Board Game of the Week- Bang!

Bang! Full Set

  • Game Title: Bang!
  • Release Date: 2002
  • Number of Players: 4-7
  • Average Game Time: 20-40 mins
  • Game Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3955/bang/
  • Game Designer: Emiliano Sciarra
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Bang! is a game that was recommended by one of my coworkers, who got it for me in an office Secret Santa. It’s taken me some time to play it, but I finally was able to bust out the western-style card game this Cinco de Mayo. After playing two rounds of the game, it was easy to see why it is a regular for my coworker: the game is easy enough to learn, involves enough strategy to keep you engaged but not too much to over-complicate things, and overall was a great way to spend an hour with my friends.

Bang! splits up each player into a number of different roles based on the main players of a classic Wild West showdown. Each role has a different objective as they play the game, and roles are distributed randomly so that nobody knows who is who (minus the Sheriff). The roles and their objectives are listed below:

Role

Objective

Sheriff

Must eliminate all the Outlaws and the Renegade, to protect law and order
Outlaw They would like to kill the Sheriff, but they have no scruples about eliminating each other to gain rewards!
Deputy They help and protect the Sheriff, and share his same goal, at all costs!
Renegade

He wants to be the new Sheriff; his goal is to be the last character in play.

Because nothing says Wild Wild West like a good chart…

The number of roles differs based on the number of players, so the game scales in intensity based on how many people are playing. There are also character cards that give each player specific traits and skills that help them reach their objective.

Once both roles and characters are dealt out, the game starts with the Sheriff and goes clockwise. Each turn consists of three actions: drawing 2 cards, playing cards from your hand, and discarding cards until your number of cards match your current hit points. Bang! LogoPlaying cards is the majority of the turn, and there are a number of different cards with varying immediate and long term effects. The most crucial cards are Bang! cards, which allow you to shoot anybody within range. Once you declare who you shoot, that player has the opportunity to play a Missed card, which lets them avoid taking damage. If a Missed card isn’t played, that player loses one hit point. Lose all of your hit points, and you are out of the game. The game ends when either the Sheriff is killed, or all Outlaws and Renegades are killed.

Bang! CardsThe strategy involved with this game took some getting used to, but once you get the hang of things it becomes fun and engaging. Knowing who the Sheriff is gives him/her a disadvantage, but the Sheriff also gets an additional hit point, gets to go first, and in certain instances has deputies to help. In addition, the Renegade only wins if the outlaws are killed before the Sheriff, so the player who is the Renegade has to work to harm the Sheriff without them dying and take out the rest of the characters first. The outlaws seem to have the easiest job, but with a number of other characters having different  motivations sometimes tipping your hat too early and going straight for the Sheriff can make things difficult for you. Overall it feels like you are able to win as any of the characters (in our first round the Sheriff won and then in round two the Outlaws won), so there’s a good sense of balance that some competitive games lack. Another fun aspect of the game is the shooting distance- shooting distance is based on who you are sitting next to, meaning it is easier to shoot someone next to you than someone with multiple people in between. There are weapons and abilities to enhance your ability to shoot, but there are certainly times when you are restricted in your ability to use Bang! cards on people.

The only real negative I saw in this game is that it seems to be tailored more towards larger groups. The first time I played with 4 people, the minimum number for a game, and because of that we had fewer roles to choose from in the game. We only had one Sheriff, two Outlaws, and one Renegade, meaning no Deputies were included. This made the game less strategic and I found myself wanting to see how the Deputies affected the outcome. In addition, the distance restriction is very low for 4 players because you can always hit two players and then you only need a slight boost to get to the fourth player. I found myself enjoying the game a lot more the next time I played it, when we had 6 people. The game included a Deputy which added strategy to who the Sheriff shot, and the ability to shoot everybody in the game was much more limited.

Bang-Box

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this game: it’s engaging, the style is cool, the cards are all useful to the game and the character abilities add a nice bit of extra flair as well. I recommend the game for anybody who likes mid-level strategy games and the ability to shoot your friends in the face… metaphorically, of course.

