Rock Paper Scissors BANG! Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 6 and p (publisher suggests 7+)
  • For 2 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Place, move, and stack to dominate your opponent

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The simple hand game Rock Paper Scissors has long dominated playgrounds, playing fields, and basketball courts. It’s a fast way to quickly determine a winner if a mutually agreed upon approach cannot be determined. For example, who gets the last piece of pie, who gets to kickoff, and who will pick up the bill. It’s also a game that requires its players to think ahead, read their opponent, and predict what they should do next based on what they know or think they know. In this game, the same applies, but the approach is very different.

Rock Paper Scissors BANG!, designed by Dave Cousins and published by North and South Games, is comprised of 1 playing board, 6 Rock counters (3 per players), 6 Paper counters (3 per player), 6 Scissor counters (3 per player), and 6 Dynamite counters (3 per player). All the game components are made out of wood and very durable. The components fit in a nicely sized cloth bag that has the game’s title screen-printed on one side. The bag includes a drawstring to keep all the game components securely in place. Excellent quality throughout.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first place the playing board in the middle of the playing area. Players should sit opposite of each other with the playing board in the middle.

Second, divide the counters by color into 2 different groups. Each player should take a color and will have an equal number of counter types.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and begin.

Playing the Game

Rock Paper Scissors BANG! is played in phases and turns. There are two phases to the game. During each phase, players will take turns. Each phase and a player’s turns per phase are summarized here.

Phase 1:Counter Placement

Each player, staring with the first player, takes turns placing one of their counters to the playing board, face-up. The playing board is a 5×5 square grid. The grid is designed like a Checker or Chess board. Players can place their counters in any of the empty squares except the middle square.

After all the counters have been placed, the next phase of the game begins.

Phase 2: Attack and Stack

The first phase was all about setting up for a killer strategy. The second phase is all about tactics. Each player, starting with the first player, now moves one of their counters or stacks of counters to an adjacent square that contains a counter (the counter could belong to the player or to their opponent). But there’s a catch. The move MUST “capture” the counter or stack they are moving to. Players cannot move their counter to an empty space.

  • Rock captures Scissors
  • Scissors captures Paper
  • Paper captures Rock
  • Like counter captures like counter (Rock captures Rock, for example)

A captured counter remains on the playing board. The counter that captured it is placed on top of the captured counter to create a stack. Single counters CAN capture a large stack and vice versa. To determine what counter type a stack is, simply look at the top-most counter.

Stack example

Stack example

There is only one exception to the rule when it comes to attacking and stacking. Dynamite counters can move into any square occupied by any counter. When it does, the Dynamite counter and any counters in the square the Dynamite counter moved into are REMOVED from the game! BANG!

Note that a player is never forced to move a counter on their turn. If they like, they can pass their turn as many times as necessary. Of course, if the player is unable to move, they must pass.

Ending the Game and Scoring

The game ends when both players consecutively pass or neither player is able to move. Each player now counts their points. Players count the number of counters in the stacks they own. A stack is worth exactly one less than the total number of counters it contains. For example, a stack of 3 counters will score 2 points (3 – 1 = 2) and a single counter scores zero points. A player owns the stack if their counter color is on top of it.

The player with the most points wins the game.

Game Variants

A number of game variants are provided that can be used to increase the game’s difficulty or reduce it.

Handicap

This game variant decreases the total points a player can earn when counting counters in a stack. A normal game gives each player a handicap of “1” (the stack is worth 1 less than the total number of counters in the stack). A more experienced player could give themselves a higher handicap to give less experienced players an advantage. For example, a handicap of “3” would mean the stack is worth 3 less than the total number of counters in the stack. Of, if preferred, remove the handicap of “1” for the less experienced player. This would mean each stack would be worth exactly the number of counters it contains. A single counter would also be worth 1 point.

Dud-amite

This game variant allows players to place Dynamite counters during phase 1, but not move them during phase 2. Since Rock, Paper, and Scissor counters cannot move into a Dynamite counter, any square that contains the Dynamite counter is essentially off-limits for the duration of the game.

