Friday, 27 April 2007

Buffy: "We fight monsters, this is what we do."

I spent last week fraternizing with the enemy . . . literally. I was staying with my brother, who is the second best Caylus player in the world (at least according to WBC). He also won the EuroQuest Caylus tournament, but it is more fun to call him the second best Caylus player in the world because it annoys him.

Anyway, we're pounding some crabs and Natty Bo, and the flesh is flying, which brings up the topic of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which leads to discussing Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Game. My sister-in-law, who is mostly a party gamer, gets interested and suddenly turns to my brother and says, "I want to play the Buffy game."

My brother just about swallows his tongue. He sputters, "You wouldn't like it."

Feh! For shame! He says this to a woman who was just about the best Mina Harker I've ever played with. So I have a date to teach the Buffy game to my sister-in-law this summer. The way I get my sister-in-law to play with me is . . . well . . . frankly, I lie like a rug.

Last summer I set up Fury of Dracula. Sis walks in.

I just hand her the Mina mini and say, "Your playing Mina."

She looks bewildered for a moment, but before she can say that she can't play because she is on the way to the Outlet Mall, I tell her, "It's really easy. It's a cooperative game. You play on a team like in Wits and Wagers. Your on the same team as the second best Caylus player in the world. Just do what he tells you until you catch on. The object of the game is to figure out where Dracula is hiding, kind of like you do in Clue. You just move one space per turn and then pick cards, like in Pictionary, except the game is about Dracula. You get to be Mina, the hot chick that Dracula bites."

Sis shrugs and says okay. A couple of turns into the game, she is on her feet telling all the boys to shut up because she has a good card to play, which she did. Half way through the game she wants to know why she has to fetch cards and never gets to fight anything.

I told her that Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Game is like Fury Dracula, but not the hunting part, just the fighting part. It takes place in a city after you have already located the Vampire. You just roll to move. Get next to the Vampire and kick him in the head. Easy. Also the two best hunters are the women, Buffy and Willow, so the boys have to be the ones who run around the board and fetch cards for you. That's when she said she wanted to play.

I won't lie to you all though. Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Game is a compact dungeon crawl that plays in 45 - 90 minutes. It has a fresh, modern feel. There's no geeky elves and orcs, or ugly space marines. The heroes are modern humans, the strongest of which is an attractive, fully clothed young woman with normal sized boobies. This might sound stupid to the guys, but I swear, whenever I try to get female friends to play Runebound with me, they take one look at the female character cards and I get a lecture on exploitation and distorted body image and anorexia and the whole world is going to hell in hand basket because they let 8 year olds wear halter tops to school, and OMG Bratz dolls. And I'm like crap, it's a game. You can use a meeple if it makes you feel better. But it's too late, and we end up playing something with a robber, or obelisks or trains instead.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Buffy-dungeon crawl. The problem that I have with dungeon crawls is that they start out exciting, but about half way through they bog down and become dull and repetitive. Then there is the final excitement at the very end. Buffy has two mechanisms that keeps the game moving and changing. First, at the the beginning of the game four artifact cards are placed at the four corners of the board. One of these will make the forces of Evil obscenely powerful if the Evil player can get it and deliver it to the right character. The other three are also pretty spiffy. The beginning of the game, is therefore, more of a race than a simple slugfest. Get your characters to the artifacts, without getting them killed. By the way, getting killed is something that really happens in this game. Healing is very difficult. And when a character is dead, they are pretty much dead for the rest of the game.

The other interesting bit of the game is the phase chart. Some of the faces of the movement dice have a moon on them. If this symbol is rolled, a token is advanced on a circular path that depicts the various phases of the moon, as well as one sun symbol. If the token is on a New Moon, the Evil player has advantage. If the token is on the sun, vampires can not be outdoors. Any vampires that are caught outside when the sunrises take damage and have to run for cover. Finally, during the full moon, the character's that are werewolves transform and become super powerful and super fast. How strong you are, who's up and who's down can change at any moment.

The result of these two mechanisms, as well as the balances and imbalances between the two sides, results in a game that is more cat and mouse than the average dungeon crawl. It is about maneuvering and timing, rather than running out, guns blazing to meet the opponent head on. It's more like, wait for the right moment. Race in. Bitch slap the enemy and then run like hell. There are always tough choices, and all of them have risks. You constantly feel that you are are on the edge of losing, but that victory is almost within your grasp. Also it is just fun kick vampires in the head, or take a bite out of someone.

Finally, if you enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV show, this game captures it's flavor and spirit. It's one of those games that when it is over, you remember the story you created by playing.

Menu suggestion: Bloody Marys

33 comments:

StephenAvery said...

"Menu suggestion: Bloody Marys"

You can mix me up a Bloody Mary Rose. Just hold the tomato juice,tobasco,dash of pepper, and celery...

andy m said...