Jack’s rating: 4.5/5 stars

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Board Game of the Week- Joking Hazard (for players 18+)

joking-hazard-box

  • Game Title: Joking Hazard
  • Release Date: 2016
  • Number of Players: 3-10
  • Average Game Time: 30-90 mins
  • Game Publisher: Breaking Games
  • Website: jokinghazardgame.com
  • Game Designer: N/A
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Disclaimer: This game has adult themes and is meant for players 18 and up. Do not buy this game for children and then get mad at me that it is inappropriate. Please and thank you.

Another Kickstarter funded game that takes a popular comic series and warps it into a fun, ridiculous, and inappropriate game came into my life last week. Joking Hazard is a card game based on the comic Cyanide and Happiness, which you’ve probably heard of if you’ve spent more than five minutes browsing the Internet. In case you haven’t, Cyanide and Happiness focuses on awkward and inappropriate reactions to situations and condenses them into a three-strip comic panel. Joking Hazard takes these elements and turns them into an extremely clever, wild, and raunchy game with Cards Against Humanity-esque decisions and a feeling of depravity that just can’t be beat.

The game is very similar in gameplay to Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples. You have a set of 7 cards, there is a judge that rotates clockwise every round, you play a card facedown and the judge chooses which card is the winner. The differences are fairly straightforward, but are important to the flow and style of the game. For starters, the cards are all single panels of a comic that you use to form a complete strip with two other
panels. The first panel is drawn from the draw pile, the judge places the second panel either before or after the first one, and then each player other than the judge chooses a panel to place at the end, completing the strip. This means that there is only one deck of cards, rather than two like in CAH and Apples to Apples, and each one is meant to be paired with other cards to form the final joke. The person who played the card that the judge picks keep their card to tally the score, and then play continues until you decide it’s time to stop.

The positives in the game come from the amount of creative ways you can play the cards and the game’s ability to keep you on your toes. Because each card is suited for a different situation, there joking hazard wife left meare a huge number of possibilities and directions you can take when playing a card. At first when I read my cards I assumed there was no way I would be able to use some of them, but sure enough a round came along where they were the perfect fit. In addition, the fact that the judge gets to play one of the cards is a huge positive in comparison to CAH and Apples to Apples. The judge actually gets to shape the story the way they see fit, which can very quickly add to the hilarity.

One downside to the game that I saw was that there are definitely times that your cards aren’t a good fit to the panels that have currently been played. This is an issue that comes up with any of these games, but the times when everything is a dud seems more noticeable when shown in comic style. This was rare when I played, but after a few more run-throughs I wouldn’t be surprised if it became more noticeable. In addition, the game seems to be a lot better in small groups. I’ve played once with 4 players and once with 10, and ultimately the game with 10 was still fun but it took longer and felt like some good cards got lost in the shuffle.

Joking Hazard 1

Ultimately this is the type of game you want to have for get-togethers, parties, and alcohol related shenanigans (if you are the type for that). I once again want to stress that this game is not one you want to be playing with or around your kids, but when you have a group of fun loving adults it is a great game to have in your collection.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

New Games for 2017

As always, my friends and family were extremely generous over the holidays this year. I was lucky enough to receive a number of new games for Christmas that I am looking forward to playing, some of which are particularly interesting to me. Here is a list of the games I received and how I got them:

Game I Got: BANG!

Where I Got It: Secret Santa (work)

Have I Played it Yet?: No

Any time you get a Wild West style game with English and Italian directions, you know that you have an interesting gem of a game. BANG! is a competitive game with 4-7 players that involves a number of characters (7 unique ones) and roles for each players such as Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, Renegade. Each player plays cards to shoot at other players, boost your stats and skills, and heal yourself after wounds. My coworker Maddy got me the game as a gift for our Secret Santa. She gave it very good reviews, and even though I haven’t gotten to play it yet I’m looking forward to trying it out on the next game night!

Game I Got: Clue, Firefly Edition

Where I Got It: Roommate Gift Exchange

Have I Played it Yet?: No

Similar to the multiple different versions of Monopoly I’ve collected, I am never against getting different versions of a classic game. My roommate Ian found a game that is a perfect fit for me- Clue with Firefly characters. The premise is the same as traditional Clue: you travel from room to room of the Serenity and accuse characters of the show by using items to aid the Alliance in kidnapping River. The items are all rather odd (Wash’s dinosaurs are an item, for example) but as someone who loved Firefly I think it’s a great addition to my collection.

