  thesunneversets Mar 18 '13 at 14:48
I was hoping for some mechanics similar to The Resistance, where small bits of information are drip fed, to allow people to theorise/accuse. I've got the deluxe edition, and we haven't tried the expansions yet. I'm wondering if they add more flexibility/possibilities to the gameplay. –  Coran Mar 18 '13 at 15:17
How many people are you playing with? It really affects the game dynamics; we usually don't bother with less than six players because then it becomes a game of "nuke the sheriff". –  Tacroy Mar 18 '13 at 16:25
Bang is as much about knowing and reading the people you play with as knowing the cards. I always know exactly who everyone after the first turn in my group because I can read people and I know their tells. Does that make it less fun? No. It lets me lie and misdirect people. Sometimes I will intentionally shoot a teammate to throw people off. However my friends know this about me so then they have to play the "did he do that to throw me off or because he wants me dead" game. The game is not just "he shot the sheriff so he must be an outlaw/he didn't shoot the sheriff he must not be an outlaw" –  AdamP Mar 18 '13 at 17:24
Yeah nothing kills the game dead faster than playing it quietly and conservatively. If you're not flinging wild accusations in one direction and Bang! cards in the other, it's no fun. –  Tacroy Mar 18 '13 at 18:45

3 Answers 3

In some sense, your question is a bit circular. It's predictable because the games were all played with the same, predictable strategy. While it's definitely bad to start shooting away right at the beginning of the game, you don't have to save everything up for one final shootout.

If you're an outlaw, you don't have to just shoot at the sheriff - killing a deputy or renegade is good too, and you can potentially go for that without demonstrating that you're an outlaw. If you're a deputy or the sheriff, you don't have to wait until you know who your target is - in fact, if you wait until people are shooting at the sheriff, it's probably too late. For the deputy and sheriff, most other players are valid targets, so even if they shoot someone without knowing, more likely than not it's someone they wanted to shoot.

For many players, it's advantageous to weaken the players between them and the sheriff. For the outlaws, this is good so that they'll be within range of the sheriff when the time comes, and for the deputy, it's good to have the sheriff on one side and reduce the number of hostile players they're within range of.

And this brings us to your assertion that there's no information. Once people are taking potshots, there's a little bit of information - everyone's trying to eke out a bit of advantage before the late game without putting all their cards on the table. It's still not the deepest game, but it doesn't have to be as dull as the way you've played it.

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Thanks for the info. This is useful. I guess some of the strategy is working out the cost-benefit ratio, of taking out a person you're not sure if they are on your team or not, with the benefit of weakening someone or moving closer to the Sheriff. –  Coran Mar 19 '13 at 10:26
Regarding no information, I meant prior to shots being fired. However like others have said, I think this is where banter comes into play. –  Coran Mar 19 '13 at 10:34
@Coran The benefits of disguising your role are potentially huge. The costs of shooting, say, one of the right people and two of the wrong people aren't really that high. And my point about information was that if shots are fired earlier, there's potentially some information (combined with banter) before any final all-out shootouts like you were talking about. –  Jefromi Mar 26 '13 at 23:19

Games played according to your routine would be just like chess games where one would move first the leftmost pawn until it gets to the eighth row or is taken, then the next one, and so on, and then the major pieces. You'd be perfectly correct according to the rules, but you'd miss most of the interest. If outlaws immediately shoot the sheriff, they immediately unmask themselves, defeating the purpose of the roles being secret. Everybody should begin shooting other people, avoiding killing someone who might be your ally, but hiding whom you are actually being interested in killing. Only later in the game, when you have understood most of who's who (due to their careless actions or the first deaths), you could concentrate your fire on your actual targets.

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I would say the reason that it is so predictable when you play it is that you don't play with a lot of strategy that and you are comparing it to a game where your moves do not out your role so easily. If the Sheriff, Deputies and Renegades wait to make their move until an outlaw shows themselves and the renegade plays law until the end then its no surprise that the game becomes very predictable since there is no strategy involved and you just have the luck of the draw. One thing to remember since you are comparing this game to the resistance is that every move in bang is public while a lot of what you do in the resistance is hidden which allows you to keep your role hidden much longer.

There is no reason that the other roles should not act from the very first turn they have and start to work the table. While the sheriff is penalized for killing his deputy there is nothing wrong with hurting him and chances are the person he attacks will be an enemy anyway as the deputies are always outnumbered.

As a deputy there is no reason not to go after the people who are the biggest threat to the sheriff from the beginning. Target someone who has the best chance to do damage to the sheriff right off the bat even if they just happen to be the sitting to the right or left of the sheriff. In the end their goal is to kill everyone but the sheriff so get started right away.

The renegade should always be careful with what side they chose as they don't want the law or the outlaws to get to strong and a good idea for them would be to work on everyone while trying to pretend to be friends with everyone.

As for the outlaws sure their goal is to kill the sheriff but there is nothing saying that they have to target him exclusively. A good outlaw can easily hide while working to destroy the people who are suspected of being a deputy or renegade to allow for a stronger law side when they take on the sheriff.

In short just remember that every game is as predictable as you make it and if your going to set it up that each role is going to play the same every time then there is no reason to not expect it to be a very predictable game. Try and find ways to mix up the strategy so that it is not everyone waiting for the outlaws to shoot first followed by the renegades turning on the sheriff and you might find the game to be less predictable .

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