Bang! The Dice Game (2013) – Accessibility Teardown

Game Details
NameBANG! The Dice Game (2013)
ReviewMeeple Like Us
ComplexityLight [1.27]
BGG Rank554 [6.96]
Player Count (recommended)3-8 (5-8)
Designer(s)Michael Palm and Lukas Zach
Buy it!Amazon Link

Version reviewed

English/Italian second edition

Introduction

Bang the Dice Game is a perfectly okay game about banging and dice. It’s inoffensive to an extreme. Briefly amusing with a social cost for playing that can’t really be at all justified in comparison to what its required player count would otherwise let you do of an evening. We gave it two and a half stars in our review, which is the MLU equivalent of a shrug and a vaguely puzzled look. It’s fine, but you deserve more than fine. Look at you – you deserve the best.

But you know, not everyone can play the best and sometimes the thing that we can really get excited about here on Meeple Like Us is the extent to which a game is playable. Not as in… ‘fun to play’ but literally. Can you play Dice the Bang Game if you have impairments across a wide range of categories?

Let’s find out. It’s the entire reason I’ve gathered you here today.

Colour Blindness

Colour blindness isn’t a problem. While the cards do exhibit some degree of colour clash across various categories of colour blindness, they show the name of your role prominently and you’ll never be in a position, at least during play, where you need to covertly observe another player’s identity.

Colour blindness and the role cards

Dice are marked by symbols, and while colour is used it’s not the only way faces are differentiated. Clear icon design is the primary way to tell things apart.

Bang the Dice Game color blindness

Individual characters and bullets are likewise completely discernible. Character cards provide full text and annotation, and bullets (health points) only come in three and one flavours, with icons showing which is which.

We strongly recommend Bang the Dice Game in this category.

Visual Accessibility

Visually impaired players are going to have issues with most of the game, although they are unlikely to critically get in the way if someone really wants to play. Let’s go through them systematically.

The first problem is that this is a hidden role game, and that’s always a problematic category here. Players are dealt a secret card that indicates their relationship to other players, and save for the Sheriff this is not revealed to the table. Players that can distinguish colours or can close inspect a card with a suitable accessibility aid will likely be able to tell who they are, but there’s going to be a risk of revealing information to the table.

Face down role card

For players for whom total blindness must be considered, this information is not otherwise available.

Bang the Dice Game also makes use of Yahtzee style dice rolling – roll a set of dice, keep some, reroll others. The dice all share the set of faces they have, and so it’s possible to construct a lookup table along with accessible dice in order to play. The problem here really is that most people are unlikely to have five accessible dice handy, and the ‘saving’ element of Yahtzee style rolling means there’s a persistence of state between rolls that can be difficult to work around. However, given the relative simplicity of the Bang game mechanics this might not be as much of a deal-breaker as it could seem. There’s not enough complex dice manipulation to really stress this issue.

For comparison, something like Elder Signs requires players to portion out their allowance of dice with an eye to future requirements and sequential pre-requisites. CV requires careful consideration of dice in front of you versus cards you own and cards you might want. Welcome To needs players to relate dice to a spatial topography of sometimes surprising intricacy. Ganz Schon Clever and Doppelt So Clever are just nightmares of optimisation. All of these games require you to do something clever with dice. Bang mostly focuses on throughput and capacity – aim for sets or repeats. The mechanics of play are simple. Position around the table is often more important than specific die rolls, and that’s going to be a non-issue in most groups unless there’s a lot of moving around.

Player identities are indicated only on cards, but the powers each player is dealt are pretty straightforward and they only rarely impact on the complexity of managing the dice. In the event that’s going to be a problem, a group can play with a restricted set without major issue.

We can tentatively recommend Bang The Dice Game in this category. It’s not the first game we’d attempt to put in front of someone given its accessibility profile. It’s certainly possible to play with support in most circumstances for visually impaired players, and the totally blind can make use of other workarounds for their hidden roles. For example, applying tape or such to selectively make them tactile.

Cognitive Accessibility

I’ve found Bang to be surprisingly difficult for some people to get their heads around when it comes to the win conditions, because really they follow a kind of flow-chart rather than anything more intuitive.

