Review: Ghostbusters: The Board Game

I love Ghostbusters. As a little kid, I had a sleeping bag that featured the characters from the animated series on it, and I treasured it almost as much as my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bedsheets.

You know the ones.

I watched the movies a few times on TV, and even though I’d laugh and laugh, I realize now that I didn’t really know what was going on. Especially with Sigourney Weaver. But now, I will pop the movie in the Blu-Ray player from time to time to have something playing in the background. I still laugh at almost every Bill Murray line, but I’d have to say that Ernie Hudson has the best when he shouts, “When someone asks if you are a god, you say… yes!” Heck, at first glance, I still think that every tall older Russian man I see is Vigo the Carpathian.

When it was announced that a board game was going to be released on Kickstarter based on this great franchise, I freaked out. I freaked out again when I looked at the price tag and saw that the base set was going to be $80, and the set with all the really cool stuff was going to cost over $100! Now, I know I’m pretty strong into the board gaming hobby at this point, but I’ve never spent that much money on a game before.

However, I wrestled with it. Sure, it’s expensive, but look how cool! I’ll play it all the time because all my friends will see how wonderful it is! Look at those miniatures! Despite all these facts (and exclamation points), I was never able to get myself to back the project. I sat back and hoped that one day, I would be able to find it in a trade or flea market sale somewhere and snatch it away from the grubby little hands of all the other gamers.

Much to my surprise, the game eventually hit store shelves!  At a cheaper price! So two Christmases ago, this giant box ended up in my possession.  I finally owned a board game that really hit me right in the childhood. I loved all the little miniatures, especially the Slimer, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and Ecto-1. The idea of an RPG-like game where we all got to be a Ghostbuster and watch them grow in their abilities was awesome! I also loved the concept of playing through multiple stages of a campaign, with each one being harder than the last. All of this sounded like a game that would be so good, my friends would show up at my house just so we would play it.

When I was finally able to break the game out when my wife and I had a game day with another couple, I was super pumped. The game is fairly robust, and so an initial description of the rules was somewhat difficult. Once we got started, though, it wasn’t too long before everyone was contributing to the discussions of how to be victorious. We were able to work together to find ways to shut down the ghost-dispensing portals and get rid of our spectral adversaries. We also celebrated each time we leveled up, and laughed each time we got slimed. 

We cheered good dice rolls that trapped the ghosts, and hung our heads in despair when the dice rolls went south and we saw our health slowly tick away. We eventually won the first stage and plowed on to the next.

Our enthusiasm hit some snags, though, when we found that the next stage was pretty similar to the previous one. We had to again shut down portals and/or get rid of ghosts. The map was different and a bit more challenging, but that was about it in terms of changes. We continued to play and still had some fun, but we weren’t quite as drawn in. Eventually, we saw that we were going to lose that round, but we weren’t all that disappointed. We said, “Oh well”, cleaned the game up, and moved on to the next game without much else to say about our ghost-busting experience.

I was able to break the game out again with my brothers-in-law and wife a few months later. Again, that excitement about leveling up and working together to really take on the role of Ghostbusters kicked in. We plowed through the first two missions, our fervor outweighing the repetitive nature. However, we hit the third mission, and our enthusiasm waned yet again. The game still seemed about the same. We had been playing for almost three hours now, and the variety had vanished. We were defeating ghosts, and we were leveling up, but there was nothing new really to speak of.

Not even the great Peter Venkman could save us.

I want to like this game so much. I have had several occasions where I will look at pieces from the more deluxe versions online and consider purchasing them, though they are ridiculously overpriced. I looked at the ‘second season’ of the game which hit Kickstarter last year and again toyed with the idea of throwing down over $100 to get some crazy exclusive content. But when I step back from my nostalgia and the warm feelings I get from the Ghostbusters name alone, I realize that this is not a game that fits well in my collection. While this is literal in the fact that the box is huge and takes up a large chunk of the real estate I have available, I mostly mean in terms of the types of games that I play with my family and friends. Almost all of our games come in at under an hour, with only a few rules needed to get us started.

Campaign-like games don’t do all that well because… we’re busy. Not too many people have time to sit around for several hours and play through a game. And even if we did, the game is just not compelling enough to hold our attention. I’ve tried with two different groups of people, and while the results were different in detail, the overall experiences were the same. Eventually, we got bored and were ready to move on to something else.

A few weeks ago, I traded away Ghostbusters: The Board Game for a copy of Takenoko, a game that I know will work better with my gaming group. As silly as it might sound, this was a very conflicted move for me. I want to like this game so bad, because it feels like it’s taking my childhood imagination and turning it into a game. But I know that really, all this box is going to do for me is collect dust and take up room. So, hopefully G:tBG is going to find more love and attention in its new home. For me, I have moved on, and hope that I’m able to find more luck with my next heartstring-tugging board game adventure.

Highs

  • Awesome miniatures
  • You’re a Ghostbuster!

Lows

  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Takes lots of time to setup
  • Not very much variety in levels / mission objectives