The Ghostbusters are easily one of the most recognizable and family friendly brands out there. While the new movie wasn’t the ‘franchise phoenix rising’ defining moment, it did manage to revive the nostalgia (personally I hope they keep trying with this cast). The movie also led to a host of other merchandising that included an all new board game by Cryptozoic Entertainment (makers of the DC Comics Deck Building card games). As a huge fan of the movies, I had to give it a shot and I’m glad that I did.
At first blush, the game set up and rules feel a bit intimidating. Just hang in there though. The game is quite simple to play. Essentially, it is a board based cooperative RPG. Playable with 1 to 4 players, you take on the role of the Ghostbusters (each with their own skills and abilities) and adventure away to capture ghosts through various campaign. Your Ghostbusters gain experience and abilities that are needed to take on stronger and stronger ghosts including Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man as bosses.
The real challenge is taking on a board full of ghosts controlled by a simple two dice roll per ‘turn’ that determines the ghosts’ ‘behavior’ and movement for the turn. Success is determined by the Ghostbusters closing all gates (most times unless otherwise described by the campaign rules). Defeat is determined by rules also described by the campaign rules. Oftentimes it is determined by not having trapped enough ghosts for new ghosts to spawn for a turn.
Trust me. It’s not as complicated as that explanation. Once you settle into the rules for a campaign, the action moves along from character to character to round-ending ghosts quite well. Players will discuss what each other should do in order to prevent getting slimed and help each other trap ghosts. Even the Ecto-1 plays an important role in the gameplay serving as the ghost storage unit (or more accurately the conduit towards the ‘Spirit World’).
The board itself is a series of double sided squares that are intended to be set up in various ways allowing for multiple missions and stories to play out. Each mission sets up differently with starting positions for both the ghosts and the spirit world gates. Hits and misses for using proton packs are dealt with by a 6 sided die roll and strategies are played out by line of sight and allowances for movement in a turn. Also missing and hitting both ghosts and gates have consequences so the team must balance moments of getting ‘slimed’ (which restricts the amount of actions a Ghostbuster has per turn) with firing at foes.
Missions take about an hour or so to play allowing for the team to do quite a bit of discussion to come out on top. That’s probably where the fun shows up the most. Watching someone take their frustrations with another always missing by leaving them slimed is hilarious despite knowing the game is cooperative.
My experience was played with players 11 and older but could possibly be played with a 10 year old. I even had my 4 year old daughter ‘play’ as the round ending ‘ghosts’ by having her role the dice that control them.
The only critique I would have of the game is to have consequences a bit different from just ‘you lose’ if the mission is unsuccessful. Since the game is meant to be played as a series of connect missions where your characters progress, maybe having a failed mission impact the next mission would be better than just starting over the mission you just played. Also, I’m certain fans would love to see an expansion that brings in the new female Ghostbusters as characters that can be chosen as well as new ghosts like the devil dogs in the first movie as bosses or even just more variety of ghosts to uses as the different classes of ghosts you encounter. I’m certain this was probably playtested out of the game initially but still, it would be nice!
All in all, this game is one that is probably best left for Ghostbusters fans. Considering the game takes about an hour to play one mission, it is unlikely that you’ll get someone who isn’t a fan to regularly participate. Still, you could play this game alone but what’s the fun in that!