At the outer reaches of board gaming is a dark place frequented mostly by the drunk and the curious. It’s a place where few dare to tread, yet those who do will often swear by the invigorating ambrosia that they find there. What am I talking about? The realm of the party game, of course; the most embarrassing and hard to gauge of all of the gaming spectrum. Will my friends like it? Will my mother play it? Can it entertain the children? If you’re looking for party game that shouts “YES” to all these questions, then you’re looking for Finger Guns at High Noon.
This incredibly simple party game from Indie Boards & Cards takes the childish concept of shooting your friends with finger bullets (or lasers, if you want to internalise a completely alternative theme) and watching them act out a comical death scene. Without wanting to cut this review jarringly short, that’s it. That’s what Finger Guns at High Noon is.
Taking things to a level of detail that is about as in depth as the instruction manual, there is, of course, a little more to the game than I’m making out. In fact, with each round of gameplay, living players will simultaneously choose from one of six actions. When someone shouts “draw” the players will each whip out their finger guns and make one of the six different motions to indicate their intent.
You can see an exhaustive list of these actions in the image below, but to paraphrase them somewhat, there are various options that allow the players to shoot one enemy, blow up everyone, form a posse, gain health or lasso an ally card that will provide one of several game-changing benefits. If you look closely at the rules, however, there’s perhaps more depth to the way in which players can affect the battlefield that you might expect – and there’s a huge amount of interaction in every game.
As you might expect from a game that involves shooting your friends with imaginary bullets, player elimination is a feature in Finger Guns at High Noon. However, once again, designer John Velgus has found a way to keep things interesting by allowing defeated players to return as ghosts who wreak havoc on the living – whether out for vengeance against a specific player, or by simply causing as much chaos as possible.
Whilst ghosts have only half as many actions, they include the basic Shot action (target loses two health) as well as abilities that either prevent living players from healing, or that send the top ally card to the bottom of the deck. These are fun and mischievous mechanics, but I do think that there was potential for more creativity here, and so perhaps there is a bit of a missed opportunity. That said, it shouldn’t be more fun being dead, and indeed, it is not.
As a party game that spans the age range and has a universal appeal that almost everyone will understand and enjoy, Finger Guns at High Noon is an absolutely resounding success. Kids still play Wild West games today, and older players remember movies from the likes of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or even, erm, Christian Bale. Regardless of which generation of Western you have in mind, Finger Guns at High Noon will resonate.
Finger Guns at High Noon played especially well for me with a few beers and four or five mates, but it also works well in the family setting I’ve described above. The key thing above all else is that it is absolutely at its best when played by extroverts. It’s fine to just sit there and go through the motions, but it is so, so much better when players stand in a circle, holster their fingers and then really get into the spirit of things. That might not be compatible with all players, so it’s worth bearing in mind.
Finger Guns at High Noon has rapidly become one of my favourite party games, especially when drinking with a group of about five or six people in total. It can be taught in a few seconds, basically, and it comes naturally to everyone and anyone thanks to its simplicity and reliance on childhood playtime memories. It’s hugely fun and at an affordable price, making it a game that I strongly recommend.
You can find out more about Finger Guns at High Noon on their website.