Instant Game Night Reviews: Cash 'n Guns
“Is Cash 'n Guns a good game to bring to game night?”
Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition)
Year Published 2014
Designer Ludovic Maublanc
Artist John Kovalic
Publisher Repos Production
Age Range 10+
Playing Time 30 Minutes
Cash 'n Guns is an interactive, bluffing-style party board game where players take on the role of mafia members who have just successfully pulled off the biggest heist of their careers. You might think that the hard work is now over, however, you would be wrong.
You have all gathered together back at your lair and just spread out all of the take on to a table. With all of this money, jewelry, and valuable paintings sitting between you, you start to see quite a few sinister looks being thrown your way. Splitting up the loot is about to get quite interesting.....
As an accomplice to this grand heist, you feel you have more than pulled your weight and earned more than your fair share of the reward. However, looking around the table you can't help but feel as if some of the other players want more than their fair share.
In each round of Cash 'n Guns, players are going to choose another player to threaten by pointing their fake "gun" at them. What that other player doesn't know is whether you have loaded your gun with a real bullet or with a blank to scare them off. That player could decide to call your bluff and stand tall, or they might decide to lay down and allow you to take their share of the loot. Equally, you will also have "guns" pointing in your direction and you will have to decide whether those players intend to injure you or whether they are simply trying to bully you out of what's yours.
Welcome to the crazy world of Cash 'n Guns!
Below you will find a brief summary of the game play along with our thoughts on whether or not Cash 'n Guns is a good game to bring to your next game night get-together.
Please note: We do not intend this review to be a thorough explanation of the rules of a game or how to play. Rather, our reviews are aimed to provide you a basic overview of the game play along with our thoughts on how suitable a particular game is to bring to a game night with family or friends. If this is your first time reading an Instant Game Night review, please click here to read about our review format and rating system.
To begin the game, players choose a character and take a foam gun and a pre-determined number of bullet cards (consisting of bangs and clicks). In a more advanced game, players will also special power card that they place face up in front of them.
The loot cards are then shuffled and placed into 8 different stacks, each with 8 cards. All the other components of the game are laid out on the table and play can begin.
To begin, the oldest player will be the starting player, and is given the Godfather's desk. They will be in charge of taking players through each step of this round.
There are 7 steps in a round, as described below:
Loot: The first 8 loot cards are flipped over and placed face up on the table in a row. The New Godfather token is also placed in this row with the "available" side up.
Choosing Bullet Card: Next, each player will choose either a Click or a Bang! card and lay it face down on the table. Each bullet card can only be used once unless otherwise specified.
Hold-Up: The Godfather of the round counts to three, and then simultaneously each player will point their gun at another player and hold them at gunpoint.
Godfather's Privilege: The Godfather may then instruct any one player to change their target. They may not tell the player who to target, but that player then has to select a new target.
Courage: The Godfather will then count to three again and players will have to make a choice: a.) Lay down their character: The player will discard their bullet card and will not take part in the splitting of the loot this round. They will also not be injured by any player's bullet card this round. Any other players who were aiming that this player will also discard their bullet card with no effect. b.) Leave their character upright and shout Banzai: A player who stays standing will be wounded if any of the players aiming at them used a Bang! card. But, if they manage to escape unscathed, they will have a chance to split the loot at the end of the round.
Card Effects: Any player who still has an unrevealed bullet card will now reveal it. If it is a Click card, nothing happens. If, however, it is a Bang! card, the player you were aiming at has now been injured and must lay down their character and take a wound token. If any player ever receives three wound tokens, they have been killed and are out of the game.
Loot Sharing: At this point, any unwounded player that is still standing up will have a chance to split the loot. If only one player is still standing, they will take all the loot for themselves. If more than one player is remaining, the Godfather (or the player closest to the Godfather's left) will go first and select either a piece of loot or the New Godfather token, which means they will be next round's Godfather.
Once all loot has been split, the round ends and the new Godfather begins the next round.
