October 15, 2014

Game Review: Bang! The Walking Dead Survivor Showdown

After witnessing a near-immediate sell out of The Walking Dead Bang! Game at Gen Con 2014, I blundered into it at a Barnes & Noble shelf this week. Sold!

So how is it, you ask?  Read further, gentle reader.

The rules of Bang! The Walking Dead Survivor Showdown (hereafter referred to as BWDSS) are extremely similar to the original Bang! game. I’m going to assume most are familiar with those rules, but in nutshell: The original evokes a Western feel and players randomly draw secret positions with varying goals—except the Sheriff, who is known to all and starts with a big target on his or her back, but also starts out stronger and has allies. Each player also draws a specific cowboy, which gives them a unique ability. The players draw and discard cards to gain equipment, such as handguns or barrels to hide behind, or to trigger events. Players “shoot” at other players—sometimes before they even are certain if they are shooting a friend or foe—and their attacks may be countered with the right cards. Eventually (and sometimes it can take quite a while) players start going to that great stagecoach in the sky and the survivor(s) win. Latter expansions, especially High Noon, added additional characters and cards into the fray, and increase the fun.

In the case of Bang! Walking Dead Survivor Showdown, it’s all about theme.  If you’re a geek and you’ve lived on Earth for the last few years, you’re familiar with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. This licensed version of Bang! lays on a healthy dose of Walking Dead theme. It’s important to note that The Walking Dead referenced here is the comic, not the AMC television series. Fans of the TV series will recognize many characters and can certainly play along, but fan favorite Daryl is absent (his closest cousin from the comic, Dwight, may serve as a replacement). 

If, like me, you’re a fan of the comic however, you’re in for a treat. The previous The Walking Dead game (Z-Man) incorporated game art, but the comic has understandably progressed far beyond the game art and the game feels out-of-date. Newer heroes like Jesus and new villains, like Governor-next-up Negan, are absent. Happily, BWDSS is extremely up-to-date with the comic, a much as could be hoped for, and the comic fan will delight in references to the Hilltop or Saviors, or by playing Jesus or Dwight. If you were lucky enough to stop by the USAopoly booth at gen Con 2014, you may have netted the bonus weapon cards, featuring Michonne’s katana and Negan’s barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat Lucille!

Style & Theme: The theme here is great. All pieces in corporate art by comic artist Charlie Adlard. Unlike the original Bang! game, this BWDSS also includes illustrated play mats. Most of the art used seems to be repurposed from the comic itself, but the selection and cropping is done well. New art, such as that on the equipment cards, was either done by Adlard or someone skilled at mimicking his style.

Components: The components are good, similar in standard to the original Bang! game. The cards are a decent stock and should last.

Overall Play: Very similar to Bang! If you’ve played Bang!, you’ll be up and running in minutes.
Final Take: If you enjoy the original Bang! game (or similar games) and have nothing against zombies, you’ll enjoy this. If you’re a fan of the comic series, oh my will you enjoy this. Theme aplenty for Walking Dead aficionados.

Components: B+
Theme: A
Gameplay: B
Overall: B+

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