I like this game because it's a game I can actually play with my girlfriend that involves characters dying (she's a massive Buffy fan, but less so of games with conflict, maybe if we play this more often that will change). She does apologise and look genuinely upset when she kills my characters though (especially if I am playing good). And she giggles like a school girl when she gets a card that references a favourite moment from the show, and answers all my questions about the cards and what they did in the actual show in worrying detail. This game is pretty fun.

gary sax said...

Probably because Joss Whedon isn't afraid to kill his own characters... you gf is ready for it because that's what's in the show!

J de said...

Characters dying? How many times was Buffy raised from the dead? Isn't she undead by now IIRC? N*E*R*D ;-)

RKFade said...

I think Buffy was sort of undead-ish towards the end there. Remember how Spike was able to harm her even though the chip in his head . . . . er, nevermind. I know nothing about this "Buffy" stuff. Honestly!

Seriously, though, I've often thought this game looked like it might have potential. I wouldn't mind snagging a copy if I could find it at the right price. Good review!!

Swabbleflange said...

I didn't know there was a Buffy dungeon-crawler. That combines two of my favourite things... must seek this out.

Ken Bradford said...

I keep meaning to pick this one up someday.

Important fact: this game was brought to you by the same brains that brought us Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit, Star Wars: Epic Duels, Risk: 2210, Heroscape, and others.

ubarose said...

Ken, thanks for adding the info about the designers. I meant to say something about that. A few more details for anyone who is interested in the game.

It is out of print, but goes for about $20 on e-bay.

You want the US version, not the UK version.

The first printing had some errors on the cards. The most important of which is that Evil deck has two Summon Eclipse cards. It should have one Summon Eclipse and one Summon Harmony card. The other mistakes are fairly obvious to figure out.

The game says it plays 2-5 players. However, it really only plays well with 2 or 3 players. In fact, unlike most other dungeon crawls, I think it plays best as a two player game.

It comes with four scenarios (the Big Bads from the first four seasons), which keeps the game fresh. There are a bunch of other fan made made scenarios on the internet.

Jack Hill said...

Ayep. Great game.

And Ken, that design team is managed by the amazing Stephen Baker. His games go way back an include things like Heroquest, Space Crusade, Battle Masters and the delightful Die Schlact der Dinsaurier.

(It has a German name, but is a simple wargame with huge freaking plastic dinosaurs. And Crunch Berries. And the world's most random dice (0,1,2,5,10,15). They make people who like averaging dice cry.

Michael Barnes said...

Ack, SHLACHT DER DINOSAURIER...man, I want that game! Of course, the only person I know who has it is Frank "I Own Everything Ever Published" Branham and he never brings it out to play...

I have to say the Buffy license is what kept me away from the game...I'm not what you'd call a Joss Whedon fan...in fact, I think his juvenile and pandering style of dialogue ought to be severely punished to the fullest extent of cruelty. FIREFLY? Great ideas, cool characters, excellent effects, good storyline...and then someone opens their mouth and stupid falls out.

I'd definitely like to try the game out though, I'm a sucker for pretty much anything involving the hunting of vampires. Plus Baker is one of the "unsung" heroes of AT style games, so it's got to be worth checking out.

I used to work with these two hardass lesbians and they played no games whatsoever except for BUFFY.

mtlawson said...

Hmm, I remember when you could get this at Target. Since I never watched the show, I took a pass. I might have to revisit that now, however.

Jack Hill said...

But Joss Whedon's pandering writing is the charming part.

The same sort of pop culture references as Tarantino (different subjects) and rambling conversations. Joss' writing does break down when he is trying to be serious, which makes the Firefly Cantonese cursing all the better.

I bet you don't like Neil Gaiman either...?

As to Buffy the game, Rose nailed the number of players. I prefer it with 3, so that there are some social dynamics between the allied players. The downside of playing it with more is that the males are just this side of useless. With three, you can give each player a good character and a boat anchor.

TheRankO said...

BREAKING AMERITRASH NEWS (that is loosely connected to this post): yesterday, Bruno Faidutti added Heroscape (by Buffy's Craig Van Ness and Rob Daviau) to his "Ideal Game Library."

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

Michael Barnes said...
Ack, SHLACHT DER DINOSAURIER...man, I want that game! Of course, the only person I know who has it is Frank "I Own Everything Ever Published" Branham and he never brings it out to play...


Is this where I mention I have a copy .... and then duck.
And it's about time I dragged it out (along with Space Crusade and a few others) to get my young lad into. I tracked down a copy on eBay Deutschland a few years back after seeing it spread out at a small local con - only bummer is I don't paint so have to put up with all them beasts in their primary colours ... but they still are fucking awesome !

And one I've picked up recently on eBay and need to get out with a gaming group is 'Buck Rogers - Battle for the 25th Century Game' ... any suggestions/comments on gameplay, time, worthwhile ?

mtlawson said...

I remember playing it once almost 20 years ago with friends, and the thing I remember most about Buck Rogers is that the orbital movement was pretty damn cool.

