|Interaction||Components & Design|
A mere fraction of a second before hell breaks loose, Huggy drops his gun and cowers beneath the table. Then bullets fly… and the lucky ones still standing as the lead percentage in the air ebbs away get a share of the loot. But not all of it – because it is already time to reload!
In an old and deserted warehouse, a gang of up to six members meet to distribute the loot of their latest ‘shopping tours’. Fairly, of course! To ensure that this process can take place in a fair and amicable way, all gang members have brought their gun. All of course with the best intentions – the best intentions to use them!
Ca$h’n’Gun$ unites four to six players in a classic Reservoir Dogs setting, so don’t expect a nice friendly chat. On the other hand, bluffing and the lack of real ammo dominates the agenda. In a nutshell, the game consists of eight rounds, in each of which players decide which other player to target with their foam plastic gun, and whether to chicken out based on the number of barrels pointed at them. Oh yeah, and then there is the cash!!
In essence, each of the players get a stylish black foam plastic gun, a cardboard character card and identical sets of eight bullet cards. Furthermore, the game contains both band-aid and coward markers as well as forty bills of cash in denominations of $ 5k, 10k and 20k. The markers are placed within distance, the money is shuffled and you are ready to play!
Each of the eight rounds looks the same, and consists of several quick phases:
First, five bills from the money stack are revealed.
Then players select one of their remaining bullet cards, and place them face down in front of them. The sets consist of five click-click-click cards (blanks – we’re just kidding!!), two bang cards (live rounds – we might be a bit serious after all) and one BANGBANGBANG card (extra-quick live rounds – no more Mister Nice Gangster!) – so players need to save their real ammo.
Thirdly, upon a count to three all players aim their gun at another gang member / player. This is time you realise just how popular you are among the fellows of your gang. Or how well-positioned you are in the game thus far. Whatever the reason, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable position staring down a few barrels at once.
Next, after a small pause for deliberation (and for complaining to others for pointing at you), there is another count to three. Upon three, players who want to chicken out knock over their character card and set aside their guns, while all other players look menacingly at each other (the rulebook calls for a battle cry from each player still standing, which we consider optional, however). Players who withdraw get a chicken marker and are eliminated from the distribution of the loot in this round, and of course they cannot shoot anyone. On the plus side, they are safe from being shot, and they may discard the bullet card they selected without revealing it.
Now it is time for the showdown, part one. First, the stage is reserved for the BANGBANGBANG cards only. Just players who played this card reveal them now, and shoot simultaneously, and if the player they aimed at is still standing, they hit their target. The target player lowers their character card and receives a band-aid ‘hit’ marker for each wound suffered.
Then all other players still standing reveal their cards and all BANG cards of the players are evaluated, with the same consequences like for the BANGBANGBANG cards. Obviously, Click-Click-Click cards don’t shoot anybody.
Players who were bangbangbanged are really unlucky – not only can they receive additional wounds in spite of being down already, they also need to show their bullet cards without being able to retaliate.
Now it is finally time for the MONEY! All players still standing have their hands on the jackpot. But careful – the distribution needs to be fair among all involved players and you cannot give change, only take the bills as they come. This means that many times parts of the money will remain undistributed, and sometimes no funds are handed out at all. All bills which do not find a taker remain in the jackpot for the next round.
This is the end of this round, but the next one is already around the corner. All players return from their hiding places, or simply resurrect, to enter the distribution of further money, with five more bills turned over, until the loot was distributed at the end of round eight. By the way: Players do resurrect after being shot (It is only a flesh wound!), but once they receive three wounds, they are actually out of the game.
The winner is, quite obviously, the player with the largest share of the loot (coward markers are $-5k), who manages to survive until game’s end – which as a matter of fact can be quite challenging!
The game may not seem too strategic on first sight, the main reason probably being that it plain isn’t. Or at least need not be. But – in all fairness – played with a minimum of ambition the game does have its strategic elements; when and whom to bluff into retreat and when to just blitz someone with a BANGBANGBANG card is an obvious aspect, but it also involves considering the ‘earnings’ of the different players, and obviously not necessarily targeting the weakest ones, just because in real life you happen to be married to or hold some other justified grudge against them.
Furthermore, there are two options included in the game which spice up the strategic aspects.
First, you get the ‘police spy’ variant, in which one gang member is also a police spy, his mission being to alarm the police forces without being detected or killed. The police spy needs to call for reinforcement three times by the end of round six, and these calls can only be made when the spy is among the players left standing when the jackpot is distributed. The spy is well-advised to hide his identity as upon detection they become the obvious target, plus he is not allowed to chicken out once reinforcements have been called.
The second variant, which can be combined with the first or played independently of it, involves special abilities. Each gang member gets one special ability – some usable only once, some valid throughout the game – which allow this player some bending of the rules. Being allowed to aim after every other player has done so, being able to sustain an additional wound, getting bonus points for cowardice or the ever-popular hand-grenade – there are ten different abilities which make life (and death!) much more interesting in Ca$h’n’Gun$.
By definition, Ca$h’n’Gun$ is not a peaceful and diplomatic affair. Set in an environment where bullets talk louder than words, don’t expect a lot of communication – although there is quite a lot of interaction. And while it is not technically part of the game, don’t discard he lamenting and arguing about why people are made target again, when all they claim to be is ‘innocent bystander’. What is more: Ca$h’n’Gun$ is a short game (20 minutes being a reasonable time per game) in which players are involved virtually at all times and in all phases.
The game materials are solid (tokens, money) to geeky-adorable (love my black rubber foam gun!), set up and explanation is easy and even having both options included does not lengthen the game significantly.
Of course, there are also some aspects in which Ca$h’n’Gun$ does not score too highly. As we have already established, the strategic depth is not endless, and there is a tiny (really tiny!) violent aspect to the game which may turn some people off – and might make this game unsuitable for children who have yet to see a Mafia or Action movie – so mostly children under the age of two!
All in all, Ca$h’n’Gun$ is a nice and quick game between The Godfather and dinner (Spaghetti, I presume), especially suitable with people who are not gaming-savvy, strategically-oriented folks and for introducing new players. The limited depth represents its most glaring restriction for long-term gaming fun, but whenever the mood calls for some playful confrontation – Ca$h’n’Gun$ should never be on a shelf that’s out of reach!