There Is No Game. . . Only Zuul! - Ghostbusters Review

Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Yeah, who doesn't like that awesome theme song when it's either blaring from your TV or the DJ at your work's Xmas do? OK, the cartoon wasn't the best ever, but the films were light-hearted and creative and good for some nostalgic entertainment. I'm not the biggest fan of Ghostbusters, but it has its good moments and despite this I was still very keen on the idea of a co-operative game using the license and using miniatures.

However a few things started to concern me upon its initial broadcast. Firstly the Kickstarter project was a bit ambiguous to say the least and not entirely convincing. Secondly the art scheme looked incredibly cartoon-y and I was hoping for a closer tie to the movies. Thirdly and probably most importantly of all, it was going to be published by Cryptozoic.

Now looking at their line up, it's a big list of licenses, but in all those cases they've not been games that were particularly high on my list to try. Does anyone these days play the Lord of the Rings deck-building games? And from what I've heard, the DC Deck-Builder puts theme aside and even then I don't see anyone playing it - remember that one of the reasons I love Sentinels of the Multiverse so much is because of the theme so you can imagine it's not likely going to sit well with me. Aside from Spyfall, I don't think I own any game on their list. Now remember that's just a personal view, I'm sure many gamers out there love their work and that's a good thing!

Will "busting make me feel good" or will I be terrified beyond the capacity of rational thought?


Designer: Matt Hyra, Adam Sblendorio & Mataio Wilson (2015)
Publisher: Cryptozoic
Age: 15+
Players: 1-4
Time: 30-60 Minutes per scenario
Rank / Rating: 4,786 / 6.65
RRP: £69.99


Go Get Her Ray!

If you know what Ghostbusters is, you already know what the jist of this game is about. Players take on the roles of the iconic team and will play through multiple campaign scenarios zapping ghosts of various types and attempting to close all the gates to the "other world" before the ghosts overrun the city.

Each player has a fixed number of actions to perform moves, shooting and removing slime from other Ghostbusters, a side effect of getting hit by all the ghosts in this game, which reduces your actions in a turn. All ghosts/gates have a minimum number to roll to capture and some require multiple hits. At the end of each round, a die is rolled which triggers bad effects from gates both open and closed and occasionally sending the ghosts on the field into a random movement frenzy. The game can be played as a single scenario or by using one of the pre-built campaigns, each focusing on a specific boss such as Slimer and the ever classic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

During each mission, players will earn XP for their Ghostbuster which unlock some extra abilities and carry over from one campaign scenario to the next. This works in a very similar way to Zombicide, but consider this the lighter version of that mechanic. Typically once all of the gates in the area have been closed, the scenario is a success, eventually ending with the inevitable capture of the main ghost protagonist.


This Job Is Not Worth $11,500 A Year!


That statement may be true, but change "Job" & "$11,500" to "Game" and "£50-£70" and it still rings pretty true. Ghostbusters demands a high price tag indeed and yet the component quality doesn't seem to warrant it. The map tiles are decent quality, if a little basic and too similar to each other and the dice are pretty basic. But Cryptozoic are not known for publishing miniature games and this is a classic case of why. The moulds are rough, quite spiky and each ghost figure resembles a translucent colour which makes it incredibly hard to pick out any detail. I guess that this was done to make them appear more like ghosts, but it makes the miniatures look so "toy-ish" that I'd half expect to see these given away for free as part of a McDonald's happy meal. I'm actually convinced that even I with my lack of art skills could come up with a more convincing looking Ecto-1 car.

The only model that looks even reasonably cool is Stay Puft himself and let's face it, he's a giant blob of white marshmallow so you can only do so much to ruin that. Plus his cool appeal is more in the giant size of the model than the detail on it. I get on Cool Mini or Not's back for their games sometimes, but no-one can deny they are the king of miniatures. You compare something from Zombicide (which is a similar price point and actually a similar game in general when you think about it) against this and tell me which you prefer. Now as evidence has proven, these can be vastly improved with a good paint job, but if you're someone like me who can't paint for toffee, you're stuck with what you get.

The artwork itself is fine though, I can take or leave the cartoon approach, but it works well for the character and ghost crib sheets. I just wish some more variation was done on the map. I said they were too similar to each other and that's an understatement. They are double sided but you essentially have a choice of roads or parks and as they're going with a post-apocalyptic style of city terrain it looks very generic and I guarantee you won't be able to tell one scenario from another.


Why Worry? Each Of Us Is Carrying An Unlicensed Nuclear Accelerator On His Back!


