While mostly known for puzzles, Buffalo Games has made a decent amount of board games in recent years. Imaginiff and Chronology are probably Buffalo Games two most popular board games. Bandits is the sixth Buffalo Games game that we are looking at here on Geeky Hobbies. Bandits is a card game from 2008 where each player plays as a bandit in the wild west who is trying to stash as much of their gold as possible while also trying to steal as much as they can from the other players. While far from extraordinary, Bandits is a solid fast little card game.
How to Play Bandits
Each player chooses a hideout card and the rest of the hideout cards are put back into the box. The turn card is given to the youngest player who will be the first player. The reference card is put on the table where everyone can see it. The rest of the cards are shuffled and six cards are dealt to each player. The rest of the cards form the draw pile.
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they can do one of three things:
- Draw 1 card from the draw pile.
- Attack another player’s hand or hideout with outlaw/two-faced cards.
- Place 3 or more money bags or gold bars under their hideout card.
Once a player has performed their action they will draw enough cards to get back to six cards in their hand. The player than passes the turn card to the next player.
Attacking Another Player
If you would like to attack another player and hopefully take the cards from their hand, you will play outlaw and/or two-faced cards in front of the player you want to attack. The attacking player can play multiple cards and their attack is equal to the value of all of their guns added up. The attacked player can then play lawmen and/or two-faced cards for their star value to try and stop the attack. The two sets of cards are then compared to see who won the fight.
If the attacking player played more guns, the attacking player takes all of the cards left in the attacked player’s hand.
If the defending player played as many or more stars, the attack fails and the attacking player gets nothing out of the attack.
All cards that were played in the attack are discarded. Both players draw cards to get back up to six cards with the attacking player drawing cards first.
If a player plays a tracker card along with their outlaw and two-faced cards, they will try to steal cards from that attacked player’s hideout instead of cards from the player’s hand. If the player is successful in the attack they will get to randomly draw six of the cards from the player’s hideout. The attacked player loses none of the cards from their hand. If the player fails in their attack, nothing happens.
If a player has three or more money bags or gold bars they can use their turn to stash all of their money bags or gold bars under their hideout card face down. These stashed cards will be worth points at the end of the round if another player doesn’t steal them. If a player has a booby trap card it can be stashed like it is a gold bar or money bag to get either group up to three or it can just be played as an additional card added to either set.
Bandits has a couple special cards that impact the game when they are played.
Backfire: When a player attacks another player, the attacked player can use a backfire card to defend themselves. When a backfire card is played, the attacking player has to defend against the outlaw cards that they just played. If they can defend against the attack, nothing happens. If they can’t defend against the attack, the attacked player takes the attacker’s cards. If the player was attacking a hideout, the attacked player can take six cards from the attacking player’s hideout.
Booby Trap: A player can stash a booby trap card into their hideout when they place other loot cards into their hideout. You can only put one booby trap into the hideout with each set of cards put into the hideout. When a player attacks your hideout, you can use a booby trap in the hideout to immediately stop their attack. The booby trap is discarded when it is used.
End of Round and Scoring
The round ends immediately when the last card from the draw pile is taken. Players keep all of the cards in their hand for the next round. Players then count up the points on the cards that they stashed to determine their score for the round.
If none of the players have scored enough points to win the game, a new round is played. All of the cards that were stashed and the cards that were discarded are shuffled for the next round. If one or more of the players don’t have six cards they draw enough cards to get up to six. The player who was unable to take their turn in the previous round starts the next round.
End of Game
The game ends when one of the players has scored enough points to win the game. The number of points needed to win the game is dependent on the number of players:
- 2 players: 150 points
- 3-4 players: 90 points
- 5-6 players: 75 points
If two or more players pass the number of points to win after the same round, the player who scored more points wins the game. If there is a tie, all of the players play another round to break the tie.
My Thoughts on Bandits
A little over two years ago I looked at the card game Digging made by Reiner Knizia. Before playing Bandits it reminded me a lot of Digging and after playing Bandits that comparison seems warranted. While there are some differences between the two games, the basic premise of the two games are very similar. In both games you are trying to bank gold/money which scores you points at the end of the round. In both games you can also play bandits in order to attack the other players to steal some of their loot. While they share a lot in common I would consider Bandits to be the more casual family game while Digging is more of a team game with a little more strategy.
Being a family card game it is not surprising that Bandits is quite simple. The game takes just a couple of minutes to explain to new players. I would expect most games will take 20-30 minutes which makes it work well as a filler game. The main reason why the game is so simple and quick is the fact that you only have three options on your turn.
