Any ornery cowpoke worth their spurs knows that the Mexican Standoff is the best bit of a Spaghetti Western. As the lawman, renegade and outlaw stand their ground, eyes narrowed and eager for the kill, it's difficult to hear the music over the stressful grinding of teeth.
Bang! The Spaghetti-Western Board Game condenses this brilliant piece of movie history into a card game worthy of Clint Eastwood himself, and the iPad version distinguishes itself as a cross-platform multiplayer gem.
Spinvector has perfectly translated the original card game into an intuitive touchscreen format. Five to seven players are arranged around the virtual table, with a Sheriff and Outlaw gunning for each other by playing 'Bang!' cards that deal damage. Each of these two heroes are backed up by another player acting as a deputy and fellow varmint, who need to support their team and wipe out the opposition.
The Renegade, on the other hand, has to kill everyone while leaving the Sheriff until dead last. And has the most fun in the process.
At the beginning of each turn, players are dealt a selection of cards that can be used to damage opposing players, nullify 'Bang!' cards, extend their range, throw other players into jail or unleash satisfyingly random Western tropes like Indian attacks or dangerous hot potato dynamite. The raw experience is unpredictable and exciting, but Bang! has a nifty ace up its sleeve that sets it apart from the pack.
When each game starts, every player is randomly assigned a role... but have no idea what side anyone else is on.
Apart from the sheriff, everyone else is a wild card, and the true brilliance of Bang! is that you need to work out who the other players are gunning for without tipping your hand too early. Watching how they interact with the sheriff is a great way of deducing who the Outlaw is, leading to a tense and terrifying period of turtling before crescendo of chaotic card-based violence. The Renegade, as mentioned, has to decide whether to support the winning team or side with the underdog - temporarily assuming a role before betraying his erstwhile compatriots. It's brilliant, effective and frequently hilarious, especially when players accidentally betray their own team thanks to the Renegade's devious machinations.
Bang! is a great card game, then, but its PC version felt a little dry and sterile when I reviewed it over at Dealspwn.com. Luckily, the iPad app is leagues ahead thanks to its intuitive tactile interface, crisp graphics and range of game modes. As well as the cross-platform multiplayer that guarantees to quickly match you with some fellow gunslingers, you can also pass the pad around the room to play it as a regular card game - vastly increasing its value. Note, though, that you'll need to mask your cards (and role) with your hands if playing on a table, or hold the tablet close to your chest while truthfully calling out your actions - if not the motives behind them.
Bang! does have a couple of minor flaws, although one of them admittedly comes with the territory. Calling up a scrolling card description (a must for some of the more obscure items) takes far too long, leading to some aggravating delays for other players... and of course, there's a lot of waiting around while the turn progresses around the group. It's a card game, though. What do you expect?
- Tense, tight and addictive
- Great multiplayer modes
- Intuitive interface, crisp visuals
- Finnicky card descriptions
Summary: Bang! HD more than deserves a purchase with its unique and rewarding gameplay, impressive multiplayer and bevy of content. It's not for everyone, but fans of card games and westerns will discover a powerful new addiction. Reach for the sky!
Compatibility: Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.
Price: £1.49 - App Store