And you know, it’s not the algorithm for landing Apollo on the moon or anything but it’s weirdly counter intuitive, certainly in comparison to other social deduction games. It winds in a weird way and leads to circumstances where odd things happen. The sheriff kills all his or her deputies, then is killed by one of the two remaining renegades. Somehow in that case, the outlaws win, even if they all died. It’s just… a bit hard to square with your own motivations. It’s a game framing of a thematic element that works against its own conceits. I dunno, I’ve just seen very smart people having difficulties working out their own agendas because of this.

As far as social deduction goes, Bang the Dice Game is probably the most accessible one we’ve looked at because there’s no real way for a proper consensus to emerge. It’s all guess-work because the dice are a massive motivation churn. Just because someone shoots an outlaw it doesn’t make them a deputy. A player that spends his or her character specific heal on a sheriff isn’t necessarily a renegade. But there’s no way to collapse the suspicion because gunfights don’t necessarily only involve the targets you’d choose. The fact you just pumped five bullets into Wyatt Earp doesn’t mean you’re Johnny Ringo. You do what the dice tell you, and you don’t always get a lot of choice.

The game does require a degree of numeracy (for tracking health, and also for working out which target is viable for a bullet), some literacy (for understanding character powers), and the ability to decouple action from outcome (particularly when it comes to the arrows). None of it is particularly intense although when it’s coupled to the façade of the social deduction it can be surprisingly complicated. The complexity of the game state is not high, but the bubble of uncertainty around it can make it seem that way.

As you might expect from a game of this nature, the expectations on memory are substantive. You need to remember what players did, who they targeted, and on a higher level… what dice did they choose to reroll and which did they choose to keep? A player shooting another player three times didn’t get forced into that from he first roll. Was that what they were aiming for, or is it just what they had to do? And what does all of that say about the role they might have?

Again, I don’t want to overstate this – it’s a factor but also it’s not one that results in especially cunning or tactical play. Outlaws want the sheriff to die quickly. Renegades want the sheriff to die slowly. Sheriffs and deputies want everyone else to die. As such you can play effectively without even working out who is who, but in the end you lose what’s supposed to be interesting about the game.

We don’t recommend Bang in either of our categories of cognitive accessibility. It’s too convoluted in motivations to be a good fit for those with fluid intelligence impairments, and the pretence of social deduction is too demanding on memory for others.

Physical Accessibility

As long as a player can investigate their hidden role card, or have it covertly held up for their inspection, Bang can be fully played with voiced instructions. Dice rolls can be easily verbalised. ‘Hold the bullseye two and the gatling gun, reroll everything else’, as can targeting. ‘Shoot both my bullets into Michael’. Discarding and collecting health can easily be handled on another player’s behalf.

We recommend Bang The Dice Game in this category.

Emotional Accessibility

While the dice remove a lot of the unpleasantness that can form the social background of a game like this, they do have explicitly targeted mechanisms in them. When you pick an opponent one seat away, you can go left or right. Same with an opponent two seats away. That means you can’t be indiscriminately targeted, but when you are it was a choice. Sometimes there are role related reasons for that, but the uncertainty window over everything means that targets are often based on convenience or inevitability. The only real sure thing is that most of you are going to want to shoot at the sheriff and it feels quite unfair to be in that position, especially during those player-count scenarios that the internal balancing doesn’t kick in.

Arrows are particularly prickly in the game too. You roll one, and you immediately collect an arrow token. You can reroll those dice, so it’s possible, although not likely, to end up taking all the arrows in a single round and then instantly taking a full nine points of damage. In any case, the accumulation of these can be rapid and it can easily be the case that you know you are going to survive in the game only until someone rolls another. When all the tokens are gone, everyone takes the appropriate amount of damage and returns them to the pile. Often your fate is decided based on what other people roll, because you won’t always be able to do anything to prevent it.

There’s player elimination too in Bang The Dice Game, although individual rounds play out quickly enough that it’s not really that much of an issue. It’s not much of a game for spectators, which is a problem, but since you’re mostly done with a full go in about fifteen minutes it’s not something I’d particularly worry about.

Still, it can only be a tentative recommendation for us here.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

The manual makes use of the second person perspective, and there’s a blend of different characters. But we need to drill down a bit here.

