Ghostbusters: The Board Game

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GhostbustersTheBoardGame_coverI feel like it’s my nerd obligation to start this review with “Who you gonna call?” and at some point say something funny with “Don’t cross the streams”. Well, “Who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!”

Ghostbusters: The Board Game came into this world with a massive amount of Kickstarter hype, perhaps larger than the 112.5 foot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, raising $1.5 million dollars from backers. Is it even possible to live up to those numbers? Maybe.

The gameplay revolves around episodic scenarios in which Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore, and Ray Stantz find themselves facing all sorts of obstacles. For lovers of the movies, you’ll really enjoy taking on the role of your favorite Ghostbuster and touting a Proton Pack in the streets of New York. Games range from 30 minutes to two hours in length and can be played solo or with up to 4 players.

IMG_1864As a cooperative game, Ghostbusters: The Board Game’s theme and scenario driven gameplay feel just right. Each Ghostbuster has their own strengths and ways to earn experience points. As play progresses you can level up from a snot-nosed rookie (level 1) to a full-fledged pro (level 5). Each level grants you a new advantage, ie. an additional action on your turn, re-roll abilities, new ways to gain experience points, etc… Though each of the Ghostbusters have unique powers, the game still manages to feel balanced in terms of each player being just as useful as the next. Adding in the variation between scenarios, some Ghostbusters might really shine in scenario A or take a more supportive role in scenario B.

On your turn you have 2 actions you can perform (or if you are level 3 you will have 3 actions). Actions can be moving your character on the tile/gridded board through the streets of New York or Central Park, driving the Ecto-1 (Ghostbuster-mobile), combating ghosts, depositing ghosts you’ve captured, and cleaning the slime off a fellow Ghostbuster.

GhostbustersTheBoardGame_gameplayThe slime element of the game creates some challenging situations. A Ghostbuster loses one action for each slime token on them. If the slime piles up when your turn comes around you’ll be useless to the team. Slime can be removed from an adjacent Ghostbuster for one action. Slime can be removed from yourself by forfeiting all of your actions for your turn. Thus, clearing slime becomes much more efficient when you’re doing it to help someone else out. This is a great way to promote the co-op feel of the game without feeling forced or unnatural. Often times in combat driven co-ops you’ll have that one player who thinks they can take on an entire army by themselves—Ghostbusters finds a way to really promote the value of staying in a group and working together.

The interactions with the ghosts are really unique to any combat driven game I’ve played. When trying to capture a ghost the player will roll a 6-sided proton die. Depending on the ghost they are facing, they will need to roll a high enough number to hit the ghost. The unique part is that each ghost has a specific “When Hit”, “When Missed”, and “When Captured” effect. Some ghosts will charge towards the attacking player, or randomly move in a direction determined by a ghost movement die and a PKE meter. All ghosts will slime you when they make contact with you. Some ghost will slime you just for being near them. Slime is definitely an occupational hazard.

The board itself is constructed of a series of tiles. Each scenario has a specific 3×3 setup and any other custom layouts can be made on the fly using any combination of the 10 double-sided tiles included in the game. The terrain has a few line-of-sight (LoS) obstacles which really add to the challenge of each map. There are red areas (fences or blockades) that you can’t physically go through or see over, orange areas (obstructions) that you can see through but you can’t walk through, and yellow areas (smoke) that you can walk through but can’t see through. The LoS elements are a nice touch to the gameplay, further immersing you into the theme of each map.

GhostbustersTheBoardGame_ghostsSome of the scenarios chain together into a campaign. The continuation of the previous scenarios experience level is a nice way to keep everyone engaged. Even if at some point you think you’ve got the objective in the bag, you can always slow things up and try to grind out a few more experience points for the next map. The last scenario of the campaign is usually when the big baddies come out; Slimmer, Idulnas, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man are in an entirely new class of ghosts. Each one has their own unique battle interaction with weaknesses and special abilities.

Ghostbusters: The Board Game is a wonderful experience. Each time I’ve played I’ve always felt involved in the group dynamic, something that can’t be said for all co-ops. The action is intense and the scenarios keep things interesting. You might balk at the dice-rolling aspect of the game. You might even take a look at the gameplay and think it’s nothing more than a roll-and-move with a theme. You would be wrong. The game is packed with theme in all the right places. The dice are just as random as any other game but you have ways of increasing your odds and weathering the storm of bad luck. The overall strategies evolve from moment to moment as you try to figure out your team dynamics and who is good at what and when. Sure, the co-op nature of the game also lends itself to a few disagreements here and there—just remember, “Don’t cross the streams”, and everything will work out just fine.

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