In March of this year the team at Cryptozoic launched a Kickstarter for Ghostbusters: The Board Game. Impeccably timed to ride the wave of hype around the all-female reboot of the franchise, it was successfully funded to the tune of more than $1.5 million on a $250,000 ask. Polygon received an early copy last month. So, after a few sessions on the table is this game worth all the fuss? More importantly is it worth the $85 retail price for those not in on the Kickstarter?
Ghostbusters is a cooperative combat game. Up to four players take on the roles of Stantz, Spengler, Venkman and Zeddemore and fight ghosts and goblins across a linked series of campaigns. Out of the box players get four Ghostbusters, a model of Ecto 1, and more than 40 ghost miniatures, including a massive Stay Puft Marshmallow man. The game manual also features a multi-page backstory, with original art, from the team behind the Ghostbusters comic series — Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening. Add to that the multi-part game board, various dice and tokens, and it's a pretty impressive package in and of itself.
The gameplay, however, feels a bit derivative of another successful miniatures combat game: Guillotine Games' Zombicide, which was launched a few years ago thanks to an outrageously successful series of Kickstarter campaigns.
Essentially, each player is incentivized to take risks at the table in order to advance their character along an experience track during a given play session. Every game, players start at level one with the hopes of being level three or level four by the game's end.
Where Ghostbusters excels compared to Zombicide is with the sheer amount of gameplay available out of the box. The game comes with three campaigns, each one with four missions. There's also three advanced, stand-alone one-shot missions for those who want a more grueling experience.
At around two hours per session, that's a lot of play time for your gaming dollar.
My only complaint comes in the design choices made with the miniatures. If you're into painting your minis, the Ghostbusters themselves are going to give you some trouble. They're fairly smooth, and don't give a good demarcation between details. Overall, their features are very soft. Additionally, both Ecto 1 and Stay Puft aren't as crisp as they could be. The Ghostbusters logo, for instance, looks like it's been hit with a hot iron and smeared.
The worst part for me and my players was the fact that the ghost miniatures all sort of look the same. Each of the varieties of ghosts has very different behaviors on the table, so telling them apart at a glance helps players to make good choices about where to move and who to fight each round. However, Cryptozoic's choice to model them in an opaque blue plastic muddies their features, and from certain angles their silhouettes are similar enough to cause confusion.
Overall, the game is a good value. Is it bringing anything revolutionary to the experience? Not really. But it's an exceptional application of the theme, and a deep gameplay experience. And, if the price scares you all that much, you can wait out and probably find a better price in the new year.