The Ghostbusters board game Kickstarter achieved phenomenal success, racking up $1.5 million in pledges in February. Now that the game has been released, it’s time to bust some ghosts!
The version of the game we received for review is the base game, minus the many stretch goals the campaign reached. It’s safe to assume those will be available to non-backers as an expansion pack in the future, and we’ll talk about those extras shortly.
The mechanics of the game are pretty straightforward. The Ghostbusters arrive on the scene in Ecto-1. There are ghosts scampering around, along with several gates to the spirit world. The Busters run around trying to accomplish the scenario goals. This can range from simply mopping up all the ghosts and closing the gates, to transmuting smaller ghosts into bigger ghosts, or feeding ghosts into gates, or battling the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. The wide range of scenario goals is the game’s best feature—scenarios can be linked to form campaigns, and there are enough campaigns to keep you from ever playing the same scenario twice for quite a long time.
Gameplay itself felt a little simplistic. You move around the board firing your proton packs at ghosts and rolling six-sided dice to try and trap them. You can also enter and drive around in Ecto-1. Once you’ve trapped a ghost, you take it back to Ecto-1 for release, which sends it back to the spirit world. Each scenario is defined by the number of ghosts that start in the spirit world, and if they all exit it into our world, you lose the scenario.
Players can’t “die”—if a ghost moves through them, they’re “slimed,” and you’ll have to spend actions or even an entire turn clearing the slime of yourself or your fellow Busters.
Your Ghostbusters (the base game includes the four iconic movie Ghostbusters) gain experience points and level up throughout their adventures, gaining new abilities as they go. If you’re playing a campaign, they often keep their experience when moving to the next scenario. Each Buster has a different method for gaining extra XP, which helps define that player’s strategy. It’s a nice role-playing touch.
Since this is a cooperative game, you can play with 1-4 players simply by giving some players extra Ghostbusters to control. The cooperation element worked well; the different Ghostbusters’ abilities worked together in different ways, so you spend a lot of time interacting with your friends and planning how to best use your Ghostbusters each turn. The scenario goals are different enough that you’ll have to rethink your strategy for each one.
That strategy felt very light, though. There just wasn’t much complexity, especially considering the game’s $85 retail price. No using Egon’s smarts or Ray’s esoteric knowledge to learn more about the ghosts. No taking ghosts back to HQ to drop them in the containment unit. The cycling of ghosts in and out of the spirit world, while perhaps a nice game mechanic, doesn’t feel like what the Ghostbusters do when they’re out busting ghosts.
On the other hand, you can probably argue that the simplicity of the basic rules allows for the extremely flexible scenario design.
Another minor drawback: there are only three basic ghost types, not counting the boss ghosts like Slimer and Stay-Puft. Since the game’s aesthetic (which borrows primarily from the IDW comic books and the Real Ghostbusters cartoon) depicts ghosts as vague blobs with extra limbs, and since all the ghosts are molded from the same translucent blue plastic, it’s very difficult to tell them apart without looking very closely.
So overall, while the game wasn’t bad, I felt like something was lacking, and that it didn’t feel quite... Ghostbuster-y enough. That said, my other review players enjoyed the game more than I did. And it also seems like the stretch goal add-ons, which include Gozer and a lot of other boss ghosts (even that dickless guy from the EPA!), more types of ghosts, a whole crew of backup Ghostbusters, more scenarios, and other goodies, would go a long way toward alleviating my problems with the game. So if you’re going to dive into this game, be prepared to dive in all the way.
And if nothing else, it’s sure fun making the Ecto-1 noise and yelling out your favorite Ghostbusters quotes while you play. “He slimed me. I feel so funky.”