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[Review] Bang: A Fistful of Cards

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Joined: 03/23/2011

A Fistful of Cards (Mayfair and daVinci Games, 2005 - Emiliano Sciarra) is the third expansion for Bang! The expansion, which is only fifteen cards, is very similar to a previous expansion, High Noon. The main difference to this expansion was that a contest was held for fans to create the best ideas for cards, and the winners got to see a card with their text idea in A Fistful of Cards.

With my reviews of the first two expansions, I noted that they had breathed some new life into Bang! With Bang! being one of my favorite games, I welcomed the changes and additions. A Fistful of Cards also adds to the variety, but it almost feels like "more of the same". Yes, the cards have different effects; but while they add a bit of chaos and randomness, they don't do enough to warrant picking up the expansion - UNLESS you play Bang! all the time, in which case the variety will be fun.

To play the game, the fifteen expansion cards are shuffled and placed face down. Starting with the sheriff’s second turn, one card is turned face up each round and the instructions on the card are followed – many affecting the entire round. I’ll give a brief summary of each card and my thoughts on them…

- Hard Liquor: Each player can skip drawing cards to gain one life. This might be nice if a player is about to die, but I'd still rather take the two cards - I might get one beer and another useful card.
- Russian Roulette: Starting with the Sheriff, each player must discard a "Missed" card or lose two life. Only one player will get hit by this card, which makes it feel like a form of dynamite. Fun card.
- Ambush: Changes the distance between all players to "1". This makes eight player games rather tense when drawn and can cause a few deaths in the beginning of the game if players gang up another player. I like it, but it puts the Sheriff in mortal danger.
- Law of the West: Players must show and play (if possible) the second card they draw. I actually found this effect boring, as it really didn't do much for gameplay.
- Abandoned Mine: Switches the draw pile and discard pile. This card is one of my favorites from the deck, as players can discard cards to the draw pile, which allows them to know which cards will be in play during the following round.
- Sniper: Players may discard two Bang! cards to attack a player, which can only be canceled by two Miss! Cards. With all the barrels and other cards that allow players to dodge, this makes players who have hoarded their "Bang!" cards rather powerful. Players who know this card is in the deck certainly have an advantage.
- Ranch: Players may discard any amount of cards from their hand and redraw at the end of their turn. Useful - but has the end result of most players doing nothing (to maximize the cards they can switch out).
- Vendetta: Players can take another turn if they draw a Heart card at the end of their turn. This sounds really good on the outset but can really change the fortunes of those who draw it, giving them a rather unfair advantage. (I know, I know - the game is full of this.)
- Dead Man: The first person who was eliminated comes back into play with two life and two cards. I love this card, as it keeps players around, and the first person eliminated doesn't feel nearly as bad once this card is played. And it allows them some sweet, sweet revenge.
- Blood Brothers: Players can give one life to another, as long as doing this doesn't kill them. This can be an excellent way to "prove" that you're a deputy, by giving some blood to the sheriff. It's too bad you'll have to kill him later on. 
- Peyote: Players guess the color of the top card before drawing and keep it if they guessed correctly. A player continues to do this until they guess incorrectly. This sounds interesting and is fun to watch, but doesn't add much to actual gameplay.
- Lasso: Cards in play in front of all players have no effect for the entire round. If combined with Dodge City, this card is potent. The person who drew the barrel and horse isn't so lucky now, is he?
- The Judge: Players cannot play cards in front of themselves. See my remarks on Lasso.
- Ricochet: Players can target cards in front of any player with Bang! cards, which can only be avoided by "Missed!" cards. This can be done often and helps even out the table a little more, getting rid of the pesky barrel or Winchester.
- A Fistful of Cards: At the beginning of a player's turn, the player loses life points equal to the number of cards in their hand. I really don't like this card, especially as it stays in effect to the end of the game. Even though the task of the card is to hurry up the game, it causes players to play erratically and punishes players who draw a lot of cards which are unplayable. High Noon had a similar card, "High Noon", which did the same thing, but in a better and more balanced fashion.

High Noon and Dodge City kept me interested in Bang!, as they offered up new play options and changed some of the dynamics of the game. A Fistful of Cards does the same, but it's basically High Noon 2 with different effects. When comparing the two small expansions together, I think High Noon is the better choice; and the expansions don't mesh too well, although I suppose you could put them in one big deck. So the choice of getting the expansion really depends on one thing - are you a Bang! fanatic? If so, pick up the expansion. If not, try it out first…

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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