Game I Got: The Oregon Trail Card Game

Where I Got It: Gift from Parents

Have I Played it Yet?: Yes

Continuing on the nostalgia train, The Oregon Trail was a staple of my childhood. Almost everyone has either played the original game or a newer version, and the Card Game equivalent definitely plays on the experiences of the computer game beloved by many. The object of the game is to travel as a group from Independence, MO to Willamette Valley, OR as a group. You move along the path by playing road cards with varying effects, and do your best to avoid the disasters that crop up on the Trail. The game is cooperative and only one player needs to reach the finish line, so I would expect to see at least a few people dying of dysentery or any other number of diseases and calamities along the way. I gave the game a shot and it is a simple concept that walked me down memory lane for a while… until I died from cholera.

Board Game of the Week- Bards Dispense Profanity

Before I get into the game review portion of this post, I wanted to share some good news with everybody. A month ago, I had one of the best moments of my life when I asked my Girlfriend to marry me- for some crazy reason she said yes, so I am officially engaged! It is definitely a moment I will cherish forever, and not just because I asked her in the middle of a Laser Tag session (yes, we are nerds) but also because of the pure joy we both had in the idea that we will get to spend the rest of our lives together. OK, now back to what you’re all here for, reading reviews about new games that you can judge vicariously through me!

bards-game

I got Bards Dispense Profanity as a gift for my fiancée- she is an English major and I had read good things about it, so I figured it was worth a try. We tried it out with my roommates a few nights ago, and it didn’t disappoint. As you probably guessed, this game is a parody of Cards Against Humanity, the popular card game where you play inappropriate cards to try and get hilarious reactions out of the group. The game mechanics are exactly the same as CAH- you take turns playing as judge, the judge picks out a “prompt card” and the other players play a card to fill in the blank of the prompt card. The judge then reviews the cards and chooses the one he/she thinks is best, whether that is funniest, most accurate, or basically whatever they feel like choosing. The way that Bards Dispense Profanity varies is that the game’s play cards are all direct quotes from Shakespeare plays. For those of you who don’t know much about Shakespeare’s writing style, it may look fancy but in reality it is quite dirty. This can lead to some very entertaining answers, especially to people well versed in the Hamlets and Much Ado about Nothings of the world.

bards-cards

The best part of the game that I found was that it is a fresh take on a game I already know and understand. I didn’t have to learn how to play the game, I simply opened up the box and dealt out the cards, and we were off to the races. It’s nice playing a game bards-rulesor the first time and feeling like everybody knows what to do, and even better it doesn’t feel like the same game you’ve always played because of the new cards and style. I also appreciate that the game is a bit more highbrow in its profanity- in no way does the game avoid dirty jokes, but it does find a way to make them more intellectual. Finally, the game is a great for social events and can be played with any number of players.

The downsides to the game parallel the issues with CAH- the gameplay can get stale on multiple play-throughs and there is no defined stopping point for the game. Also, even though I appreciate the fact that the game mechanics were identical to CAH, I do wish that they had added another component somehow. Similar game styles can feel like rip-offs very easily, and while the different cards are fun new content I feel like that’s the only draw of the game. Finding a different style or some new element would make the game more interesting. The closest they got is that some of the prompt cards direct you to judge based on other player’s preferences, which was a cool idea, but was not used enough to be a big part of the game.

bards-why-not

If you’re looking for some adult but classy fun, I think Bards Dispense Profanity is a pretty good choice. While it mirrors other games already in existence, it does bring its own flair and can be a great time for people who are fans of literature. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find the nearest performance of Macbeth…

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Codenames

codenames-all-cards

  • Game Title: Codenames
  • Release Date: 2015
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames
  • Game Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Yes

 

I have seen plenty of reviews of the game Codenames online, and it looked like everybody enjoyed the game as a whole. I put the game on my list to try a long time ago and never got a chance until this past weekend, when I went to a Birthday party with a group of board game enthusiasts. We divided up into two teams and ended up playing two rounds before moving on to other activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed both rounds and the game strategy as a whole. At first I thought that you needed an even number of people to play, but after playing I do believe you could have an odd number of players if you really wanted to.

