Buffy the Vampire Slayer Game Review

Box

Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show ran from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Set in the 1990s, Buffy and her friends fought generic vampires, monsters of the week, and a “big bad” who from behind the scenes was responsible for the evil that season. Buffy had campy evil nemeses, humor, and good acting for a horror/teen romance/teen angst TV show.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Board Game recreates the Buffyverse milieu in a cooperative tabletop setting. Buffy and her buddies strive to keep the helpless inhabitants of Sunnydale California alive while discovering the big-bad behind the evil and the means to snuff them.Game Board

If the Apocalypse Tract fills up with dead townies and accumulated wounds to Buffy and her gang it is game over. Then big bad roars with laughter, the hell mouth opens, and Sunnydale dies. Hapless townies are like chickens, easy to kill and tasty to monsters. Monsters ending their move in a hex with an unguarded townie enjoy a townie banquet. A Bad Moon Rising

Winning is a little more complicated. The game starts with generic vampires, demons and tasty townies on the board plus a single “monster of the week.” The good guys gather right tools to force a showdown with the monster of the week. Then a card is selected containing two symbols on the bottom. If one of those two symbols match the monster of the week’s symbol, the monster dies replaced by a clue token. If there is no match the gathered tools are destroyed and the monster continues its rampage. The gang then scurries around the board to collect the tools and try again. An element of suspense is present because players have a 2/3rds chance of winning any showdown.

The Big-Bad is off-board until three monsters of the week are vanquished leaving three associated clues. The Big-Bad appears and really bad things happen. A player in the correct hex must spend a turn investigating each clue to learn how to defeat the Big-Bad. Heroes gather the proper tools to win the three Big-Bad confrontations. The players win if they successfully confront the Big-Bad three times via the 2-in-3 success rate random check before the apocalypse track fills up.

Different board spaces represent Sunnydale locales supplying occult items, weapons and tools. At Buffy’s home two wounds can be healed per turn which removes them from the apocalypse track. Dead townies are forever dead and cannot be removed from the apocalypse countdown.

Each character can perform identical regular actions (move, search, fight, and use the locale if free of monsters) plus a unique special action which vary by character. Buffy can kill with efficiency and flair. Giles effectively searches for items needed to snuff a monster. Spike kills very well and so on and so forth. A player’s special action can be used only once every four actions. But when the special action is taken more monsters and townies are randomly spawned on the game board. Special actions (or a basic action substitute) must be taken once every four player rounds. BuffyFOB - Friends of Buffy

This is a well-balanced, suspensive game. Players must decide when to take their special action to both advance towards victory and to avoid spawning more monsters and targets. Buffy and the gang mostly succeed in major confrontations against monsters of the week and the big-bad – but mostly is not always. A random third of the time critical items are destroyed and the monster survives to prey on townies and wound the Scooby Gang.

The game starts out deceptively. Buffy and the gang can almost, just about, come really close to killing all regular monsters on the map. But specials get used and more monsters spawn. Buffy and her buddies begin to realize the longer the big bad is out there, the more monsters appear.

It is a race against time. Can Buffy and her friends gather the right items fast enough to win the show-downs before every townie in Sunnydale becomes monster chow? Sunnydale has an impressive number of cemeteries which attract helpless townies like cheese in a mousetrap. Should Buffy and friends protect and save townies or collect items needed to win confrontations? Doomed townies

And the group will lose some confrontations resulting in the destruction of carefully gathered items.

The game balance is excellent! I’ve played three games, one at Origins with random strangers, once solo at home to familiarize myself with the rules, and once with my wife running three characters (she played Buffy, I played Willow and Giles). Each end game had a veritable swarm of monsters on the board chasing down tasty townies for a delicious snack while our avatars tried to put the final beat-down on the big-bad before the Sunnydale cemeteries filled.

The game with my wife ended in victory when Giles tossed the necessary tools to Buffy who won the third and final confrontation with the big bad just before the monster swarm devoured enough townies to trigger the hell-mouth. That’s quality family entertainment in my house!

Buffy comes with six major big-bad opponents and a stack of monsters of the week. The game contains extensive suggestions on making the game easier or more challenging according to player preference. The game quality and villain assortment provide good replay value. Assortment of Evil

The biggest downside is the failure to incorporate quips, gags, and lines from the series. Buffy was very well written. Knowledgeable players can fill in this gap, but even Buffy fans could have their memory jogged with reminders of memorable moments from the series. This is an obvious game design flaw compared to other games licensed from movies or TV shows (see Big Trouble in Little China for an example of how to do this right). Because Cordelia and especially Oz and Tara are omitted, the tangled dating web and confused sexuality topics are avoided. The base game helps parents avoid discussing these issues with their younger children.

