Thursday, March 30, 2017

Advanced strategy tips for Bang!

This is a second part of this article about Bang! strategy. The first part focused on giving some really basic tips and was intended for people familiar with the game, but not complete beginners, as those should probably try the game few times on their own. Yes, I doubt there can be a Bang! beginner in 2017, that is why I have not provided a guide for those (also the rules do a that job quite well anyway). This time around, I will focus on some advanced tips, sometimes quite minor things in a greater scheme of things. If you aren't really too familiar with the game, start with the first article and come back to this one later. Bear in mind that those tips are for people who want to do as much as possible to win the game (within the boundaries of the rules). An average casual player might feel confused or perhaps might question himself why would someone ever try to follow those. With that in mind, let's jump right into it.

Know what cards are in the game
This tip is rather an obvious one, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to know this. I need 3 cards to kill my opponent. I have nothing in my hand and I will be drawing 2 cards in my next turn. Can I even hope to kill him? Is there any card that draws more cards left in the deck? More importantly knowing what kinds of effects are there helps you to correctly estimate what you can expect from your opponent. And if you play with any of the expansion, this knowledge's worth increases. Do you know what cards are in the High Noon deck? And the Wild West Show? 
I will be going through those in the future so do not be afraid if you do not know. 
This is also an absolute necessity if you want to utilize the next one.

Card counting
You may have heard of this in Poker or many other card games. There is up to 135 cards in the playing deck in Bang!. This task seems pretty impossible at first, but if you start with certain cards and ignore the rest, and gradually add more cards as you get used to this, you might end up being able to remember all the cards played in the game so far. The cards you may want to start with are those with the biggest impact. Those are the cards with stealing effects (Cat Balou, Panic!, Rag Time, etc.), distance modifiers and weapons (Mustang, Appaloosa, Silver, Hideout, Remington, ...) and cards that force you to keep Bang!s in your hand as a defensive tool (Indians!, Duels). It is also quite useful to keep track of cards that draw additional cards such as Stagecoach or Wells Fargo.
There might also be more decks in the game, such as High Noon, Fistful of Cards, Wild West Show and Gold Rush. All of those (except for Gold Rush) have one card that is always the last card in it's respective deck. By tracking those decks, you may give yourself a significant advantage that comes from knowing what effects are about to come or what equipment card can you hope to turn over when you buy one of those already offered to you. The keen players are able to exactly tell you what the last 2 cards of all three decks with predetermined last card are.

Looking for tells
You already know that it is a good idea to keep an eye on what cards people pick when General Store is played. What does it say about them though? First, you can catch some less experienced players picking up a weapon card that conveniently allows them to Bang! the Sheriff from distance. Look at the diagram bellow.

Let's assume that "A" is the Sheriff and nobody else has given any clue to what role is he playing. "A" plays a General Store card and following cards show up: Wells Fargo, Mustang, Stagecoach, Beer, Remington and Panic!. The Sheriff immediately picks Wells Fargo, as it is arguably the best card. Now player "F" picks Mustang in order to protect himself from the potential Panic! and improve his position overall. "E" picks Beer. "D" suddenly decides to pick Remington (a weapon that allows the player to shoot up to a distance of 3) over some quite solid cards (Stagecoach, Panic). Why would he do so? It's a 6-player game. In a 6-player game there is a Sheriff, 3 Outlaws, a Deputy and a Renegade. If the player who picked up the Remington were a Deputy, what would he try to achieve? It doesn't make sense for him to increase his own range as everyone around is an enemy. It could only be a good choice if he was trying to deny the weapon to player "C", who might be a Renegade or an Outlaw. But it probably wasn't worth the 2 extra cards or the Panic! effect anyway. We can quite safely predict that such player isn't the Deputy. Now the Renegade might potentially want o increase his range but only if he is after a specific target or he is trying to bluff everyone into thinking that he is an Outlaw. Neither of those is a good option because in this game we assume he doesn't have a clue who the Deputy might be. Therefore it only makes sense for him to either shoot someone immediately next to him or wait. That player is probably an Outlaw trying to initiate an attack against the Sheriff. Also if someone else played the General Store, you could expect a Deputy to pass a better card to you, in other words, if "C" played the GS and picked the Wells Fargo, then "B" picked Panic! and passed that Stagecoach to you, there is a good chance that he is your ally (unless you only have the Stagecoach in your hand, because guess what he will do with that Panic! on his turn if that is the case).