codenames-agent-cards

Codenames is a two-team competitive card based game focused on one team member providing clues to the other team members that relate to specific code names. The game is set up by placing 25 “agent” cards down in a 5×5 row- these cards have a word on them, which is the code name of the agent. Then the team members chosen as Spymasters choose a Map card that shows which agent is on which team. Only the spymasters are allowed to see the map card. The map is set up to show which of the cards on the 5×5 grid are red agents, blue agents, civilians and the assassin. The object of the game is for the spymaster to provide a one-word clue to their team that relates to as many of the codenames as possible that are assigned to their team color. The other team members then guess which code name (or code names) the spymaster is trying to get you to choose. If the team is able to find all of their teams’ agents, they win. However, if they choose the opposing team’s agent, that agent is revealed and the other team has one less word to guess correctly. Guessing a civilian doesn’t hurt, but it does end your turn and leaves you unable to guess again if you wanted to. Guessing the assassin means that your team automatically loses, so the assassin should be avoided at all costs.

The biggest part about this game is the strategy of choosing words both as the spymaster and a team member. For the spymaster, the goal is to choose a word clue that can be linked to multiple agents on your team without misleading your team and causing them to choose the other team’s card or the assassin. There is also strategy in choosing a word that only could apply to one card, making sure that there isn’t any misunderstanding and effectively “playing it safe”. On the other side, the team members choosing the agents must strategically choose how many cards, and which cards, they want to choose. They can choose one card they are sure of, or they can choose multiple cards and take more of a risk. This is usually dependent on which team is winning and how confident you are that your spymaster is indicating a certain card.

codenames-cards-close-up

The most impressive thing about this game is the sheer number of variations: the game consists of numerous code name cards and map cards, so the possibilities of the cards on the grid and the options for agent card layouts are effectively limitless. The game encourages teamwork and strategy and is great for groups of close friends and strangers alike. Finally, the game is easy to set up and quick to play, so it is a perfect party game. The one downside I could think of with the game is the fact that while you can play with an odd number of players, ultimately it is easier/better to play with an even number so that no team gets an advantage. There are also a number of “player’s choice” rules revolving the hints that can be made, such as using Pronouns, that need to be addressed before the game starts. If your group forgets to go over these rules, it can cause confusion.

Overall I recommend Codenames as a great party game with a lot of fun strategy in a simple package. While the game says up to 8 players, you could certainly find a way to include more people if you choose, making it ideal for larger groups. In addition, the game can be played in small groups with the same effect, so don’t skip on it with 3-4 players either.

codenames-box

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Zombicide

zombicide-cover

  • Game Title: Zombicide
  • Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Players: 1-6
  • Average Game Time: 45-180 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Guillotine Games
  • Website: https://zombicide.com/en
  • Game Designer: Raphael Guiton
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Online

I got my copy of Zombicide way back in February, but didn’t get a chance to play the game because it looked so complicated and I wanted to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to learning the rules. The game sat on my shelf and was passed over for games like Hanabi, Exploding Kittens, and Ticket to Ride all spring and summer. Finally I was able to try it out last weekend with my roommates and my girlfriend. Not long after opening the box, I realized that I had truly missed out on playing an amazing gem of a game before that night.

zombicide-pieces

Zombicide is an in-depth, interactive cooperative game based on surviving the zombie apocalypse and achieving specific mission objectives. The game has ten missions, each of which has a different board layout and strategy, so it is a completely different experience every time you play. The game is very intense; the rulebook is about 30 pages long and it took us at least half an hour to get everything set up and ready to play. Still, once we learned the game mechanics it was the best game I have played in a long time. It plays very similarly to Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I play D&D, are you surprised?) You roll to attack, you gain experience and level up to get more experience zombicide-amypoints, you equip weapons that you find by searching a room/area, and you have the option of trying to be sneaky or barging in guns blazing. The underlying premise is to move from different “zones” on the map and either defeat zombies, find items, or reach objective points depending on the situation at the time. All while this is happening, more zombies are arriving and looking for a way to get to you and eat your brains. There are rules for combat, item usage, and taking damage, and after each turn new challenges form that you have to overcome. Because the game is cooperative, if a character dies your team can still win; it is possible to sacrifice yourself to keep your teammates alive as they reach their mission objective.