So obviously the big appeal for going for a game like this is for the fun of zapping ghosts with your proton pack. So naturally the combat has to be done well for this to work. And for every ghost in this set you simply roll a die and try to beat a number. That's it, really no, that is it. If you hit it, great, but if not, each ghost performs some randomised movement or the gate has a negative effect, typically spewing a new ghost onto the field. And you will repeat this method over and over and over again throughout a scenario and then of course rinsing and repeating in future scenarios. As simplistic as it is, it gets repetitive very quickly and with almost no way to mitigate the die rolls, the game boils down to a giant roll off and trusting to luck.

The ghosts themselves are pretty similar also. They look different, but basically they only differentiate by requiring more hits to trap and having a slightly different randomised movement or "sliming" ability. And they'll barely move at all unless you start missing your shots at them or if you roll that one symbol on the event die to cause the ghost frenzy. So the board remains very static for the most part - yeah, exactly the first word that comes to mind when I think of the chaos that goes on in the movies. I kid you not, their ability in which low class ghosts can combine with others and evolve to the next class if they collide into each other, that's happened to me ONCE in all my plays so far. And even then I just ignored the ghost anyway and shot at the gate for the win. There's no incentive for clearing the ghosts off the map except for XP grinding.


You're Not Sleeping With It Are You Ray?


I can describe Ghostbusters very accurately as a baby version of Zombicide. The way the game plays and more to the point, the XP levelling system is pretty much a carbon copy. You gain XP for trapping ghosts and closing gates and if you're playing a scenario these will carry over to the next mission. The problem is that every mission feels the same each time, but with a couple of rule tweaks to how the gates operate. You will barely notice the difference between the first three scenarios of a campaign before you get to the final one that again, feels the same except for a unique twist in how you trap the main protagonist. You can play one of the stand-alone missions which start you at a higher amount of XP, but again these aren't particularly different in how they feel.

How difficult the scenario is will depend on how well you can roll dice. In the Slimer campaign it is actually possible to simply ignore the ghosts for the most part and just rush the gates. It's that easy. Essentially the ghosts sit there as floating bags of easy XP so at least there is some incentive to zapping them. The fail condition of each mission is for the "other world" to run out of ghosts to put on the map, but considering you commonly start with 12-15 of the things on there to begin with, you'd have to be rolling pretty badly or actively trying in order to fail a mission. It's simply a case of how long it will take you to finish based on the number of turns it takes. And as cool as having to constantly be in line of sight of your enemy to keep your "hits" active is, it's very frustrating when some random movement puts it behind a wall forcing you to start from scratch again.

Clearly as you can probably tell, Ghostbusters isn't a game for the older generation of gamers. However I don't think it's a bad game overall, it plays very smoothly and is very easy to learn and teach and therefore I can see a potential market for this. That of course would be for younger players, particularly if a parent wants to teach their children a fairly simple miniatures game that teaches the concept of levelling a character (and of course they have a special nostalgia for Ghostbusters). The problem with that though is that another highly popular game already exists which does it so much better, that being Mice & Mystics, which has a better story, better miniatures and is still accessible to younger children. I even recommended it to a friend for his 7 year old.



Verdict


Oh dear. What happened? Somewhere between the initial brainstorming on this project and the final execution some streams got crossed and the result was a bit of a mess. Ghostbusters isn't a bad game per say, but it's not a good one either. Instead it manages to somehow commit a crime that's worse - making the art of busting ghosts dull!

The gameplay is smooth and the rules are easy to learn and teach for the most part. But it's so horribly repetitive with scenarios and ghosts that barely differentiate from each other except for a couple of rule tweaks. Essentially the whole game is move and shoot, rolling dice more times than you can stand and trusting to luck with the difficulty being pretty easy throughout until the later scenarios. It doesn't even feel like Ghostbusters as I think you could paste a different theme on here pretty easily.

Maybe I'm not the intended audience, who knows? I like Ghostbusters, but this is far from what I would expect in this license and certainly far from what I would expect in the box for such a high price tag. I can see this working for younger players so it could make for a nice, light family game, but for most people, this is a definite pass.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You love Ghostbusters and just want to indulge your nostalgic theme over anything else.


You intend to play this more with your kids than with other hardcore gamers.


You only want something light-hearted and simple.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You wanted an engrossing co-operative game with plenty of choices.


You are picky about your miniature quality - what you get here is far from the usual norm.


You hate dice rolling and repetitive missions.







0 comments: