Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters Board Game (***)
 
My family enjoys testing out board games, and with a six-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy we're always up for a new game. Ghost hunting sounded like a lot of fun, but this has to be the first game where it's actually so simple that the age recommendation (8 and up) is too high!

Simply put, you play up to four characters (only one of them is female) who are looking for gems in a house. Each of them has a backpack that the cardboard gems fit into (you can only have one gem at a time, and this is physically represented by only one gem fitting in the backpack slot of the character). The gems are always in the same spots when you begin play, as are the ghosts. Curiously, the board shows places to add ghosts but not where to put gems on the board. Why this is the case is never explained.

The ghost figures are fluorescent green and look like they should glow in the dark. They don't. Every time a player moves by rolling a six-sided die, there's a 5-in-6 chance that they move and get a ghost. On a 6, the player can move without adding more ghosts to the board. We rolled a lot of sixes.

Every time a ghost is added to the game the player picks a card, which has humorous scenes of where the cute green ghosts go. If three of them show up in one room, they combined to become a red haunting. The haunting is a hollow figure that looks like it goes over the green ghosts. It doesn't.

Players can "bust" ghosts if they end their turn in a room with a ghost in it. This is probably the biggest flaw in the game -- you don't have to fight ghosts if you don't want to -- because it means that players can pretty much run through the house unhindered (including through other rooms!) with the gems. There is no scenario where it's worth fighting ghosts until the latter part of the game, when there are at least two ghosts in most rooms. Fighting the costs is annoying too -- you roll a different black die and if you roll a ghost on the face, the ghost is eliminated. You can also roll a featureless side which means nothing happens -- seriously guys? You couldn't put something on the die that's a little more interesting? And then there's the haunting die, which two different players need to roll when fighting a haunting. If you're fighting a ghost and roll a haunt...also nothing happens. In short, rolling ghostbusting dice is a pretty boring experience. 

Once a haunting shows up, a player who is in the room can't get out of it unless another player shows up to help (this is literally like Ghostbusters, with two plasma streams pushing the ghost toward a trap). The thing is, the only reason a player would move to an area where a haunting resides is if there's a gem there, and since players can move quickly through the area, there's a low chance a player will be forced to move through a haunted area.

We played several games and at no point was there a threat of losing the game. In fact, the biggest problem is if one player was selfish and just went after the gems while the other player didn't fight ghosts. Of course, the game's dynamic changes significantly with more players (which increases the odds of ghosts appearing more quickly) but the game doesn't have any difficulty calibration to account for this.

There is an advanced game, which includes locked doors and finding the gems in a certain order, but this just makes the game a bit more annoying to play. My six-year-old was easily able to play this game (there's no words on the board or even on the cards). If your child can read his or her numbers, he can play this game...it could easily be played by five-year-olds. 

It's cute. But game of the year? Not for us. 

You can purchase this game at Amazon. Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com

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