Zombicide is a great way to spend an evening for a number of reasons. It is extremely engaging and is set up to add difficulty as the game progresses, creating a fun gaming experience all the way through the mission. Because the game is cooperative, there is a lot of discussion around player actions and what moves everyone should make, which encourages communication and combined strategy. The game is truly immersive, making it easy to get engrossed in a mission and suddenly look at the clock and see it’s 1 AM. And yes, I am speaking from experience… Finally, the artwork and models used for the game are great because they have a fun and unique style. With 4 different types of zombies, 6 player options, and a number of different maps, you see the designer’s talent all over the board with Zombicide.

zombicide-maps

I think the game’s biggest issue would have to be its length. Of the ten missions that are available, only one of them is under an hour (not including the tutorial), and there is one that is listed as being around 3 hours long. The game is set up to be very lengthy and evolving, and while that is a lot of fun it is also difficult to dedicate that much time to a game. It’s definitely more tailored towards hardcore gamers, but it is also a lot of fun for casual players if they are willing to dedicate the time to playing. In addition, the game takes up a lot of space, so it doesn’t work well as a travel game.

Overall, if you’re looking for an intense gaming experience with a high level of difficulty and a great game mechanic, this is the game for you. While not applicable to all situations, I guarantee that if you take the time to learn the game you will have a great time and will want to play it again.

zombicide-logo

Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Space Sheep!

  • Game Title: Space Sheep!
  • Release Date: 2013
  • Number of Players: 1-8
  • Average Game Time: 20 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Stronghold Games
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/141035/space-sheep
  • Game Designer: Anthony Rubbo
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Online and some local game stores

IMG_3609

I love Star Wars, and I love puns, so when I saw this game on the shelves at a local store in Pennsylvania I knew I had to play it. My girlfriend got it for my birthday, but I haven’t been able to try it out until last weekend. I expected the game to mostly be about Star Wars-based puns, but the game-play is actually very unique and fun. Fully customize-able based on the numbers of players and the level of difficulty desired, the experience is different every time you play.

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Space Sheep is a collaborative game where everyone works together to either win as a group; if you run out of cards before completing your goal, everyone loses. The object of the game is for you to move all of the sheep and shepherd tokens to the appropriately colored solar system. This is done by playing Tactics Cards, which are played to move either the sheep or shepherd (or both) to a different location based on the solar system they were in previously. In addition, there is a timer that is continuously going throughout the game, and if it runs out then the Wolf gets to attack and you lose tactics cards. The game ends either by the group winning and getting all sheep and shepherds to their correct systems, or the group runs out of tactics cards to use and loses. The game relies heavily on communication from player to player, as well as understanding that sometimes you have to move pieces to the wrong system in order to eventually get all of them to the right system.

The collaborative effort portion of the game is part of why it is so much fun. Talking through your turns and figuring out how to use the cards in your hand based on what other people can do is a lot of fun. In addition, the timer makes things interesting and keeps the game at a fast-paced level. The ability to customize the game is helpful because you can play with any number of players and adjust the difficulty based on who is playing. The game also would work well for children, because it’s cute and fun and also helps promote teamwork. Finally, for someone who enjoys Star Wars and cheesy puns, reading through the instructions for the first time is almost as enjoyable as the game itself.

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The downsides aren’t too drastic, but they are worth noting at least; first, the game takes a long time to figure out. Because there is a timer, it can be frustrating at the beginning stages when you don’t have time to decide on your best option for a turn. That, plus the numerous puns in the instructions which grow less entertaining after the first or second read through, can make the first part of learning the game tiresome. However, once you play through a few rounds the strategies and game-play become more apparent, and so the game becomes much smoother. The fact that the game is customize-able is one of its strengths, but also one of its weaknesses. If you don’t know much about the game, it’s tough to decide on how difficult you should make it right away. I recommend making it easier to start and then working towards the harder difficulties.

As a whole, I got Space Sheep expecting it to be all about the parody, but soon found that the theme was only a secondary part of a clever and fun game mechanic. I don’t expect this game to be one I play every week, but I do think that it’s a great game to play with friends and would be fun to pull out at parties and group gatherings. I also plan on trying to play the game by myself soon (a solitaire option is possible) to see if that’s as fun as playing with a large group. No matter what though, I’m glad to add the game to my collection, because nothing beats getting a chance to “Ewe’s the Force…”

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Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars