The Phantom Society Review
Who you gonna call? The Phantom Society! Ok, that doesn’t have the same ring to it, but busting ghosts is goal in this board game from Iello. Of course, the thought of translating the Ghostbusters experience into a board game sounds sweet, though I was ultimately disappointed in it.
All of the action takes place in a hotel that is represented by the game board. Rooms each have different colours that correspond to each ghost and a point value that translates into a dollar amount. For instance, one point equals $1,000. As a ghost, you win by causing $45,000 or more of damage to the hotel, while ghost hunters win if they capture all of the ghosts before damages total that amount.
First, players are split up into the two teams. Then, each player is given a group of room tiles to place on the board. The instructions give you some strategy in terms of the best place for ghost hunters or ghosts to play their room, though I never really found placement to dictate the outcome all that much. You might as well just place the tiles randomly on the board as a means of starting the action faster.
Once the room placements have been set, the ghost hunters close their eyes. Players that are designated as ghosts then hide their ghost tiles under a room of a matching colour. As a ghost, try your best to remember where you put them, because it’s going to be important from that point onward. The board has coordinates under each tile as a guide, but the writing is so small that it’s hard to read, nor does it prove all that useful in actuality.
When all of the ghosts have been hidden, teams alternate between taking tiles off of the board. Ghost can remove any tile that is directly adjacent to one of their ghosts to destroy it; claiming any points that room was worth in the process. Ghost hunters also remove tiles in hopes of finding ghosts, though any rooms they remove that don’t contain one count towards the ghosts’ score.
During our time with it, we found that the ghost hunters clearly had the advantage. Regardless of how you place your ghosts, it’s not too hard to figure out where they’re hidden once a pattern starts to form. Adding to the issue of playing as the ghosts is the fact that you have to remember where they’re located, which proves to be surprisingly difficult. Most damning of all is the fact that even if these issues were addressed, there still isn’t much of a game here. As a variant, it comes with cards that can be used to add a bidding mechanic, though that isn’t enough to make things interesting.
Having a board game that captures the essence of the Ghostbusters sounds awesome in concept. Unfortunately, The Phantom Society isn’t it. Hobbled by fundamental game design flaws, The Phantom Society probably won’t win anybody over.