It’s great to find innovative games for the iPad, but I also love to find games that put a new spin on some of my old favorites. The App Store has been kind to board games, but if you’re a devotee of niche tabletop games — games that are less popular than a With Friends app — you’re out of luck.
That’s why I was so happy to see my favorite Spaghetti Western card game in the App Store. Bang! HD preserves all the fun of being in an Old West shootout — don’t tell me it wasn’t fun to have pulmonary tuberculosis and cholera at the same time — but now I’ve got it on my iPad. But can a card game against a computer live up to the fun of playing Bang! with my friends?
Shuffle Up and Deal
There are four roles to play in Bang! HD, including the sheriff, deputies, outlaws, and renegades. It’s important to get your role straight and know what’s expected of your character, because if you get confused and shoot off your pistol at the wrong person, it could cost you the game. Each character has an objective, and there’s more to Bang! HD than playing out your hand to the end of the game or just blasting your way through the other players with your Winchester.
The sheriff’s always going to go first and is the only role revealed to all of the other players, which I’ve always thought kind of sucked for the sheriff if he preferred to be an introvert. Everyone else stays mum about what they’re doing, but if you pay close attention, you can probably figure out who they are. The deputy protects the sheriff, and the two of them work together against the outlaws. The outlaws’ only goal is to kill the sheriff, and the renegade wants to kill everybody, saving the sheriff for last, because he’s kind of crazy.
Each player will have a number of hit points, and if you’re shot with a Bang! card and can’t play a Missed! in response, you lose a point. Lose all of your points, and your character is out of the game. There are plenty of defensive and action cards, too, so you’ll be shooting your neighbors, hopping into barrels, and downing mugs of beer to recover life points.
Ways to Play
The best and easiest way to play Bang! HD is in single player mode. The game will let you set your total number of players, your role, your character, and your difficulty level, or you can put most of that on random. On easy mode, special character abilities are switched off, but when you play on difficult, some of the extra help the game gives you is gone. You’ll be pitted against a number of CPU characters, and you’ll try to figure out who everyone is so you don’t accidentally kill your deputy if you’re the sheriff, for instance.
Pass play mode is a lot more difficult to pull off and is for two or more human players. I tried it with my husband and it was incredibly awkward to pass the iPad back and forth. I was the sheriff for our game, so I needed to identify my deputy, the outlaws, and the renegade. He and I would have to hold the iPad at a distance that was comfortable for both of us in between our turns and observe the CPU players’ actions. When one of us would be attacked by the CPU, we’d have to again pass the iPad between ourselves, sometimes many times as several actions would take place amongst our characters and the CPUs.
There’s a third mode, online play, but I never got it to work. I was really excited to strap on my spurs and have a shootout with people I’d never met, so I found the problems with getting online play to work a real bummer. Everything that’s wrong with playing humans in pass play would have been solved if I could play actual people without having to constantly shift my iPad around. Unfortunately, the account creation page just didn’t work at all, and I was never able to get online with Bang! HD.
Bang! HD with Friends
I only sit down with anyone else interested in playing the Bang! card game a couple of times a year, and I don’t think we’ve ever gotten more than four people together at once. That’s one of the drawbacks of niche tabletop games; nobody knows what you’re talking about and would really rather play Scrabble or maybe Monopoly. So it’s pretty cool to get to play Bang! HD whenever I want. Rarely getting to play Bang! with friends means that I’ve gotten more practice playing on my iPad in the last couple of days than I have in the last couple of years, which is pretty great with a game as complicated as Bang! HD.
Of course, I’m not playing with friends, and that’s a big downside. I’m sitting on my sofa with my iPad in my lap, making pew! pew! noises at myself. I love video games, but I also love tabletop games, because it takes fun and adds people. Bang! HD isn’t stopping me from setting up a card table and calling up some friends, but I was struck as I played that I missed the noise of friends shouting, “Bang!”
I’ve got some disclaimers for new and for old players. If you’ve never played Bang! before, it’s important to go into the iPad version understanding that this is very much a card game; it walks, talks, and feels like a card game, and you can’t mistake it for anything else. Don’t expect any of the trappings of an Old West adventure-style game, because they’re not there.
If you’re already a big fan, though, you know that Bang! isn’t an American game and was originally released by an Italian publisher. That said, all of the Italian is gone from the cards in Bang! HD, and they are 100% in English. I’m still smarting over that one, if I’m being completely honest, and while I understand the designers probably couldn’t get both the English and Italian on there together, I haven’t altogether accepted the change.
My hurt feelings aside, I loved playing Bang! HD against the CPUs. I’d pass on pass play, though, and while I bet online play would have been pretty awesome, I didn’t get a chance to find out. Bang! HD is a quality game, though, and the single play alone makes it worth the download.