Tag Archives: Lovecraft

Playing Buffy: The BtVS Board Game

*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.

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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.”)

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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?

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Filed under Supernatural and Weird Fiction, World Building

H.P. Lovecraft and the invention of world-building

The horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) has a huge contemporary following. Everyone who’s into scary writing knows that. There are scores of authors, both amateur and professional, who’ve continued to write stories in, or inspired by, the elaborate universe of monsters and secret cults and decrepitude he created.

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Lovecraft’s reputation has only grown since his death. His influence can be seen clearly in all the current masters of geeky horror and fantasy, including Joss Whedon, Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams.

Why has he stayed so popular? We certainly can’t credit his prose, which on a good day was overstuffed, on a bad  maddeningly pseudo-intellectual. (From The Call of Cthulu: “The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein…” etc. etc. etc.)

No, I’d wager it’s because Lovecraft was an early master — maybe even the inventor — of the storytelling technique known as world-building. Lovecraft was among the first authors to create a complex alternate reality and then revisit it over and over. Readers could follow him to this reality and escape their everyday concerns. All this without needing to get drunk or high — though I’m sure some people chose to do that, too!

Fast forward to today: World-building is the defining technique of contemporary popular fiction. Think of just about any recent blockbuster book, movie or TV show. Chances are it’s set in a parallel fantasy world. The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Ender’s Game, all the superhero stories — the list goes on. Like Lovecraft’s work, these stories all take place in made-up worlds. And like Lovecraft’s work, they’re all issued in installments, so that once people have learned about a world they can immerse themselves in it over and over again — deepening their understanding of that universe each time.

All this is not even to mention the wildly popular media of video games and comic books. These are the true paragons of world-building, incorporating visual and sometimes aural components. (Hmm, the idea of the “game,” or competition, is clearly also a strong theme in contemporary storytelling. Good idea for a future post.)

What do you think? Did Lovecraft invent world-building? Is that the main reason he remains so popular today? –Justin

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Filed under Place, Supernatural and Weird Fiction, Writing Craft