Don't remember much else, but the orbital dynamics always stuck with me.

StephenAvery said...

Schlact der Dinosuarier is my #1 must get game and has been for 3 years. I've bungled several attempts to get it shipped overseas and now that its come under scrutiny on the AT website my quest will be triply difficult.

hmmm... Rose is overseas... Ah Ubarose...

"If your countenace is but one tenth as delightful as your prose you are surely a beautiful woman..."

And

"Your charm eminates like a beacon through this site. We are uplifted by erudite and eloquent observations..."

I can go on but I need to let Mike and Rob haze me for my shameless attempts at smoozery.

Ken Bradford said...

Attention Mr. Poor Ol' Steve Avery:


There will be no smoozing. Fraternizing between Fortress: Ameritrash staff and its readership is strictly prohibited. Price and participation may vary. Tag, title and license extra. Offer not valid in TX, AL, and Puerto Rico.

Mr Skeletor said...

I must confess I am a Joss Whedon hater as well.
The few episodes of buffy i saw seemed Ok.
I watched all of firefly after hearing the rave reviews it got. I sat back after the last episode and thought "that's it?!?!" I found it a very average show. Very average.

not billy sparkles said...

"Michael Barnes said...

...and then someone opens their mouth and stupid falls out."

Well waddya know? Me and old Whedon have something in common!

adrianbolt said...

Small world, I've just bought die Schlact der Dinosuarier on BGG only to come here and find it being discussed.

I bought Buffy a couple of years ago - totally crap game. THEN I discover there's two totally different games with exactly the same name. US version good, UK version not even fit to be used as a cat basket.

robartin said...

"If your countenace is but one tenth as delightful as your prose you are surely a beautiful woman..."

And

"Your charm eminates like a beacon through this site. We are uplifted by erudite and eloquent observations..."


Now you see why Poor Old Steve Avery teaches Art and not Literature...

StephenAvery said...

Indeed :D

robartin said...

Aw, but you know we luvz ya Steve!

Michael Barnes said...

I like how Steve Avery is using his full name "Stephen" to give him self an aire of class and dignity. Ah, the anonymity of the internet...

StephenAvery said...

~Stephen Brent Avery the 3rd Esq. If you please Sirrah~

Malloc said...

second best Caylus player in the world (at least according to WBC

Hey I know hte guy who won, he doesn't even like the game that much, he just happens to be good at it.

Also Natty Bo' Rocks and why is a chick from new england eating crabs and bo'? is there a bit of Maryland in you someplace that no one clued me in to....hon?

-M

ubarose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ubarose said...

LOL. Do you know the guy who won, or do you know my brother? Because after the tournament my brother declared that he never wanted to play Caylus again. Also, I think my brother lives near you and he's a member of the MD Game Club.

I grew up in Maryland. I'm stuck in New England because my husband has tenure up here. I'm waiting to win the Lotto so that I can move back home.

Malloc said...

I know the guy who won. We played the life boat game and some other late night stuff at the WBC last year.

I might have seen your brother at both the WBC and Games Day, but I do not think I know him.

Now as to never playing Caylus again... it seems he played at the Games Day event so I guess he got over his loss. I am still in the never again if i can avoid it club for caylus so there is little chance of me meeting him while playing that game at a con.

This dicussion will eventually me to talking about how I find Tournament events for euro's a total wase of time. These essentially non-competitave games set in that setting really suck. I played in the PR event at the WBC 2 years in a row before I swore I would stick to wargames or AT. Playing PR with 1 guy intent on winning and 2 others who have maybe 1 game under thier belt was less than filling. I will stick to games where the people I am playing expect me to attack them and avoid the whole ... "why did you make that sub optimal play, you giving the game to him when I should clearly be winning." comments.

-M

ubarose said...

My brother told me that he hasn't played Caylus since November and has no intention of playing it at this year's Games Day or WBC. I think that he is bored with the game.

So you heard it here first. The "World's Best and Second Best" Caylus players both don't like the game much. I think that we need to get these two guys together in a head to head game of Buffy.

Pat H said...

I would like to personally thank everyone on this site that has put forth the solid recommendation to avoid playing this "Caylus" while also offering up other more worthwhile titles to play.

I am hours of life in debt to you.

Anything with "Buffy" and "Slayer" in it has got to be worth checking out. Reminds me of when I was in high school and met a "Buffy" at a Slayer and Motorhead double bill.

breity said...

Tom, re: "Buck Rogers", my pithy one-line review of it is "the best GameMaster game Milton Bradley never published".

I think it's a lot of fun. And I agree with the other poster -- the orbital mechanics are really fun and probably the most memorable part of the game. Oh, who am I kidding, hopping around the asteroid field is also pretty damn cool. ;-)

Shellhead said...

This Buffy game has been on my wishlist for a while, too, though ranked somewhat lower than The Gothic Game. I liked that Buffy show, though not as much as Firefly.