Because the game is cooperative and relatively simple, I cannot understand why the game has not been ported to the computer. Lords of Waterdeep and the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game have been ported to the digital world while Buffy languishes dateless in Sunnydale.

In sum, this is a light, well balanced, cooperative board game. Monsters are easy to run in the game system. Good play is rewarded. Enough random chance exists to provide angst and challenge. The setting and game goals fit the Buffyverse. The rules are simple enough that a reasonably bright child can play, but not so simple that the game becomes boring. For adults, the mild complexity makes this an attractive social or drinking game. Game setup is quick. Games can be completed in 90 minutes if players understand the rules. Because the game is cooperative, it is 100% compatible with solo gameplay.

Avery Abernethy is gainfully retired and finally has time to play games. He acquired a stack of cooperative games because his lovely wife prefers cooperative games over competitive games. 

Miskatonic University Library: The Restricted Collection Unboxing

1- outside box

I backed Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection on Kickstarterat the $25 level (plus shipping). My copy arrived on March 16th – later than the backers promised but not as late as many Kickstarter games. Screenshots of prototypes of the game parts were promptly posted lending creditability to claims that delays were due to production and shipping complications from China.

Although the actual rules are only 10 (very small) pages, I have not studied or played the game yet. The rule book is thicker because each of the two rule books provides the rules in two different languages. The game is ready to go for four major world languages: English, Spanish, German and French. The game cards use symbols, so from a design perspective the game is user friendly for multiple languages.4 - Open book

I’ve got at least two tabletop games higher on my priority list, (Mansions of Madness and Lords of Waterdeep) so a review or after-action report may be a ways down the road. But I’ve got the game so we can take a look at it.  I’ve signed up to play Lords of Waterdeep at Origins which is nice.  Easier to learn a game after you have played it with others who understand the game.

The game concept is Dr. Henry Armitage the Head Librarian at Miskatonic University’s Orne Library convened a meeting of senior university faculty to determine who gets to Chair the Library Committee which grants access to the most secret books held by Miskatonic. During the meeting a monster emerges from the stacks, spits out the remains of a student, and slithers off. Dr. Armitage locks the entrance to the restricted collection with a quickly drawn ward. You are charged to enter the stacks, search for lore fragments, and return with them. The faculty member collecting the most lore while retaining the most sanity becomes Head of the Library Committee.

As a retired academic, I did my best to avoid committees and worked even harder to avoid being named Committee Chair. Sometimes it was unavoidable, but committees were a time suck which yielded little in the way of decisions or useful work output. I have a coffee mug from despair.com stating: “Meetings: None of Us are as Dumb as All of Us.” When teaching Sales Management I required students to calculate both direct and opportunity costs of sales meetings under the title “Meetings are the Devil.”

The game has five rounds. After that the sanity and lore scores are toted up and the faculty member with the highest total wins. At least I think that is premise of the game having read the intro page of the rules and scanned the rest.

The game is compact and is shaped like an old book. All of the sides excepting the title spine have artwork depicting book pages. The spine is rounded. When you open up the cover, there are magnets holding the cover closed to the rest of the “book.” This is very pretty as well as functional. The game takes little shelf room and looks much more attractive than most game boxes.2 - side box

The game has a five player maximum and each player has a decorated play marker to organize the cards collected during the five rounds of play. These player desk boards are sturdy and attractive, but have minor functionality issues from an aesthetic perspective.5 - Max 5 players

The play boards are designed to organize three sets of cards: Grimoire Fragments; Graduate Students; and Sigil Pieces. But the product design is a little off and none of these cards fit tightly as shown by the photographs. The Sigil Pieces should put together to form an elder sign – but the lines don’t match up when the cards are placed in the holder.

The cards are sturdy with high production values and should hold up to any normal play unless they get wet. But spilled drinks at game sessions are the bane of almost all game cards in every genre.

The Grimore Fragments look great. The defense cards, sanity cards, and lore cards all fit. But the graduate student cards are irritating. There are only two illustrations of insane graduate students out of 16 graduate student cards. This is unacceptable. If you have sixteen insane graduate students who can be sacrificed for the greater good of the Professor (just like real life academics), then each of those cards should illustrate a different insane graduate student. Somebody cheaped out on paying for adequate insane graduate student artwork and it shows.

Other than the lack of graduate student diversity (OMG – I sound just like a lefty academic) and imprecisely designed player boards – the game looks wonderful and the card illustrations clearly indicate what each card stands for.

Gameplay and fun are the most important aspects of any game and I don’t have them for you now. But the game is pretty, seems functional, and the rules are short.

[This unboxing article first appeared at Armchairdragoons.com] https://www.armchairdragoons.com/feature/unboxing-miskatonic-university-the-restricted-collection/