No Man’s Land

This game variant allows players to take turns placing a marker on one of the available square spaces. A marked square acts just like the middle square on the playing board. No player can place or move a counter into it.

Playing Blind

This game variant changes how the first phase of the game is played. Instead of placing counters face-up, players place them face-down. They are not revealed until the end of the first phase. This gives the game a Stratego like feel and forces the players to think twice as hard about their initial counter placement.

House Rule

Many of our players didn’t like that like-counters could capture like-counters. We slightly changed the capture rule so that only Rock could capture Scissors, Scissors could only capture Paper, and Paper could only capture Rock. This made the game slightly more difficult to win, but not more difficult to play. It also reduced the game’s total length, since each counter could only capture a specific counter type.

To learn more about Rock Paper Scissors BANG!, visit the game’s web page. You can purchase the game or download the freely available image files for the game (PDF) to create your own copy. It might also interest you to know that a second edition of the game has been released that can take up to 4 players in a single game! The files for the second edition are also freely available to download (PDF).

Prediction

Abstract Strategy games are fun to play, but hard to pitch. It’s the game’s abstract nature that oftentimes makes it difficult to describe the game’s play to new players. You’d think that I could just say that Rock Paper Scissors BANG! is “like” Chess or Checkers, but such a statement would be misleading. Rock Paper Scissors BANG! is nothing like those games, despite the fact that it’s played on a checkered board. Lucky for me, the abstract nature of the game is based on the well-known game Rock Paper Scissors that pretty much everyone I’ll be teaching the game to is already familiar with.

I predict that Rock Paper Scissors BANG! will have some level of appeal for all three of our groups. The Child Geeks will certainly enjoy how easy the game will be to learn and how quick it will play-out. The Parent Geeks will also enjoy the speed of the game and its casual game play style. The Gamer Geeks will enjoy the subtle strategy and tactics that must be used in both phases of the game.

There is nothing grandiose about Rock Paper Scissors BANG! The game is minimal in both design and presentation. I don’t see this game drawing people to the demo table from afar. It’s only when you get up close to it and start to hear how it’s played that the game  starts to become interesting. And also, silly. The simplistic nature of the hand game this board game is named after is correctly seen as a children’s game. That’s going to hurt the game’s image when it’s introduced to the hardcore gamers. But I think that all our players will find that there is more to this game than what meets the eye.

To teach Rock Paper Scissors BANG!, summarize each phase of the game. Make sure you emphasis that counters can only move into square spaces if they can capture another counter or stack. This is a very important aspect of the game and should be part of a player’s strategy. A blank space between a counter could be advantageous or disastrous. Nothing more should be necessary than perhaps a quick demonstration on how stacks are created and how the Dynamite counter creates spaces on the board. Note that players are not required to read to play the game, but individuals who have difficulty distinguishing colors might be at a slight disadvantage.

And so, after teaching Rock Paper Scissors BANG! to my two oldest little geeks, I asked them their thoughts on the game so far.

“Reminds me of Checkers, but it’s not Checkers.” ~ Liam (age 9)

“I really like the dynamite!” ~ Nyhus (age 6)

I’m sure I could teach the game to my 4-year-old, but I think the game’s strategy and tactics are a bit beyond him. He is just now learning Checkers and the names of the Chess pieces. I’ll wait a bit to put this game in front of him. For my other two little geeks, I don’t think we’ll have any problems. Let’s play and see if this game is a winner.

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed themselves, but they were not overly excited about the game at first. As I said, the game’s presentation is fairly minimal. Once they started playing it, they thought it was a good time. According to one Child Geek, “This is a fun game. It’s better than Rock Paper Scissors. I think it’s better than Checkers, too.” Another Child Geek said, “I like how you capture pieces. It makes sense, but it’s hard to capture them, too.” None of the Child Geeks we played the game with had difficulty understanding how the game was played, but age was a huge factor when it came to what I consider “smart plays”. For example, my 4-year-old just randomly placed the counters during the first phase of the game. During the second phase, he just moved to capture without thinking long-term. Child Geeks as young as 6-years-old demonstrated excellent tactics and strategy. During some games, they even made their parents frown in concentration! When the games were over, all the Child Geeks gave the Rock Paper Scissors BANG! their approval.

