Two weeks ago, we discussed Bang!, one of the foundational teamplay games of the ’00s. Today we’re following up with a look at Bang! The Dice Game, which followed in its footsteps by offering a variant of Bang!’s teamplay with dramatically simplified game mechanics.
Bang! The Dice Game by Michael Palm & Lukas Zach
Publisher: dv Giochi (2013)
Cooperative Style: Hidden Teams
Play Style: Dice, Take That
The heart of Bang! is its focus on hidden roles. They’re dealt out at the start of each game: one player openly becomes the sheriff, while other players secretly become deputies, outlaws, and a renegade. These roles describe hidden teams that share victory conditions: the sheriff and his deputies are trying to kill all of the renegades and outlaws; the outlaws are trying to kill the sheriff; and the renegade is trying to be the last player standing.
Characters die over the course of the game, and when they do, their roles are revealed; eventually one of the teams meets their victory condition.
If that all sounds a lot like Bang! (2003), the original card game, that’s because the hidden teams have been directly adapted for The Dice Game. The difference is in the actual gameplay. In The Dice Game, players throw dice each turn that mix risk and reward. If they roll well, they can damage opponents and heal themselves, but if they roll badly they can take damage from dynamite or Indian attacks. What’s actually rolled can constrain a player’s choices, which has interesting results for the game’s cooperative elements.
Just as in the original card game, the cooperation of The Dice Game focuses on shared combat. Characters are once more shooting (or healing) other characters, and in the process trying to figure out what team everyone is on.
The dice rolls control who you’re allowed to attack, based on their distance from you — meaning that you usually have two choices, such as the player to your left or the player to your right. This makes attacks much more common than in the card game. This is a good change that helps to drive the game: because hidden teams are revealed only by a specific action (combat), that action needs to occur as frequently as possible.
Unfortunately, The Dice Game still contains the cooperative shortfalls of the original. Most notably, there’s no mechanical support for cooperation: characters shoot each other, but they can’t explicitly figure out teams nor can they more explicitly help each other. Still, it’s enough, particularly for one of the shortest cooperative-adjacent games around.
No Challenge System Elements. Hidden Teams.
Like the card game, The Dice Game includes a two-part character allocation system, where each player gets a role (which defines their victory) and a character (which gives them a special ability). However, that’s the extent of adventure gaming in The Dice Game. The rest is mostly abstract; by making the game quicker and simpler, the designers also removed most of its color.
Bang! The Dice Game offers an excellent example of how to take a cooperative mechanic (hidden teams) and present it in a simple, quick form. It’s an excellent study in minimalism that reveals what you must provide to support this sort of play. And that’s shockingly little.
Michael Palm & Lukas Zach
Palm and Zach are German designers who worked together to create a dice sequel to Italian designer Emiliano Sciarra’s original Bang! (2003). They had each produced one or two dozen earlier games in the ‘00s and had collaborated previously on another team-based co-op, The Castle of the Devil (2006, 2010). They’ve since worked on a few full co-ops, the Aventuria Adventure Card Game (2016) and Adventure Island (2018), but Bang! The Dice Game and The Castle of the Devil remain their biggest hits to date and have received the most attention outside of Europe.
Featured image courtesy of karl69 on BGG. Shannon has three plays of this game in his records, but we apparently never took pictures (and don’t have the game any more).