I was pretty stoked when I saw the Ghostbusters board game go up on Kickstarter a couple of days ago. I’ve liked Ghosbusters since I was a kid; I watched the movies, watched the old animated TV show, and had most of the action figures and play-sets. I still fondly remember ramming my Ecto-1 car into our fireplace hearth one Christmas, cracking it into lots of tiny, broken bits with nary the notion that 20 years later it might be worth a crap-load of money if it had stayed in the pristine condition it was in before that night.
UPDATED 2/14/15: Scroll to bottom for notes
Much to my chagrin, however, a cursory look at the campaign page reveals, well…not much of anything at all. We know it’s a cooperative Ghostbusters game that’s going to cost a monumental $80 to buy into(not unheard of for a miniatures game), with an option to get a $125 version that has a few more bits. To play the harder difficulty in its entirety it also looks like you’ll need to invest in multiple additional sets of figures for $10-20 apiece. That’s a lot of money to drop on a game you haven’t played, and it’s a pricing structure that, quite frankly, irks me; why are there separately colored figures for harder difficulty levels that are add-ons rather than inclusions? Will the base figures not work for the harder difficulty? Are there are things those add-ons include that are necessary to play with them? Are the additional tiles, couple of scenarios, and larger Stay Puft figure in the $125 edition really worth the extra $40? Is the game going to feel incomplete without that extra content?(note: with added information, it looks like the harder difficulty add-ons do come with a new character card for those harder ghosts. They have not said whether the base sculpts could have been used as the harder ones if the cards for them would have been included.)
If the campaign page was worth-a-crap we might be able to answer some of those questions, but unfortunately it’s fairly worthless in terms of information about the game. The introductory video consists of telling viewers about the very basic concept of the game and then hearing from a bunch of random people who look like they’re all at a Ghostbusters convention(non-biased, right?) about how great it is. There are no rules, no images of the actual game, no basic breakdown in terms of setup or gameplay, no reviews, no video walkthroughs…nothing. After reading the campaign page I can tell that this is a game about Ghostbusters that is played cooperatively with up to 4 people in 30 minutes, that the 4 main characters are, shockingly, Spengler, Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore, that the game is scenario-driven with a modular board, that it uses a few different kinds of dice to resolve actions, and that I have to pay at least $80 to get the game. That’s it. Having absorbed everything available on the page I can literally tell you NOTHING else about the Ghostbusters board game.
If this campaign was a game with no IP, or a less-loved IP, it would have failed miserably. It is, quite frankly, an example of everything not to do for a Kickstarter campaign. And yet, it has surpassed its $250,000 funding goal in the 48 hours since launch. That’s great for them, but I fear it’s bad for Kickstarter board games in general. Here’s why:
I suspect many people who are backing the campaign are not avid board gamers, but are big Ghostbusters fans who think they’d like to play a Ghostbusters board game. That may not be the case, but every person I’ve talked to who already kickstarts board games has expressed the same wariness as me about this campaign. If that is the case, then these newcomers are buying into a very expensive campaign, and are doing so completely blind. What happens if the game is no good? There are no reviews for people to use to inform themselves. There are no rules or walkthroughs for people to come to any logical conclusion as to whether they’re going to like the game outside of 2 piddly paragraphs that hint at a few of the game’s mechanisms and nothing more. There’s not even a basic description of how the game plays other than to show us some prototype tile and miniatures image files and to say it’s scenario-driven. Does that mean it’s like Zombicide? Is it a reskin of Mice & Mystics? None of the above? What’s more, with all due respect to a major publisher, I’ve never been much impressed by Cryptozoic’s catalog which seems to rely heavily on IPs to net sales.
There’s just very little for people to go on, and getting burned on kickstarter is a huge turnoff to backing future projects. I’ve done enough research to know there are hiccups in the process, to know what to look for in a campaign and its project page to determine for myself what I think the risks are, and to vet the title’s reviews etc. to decide whether it’s even something I think I’m going to like. I also know things go wrong, and that sometimes something you backed just doesn’t turn out as good as you hoped it might be. I have very little confidence the majority of people backing Ghostbusters at this point have that experience or approach, and it’s disappointing to think how many future crowd-funding boardgame backers the community might lose due to people getting burned by a $100, mediocre game that ran a completely uninformative campaign that reflected poorly on board game kickstarters in general. In the end some responsibility lies with the backers themselves to exercise some good judgement and do due diligence to protect themselves from that kind of thing, but that’s little consolation to the inexperienced backer or to future designers whose potential backer pool may shrink.
For everyone’s sake who has and will back this campaign, I truly have my fingers crossed that Ghostbusters the board game ends up being great. Heck, maybe they’re all just such big Ghostbusters fans that in the end it won’t matter if the game cuts mustard with the gaming community-at-large and reviewers or not. With what is presented on the campaign page at the moment of this posting, however, I remain HIGHLY skeptical of the end-product’s gameplay quality.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but I rate this campaign: Buyer Beware.
UPDATE 2/14/15: The campaign page now includes a link to a “rules primer,” so there’s at least some information about how the game actually plays now available. You can find it here- https://bit.ly/1vGYVAl. Having read the primer, my rating of the campaign stands.
Visit the Ghostbusters: The Boardgame Kickstarter Page/