Game Buzz: Ghooost!

After thoroughly enjoying King of Tokyo, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what’s next for Richard Garfield and Iello.  Well, here’s the answer:

image by BGG user IelloGames
image by BGG user IelloGames

Ghooost! is a 2-6 player game that takes 20 minutes to play.  It’s a family-style game, with an age limit of 8+.  It’s a card game where you’re trying to get rid of all your cards.  Your mansion is haunted by ghosts (cards), and you’re playing them to get rid of them.

image by BGG user Mattintheweb
image by BGG user Mattintheweb

The game comes with 62 cards and 9 “Boo!” tokens.  The box doubles as a gameboard, and that’s weird that this is the second game in the last three posts that uses the box in that way.  The cards have values of 1-14, an ability, and a family (common ghosts are white, fearless ghosts are yellow, special ghosts are blue, and scary ghosts are red).  At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt four cards for their hand, and 4-12 cards (depending on the number of players) that remain in a facedown pile to represent the player’s Mansion.  All remaining cards are returned to the box facedown to become the Crypt (a common draw pile).

On your turn, you either play ghosts into the Cemetery (the board on the box) or take all cards from the Cemetery into your hand.  To play cards, you play one or more identical ghosts into the Cemetery.  They must be of equal or higher value than the current top ghost in the Cemetery.  You can also draw the top card of the Crypt and play it if possible – if not, you get all the cards in the Cemetery.  If the Crypt is empty, midnight has struck and you can try to empty your Mansion.  To do this, you must have no ghosts in your hand, and then play the top card of the Mansion.  If you can’t play it, you take all the cards in the Cemetery.  If it is before midnight (still cards in the Crypt), you end your turn by drawing up to four cards if you have less than four in hand.  You don’t have to draw after midnight.

If you play 2-3 identical ghosts, you take another turn immediately (after drawing up to four).  If you play a ghostly quartet (4+ identical ghosts), you discard all cards in the Cemetery and take another turn.  A quartet can be made by adding to cards already in the Cemetery.

There are also some special ghosts you can play.  Fearless ghosts (yellow) can always be played, even if their value is lower.  Kitty (who is yellow) has no ghostly value and gets played next to the Cemetery, meaning that the next player is still playing on whatever is in the Cemetery (you can’t play two at once, and the next player gets skipped).  Scary ghosts (red) are played normally, but only other scary ghosts, fearless ghosts, or  a quartet can be played on them.  Special ghosts (blue) have different effects – Miss Copy is a wild that will match whatever she’s played with and can’t be played alone; Twist makes play switch direction; Skeletum discards all cards in the Cemetery and gives you another turn.

If you are the first one to empty your Mansion and hand, you win.  But you keep playing, and the last person in the game is the loser “and must make a terrifying ghost sound!”  You can play several rounds, giving out Boo! tokens to the loser and points to the others.  In this case, the game is over when someone gets their second Boo! token.

Of course, this game is very light.  You can tell that from looking at the box.  It’s a game that is more clearly aimed at children than, say, King of Tokyo.  And it’s a game I doubt gamers will really get into.  I think it will probably succeed as a good casual family game, but I don’t think there’s really a whole lot there in terms of strategy.  And might I just say that I hate that there’s a loser in the game.  I realize that, if you want to play several rounds, it would be good to know where everyone stood in each game in terms of crowning a winner, but the fact that the loser then has to make a ghost noise just seems humiliating.  I also realize that it’s all in good fun, but still.  I’m usually not a fan of game rules that tell you to do certain things to help you get more into the theme – if the theme is strong enough, you won’t have any problem getting into it.

In summary – Ghooost! looks like a good game for kids and families, but I don’t think it will gain much traction with the hobby crowd.  It would be interesting to play, but not one I’m looking to add to my collection.  In fairness, I was surprised with King of Tokyo, so maybe this will be a hit beyond my expectations.  Time will tell…thanks for reading.

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