Bang Box

First of all, when you take an arrow it’s explicitly referenced as an ‘Indian’ arrow. That’s problematic, but so too would the use of the phrase ‘native American’. Terminology is rarely fully accepted, but even if the word choice had been better you’d still be dealing with the fact the only role played by indigenous tribes is as the source of unfounded and unwarranted aggression. Including characters with the name ‘El Gringo’, ‘Pedro Ramirez’ and so on reflects, at the very least, a casual laziness that borders on stereotype. I’ll leave it up to other people to determine what it reflects at worst. It’s clear from the names that the makers are riffing on a particular flavour of Old West legend, but still… ‘you never lose more than one life point to Indians’ isn’t an overly respectful power to award a character called ‘Jourdonnais’

 

There are three women characters in the game. Rose Doolan, Suzy Lafayette, and Calamity Janet. Their outfits are largely era appropriate and there’s no obvious imbalance in sexualisation between the men and the women. There’s no correspondingly buxon character to Calamity Jane in the male roster, but also she’s not overly objectified. So, it’s a mixed performance here.

Some dubious characters in Bang The Dice Game

Bang the Dice Game has an RRP of about £20, and it suffers somewhat from requiring at least five players to be any fun, and not being as good as other games at that player count. It certainly supports a reasonably large group – up to eight, which gives it a reasonable price per player point. It’s just a tricky number to have to get together, especially since at the three and four player counts it loses a lot of what makes it passably fun at the higher ends.

We don’t recommend Bang the Dice Game in this category. It’s just too finnicky a player count and too casually dismissive in its representation.

Communication

Some literacy is needed to interpret character cards but it’s not much because the powers are quite simple. That’s open information so it can be explained at the start of the round if there’s a language barrier between a player and the game. Like all social deduction games there will likely be quite a lot of table talk as players accuse each other of being nefarious bandits or virtuous deputies. The counterpoint is that it’s very difficult for players to do this with the kind of insinuating insistence you’ll see in other games. Logic plays only a part in this process because the uncertainty of the dice makes reliable deduction too difficult. As such these are often emotional arguments rather than being marked by their level of analytical sophistication. Still, it’s certainly possible to find it difficult to make your point if others are trying their hardest to mislead everyone else as to your loyalties.

We’ll very tentatively recommend Bang the Dice Game in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

Players with colour blindness and a visual impairment are likely to find the hidden role aspect to be additionally challenging. The colour of cards is a lot more marked than the text, which is in an awkward font, and if that differentiating factor is lost it will have an impact. Not enough for us to reverse our tentative recommendation though.

For those with a physical impairment connected to a communication impairment, it will become more difficult to precisely indicate what actions are to be taken but not enough to really make much of a difference. It might though have an impact on the table talk if a player relies on being able to make their feelings known physically through sign language. Even simply getting the attention of other players in the middle of an argument might be a concern.

Otherwise, all the intersections we’d normally consider are covered by the individual categories.

Bang plays very quickly – about fifteen minutes per round – and has so few real components that you can easily play it in cramped and occasional circumstances. It’s short enough to fit around conditions of modulating severity.

Conclusion

We’re not hugely moved by the design of Bang the Dice Game. It’s not interesting enough in any one facet to compensate for the unsatisfying way it all comes together. The hidden roles are too simple and yet the logic too convoluted. The dice play is too trivial and yet absolute smothers the social deduction part to death. It’s an okay way to spend your time if you don’t take it too seriously, but dammit – taking things too seriously is my only super power.

Bang the Dice Game, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
CategoryGrade
Colour BlindnessA
Visual AccessibilityC
Fluid IntelligenceD
MemoryD
Physical AccessibilityB
Emotional AccessibilityC
Socioeconomic AccessibilityD
CommunicationC-

Unfortunately, it’s not like we can even recommend it in the accessibility stakes. It’s got a problematic profile with only a few high points. It performs strongly for people with colour blindness, and is easily verbalizable. Our other recommendations are all tentative. Some, very much so.

We gave Bang the Dice Game two and a half stars in our review. Look, if you had this on your shelf I wouldn’t judge you for playing it. We’re still waiting for an accessible social deduction game to come along though, and this isn’t it. We can’t recommend it your way as a game, we can’t recommend it your way as an accessible product. We just can’t really recommend it your way.

 


A Disclaimer About Teardowns

Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.

Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then this will not be the blog for you. We will not debate with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.

Teardowns are provided under a CC-BY 4.0 license. However, recommendation grades in teardowns are usually subjective and based primarily on heuristic analysis rather than embodied experience. No guarantee is made as to their correctness. Bear that in mind if adopting them.

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