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Ghostbusters: Blackout – Cooperative Wraith Wrangling

When there’s something strange in the neighborhood…who you gonna call? With IDW’s Ghostbusters: Blackout, you’ll be calling up to three of your friends, that’s who! 

A citywide blackout has caused the Ghostbusters’ containment unit to fail. Ghosts of all kinds, many of whom will prove familiar faces and threats, are terrorizing New York City. It’s up to you to recapture the ectoplasmic entities before the city falls into utter chaos. 

Ghostbusters: Blackout Gameplay

1-4 players will assume the roles of one of the eight available Ghostbusters (drawn from the movies and IDW’s own line of comics), each with their own unique ability. A ghost will populate into each of New York’s five boroughs, and players must work together to capture a total of 15 ghosts before the Chaos Track reaches 20.

To capture ghosts, players must roll dice and assign the various faces to the ghost cards in play. Once a ghost’s symbols have been satisfied, they are removed from play to be replaced at the beginning of the next round by another spooky specter. Die faces can also be used to purchase equipment cards, move about the city, and reduce Chaos. Dice assigned to ghosts are locked in place until it is captured, so players may roll fewer than their full dice pool on turns.

At the end of every round, ghosts generate Chaos either via their card text and/or by being in a borough without a Ghostbuster present. Many of the ghosts also have abilities that affect gameplay such as denying the use of equipment, not allowing for Chaos to be reduced while they’re in play, or forcing a single color of dice to be used in its capture.

The game is over when either the Chaos Track reaches 20 or the players nab their 15th ghost.

Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Ghostbusters: Blackout

Components

Everything you get in the box is of a good quality, materially speaking. The cardboard tokens are heavy duty, but I still worry that the Capture Token’s design could easily see the handle of the trap snap off at some point. Might have been wiser to slap that on a circle or square, but you can’t deny the shape its fun.

My biggest gripe is with the board itself, and only because some of the Equipment cards allow you to put a piece of gear in play in a borough. There’s not a great spot to do this in any of the five boroughs though, so you just gotta tuck it up under the ghost card or place it adjacent to the borough you intend – which will interfere with the Tracks or make it tough to tell with a glance which borough it’s assigned to. 

The little plastic clips for the character standees are also pretty tight fits, so even after just a few plays I’m seeing noticeable damage to the cardboard.

Luck

There will be a lot of table talk during your play of Ghostbusters: Blackout. Players get to decide who goes first each round, and that choice isn’t always inconsequential. Dice resource management will be the biggest topic of discussion each round. Who will place which dice where? Is it okay if Jimmy discards one of his dice for a re-roll to try and get the trap he needs to put this ghost away? Which of these ghosts needs to go right away and which can we safely ignore until later?

The ghost card abilities are the biggest factor in all of these decisions. There are a couple doozies in there, for sure! The baddie threatening +3 Chaos every round needs to go before the one that just chases all Ghostbusters out of his borough at the end of every turn (which means he only generates 1 Chaos). Your luck of the draw on the ghosts also plays a part in how difficult each play seems.

Because there are 5 borough and only 4 players, you’re going to get hit with at least one Chaos per round – and very often more than that. The game almost always finishes close with both tracks within a couple places of the win, but I have seen games where the Chaos track wins with a sizable lead. The design seems to slightly favor the ghosts on normal difficulty, but its not anything smart play and a little dice luck can’t readily overcome. Plus, I love a close game!

There are also rules for making the game easier or more difficult in the back of the rulebook.

Aesthetics

Dan Shoening, Corin Howell, and Luis Antonio Delgado, who are involved with IDW’s ongoing Ghostbusters comics, provide all of the art, so it is all very house style if you’re reading those titles. It all has a very cartoony vibe that I really dig, and you’ll also readily be able to identify Ghostbusters with their live action counterparts. Same with many of the ghosts; it all feels and looks very familiar. Fans of the franchise will find a lot to appreciate about the art and its style, for sure.

Interest

I found Ghostbusters: Blackout to be less challenging than The OP’s Rising Mechanic games, which play very similarly as far as dice rolling and placement goes. This also doesn’t have the additional deck-building mechanic that the Rising Mechanic does. That all makes it a great family-weight game. Easy to setup, teach, and play and just tricky enough to win that it is super accessible.

I also like the co-op approach to this title. I dug Renegade Games’ Ghostbusters Card Game which was a competitive title, but co-op definitely feels like the better fit for the IP. I think I’d go so far as to say this is my favorite tabletop game featuring the Ghostbusters – most of which tend to be co-op deals anyway. This one stands out from that crowd.

Mood

I tend to enjoy games that encourage or require lots of conversation; which is interesting considering my hard introverted tendencies. There’s just something about group strategizing that appeals to me. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a feeling of alleviation from individual pressure? The point is that Ghostbusters: Blackout is one of those games, and the interaction it requires boosts the experience.

I also like that the tension scales really well in the game. Obviously, as the Chaos marker progresses things get harrier and harrier, but there’s also the Mass Hysteria tokens that affect gameplay after the Ghostbusters capture their 5th and 10th ghosts. They add little wrinkles of complication for a round that keeps the game from being too predictable and one-note.


So break out your proton packs and get to bustin’ in Ghostbusters: Blackout! Maybe you’ll prove braver than I and try it on hard or very hard mode. I’m not there yet. I still sleep with a nightlight.

Disclosure: IDW Games provided Nerds on Earth with a copy of Ghostbusters: Blackout in exchange for an honest review.