Games Gazette Logo

BANG! The DUEL
A 30 minute 2-player game by Emiliano Sciarra with Art by Rossana Berretta

BANG! the DUEL is a 2-player variant on the superb multi-player card game of BANG! (and it's numerous expansions). The first good thing to say about it is that you needn't have played, have knowledge of, or know any of the BANG! rules; it is self-sufficient and regulates well as a stand-alone game. In BANG! the DUEL one player takes on the role of the Sheriff and his posse of Deputies. The LAW or not, these are indeed a motley crew if ever there was one. The other player runs a resourceful band of Outlaws. 

While in town to rob a bank, the Outlaw band are confronted by the Sheriff and his Tin Star wearing heroes, and a gunfight ensues. One on one, or in this case two on two, gunfights of this type are also known as Duels to the Death. Have you the nerve, skills and abilities, to stand in front of two well armed killers and go for your gun?

There are 4 Decks of cards. One of Lawmen characters, one of Lawmen actions, one of Outlaws and one of Outlaw actions. Each player takes the two decks that their chosen career demands. The Decks of Law are decorated on their flip-side by the Sheriff's Badge and the name of the game, all in Yellow atop the grainy brown of wooden floorboards - a Sheriff's office perhaps? The Outlaw's Decks have Red text for the game title plus the Outlaw's headshot in Cowboy Hat and Red bandana across the lower face. These are printed over the circular design, aka 'rings' found when a tree is cut down across the trunk. The designs of these being immediately and specifically different from each other because during play they will intermix to form a discard deck, the cards of which will be available to both players - yes, once the discard deck comes into play both players can use each others cards.

The cards are made of very good stock because they are handled quite often in just one game, and this is a game designed to be played often - because of this it would make a great tournament game. If you are familiar with BANG! the card game then you will know most, if not all, of the cards used in BANG! the DUEL. The game is bi-lingual, Italian and English, with any necessary text on the cards translated clearly in both languages. 

Each Player has their own deck of Action cards made up of three colour coded types. Red bordered cards are BANG! cards and only one may be played by each player a turn unless they have an ability or an Equipment (Blue bordered) card that allows it, Equipment cards are played from hand to the AC not to the RC, and are laid in a row so that they are visibly clear to both players. The Brown bordered cards are Action cards, some of which may be used like BANG! cards except they are not subject to the one only per turn rule. 

There must still be copyrights on certain names as the designers have gone for subtle parodies of notables from the old Wild West. There are 12 Outlaw cards and 12 Lawmen cards, the names of these characters can be found, along with a fairly detailed description of their abilities, in the rules booklet on pages 15 and 16. Therefore I am not going to list them all here, but will name a few to give you an idea of the closeness between true 19th Century cowboys and their 21st Century counterparts: As you can see, not a great amount of imagination was brought to the table during the naming session, but then if you have played any edition of BANG! previously you would already know this.
On the side of the Law we have:  Alan Pinkertoon / Allan Pinkerton   Annie Oakey / Annie Oakley    Bart Masterson / Bat Masterson  and  Buffalo Bell / Buffalo Bill 
Outlaws contain the likes of: Bull Anderson / 'Bloody' Bill Anderson   Sid Curry / Kid Curry   Pearl Hat / Pearl Hart  and  West Harding / Wes Harding

In a regular game each player selects or randomly selects 4 of their characters and shuffles them before taking the top two and placing them side by side next to each other, choosing one to be their Active Character (aka AC) and the other as their Rearguard Character (aka RC), placing the Stand-up token on/next to their chosen AC. Each character has a Life value and Bullets are placed on their cards equal to their Life value. When wounded characters lose Bullets (Life) until they are all gone (Dead) but during play may regain Life points, but never raising above their original number. Each character has a special ability, as mentioned previously this is written in both Italian and English, that generally only comes into play when the character is the AC and not the RC.

As players can play as many cards (exception One BANG! - red bordered card - only) per turn it is often essential that they are played in the most advantageous order because they may affect or counteract cards played before them. Surviving the battle can often depend on how well cards are played. When a character loses all of their life points/bullets they are put to one side and another character drawn from the deck of characters to take their place. To make the game last longer you can draw more than 4 cards to this deck at the start of the game. Conversely you can play with just one or two characters and have a much shorter Duel. If you do this our suggestion is that both players play cards simultaneously, are then allowed to follow up on cards played until a result is arrived at - this usually means at least one character takes a wound. Most games are usually 'last man standing' wins. One on one or two on two Duels are extremely edgy and played a lot differently than when other members of your Posse/Gang can step up to the plate at the demise of another.

Although it's only a 2-player game you can play 2 players vs 2 players if you team up with a friend (vs 2 other friends) and each player plays Action and Equipment cards but only the AC character can play BANG! cards. This can get a bit messy and lose some structure, but then I don't suppose gunfights in the 19th Century were particularly civil and organised. I have also had some 'serious fun' playing a solo version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. I line up 5 shooters against each other and randomly deal them the number of cards equal to their Bullets/life. I shuffle each fighter's cards and place them as a face down deck behind them. Then beginning with the 'Sheriff' and proceeding in alternating order, (Sheriff/1st Bandit/1st Deputy/2nd Bandit etc etc) I turn over the top card and activate it, whatever it is, if possible. On their turn each character can select from the others who they (may be/are) firing at and this recreates the shambles that the infamous gunfight truly was. It's not quite BANG! but it does make for a fun solo game.

In BANG! the DUEL you may swap your AC with your RC once per turn. This may be done at any time during your turn and as only the equipment cards belonging to the AC count you can time it so you use both characters and their equipment as the AC each turn as long as you have the cards in your hand to do so. Your hand of cards can exceed the number of bullets your AC has during play but may not be over at the end of your turn, meaning you may have to discard down if the AC has taken damage. You never make your hand back up to full, per se, but you do draw 2 cards at the start of your turn even if this takes you over the bullet limit. You may never have more bullets than are shown on your AC card. Note that if you swap to make your RC your AC during your turn you do not draw or discard any bullets or cards - only draw at the beginning and discard at the end of your turn.

With only two players you know from the off who is the Law and who are the Bandits, so this version loses the 'guessing game'from the original BANG! where until the game unwinds a little you are never quite sure who are your compatriots and who are out to get you. However, the speed of play and the four game decks make up for any defficiency you may perceive. 

Sometimes 2-player games are either too strategical or too luck-based. This game has just the right amount of luck, random and tactical play. It's very good.

You should be able to locate it for around £20.00 / €20.00 / $20.00. It is very good value. Has longevity. Plays in under 30 minutes and above all is a pleasureable diversion that promotes different results and often quite different game play every time you face an opponent.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015