The first film I ever saw in a cinema was Ghostbusters II. To this day I am still haunted by the menacing portrait of Prince Vigo. From there I was hooked on The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. I had all the toys, including a Ghostbusters tower that you could drip pink slime through and a Slimer that spewed goo from his mouth. This spooky, but family-friendly vibe has translated across the decades into Ghostbusters Blackout from IDW Games based on IDW’s Ghostbusters comics.
Something strange in the neighbourhood
In Ghostbusters Blackout a power outage has plunged New York into darkness. Worse, the Ghostbusters containment unit has gone offline. All the ghosts from the movies and comics have escaped and are plaguing the five boroughs.
1-4 players cooperatively take on the role of four ghostbusters. As the game draws from the current comics IP there is a diverse range of ghostbusters to choose from and each character has their own individual power. When playing with fewer than four players, one or more players will control multiple ghostbusters.
The aim of the game is to recapture 15 ghosts before their terrorizing causes so much panic and chaos it can no longer be controlled. As with many cooperative games, it’s very much a get on top of and deals with the bad things the game continually throws at you.
Who you gonna call?
Each round of Ghostbusters Blackout has four phases. First, new ghosts appear in empty boroughs. I have to admit I thought the board was too dark when I first got it out of the box, but the black background really contrasts Dan Schoening’s amazing comic art and makes it pop. It’s a great modern updating of the classic characters.
Next, players roll dice hoping to get the right symbols to fight the ghosts and take any necessary actions. Dice are used to fighting ghosts, move, buy items and lower the chaos level. Results can be manipulated with player powers or with any item cards that have been purchased. You can also reroll dice by sacrificing a die for that turn just like
Once dice are rolled players need to discuss the best order to activate their characters. It’s a bit of a puzzle to try and defeat the ghosts as efficiently as possible. There are also tough decisions about which ghosts to defeat first and whether to commit dice or not. Dice left on a ghost will not return to their owner until the ghost is fully defeated.
Finally, the ghosts wreak havoc. Each ghost has its own ability. They might steal dice, prevent items from being purchased caused extra chaos each round. The random order the ghosts appear in creates subtle differences in play. Sometimes a combination of ghosts can really ramp up the difficult and force the busters into a tight spot. Dealing out massive damage and limiting what the players can do in return.
Bustin’ makes me feel good
I’m not going to lie. I love a good dice chugger. Cthulhu: Death May Die and Elder Sign are two of my favourite games of all time. Ghostbusters Blackout certainly scratched that itch. There’s a lot of dice rolling, but there is enough opportunity to manipulate those rolls that means you have some agency over your luck which is the best kind of gambling.
While there is potential for that perennial cooperative problem of alpha gaming, the phases of the game lend themselves to discussing different strategies before acting. We played as a family and the cooperative nature of the game, having your own dice to roll and the relatively short playtime meant that my nephew was interested, involved and engaged throughout. The theming and fantastic artwork was a big help here. And, if cross-promotion was part of IDWs strategy then it certainly worked as he is also keen to get some of the comics.
Ghostbusters Blackout is far from a kids game though. There are plenty of options to vary the difficulty. You can add in extra chaos events that trigger when a certain number of ghosts are captured or start the chaos marker higher on its track.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
Not that the game is easy without these modifications. what can feel like a walk in Central Park can suddenly turn into a tight fight for survival depending on the combination of ghosts in play. One of the things I most enjoyed is the versatility of the strategy needed to win the game.
While 4 players give you the full experience, I’ve also found that the game scales well, given that there are always four ghostbusters in play. If you are looking for a fun, greatly themed game that you can play with all the family. Or if you are a Ghostbusters fan, I’d highly recommend adding Ghostbusters Blackout to your collection.