Ghostbusters: The Board Game Wants To Capture New Tabletop Gamers: An Exclusive Toy Fair Chat With Cryptozoic About Their Kickstarter Success

By Alex Riviello , Updated Feb 27, 2015 12:02 PM EST
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Cryptozoic Entertainment knows they have a unique opportunity with Ghostbusters: The Board Game, and they’re trying to make certain they don’t screw it up.

While it seems that recently gamers have been unplugging themselves more often to play tabletop games, there’s still a huge section of people that haven’t played a board game since they were kids. Ghostbusters is such a huge and beloved franchise, however, that they feel that this could be a massive crossover hit, the perfect way to get people into the hobby. The Kickstarter success it’s already seen- 100% funded in a little over a day- certainly seems to indicate this.

I spoke with Cryptozoic Creative Director Adam Sblendorio at last week’s Toy Fair about the game and he felt confident that their focus on a cooperative experience was going to help not only make for a enjoyable time, but bring new gamers into the fold.

“Ghostbusters is something that we really hope will bring people into the tabletop world,” says Sblendorio. “We don’t want to scare them off with competitive gameplay because there’s 350 million people who have not heard of Catan or Carcasonne, the ones that have become seemingly mainstream. I know you’re a preacher to the choir. We know you get tabletop games, but there’s still a lot of people who don’t know about this world.”

“Unlike music, where if you had a favorite band that got big and people accused them of selling out, I feel like the tabletop community wants the opposite. They want more people playing.”

He could be right, and if so, Cryptozoic and their many licenses is in a unique position to help this along. They see Ghostbusters as their chance to draw in this new audience and be a crossover hit, easy enough to get into but offering enough challenges and fun to retain board game vets’ interest.

To do that, they’ve enlisted the help of IDW Ghostbusters comic book series artist Dan Schoening to design all the characters, and have crafted over 40 game pieces featuring all-new sculpts of everyone from the main crew to Stay Puft and Slimer.

“The fans have totally embraced [the comic], says Sblendorio, “so by using that art style we can combine the toy line, the comics, the movies, the cartoon, by using his take on all of them.”

During our chat Sblendorio mentioned the stretch goal (which had yet to be revealed, and they've already blown by) for the project attaining $666k- they would contract Ghostbusters comic book writer Erik Burham to write a 2,000 word backstory to the board game, and Schoening would illustrate it. “We decided it would be really exciting, because something has to happen that puts every ghost on the table. Who could possess who to walk right in and release everybody and cause mass hysteria?”

Who indeed.

Regardless of what former villain is up to his old tricks, the team will be the same, and the game seeks to recreate the feeling of the four coming together to work as one. Don’t worry about one experienced player controlling the flow of the game, either, as can happen in other co-op games like Pandemic.

“Each Ghostbuster levels up in different ways so you’re not always doing the same thing,” says Sblendorio. “They all have abilities that trigger off each other so whether you realize it or not, you’re playing true co-op. For example, Peter gets angry when he gets slimed, so he gets experience for that, while Ray gets experience for removing slime. It’s good to have those guys go off together. Winston gets bonus XP by depositing ghosts so he’s really good at driving the Ecto-1 over to get more XP. Egon is the wild man, so he gets better at combat as he goes along.”

This all allows each player to focus on what they’re good at. But was there every any thought of adding a fifth player to fight against the rest?

“We thought about someone control the ghosts but the way that the game plays it really focuses on that team,” says Sblendorio. ”Instead of every ghost having stats the dev gave every ghost a personality that functions as an AI. Every ghost has a certain thing that happens if you hit them or miss them.”

One of the examples shown off in the rules primer is a Galloping Ghoul, who needs a roll of three or higher on a D6 to hit. If you miss, it moves two spaces in a random direction, decided by the PKE meter. You’ll roll for the PKE meter and move the ghost in that direction, meaning that you’re never quite sure what a ghost is going to do. The ghosts can move through walls (because, ghosts) or even through teammates, which will slime them.

“Having the ghosts move on their own makes sense because in a lot of the scenarios they play differently, too,” says Sblendorio. “There’s one scenario where there’s just the two Terror Dogs that need to get onto the same spot. Each turn the Gatekeeper and Keymaster move closer and closer and you can’t kill them because they’re too big and strong. You can leash them and pull them away, and you have to do that while fulfilling another parameter to win.”

It’s the kind of game where if someone was running it, it would simply be no fun. You have to move them closer together and that’s it, but as a four player experience, where you’re all working together to beat the beasts, it’s another thing entirely. You could have two players try to stick with the Terror Dogs while the others take care of business and win the game, or try to get everyone working together to do it as fast as possible.”
There are many different scenarios that the game will offer but for the most part you have to make sure that too many ghosts don’t appear on the board. You start the game with a pool of ghosts behind a gate to our world from the spirit world, and if at any time you have to spawn a ghost and can’t, you lose.

This means that you really have to work at hard at capturing the ghosts and running back to the Ecto-1 to dump them off. If you do that they go back to where they came from and give the team more time to accomplish their objectives for that mission.

The many different scenarios do seem like they’ll offer much in the way of replayability, but will it appeal to the hardcore tabletop crowd?

“There are so many awesome game companies that are very, very good at what they do,” says Sblendorio, “and we can try to be one of those too, but honestly how much room is there? Or, we can be the company that’s trying to get more people to discover these games.”

“One of the reasons for doing the Kickstarter was we got so much more coverage doing it this way. If we solicited it our normal way, people would get excited and stores would carry it but nothing this big.”

“I know what people say about licenses, that they’re sloppy or money grabs, but they really aren’t,” says Sblendorio, “I grew up playing every licensed video game. Remember games like Total Recall? They were terrible. But we think we do it pretty well.”

“For The Walking Dead, people started watching that show who would never would have watched a zombie show before, and all of a sudden maybe someone who wouldn’t have ever played a tabletop game before might try our game since they like these characters, and if they like it then you show them further games. We want to champion the cause, and this is the best way we can do it. ”

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Thanks to the Cryptozoic team for their time. You still have time to become a backer of Ghostbusters: The Board Game on Kickstarter.

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