The Parent Geeks didn’t think much of the game either. The quality of the game is excellent, but it lacks visual appeal. According to one Parent Geek, “It looks like a game you could make yourself.” When I told him you could, he just said, “I knew it.” Interestingly enough, Parent Geeks have no problem with Print and Play games. They rather like them, in fact. What they don’t have time for is making them. One Parent Geek said, “This game is good enough to buy, even though I can make it myself. I’m really enjoying it.” Another Parent Geek said, “What I like about this game is how simple it is to learn and how much fun it is to think through your moves. The game isn’t very long, so I imagine I could play several with family and friends in a very short amount of time.” All the Parent Geeks found Rock Paper Scissors BANG! to be an entertaining, casual, and intriguing Abstract Strategy game they would welcome to their family gaming table.

test

My wife and I play a quick game while the little geeks get ready for bed

The Gamer Geeks, as always, were skeptical. Especially when I told them the title of the game was Rock Paper Scissors BANG! One Gamer Geek said, “Oh, god, Cy. Another one of these games? They are all the same. Rock beats paper, paper beats blah blah blah.” I encouraged them to give it a try, despite their initial negative impressions. After a few games, the Gamer Geeks started to warm up to it, enjoying the game play, the different phases, and the necessary use of strategy and tactics. According to one Gamer Geek, “I think I like this game. My only nitpick is that it’s a bit too short for me. I want to explore different strategies and tactics, but the game doesn’t last long enough. I guess I’ll play another game and try a different approach.” The Gamer Geeks kept playing Rock Paper Scissors BANG! well after they needed to. One Gamer Geek said, “Yeah, it’s a bit addictive. Especially when you come that close to winning.” The Gamer Geeks thought the game was much more interesting when the first phase was done blindly. This created what they thought of as a “fog of war” and made the second phase very interesting. When all the games were over, one Gamer Geek summarized his group’s thoughts perfectly: “It’s a game with layers and depth, plays fast, makes you think, and kept me interested. I’d play this again.” All the Gamer Geeks agreed and said they would welcome Rock Paper Scissors BANG! to their table whenever a quick filler was being asked for.

This is a delightful 2-player Abstract Strategy game. I have enjoyed playing it with the Child, Parent, and Gamer Geeks. Each group brings to the table a different level of difficulty and intensity. The game acts like a training ground for the Child Geeks and it’s a real pleasure to see them strategize and tactically play their counters. The Parent Geeks were very casual when it came to the game which balanced very well with the game’s level of focus. The Gamer Geeks approached the game like commanders in a war field. Each move was decidedly well-thought-out and interwoven with strategic game play.

Simply excellent.

Take a moment to look a bit deeper into this game. It’s free to download and play if you want to “roll your own”, or pay to have it made for you. I’m a big fan of “try before you buy” and I think you’ll find that you’ll enjoy the game well enough to keep coming back to it. Its charm is its simplicity and depth of play that you will completely miss at a glance. Do sit down and give this game a try.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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5 Responses to Rock Paper Scissors BANG! Game Review

  1. Wendi S says:

    This sounds like as much fun as the hand method. Its probably better for my kids because they are more visual. Thanks for the review, I think I am putting this on my list.

    • Cyrus says:

      Although the game uses the traditional rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock method of determining outcomes of “battles”, it is nothing like the hand game. This is a much more sophisticated game and requires a great deal more strategy and tactics. Do give it a try, Wendi. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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  4. Joe says:

    Great game, very elegant, I love it, the kids love it, even my mum loves it. Lots of different levels to play on, a real game for all.

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