[review] BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE BOARD GAME

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the Board Game (BtVSBG) is the main thing I picked up at the UK Games Expo. I’ve been wanting it since it was announced, as it was described as Eldritch Horror, but less complex. And they weren’t wrong!

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BtVSBG has the players assume the roles of either the titular Buffy – or Angel, Willow, Xander, Giles, or Spike. It can be played solo, or by up to six players. Your task is to face down the “Big Bad”; either The Master, The Mayor, Adam, Glory, Caleb, or The First Evil. So in a way, the game is season 7 of the show, where you face each form that The First Evil chooses to take.

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To defeat the Big Bad, the players must face down a series of “Monster of the Week” enemies, and in turn gather clues. Once enough clues have been gathered, the Big Bad is revealed on the board and can be confronted (and hopefully, defeated).

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The board itself is Sunnydale, with numerous recognisable locations that have some special rules associated with each. The players move about between these locations, staking Vampires and battling Demons, saving Townies, battling the Monster of the Week, and finally fighting the Big Bad.

Characters get 3 actions a turn, and a special action. Basic actions can be used to move to a location on the board (anywhere), search a location for items, use the location’s special rule, fight a Vampire to stun it, pick up a clue, fight the Monster of the Week, or fight the Big Bad.

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Special actions often depend on characters having certain items, and are unique to each character. For example, Spike, when he has a Weapons card, can use his special action to kill all Baddies (Vampires and Demons) in that location he is in. Willow can use her special action to discard as many Magic Supplies cards as the player likes, and in turn kill a Demon anywhere on the board for each card discarded.

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Players take it in turns to use an action, until all actions are used or players all pass on using an action. At the start of the turn, the first player to take an action changes to the next person around the table.

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Items picked up – Stakes, Weapons, Magical Supplies, Tomes, Garlic, Holy Water, Crosses – can be held in hand to allow new ways of spending actions, or discarded to get free actions and effects. For example, with a Stake card, an action can now be spent to dust a vampire. A Weapon card allows a demon to be killed. Tomes can be discarded to draw from the Artifact card deck. Garlic can be used to defend a location for a turn. Item cards are also important for defeating Monsters of the Week, and the Big Bad.

Once all players have taken their first actions, the monsters on the board activate. First Baddies activate, then the Monster of the Week, and then finally the Big Bad if he has been revealed. If they occupy a location with a Townie, they kill one. If they occupy a space with a Character, they deal a wound rather than attack the townie. Wounds and Townies killed are marked on the Apocalypse track. Once that fills up, it is game over. If the bad guys can’t do the above, they then move to adjacent locations (locations are adjacent if connected by arrows) and do so in a manner to reach unprotected Townies first, then protected ones, and then Characters.

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When a turn is over – Characters have all finished actions, Bad Guys have all activated – a Townie per Character in a location is rescued and removed from the board. Then an Event Card is revealed (one of these is revealed to start the game before the first turn), and this is how the board is populated with Townies, Vampires and Demons, as the card spawns them in specific locations. Then the turn begins again with the new first player starting.

Fighting the Monster of the Week is a different affair. To fight one, an action is spent and two specific item cards must be discarded, then an Event Check made. An Event Check is simply when an Event Card is drawn and all the effects on the card are ignored – instead, the symbol at the bottom is consulted. This symbol is either an ankh, an all-seeing eye, or a pentagram. If this symbol matches that of the Monster of the Week, the monster is defeated and a clue token is left in the location. Then a new Monster of the Week is spawned by drawing from the relevant deck. Monsters of the Week have a variety of game changing effects. For example, while the Gentlemen are in play no-one can speak, or else a wound is added to the Apocalypse track when a person speaks! When Sweet the demon is in play, everyone has to sing whatever they say.

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When a clue is gathered, a Plot card of the Big Bad is revealed and new rules influence the game. Once 3 of these have been revealed, the Big Bad is placed on the board and some more special rules come into play. Also, there are effects triggered at the start of the turn when the Event Card is drawn (again, the effect triggered depends on the symbol of the Event Card).

To defeat the Big bad is similar to the Monster of the Week – except this time, the Big Bad must be beaten in a fight a number of times equal to the number of Plot Cards revealed. So essentially, a Big Bad, upon being revealed, needs to be beaten three times.

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Finally, Artifact Cards are cool weapons, or horrible cursed items, that can offer new uses for actions or cause horrible impediments to the players. Characters can become “Evil” and, as a result, lose an action (or are forced to discard certain items).

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Overall, the game is well designed and offers lots of replay depending on the choice of Characters, Big Bad, and all manner of cards drawn. The special actions, Artifacts, and Monsters of the Week add a lot of character to the game, and fun combinations can result in some exciting game play. In our initial play through against the Master, we found that Spike was usually off taking on the Monster of the Week; while Willow, thanks to Magic Supplies and the Glove of Myneghon, was zapping Vampires and Demons all over the board. With some well timed movement and item trading (free action to trade items), we were always on top of the situation and tooled up ready to take down the Master. There were some moments when luck abandoned us, but good planning kept us on target.

Now I guess we need to face the Mayor?

-Chris (and Sam)

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