So, when Version 2 came around, there were a few changes. The first, and most important, was that the cards were now ‘bridge size’ (0.25” thinner than poker size).
The second change was that there were no more duplicated ‘Event’ cards. As established in the last section, they made the game less exciting. It made the game only a fraction easier to learn and considerably less interesting to play.
The two biggest additions were the inclusion of ‘Special’ cards and ‘Location’ cards.
‘Special’ cards set an important precedent in the design of the game. Until then, all cards in hand were building up to something, whether that be killing your opponent directly, or getting yourself ahead on the ‘board’. Every card in the deck apart from ‘Bang!’ came in a set of 3. The ‘Special’ cards were one-time use cards that could reliably affect the game state. This gave players a backup strategy if the game wasn’t going their way. It also opens the doors to creating one-time use cards that supported a particular playstyle, or pointed players in a different strategic direction.
Balance-wise, I had to set myself 2 restrictions. Firstly, there couldn’t be too many of these cards – the focus should be on the core set of mechanics because they effectively created the tension and atmosphere I wanted. Secondly, these cards couldn’t be too strong. Players shouldn’t feel obligated to use them or disadvantaged when they don’t draw them.
The second major change to the game was the inclusion of ‘Location’ cards – optional extras that changed the way the game is played, or changed the set up..
My first (and demonstrably incorrect) instinct was to have a permanent change which affected both players throughout. For example, ‘play all the Event cards you pick up.’ However, the more I considered these cards, the less fun they seemed. It didn’t add any flavour to the game and made it more complicated needlessly. Also, it pushed players to play the game in a very specific way. If you get to play all the event cards you pick up, it’s obviously optimal to play all your flashback cards first. At that point, the game depends more on the luck of the draw than skill.
To change things up, I decided to go for a ‘rotating’ ‘Location’ card. The way it worked was the card would rotate 90 degrees, and so, in the 2 player version, every 2 turns it would point at a player. That player would then carry out the effect of the card. This worked much better because it engaged the players more actively with the ‘Location’ cards. This also gave players an option – they could, if they wished, plan around the spinning ‘Location’ card to play optimally. However, they could also just ignore them until the arrow was pointing at them – both playstyles worked.
Another problem was that some ‘Event’ cards didn’t leave a player’s board; their effect could be utilized ad nauseum. Some games even devolved into infinite cycles, where neither player could actually successfully shoot the other. Even if a player was gradually losing, it was very, very slow. This game was meant to be about speed, and decisiveness, but playing it felt like invading Russia in the Winter. There was a distinct sense of inevitability about the result, lots of resources got expended, and there wasn’t much to show for it at the end of the fight.
Another problem carried over from the previous version was that sometimes players just couldn’t win; they had exhausted all options. Since I always wanted there to be a sense of tension and danger – and certainly not frustration – this needed to be fixed.