This review will probably be my longest one so far, mainly because I’m a huge fan of the Ghostbusters franchise. I also feel like that may skew my review on the game itself, which is why I’ll provide an unbiased verdict as well as a Ghostbuster Geek version at the end.
I’m going to be honest, I was very much on the fence about purchasing Ghostbusters: The Board Game. As I had missed the Kickstarter, I wasn’t able to get the deluxe edition with the numerous add-ons of extra figures, bosses, glow-in-the-dark goodies, etc. The retail price of the non-Kickstarter version is $85 USD, but you can find it as low as $50 USD, which is still pretty steep. I love the movies, cartoons, recent video game and comics, had all of the action figures and toys as a kid, and even watched that awful ripoff cartoon with the gorilla. However, seeing all of the mixed reviews of the board game with a high price tag left me weary of a purchase. I’m hoping my review will sway you one way or the other if you’re like me.
The game premise is that there are portals between the spiritual world and our world. It’s your job as the Ghostbusters to close off these portals to win a scenario of a particular campaign. As you’re doing this, ghosts are coming into our world via these portals and you’re trying to capture them to boost your experience points and make sure there are always ghosts in the spiritual world.
If the spiritual world is empty, you lose as a team, if you close the portal, you win that scenario. There are 3 campaigns, each with sub-scenarios and a boss for each. There are also some extra play-through options you can do where you start out with a certain amount of XP and try to defeat a boss directly. Playing through as a campaign allows you to carry over each Ghostbuster’s XP from one scenario to another, which you’ll need as the difficulty rises.
As you can imagine, there are numerous things in the game that fans of the franchise will spot. For instance, the symbols on the portals and action die are those that Bill Murray’s character uses to test the psychic ability of his students in the beginning of the first movie, Winston’s player card says that “he has seen stuff that will turn one’s skin pigmentation white”, which is a paraphrase of his line from the movie, one tile on the playing board looks like a wrecked jalopy, much like the Ghostbusters ripoff vehicle from the cartoon, etc.
I had read reviews of people receiving their games with broken figures, which I was happy to see that all of mine arrived in-tact. In the non-Kickstarter version, you receive the 4 Ghostbusters, class 1, 2, and 3 ghosts, and 3 bosses. The most notable boss is Mr. Stay Puft, as he’s considerably larger and heavier than every other figure in the package. None of the figures come primed or painted, so I figured I’d try my first-ever attempt at figure painting on Mr. Stay Puft using some acrylics I had lying around.
As someone with no previous figure painting skills, I would probably advise against doing this. For those of you who are seasoned painters, I tip my hat to you, it’s incredibly difficult to paint these guys. If you are good at painting figures, it might be worth your time, as most of the ghost are a transparent blue and can be hard to distinguish while playing and glancing up at the board.
The cards are a nice material that feel more like plastic than paper. This might be because the Ghostbusters cards get tracking arrows attached to them to keep track of their XP points that slide up and down the cards. Regardless, I took all of the cards to a local teacher-supply store and had them laminated for $4 USD.
The instruction manual will take you a bit of time to get through, as it’s over 20 pages long. To be fair, the first couple pages are a back story that tie into the rest of the universe (movies, cartoon, video game, and comics), which I did enjoy reading. Game setup will vary depending on the campaign and scenario you choose to play. Each scenario card has a board layout on the back of it that shows you how to play each game tile, what ghosts go where, where portals go, how to win that scenario, etc. Also, each ghost card used in that campaign has the information about them about how they react when hit with a proton stream, when a proton stream misses them, how they move, etc.
You’ll need to play with all 4 Ghostbusters, so in solo mode you’ll play as all 4, with two players, you’ll each take on 2 roles, etc. Each Ghostbuster takes their turn using 2 actions (moving, shooting a ghost/portal, removing slime from an adjacent Ghostbuster, sending captured ghosts to the spiritual world, or driving the Ecto-1) and they can also enter/exit the Ecto-1 or pass their captured ghosts to an adjacent Ghostbuster, which don’t count against action steps. If they choose to remove slime from themselves, they lose all of their actions for that turn and if they are slimed by a ghost, their actions are reduced by 1. Once each Ghostbuster takes a turn, the round is over and the action die is rolled to see which portal a ghost will emerge from if said portal is open. If a ghost emerges, an 8-sided movement die is rolled and the PKE Meter chart shows you to which space they move.
