The alien cruiser Ch’zadi, the flagship of the dastardly mechanized pirate Zorg, has crashed into the Firehouse that the Ghostbusters call home! Now Zorg’s forces are pouring out onto the streets of New York City. To make matters worse, the crash has damaged many of the Ghostbusters’ the Ecto-Containment Unit. The intense explosion has transformed the crew of
the Ch’zadi into ectoplasmic alien hybrids now known as Ecto-Terrestirals or ET’s. Hope is not lost, however. Earth’s top-secret government organization, the Men In Black have been tracking the Ch’zadi crash. Now their best agents have agreed to join forces with the Ghostbusters to repel the ET invasion and keep the planet Earth safe from harm. Of course, anytime you get this many big personalities together, rarely do they see eye to eye on the best course of action and things tend to get a bit competitive. Which agents will rise to the challenge and which agents will get in the way of their own egos?
When I was asked by IDW Games to design a game that not only has one but two licenses with such amazing characters, this is the absolutely insane story I came up with on how and why these two iconic teams would butt-heads and join forces against a common threat. Both of these licenses have had such a big impact on my life growing up and it is an absolute dream come true to be able to reach into my childhood and bring these characters to life in a new story on the tabletop. Now that I have come up with a ridiculous story of what is happening, I then had to figure out what this game was actually going to feel like. I personally enjoy designing a game with the mindset of theme first and mechanics second. Both are equally important when making a game but, I like to think that I am creating an experience more so than I am making paper, plastic, and a rulebook. What makes a great game for me is the water cooler moments. The stories you tell your friends and laugh about the next day after a great game night. Since the source material of both Ghostbusters and Men In Black already have some of the greatest cinematic stories ever told, I really had my work cut out for me.
When set out to design this game, I knew I wanted the game to be player vs player vs. environment instead of just purely player vs player. While all of these characters are big personalities that would most definitely disagree with one another, they are all heroes at the end of the day and would put aside their differences at some point to save the world. The game has almost this cinematic bell curve of tension. In the beginning of the game all players are doing whatever it takes to get a leg up on the other players to capture more ET’s to get more points. The Heroes may not directly attack one another but they may for example put on some sunglasses and flash an MIB Neuralyzer to make that character forget about the points they just gained. As the game progresses, however, choices start to become increasingly more dire and the heroes start to lose control of the enemies over the board. It’s at this point when the players will hopefully put aside some differences to work together to defeat the Ecto-Terrestrials or else the game will win, and the players will lose in the ongoing campaign.
For the combat mechanics of Ghostbusters/Men In Black Ecto-Terrestrial Invasion, I wanted the combat to feel more in the tone of a chaotic “spray n’ pray” instead of everyone feeling like sharp shooters. When looking at the source material, more times than not the heroes pull the trigger on massively powered weapons and then just hope for the best. Each of the three ET enemy types have a specific PKE (Psychokinetic Energy) signature which is represented by symbols on the dice. When you attack a space of enemies, you are hoping you can attune your weapons to the same PKE signature as the enemies. The more variety of enemies in a space the more likely you are to hit something. Nice shootin tex! Another distinction I wanted to make in the design is how attacking with a Ghostbuster hero feels different than attacking with a MIB hero. Ghostbusters tend to focus more on crowd control while the MIB agents go for pure firepower. Whenever a MIB character rolls a critical on an enemy it deals double damage, but anytime a Ghostbuster deals any damage to an ET they may move the ET model 1 space using their proton pack.
My favorite aspect of the game has to be the big Ghostbusters firehouse dice tower – this is definitely the big eye-catching centerpiece of the game. The firehouse dice tower has several alien ship part planks inserted through the sides of it and is preloaded with dice to make a kerplunk style tower. The dice tower creates this very fun doom counter that all the players want to mess around with but the more they do the more dangerous the game can become. At the end of each round the players will “check the hot sheets. Walter Peck may arrive and threaten you with an EPA violation. You may choose to lose 2 points or throw more dice into the tower. That’s future you’s problem! Each Hot Sheets card also reports on the rising PKE levels in the area. If PKE levels ever get too high there is an explosion at the firehouse which triggers the players to remove 1 alien ship part from the firehouse dice tower which causes dice to roll out. Each die that rolls out of the firehouse spawns 1 new ET model onto the board and creates a more chaotic environment. If all planks are removed from the tower, it is game over and the ETs have taken over New York City and possibly the world! This mechanic creates this ongoing level of tension keeping all players on their toes and not knowing what’s going to come next.
Ghostbusters/Men In Black Ecto-terrestial Invasion is an action packed, choose your own adventure, campaign driven, player vs player vs environment, dungeon crawler, miniatures board game based off of two outstanding universes. What more could a geeky game designer ask for when asked to design a game? I am so immensely proud of this game and it still feels unreal to me that I have had the honor to create it. I can’t wait to be able to share this experience with the world and see everyone neuralyzing their friends or finally deciding to cross the streams to save the day.