Cryptozoic Entertainment’s Ghostbusters: The Board Game Kickstarter campaign was an enormous success, raising over a million and a half bucks, and it was easy to see why. Fans were hungry for the first officially-licensed GHOSTBUSTERS board game in over 30 years, and this excitement, combined with the news of the upcoming film, led to a campaign that enticed over 8,000 backers.
Now, a mere six months later, the game is a reality… and we were offered the chance to check out a retail copy and play through many of the game’s custom-made scenarios.
The first thing you’ll notice about Ghostbusters: The Board Game is how many components it has. This is a designer game that comes in a massive box, all the better to contain its 48 plastic miniatures, dozens of chits, custom dice, and tiles. The little miniatures are the obvious stand-out, as they contain everything from our four heroes to the Ecto-1 to an enormous Stay-Puft Marshmallow man. The little non-boss ghosts are all transparent blue, and while they can look a little too similar in play, they’re appropriately ghostly.
All of these components can make things look a bit daunting when you unpack it, but the game itself was designed to be accessible to even the most casual gamer. Part of that is because it’s a four-player co-op game, and you’re all in on it together. You’ll choose one of the four main Ghostbusters (Ray, Peter, Egon, and Winston) and fight through a number of different scenarios, busting every ghost that crosses your path.
Three episodic campaigns are included that allow you to play a number of games in order, all of them leading up to a big boss fight at the end. For example, the first campaign finds the Ghostbusters’ traps acting up and the city going crazy with ghosts (I believe it’s magic), and over the course of four concurrent games you’ll finally find out Slimer was behind everything, and face him in a slime-filled final battle. Fortunately each character can level up and gain new abilities over the course of each campaign, giving you a closer connection to each of your characters and lots of fun new tricks to try out. Rather than a single game board, the game utilizes double-sided tiles that connect together to create a brand-new location each time, further adding variety.
Just note that you really need four players to play this game; the game is balanced towards having four Ghostbusters, so while you can attempt it with less, it’s going to be that much tougher for you. One easy solution to this problem is to have one player play multiple characters, which is a bit cumbersome, but does work quite well since it’s so easy and fast to play.
Here’s how easy it is: each turn, every Ghostbuster only takes two actions — you can either move (two spaces on foot or six in the Ecto-1, hopefully making the siren noise), try to shoot a ghost or a gate, or bank a ghost into the Ecto-1. That’s it! Combat is done just by getting a higher number than it takes to hit a ghost, so once you’re familiar with the basic rules you’ll never look at the (admittedly huge) rulebook again. The fact that the game is so easy means that each turn goes by very quickly, but you’ll still work with your friends to figure out the best strategy for each turn.
Capturing ghosts nets each Ghostbuster experience points to level up, but each one has their own unique style that allows them to get even more points. Ray, for instance, loves slime so much that he gets experience when collecting it from a team members, so you’ll want him on clean-up duty. Egon actually learns from failure, and gets experience from rolling a 1 on the dice, and eventually will learn how to re-roll a bad roll. By working with your friends you’ll get everyone leveled up so much that they’ll all gain new powers that will make your job that much easier.
But that’s not to say the game isn’t tricky; the boards are frequently full of ghosts and gates, each of which react differently when being shot with your proton beam.There are three classes of minor ghosts that each react differently to missed attacks and such, thanks to the handy PKE meter tile that randomizes their movements and leaves you constantly wondering who they’re going to slime next. (Getting slimed is rough: until you remove it from yourself, you’re down one action a turn, which is no fun when you only start out with two. Keep Ray close!)
After each player makes their moves you roll the Event Die, which can cause all sorts of bad things to happen — from ghosts popping out of open gates, to every ghost moving towards you. If at any moment a ghost has to appear from the spirit world (represented by a separate tile that hosts the stock of ghosts for that game) and there are none left, you lose.
This is a fast and fun experience, though. Each separate game only takes around a half hour, so you can easily complete an entire campaign in a night. If you would rather not do that and just want a quick ghostbusting fix, they have included three scenarios that only take one game, starting you off with a leveled-up Ghostbuster to speed things up. No matter which you pick, you’ll have a lot of fun trying to work together with your friends, maybe only occasionally getting them slimed by making dumb mistakes. The fun comic-book art, the wonderful theme, and the random nature of the game all work together to make for a light experience that was way more entertaining for the group veteran board gamers I played with than we all expected.
While the game is guaranteed to make you feel good, you can’t help but want for more! Kickstarter backers at high levels were were given tons of new bosses to face (Zuul! Gozer! Walter Peck?!) as well as as new Ghostbusters characters to play and locations to explore. There’s a lot of variety out of the box, but Ghostbusters: The Board Game can certainly be expanded in the future, so it will be interesting to see where Cryptozoic takes it. Fans of the franchise who lamented not having a fun game to call their own? We got one!