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Who You Gonna Play? – Ghostbusters: The Board Game on Kickstarter

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Box - StandardOne of the earliest films that I have a distinct memory of anticipating is the original Ghostbusters. I would have been 8 years old, but I remember the commercials for it, a mix of humor and horror that I eagerly wanted to dive into. I wasn’t really allowed to watch scary movies, but this, this was one that I’d be allowed to see. In the theater!

Over the following years I watched the cartoon series (both the bizarre Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon series, which had no connection with the film continuity at all, and the later The Real Ghostbusters, which most definitely did) and of course the sequel, Ghostbusters 2. Though I never felt that any of these quite captured the greatness of the original film, over the years I came to realize that’s what tends to happen with many of the things we loved in our childhood. We want them to never change, but they do.

While I haven’t maintained a strong Ghostbusters fanaticism over the recent years, I’ve never fully lost it. There’s usually at least one Ghostbuster walking the halls of GenCon, even after all of these years, and seeing that jumpsuit always makes me smile. Every time I’m in our local comic book store, I notice that there are ongoing adventures in the comic book realm, including a recent cross-over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The recent announcement of an all-female reboot of the franchise has caused some turmoil, to be sure, but it guarantees that there is interest. For my part, I tried to argue for a different direction in the new series, still largely female but no reboot, but I guess they didn’t take me up on it. And for Christmas, I did get this LEGO Ecto-1 kit from my mother. (Last year she bought me the Back to the Future DeLorean LEGO kit, so this is apparently becoming our thing.)

So… okay, I guess that I’m still something of a fanatic.

Which brings me to the news of the day: Cryptozoic Entertainment has started a Kickstarter for their new Ghostbusters: The Board Game. I was able to ask some questions of the Cryptozoic lead board game designer, Matt Hyra, about the game.

Here’s what we know:

  • The Kickstarter runs through March 11, 2015.
  • Ghostbusters: The Board Game is an “episodic adventure game.” According to Matt, this “means that there are campaigns you can play through. Your character retains its experience point level from game to game, so your team gets better and better over time. Of course, the scenarios get a bit tougher. Naturally there are stand-alone scenarios or you can play out a randomized scenario as well.”
  • The game features the original four Ghostbusters as playable characters, with miniatures that are sculpted based on their current artistic design in the comic books.
  • It is a cooperative game.
  • The board is built from square tiles. The base game comes with 10 double-sided tiles.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve bought quite a few games through Kickstarter. John O’Neill recently talked about the amazing success of the Conan board game, which is being put together by the newly-formed company Monolith. Cryptozoic, on the other hand, is a well-established game developer, which is always a plus with Kickstarter projects. I’ve previously reviewed some of their deck-building games, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and DC Comics (along with its Crisis expansion), and I’ve got a few other games on the deck (pun not intended) awaiting reviews.

I’ve also played several other of these story-driven, episodic campaign board games. One game that I’ve reviewed for Black Gate built around this sort of a structure is [Level 7] Escape. They can be a lot of fun for both more casual gamers and those who enjoy digging more deeply into campaigns. Matt Hyra spoke about this balance as one of the more difficult elements of the design. “Hardest part was figuring out how to deliver a Ghostbusters experience without making things too complex. The more you try to simulate something specific, the more bogged down you can get with rules. We hit a real sweet spot between complexity and playability.

Each of the Ghostbuster characters has different abilities, which have a different impact on gameplay. Getting these characters right was, according to Hyra, the most fun element of the design. “Coming up with the character abilities was the most fun. Each of the Ghostbusters feels very different from the rest, and each of them augment the team in different ways.

new-ghostbusters-comic-issue-3Less than one day in, the project is currently over $180,000 toward their $250,000 funding goal. They’ll almost certainly be hitting stretch goals soon, so you can watch as they get announced at the Kickstarter page. For games (and most Kickstarter projects) there are generally two types of Kickstarter bonuses that get introduced as stretch goals: enhancements to the base product and Kickstarter exclusive add-ons. Hyra said that they’re looking at a mix of these among the stretch goals for this product, as well.

Still, I won’t let that stop me from offering some mostly-unfounded, highly-speculative predictions:

  • Upgrade from an ECTO-1 token to a miniature. Hyra didn’t give details, but was willing to confirm that “an improved ECTO-1” is one of their top priorities.
  • More tile boards
  • More ghosts
  • Louis Tully & Janine Melnitz as playable Ghostbuster characters. Louis, played by Rick Moranis, donned the jumpsuit in Ghostbusters 2, and Janine, played by Annie Potts in the films, has taken an active ghostbusting role in the comics (and, if memory serves, in The Real Ghostbusters)
  • Angry librarian ghost
  • Zuul
  • Gozer the Gozerian
  • Vigo the Carpathian
  • Mood slime mechanic

What would you like to see make its way into the game?


Andrew Zimmerman Jones is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Gate magazine, Andrew is the About.com Physics Expert and author of String Theory For Dummies. You can follow his exploits on FacebookTwitter, and even Google+.

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