Your first option is to draw a new card. While it is the simplest option I also think drawing a card is the worst action to perform on your turn. Coming from a person that loves amassing cards in card games, drawing cards in Bandits just feels like a waste of a turn. The main reason why it is a waste of a turn is that by performing one of the other actions you get to perform another action and will likely still draw more cards for your hand than you would have if you just drew one card. The only benefit of drawing a card on your turn is that you can slowly amass cards which may give you more loot to stash or more attack/defense power since you have more cards. Being only able to draw one card though, I see the draw action only being viable if you can’t perform either of the other actions.
The second action that you can perform is stashing loot. The mechanic is really straightforward since you just need three or more cards of the same type in order to stash cards. While you could wait to stash cards in order to stash more with one action, in most cases I think it is best to stash cards as quickly as you can. The first reason is that they are much more secure when they are stashed. It is surprisingly difficult to steal cards from another player’s stash. The difficulty comes from forcing a player to have both a tracker card and enough firepower to overcome the other player. In one game that I played only one player was able to steal cards from another player’s hideout. The bigger reason to stash cards immediately is that it will let you draw more cards. I think one of the keys to winning Bandits it to go through as many cards as possible. Stashing cards usually lets you draw two or three new cards on your turn.
The final action that you can perform is the most interesting mechanic but also leads to the biggest problem with the game. The attacking/defending mechanic is quite simple and satisfying. All you do to resolve conflicts in Bandits is to determine if the attacking player played more guns or the defending player played more stars. While there is a lot of luck involved in having the right cards at the right times, I liked the combat because it was fun and tense wondering whether you had enough guns/stars to successfully attack/defend.
While the combat is fun it does create issues for the game. The problem with the combat is that to win a faceoff you will usually have to use most if not all of your offensive/defensive cards. This leaves you open to attack by the other players. If you use up all of your attack cards you won’t be able to attack anyone else for a couple turns. The bigger issues come from defense. If you don’t have enough defense to stop the attack you will lose all of your cards and might have to restart with no defensive cards in your hand. If you are able to defend yourself though you will have few or possibly no defensive cards left so the next player to attack you will likely take all of your cards.
This is the direct culprit of the biggest problem that I had with Bandits. Bandits has a serious problem where a growing hand of cards keeps getting passed around the table. This process begins when one player takes another player’s hand. With more cards than a normal hand, this hand becomes a target for all of the other players. This player likely won’t have a lot of defensive cards either since they won’t get any defensive cards from the hand they took since they would have all been used to stop the attack. An attacking player will likely succeed in their which will make the hand even larger. Players will keep attacking the player with this hand which will make it continue to grow. This process continues until one player gets enough defensive cards to defend against the attacks or all of the other players have no attack cards left to use. The player can then stash a large group of the cards. The players will then compete to try to take the rest of the loot cards remaining in the hand. While it is fun trying to be the last one standing with all of the cards, it kind of hurts the game in my opinion.
Like most card games, Bandits relies heavily on luck. Some cards are more valuable than others since the loot, outlaws, two-faced, and lawmen have different numbers printed on them. When drawing cards you obviously want to draw the cards with the larger numbers on them. All of the cards do have value though so it is important to draw the right cards at the right time. While it is usually good to draw loot cards, you want to draw loot cards of the same type so you can stash them. Attacking and defending cards are both valuable but only at the right times. It is nice having a lot of defense but if no one attacks you they just waste room in your hand. Having one or two low attack cards are also not very valuable since it will be hard to win any fight with such little firepower.
So at this point you should have a pretty good grasp on the game. I had fun with Bandits as it is a good game if you are looking for a quick game that you don’t have to put a lot of thought into. Bandits suffers from not really doing anything original though. If you like card games you will probably like Bandits but it is not going to do anything that you haven’t seen in other card games. This doesn’t mean that Bandits is a bad game, just that it is not a highly original game.
The component quality is basically what you would expect out of Buffalo Games and card games in general. The card stock is solid but nothing spectacular. I actually liked the artwork quite a bit since it brings a light mood to the game. The artwork while cartoony is really well done. I would say that the biggest problem that I had with the components is that I wish the card deck was a little larger. 108 cards is quite a few cards for this type of game but the rounds still end a little too quickly. I think Bandits would have been better if the rounds were a little longer since it would have allowed for a little more strategy.
Should You Buy Bandits?
Bandits is a very solid but unspectacular filler card game. The game is quick and easy to play and can be fun if you are looking for a game that you don’t have to put a lot of thought into. The game is on the light side of strategy though and it does rely quite a bit on luck. The biggest issue with the game is that players will basically pass around the largest hand until someone is able to bank the loot from the hand.
If you don’t really care for light/casual card games, I don’t think Bandits is going to be for you. If you like light quick card games though I think you will enjoy Bandits. Bandits is far from special though so I would only recommend picking up the game if you can get a good deal on it. The game appears to be out of print though so it might be a little hard to find a cheap copy of the game.