The most confusing part of the game is probably the line of sight (LoS) rule that allows or disallows Ghostbusters to move, shoot ghosts and portals, drive, deposit captured ghosts, un-slime or pass ghosts to/from each other. There are yellow, red, red dashed, etc. lines on the board that all have their own rules for line of sight and movement. They’re pretty straightforward for movement, but can raise questions if a ghost can or cannot be shot with a proton stream from a Ghostbusters particular placement on the board. They treat it as “can an imaginary line be drawn from a corner of your square to a corner of the ghost’s square?” If so, then there’s a Line of Sight. However, in an illustrated example, they show it being able to go around a corner of a wall. This could have been made slightly more clear in the instruction manual with more examples given.
When players enter the Ecto-1, they can move 6 spaces instead of 2 spaces for their movement actions. You place all Ghostbusters that are in the Ecto-1 on a cardboard rectangle with a drawing of the car on it as the figures won’t actually fit on the car model itself. This serves as a visual method to easily see which Ghostbusters are in the vehicle. Unfortunately, if the Ecto-1 gets slimed by a ghost, all players within it are slimed and it cannot be removed while they’re inside.
When ghosts or portals are hit with proton streams, you place the proton stream token on it that corresponds with that particular Ghostbuster. Some ghosts require nothing but a single proton hit to capture, and some bosses (i.e. Stay Puft) require 10 streams, in which all Ghosbtusters must participate, to take down. If you have trouble fitting the doughnut-shaped tokens on the ghosts, you can place them under the bases. Whichever Ghostbuster has stream(s) on a ghost when it’s captured receives 1 XP point unless a special ability states otherwise.
Now the verdicts…
If you’re a huge fan like myself and appreciate a co-op board game, this is a must-have. Any flaws in the game or lack of true strategic gameplay is overshadowed by the awesomeness of a great Ghostbusters game. At $50 USD it’s worth picking up and if you’re like me, you can buy the Kickstarter bosses that you really want on eBay (e.g. Boogeyman). The miniatures, sheer number of options, and number of components are great and make it a worthwhile purchase. I knew as soon as I opened the box that I would be keeping it and playing it a lot, which is why I tried my hand at painting Stay Puft and got the cards laminated.
Once you get through the rulebook, gameplay wont take nearly as long in subsequent plays and it won’t seem as daunting. The backstory in the beginning of the book feels like a cohesive storyline to the comics and the characters ranging from the movies, comics, cartoons, and video game really make it feel like it was made specifically for diehard fans.
Overall, I’m very glad I got the game and that it plays well with one person as my wife isn’t a huge Ghostbusters fan nor does she care for games that take quite a bit of set up. It plays well in solo and co-op mode and is worth checking out.
However, if you want a great co-op game that requires a lot of strategy, planning, working together, and a fully-immersive experience, you probably should save your money for something else. Essentially, it’s just a lot of moving 2-6 spaces at a time, and being at the mercy of a die roll. Didn’t get 4 or higher? Well now there’s another ghost. Try again and still didn’t get 4 or higher? Here’s another ghost. Not much strategy you can do about it. As with any dice-based game there’s a bit of luck to it and it can feel like if you’re getting lucky rolls, you can just bypass the ghosts and close the portals.
The ghost miniatures all being the same transparent blue color can make them hard to decipher while playing and you may have to keep staring at them to make sure you’re dealing with the correct ghost type. As I said, I read reports of miniatures coming broken in the box, which requires a call/email to the company for replacements, which can be annoying. Stay Puft feels like it should have come pre-painted as he’s pretty large and iconic to the movie. At $85 USD, I think a pre-painted figure is justified.
For casual gamers who aren’t really into Ghostbusters per se (e.g. my wife), the game may seem a bit complex and daunting and if you’re not an existing fan of the theme, it might not be all that interesting.