Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Playtest Review by H. Kim on 28/10/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
A fun, easy to learn, quick playing romp through Sunnydale--lots of fun for hard core and casual fans alike.
Product: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Author: Bill Sabram
Category: Board/Tactical Game
Company/Publisher: Hasbro/Milton Bradley
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by H. Kim on 28/10/01
Genre tags: Fantasy Modern day Comedy Vampire Superhero
Being a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was naturally intrigued to see a Buffy board game at my local game store. I had been hearing good things about the game but never gotten around to picking it up. Aside from myself, my gaming group includes one hardcore Buffy fan and another casual fan. Recently however (thanks to reruns on the FX network), another two members of my gaming group have become big time Buffy fans.
So I felt the time was right to plunk down some cash for this game that always called to me when I walked into the store. One note: I paid $34.95 for the game, but I see it advertised everywhere on the net for $20.00. So right off I'm feeling a little gypped. But that's neither here nor there and has nothing to do with the quality of the game.
And speaking of the game, a very pretty game it is. Inside the box you'll find a large full color board depicting an abstracted layout of Sunnydale, playing pieces to represent various characters from the show, and a deck of cards (made up of Weapon, Research, Help, Artifact, and Evil cards). There are also dice and this spiffy little cardboard stand up thingie that you tuck the cards under. There's also a pewter Buffy icon that's used to keep track of the phases of the moon. It should be noted that the dice are blank, and you need to peel off some stickers and apply them to the dice.
There is also a full color rule book, some hit point markers, and big cardboard "placeholders" for the good and evil characters. These are sort of like character sheets in an RPG. They list that particular character's stats (their Fight and Majik dice), and how many cards they can carry (and what types). All in all it's a very nice package.
The basic run down of the game is as follows: Good needs to stop Evil. Evil needs to stop Good. Both sides run around accumulating cards that will help them defeat their enemies. Of course it's a little more complicated than that, but still it's a very "beer and pretzels" type of game. There is some strategy involved, but luck plays a significant role as well. A roll of the dice can very much make or break you at certain points.
So I guess if there's a lesson here, it's to never get cocky.
There are four villains included in the game, each one representing a different season basically. So you have your choice of four different scenarios to play. Depending on the scenario, the exact make up of the Evil forces will vary. Nitpickers will no doubt point out that certain liberties have been taken with the show (for example: since when did Dru and Spike help the Master kill Buffy? And how could Oz be fighting alongside the scooby gang against the Master?). It didn't really bother any of us however.
The four scenarios are The Master, The Mayor, The Judge, and Adam. The objectives will also vary depending on the villain. Some of the scenarios are pretty straight forward beat em ups, while in others you need to either recover (Evil) or destroy (Good) certain artifacts in order to win the game (or at least win the game easily).
Regardless of the villain however, the forces of Good are always made up of the same four characters: Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Oz. Buffy is good at fighting, Willow is good at magic (or as the game calls it, Majik), Xander makes a great gopher ("quick get me a stake, and find Angel!"), and Oz is a frightening killing machine that even the Master fears when the moon is full. Evil is always played by one person, while the Good characters get split up among the rest of the players.
Some of the reviews I have read seem to think the game is biased heavily in the favor of Good. Likewise other reviews have said the opposite. Up until last night I would have probably argued that the game is pretty evenly balanced. Good and Evil had both won roughly equal numbers of games (with different players controlling Evil). Last night however, was Good's turn to reign supreme.
My group played a total of five games, each time with a different person playing Evil (except for the last two). All five games were the Master scenario. It was a complete shut out, with Good totally walking all over Evil. Admittedly, two of those games were lost due to some spectacularly bad dice rolls on the part of evil at critical moments (combined with some almost equally lucky rolls on the part of Good), so I'm not sure if it's so much an issue of balance as it is luck.
From what I've seen, most games tend to go fairly quickly. About an hour to hour and a half at the most. You can easily squeeze in a minimum of 2 to 3 games during your average gaming session.
After playing a bunch of games of Buffy however, we have begun discussing variants and house rules. One of the house rules that has been unanimously agreed upon is no fighting during the first turn. So instead everybody just spends the first turn running around and arming up, getting ready for battle.
All in all, this is a fun game with a lot of replay value and is especially fun for fans of the show. A big part of our fun came from imagining exactly how certain characters would react to the situations that popped up during the game. Spike impressions (especially a big "bloody hell!" after being staked by Xander) were especially popular. I'm not sure casual fans or non fans would have quite as much fun with the game, but I think the game play is solid enough to at least provide a few hours of entertainment for them.
And again the game components are very nicely done and reading the character quotes on the cards can be a hoot.
I'd definitely recommend picking this one up if you have any interest at all in either the show or just quick playing board games featuring lots of monster bashing.