Buffy The Vampire Slayer... The Boardgame
They say that being married changes you. One of the little changes that I have experienced since marriage is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My wife is a fanatic for the show. I had never watched it, but now she has me absolutely hooked. She is still much more the addict than I could ever be, but I have to admit that I look forward to every new episode. It was her intense love for everything Sunnydale that led me to buy the new Buffy boardgame for her.
The game is best played with four or five players, but it wasn't too bad with just the two of us. No matter how many players sit down to the table, one player is forced to take the side of evil (oh no!). The other players have the core members of the Scooby Gang or the Slayerettes to choose from. The game is billed as being four games in one, and I guess it sort of is. There are four different evil personas the evil player gets to choose from. The goals of the game change slightly depending on which evil baddie is being used. The four personas more or less represent the four greatest challenges that Buffy has had to face over the years. There is the Master, the Judge, the Mayor, and Adam. The Judge is the only character that is a little weak to be considered a major evil. He was only in two episodes of the second season, and was taken out by a nifty rocket launcher.
Evil gets to go first in the game. Why, because Evil rocks, that's why. Duh! The evil player is also the only player that gets to keep their cards a secret from the rest of the game. Playing the Master, I also had Darla, Spike, and Drusilla as my trusty henchmen. Henchmen change with the lead character, but Spike seems to be pretty constant. The good side not only has to keep all of their cards face up, but is also furthered hampered by the fact that Oz can't be trusted to hold onto any cards. Every so often, the moon will go full and he'll wolf out. Willow has the best Majik score in the game, and Xander can always be counted on to have an extra Help Card. Buffy just specializes in kicking ass.
The game play is reasonably smooth. With only a couple, minor exceptions all of the cards in the game explain themselves pretty well. One point of contention that I ran into was when a card could be played. It seemed that the Evil cards could be played at almost anytime during Evil's turn, but the Good player had to declare card use at specific points (i.e., before combat). The moon phases chart is a rather nifty extra to the game. During the new moon, the Evil player can draw two Evil cards. The full moon means that all werewolves wolf-out, and at Sunrise the Vamps burn. One segment of the game that I didn't get into was embracing the good players. If your die roll is lucky enough, you have a shot at turning any good character except Oz into a Vamp.
The board is pretty well designed, with all of the necessary life tracks included in the borders. One failing is the extra card tracker for each of the personae. Yet again, a boardgame manufacturer is assuming that I always play my games on huge tables or on the floor. Some of us actually like a more intimate setting for our game playing instead of shouting across the table at my opponent. Another problem was the dice. I guess Hasbro is feeling a bit of a crunch after absorbing Wizards of the Coast, Avalon Hill, every other game manufacturer... and just couldn't afford to produce the custom dice for the game. Instead, I had to place stickers on each side of the 10 or 12 dice before I could play. By designing the game around the evil baddies, the game has the potential of being expandable. At the end of this season, they could put out a small pack with the new baddie and some extra cards to tailor the game. Maybe I'm wrong, and they won't, but it has the possibility.
I enjoyed playing the game, and my wife who is NOT a fan of game playing also enjoyed herself. The fact that my wife was willing to sit through two back to back games without a complaint definitely gives the game a seal of approval. Though I did have to deal with some pouting whenever it looked like the Master or the Demon Mayor was going to kill Buffy or Willow. I might even try and play the Scooby gang in the future, but I doubt it.