Micro decisions
Many people overlook little things that do not even matter most of the time. Since they are really minor, you perhaps didn't even notice some of them. A typical example would be following situation.

Let's say a player has both cards shown above in front of him, active and ready to be played when  needed. He is a target of a Bang! card, he has no Missed! in his hand. Which card do you play? The original and first impression is that it doesn't matter. Wrong! If you play the Cappello first, you risk drawing the second Iron Plate in the future, but if the first one is still on the board by the time you draw the second one, you are suddenly stuck with a dead card in your hand. The only instance in which it is correct to play the Cappello is if your opponent already has an Iron Plate in front of him and you suspect he might have a Panic! card in his hand. By playing the Cappello first, you prevented him from stealing AND using your Plate at the same time. Yes, he may still steal the card, but then it is a dead card in his hand. Another great example of this is a situation where your opponent has both a Hideout and a Mustang card in front of him. You might wish to steal one of those to get closer to him. But which one? They both do exactly the same thing just as in the previous case, but once again, a clever observer will point out, that there are 3 copies of Mustang card in the deck and only a single Hideout. So by stealing a Hideout you prevent your opponent from easily replacing it.
The Valley of Shadows expansion brings some cards that might cause a headache. Cards like Aiming (play this with a Bang! card, the target needs 1 Missed! to avoid it but loses 2 life points if he doesn't) force you to play your cards in a particular order. Let's say you have this, a Bang! card and a Punch card in your hand. Your goal is to kill a player to your right or something like that. If you Punch him first, he will likely use his Missed!, if he has any in his hand. Then you use your enhanced Bang! to make him hopefully lose 2 life points. Note that very experienced opponents who did their homework and counted all the cards that have been played to that point in the game might suspect you have this combination of cards and they might decide not to play the Missed! on purpose. You can use this to your advantage, Punch them for 1 life point and stop. Or call their bluff and shoot them with everything you have. After all, there are only 13 Missed! cards in the deck, 2 Dodge cards, and a Backfire card that also comes in the VotS expansion. Either way, keep in mind that this is a very advanced thing and many people do not really want to go that far in case of Bang!. But I feel that if you were willing to read this up to this point, you could as well try those.

Be calm
Does it surprise you to read this? The final point of this very passionate article about strategy for a seemingly simple mindless game advises you to stay calm. Yes. After all, it is just a game. If you lose, it is often pretty bad feeling, and the odds are sometimes in your favour and yet you still somehow lose. I know that feeling. I have been through that numerous times, dying to my opponents, to an unfortunate Dynamite draw, to an Event Card and so on. But even then, the most important thing is to stay calm. You may point out that it sucks to be unlucky, but it happens, and if you complain too much, people might go after you just so that they can see you explode again. Plus it is a terrible sportsmanship to leave the table enraged without even saying something like "thanks for the game". :D And that doesn't cover the elimination part only. If someone is about to steal a card from you and you know you have 4 cards in your hand and one of them is the crucial Volcanic you have been safeguarding in your hand for the whole game, just shuffle them, put them on the table face-down, and do your best to stay calm and try not to react at all. Sometimes you get away with that, sometimes you do not, but either way it is better than being a loud butthurt jerk. You sometimes just cannot help yourself from complaining and that is natural and probably appropriate in some situations, but keep it as limited as possible and try to enjoy the game instead.

Other than that, all I can do for you is wish you a good luck! Keep those in mind and improve your general game knowledge by playing more games (both games of Bang! and games in general). And most importantly, have fun!

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