After the 8th turn has ended and all loot cards have been claimed, the game ends. It is also possible for the game to end when only one player is still alive. This player automatically wins the game.
At game end, all players who are still alive count up the value of their loot. The bills are worth the amount printed on them, as are the diamonds. However, the player with the most diamond cards will also receive the diamond bonus card, worth $60,000. Painting cards are worth the value printed on the card next to the number of paintings you have managed to collect.
There are also 2 other unique loot cards, the first aid kit (which allows a player to heal all their wounds immediately) and clips (which allow a player to retrieve a Bang! card from their discard pile immediately). These cards are resolved immediately upon selecting them and have no end game value.
Once all players still alive have counted up the value of their loot, the player with the highest score wins. If there is a tie, the player with the most wounds wins.
We are so torn here. On one hand, there are a lot of things about this game that we dislike. It feels unnecessarily complex to a new player, the theme is less than ethical, there are a lot of "take that" moments, and finally there is the ugly "player elimination" possibility to contend with. In fact, with one wrong move or misfortune, it is entirely possible for you to be eliminated within the first few rounds of the game. All of these things add up to a game that does not sound promising for any game night.
BUT.......despite all of this and despite the frustration that the "take that" and player elimination causes me every time I play it......I always want to play again. Every. Single. Time. I have gotten crushed every time I've played this game and I just don't care. I would play it right now if I had 5 other willing participants.
I don't know what it is but this game is just purely addicting to me. I'm not even fully convinced I enjoy playing it, but somehow mentally I always want to play again. I guess it is just stupid fun, plain and simple. And sometimes you are just in the mood for stupid fun.
If you can get past the theme, if you are ok with "take that", and you understand that you could very well be eliminated early on, this game could be for you. But you have to know what you are getting yourself and your fellow players into. This is not a game where you can strategize and min/max your points. There are no difficult decisions points. It is simply who are you going to target and are you actually going to shoot them. And from there....simple luck of the draw. But, with the right mindset and the right group, it just works. Somehow Cash 'n Guns just finds a way to work for me on a personal level.....
But how do we feel about it as a game night game for casual players? See our full rating breakdown below:
Our rating system:
G rabs your attention
E asy to play & teach
N ewbie friendly
G ood rulebook
H olds attention
! our experience
Cash 'n Guns Rating Breakdown
Grabs Your Attention
The fake "guns" alone are enough to grab a player's attention, however, that combined with the character standups, the Godfather's desk, the diamond bonus card, and all the various other components will serve to be a very attention grabbing game for sure. We can't imagine anyone seeing this game laid out on a table and not stopping to take a closer look.
The set up for Cash 'n Guns is straightforward, however, with so many components it can be a bit confusing the first time you open the box. We highly recommend either pre-setting up the game or organizing components in the box in such a way as to speed up the set up process. We have also found that Cash 'n Guns can take a bit of time to explain to new players. Each individual component of the game is fairly simplistic on its own, but you need to explain each in such a way that players will understand how their early choices will impact them later in the game. You also have the unique player powers to explain as well as some of the scoring nuances with the paintings and the diamonds. This is one of those games that as a game night host you really shouldn't consider bringing it out unless you have played through several times before and are very comfortable with the flow of the game and how to explain certain concepts.
It would be very difficult to forget a game of Cash 'n Guns. The game itself has a very unique theme and eye-catching components, but combine that with the uproarious interactions that are guaranteed to occur throughout the game, and we think Cash 'n Guns will create one of the most memorable board game experiences you'll ever have.
Easy to Teach and Play
As we discussed before, Cash 'n Guns is not a particularly easy game to explain or play your first time through. While we do feel that this can be mitigated by having an experienced player teach the game, this certainly does need to be taken into consideration before selecting this game for game night.
We would be remiss to not mention the theme here. This game is essentially glorifying violence and crime. You will be pointing "guns" at other players. Of course, everyone knows this is a game and not meant to be taken seriously, but you really need to stop and consider if any of your game night guests would be offended by the theme or the concepts it promotes. Seriously, don't underestimate this. You might even want to go as far as ask your guest ahead of time if they would be offended by a game such as Cash 'n Guns.
