Each week in Play in Process, Richard Clark shares what he’s been playing and why it means something to him.
A small group of church people I meet with weekly had a “game-night” earlier this week. The group organizer encouraged us to bring some games. So, I brought Bang!
Bang! is a card game in which you assume a role chosen at random, mafia style: You are a sheriff, a deputy, an outlaw, or a renegade. Depending on your role, you have a particular objective. You want to be the last one standing, survive to the end, kill the sheriff, or kill the outlaws. These roles remain a secret, except for the sheriff. You are also given a particular character with certain special abilities. Once you have assumed your role and character, you proceed to shoot people.
The game is strange: because the sheriff goes first, it almost always starts with the sheriff shooting at some random person. What follows is perhaps the most interesting Wild-West narrative you’ll ever witness:
One day, the sheriff came outside and just started shooting his wife. No one really knew why. He claimed it was because he simply couldn’t reach his friend from such a far distance. His wife, his friend, his other friends, they all started shooting randomly. Meanwhile, they would stand around and discuss the odd lack of clear battle-lines. There were no obvious enemies or heroes. Even the hero was known for cold-blooded killing. Once he took out a howitzer and shot it at the entire town – just because he was bored and had nothing else to do.
One outlaw was tired of living and begged for death. We happily obliged. She died a drunken, sorrowful death.
Just when the battle lines were clear – the remaining two outlaws, the sheriff, the remaining deputy, and the renegade were all unveiled – things got confusing. In a fruitless attempt to convince the sheriff that she had turned good, the outlaw started shooting at another outlaw – only to be gunned down by a deputy. Did I mention that three times, the sheriff lit dynamite and threw it randomly into the saloon? The third time, it took out the renegade.
It was down to the last stand: The outlaw, the sheriff, and his wife, the deputy. This part was predictable and uneventful: They mowed down the outlaw.
To be honest, the game went on far longer than I thought it would, and it was a little bit tough to explain certain parts of the rules. But these guys took it in stride, and infused their own personalities into a Wild West narrative that, even in the height of absurdity, rang true to me – mainly because it was our story. Most of all, it felt like the kind of epic experience we could all look back on and maybe even learn from. I know I learned something: Next time, I should kill that meddling deputy last.