*Warning: The following review may induce nostalgia and an urge to trawl ebay for overpriced vintage board games.
As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, I was thrilled when a friend told me recently that there is a board game based on the show. Crazily enough, it’s called Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Board Game.
The game is long out of print, having first been produced in 2000. Copies now sell on ebay for upwards of $50.
My friend was fortunate enough to find his copy at a thrift store in upstate New York a few years ago. Kindly, he brought it over to my house last weekend for Scary Game Night.
The game is mostly delightful to play. Like Buffy the TV show, it takes hard-core geek culture conceits (mythology, role-playing, mock battles) and humanizes them, makes them accessible to the masses. That’s also what we hope to do with our show.
In fact, Buffy the game is a kind of lite version of Arkham Horror — the cooperative fantasy role-playing game based on the universe of H.P. Lovecraft.
Much as I love Arkham, it is not for the faint-hearted. There are more than a dozen possible good-guy roles, many monsters, and a Byzantine system of rules that requires a 40-page instruction book to explain.
Buffy’s much simpler. It has exactly four good guy roles: Buffy, Willow, Xander and Oz. (Here they are with Giles, the librarian, who in the game is a “helper.”)
As in Arkham, these players collaborate to defeat a Big Bad — in Buffy’s case, one of the villains from the first four seasons of the show. If you win, Sunnydale stays safe for another season. If you lose, the Hellmouth gapes open and All Becomes Darkness.
Of course, many devoted Buffy fans from around the Internet have devised “expansion” scenarios evoking the show’s later seasons or specific episodes. Here is a site that even gives you additional pawns to print out.
I played Oz, who’s pretty much useless unless he’s in werewolf mode. Then he’s Awesome and gets to kill every evil thing in sight.
Gameplay does a remarkable job of mimicking the action on the show itself. There are fights, yes, but players must also go around doing “research” in the school library and at the house of Buffy’s “watcher,” Giles. They get help from secondary characters like Joyce, Cordelia and Anya. There’s even an Angel character who flips from evil to good at a moment’s notice.
My one complaint is that unlike in Arkham, one of the players must play the Big Bad. This undermines the convivial, “we’re all in this together” spirit the game might otherwise have — because one person around the table is at odds with everyone else.
Still, the chance to travel back to Sunnydale is well worth a Nerd Night — if you can find a copy without breaking the bank.
Anyone else heard of this game or — haha — want to sell me their copy cheap?