Now that we have discussed the theme, while we do think Cash 'n Guns can be newbie friendly, we also do have to caution that it can be overwhelming for first time gamers to wrap their heads around. In addition, there is a high degree of "take that" in this game, which could be very off putting for new players who have not experienced this style of game before. This is again why we highly recommend playing through the game and having a firm grasp on the rules and game flow before trying to introduce Cash 'n Guns to new players at a game night. And as always, carefully consider your game night guests and whether this experience would be suitable for each of them.
With so many caveats on this section, we can't give Cash 'n Guns any credit for being newbie friendly. Again, this is not to say that we don't think Cash 'n Guns could be a great choice for your game night, but there is a lot to consider before deciding that it is appropriate for the new gamers in your group.
Cash 'n Guns is an extremely interactive board game full of bluffing, deceit, and tons of laughs along the way. It is hard to imagine how the game could actually get any more interactive than it already is. Throughout the game, you are focusing just as much (if not more) on the other players than you are on yourself. And since this isn't a game which requires thoughtful planning or a long term strategy, players are mostly free to interact and enjoy the experience.
Good Rule Book
The core rules of Cash 'n Guns actually fit on just one page of the rulebook, with the other 2 pages reserved for set up explanation and a reference guide for the various player powers. While normally a short rulebook is a positive, we actually think that Cash 'n Guns would be a more accessible game for new players if the rulebook went into a bit more detail on how the game is played. Even as fairly experienced gamers, we struggled a bit to learn this game our first time through the rulebook. While we can't quite put our fingers on what it is exactly, we do think that a more thorough explanation along with more images and graphics would have helped immensely.
When it comes down to it, this rulebook feels like more of a reference guide for experienced players than it does a resource for new players.
There is no denying that Cash 'n Guns is a very engaging game and one in which you are not likely to lose focus or attention. That being said, it can be frustrating if you find yourself the target of constant gun-pointing by multiple players. In these cases, you have almost no choice but to lay down and not take any loot. A few rounds in a row of this and players can find themselves quite frustrated and potentially disengaged with the game. We do recommend addressing this with your game night group ahead of time to avoid ganging up on any one player and instead trying to vary the targets that you choose. Everyone will have a much more enjoyable experience this way. Other than this, as we stated before, we find Cash 'n Guns to be a very engaging game that grabs attention and does a good job of holding it throughout the game.
Cash 'n Guns feels like a game that is thematic without even trying. There is no flavor text in the rulebook and very little in the way of character identities. However, it is one of those games that is so easy to create a mental picture and pull players into a made up story line. Prior to beginning the game, we highly recommend creating back stories for your characters and describing the heist that you just pulled off in great detail, including your role in it. This makes the game that much more thematic and in our opinion that much more enjoyable.
Finally it's time to tell you about our personal experiences with Cash 'n Guns. Because of the current global pandemic, we have not yet had the opportunity to play with a full host of 8 players. However, with our limited experience, we can confidently say that the closer your group is to 8 players the more enjoyable the experience will be. We had several play throughs with the minimum 4 player count, and we have to say that the game just seemed to be missing something. It was far too easy to be the target of multiple players in consecutive rounds, which led to some very frustrating games for us. Because of this, we would go as far as saying that we would not recommend Cash 'n Guns with a group of less than 5 players, and we would highly prefer a group of 6 to 8 players. This gives players many more opportunities to target other players and reduces the likelihood of any one player being the target of multiple guns several rounds in a row.
All of this being said Cash 'n Guns makes no attempt to hide what it is, and that is a light weight party game with a high degree of bluffing and negative player interaction. You really have to know and expect this going in, otherwise this game could leave your group feeling frustrated or worse. However, with the right large group, this game can be one of the most memorable gaming experiences you'll ever have.