It isn't often that you find an unopened, 12 year old board game in a charity shop (for £3.99, at that). And, honestly, that probably should have been a warning. Or an omen. Buffy: The Vampire Slayer The Board Game (2000) is like entering the Hellmouth.
The physical elements of the game are deceptively simple. There's a board with a rectangular track on it, with 8 locations (High School, The Abandoned Warehouse, The Library...) spread evenly around the board. There are also three sets of cards: colour cards (8), character cards (8) and "Fate" cards (some amount). Finally, there are 8 crappy little plastic coloured doohickies that look like they fell out of Sorry.
The game pits the vampires versus the humans. There are 3 of the former and 5 of the latter, each represented by one of the character cards. The objective of the game is to eradicate the enemy, and the winning side is the last one standing. The trick is that the game is conducted in a state of existential chaos: nobody knows who is playing who. Or even what game piece they are.
At the beginning of the game, each character card (face down) is paired with a colour card (also face down). Every player knows what character he or she is playing, but can't tell anyone else. And on your turn, you can move any piece on the board. You can only uncover people's colours - and characters - by moving two pieces on the board together. Once you do that, you can "challenge" any player. If you're playing with less than 8 people, you can challenge one of the pieces moving on "autopilot" as well. If they are one of the coloured pieces on that square, they have to show you their character. If they aren't, well... tough luck. Of course, even if they are one of the coloured pieces, they can play a Fate card to keep you from knowing which colour or character they are.
The early stages are essentially an awkward game of bumper cars, in which everyone hammers all the pieces together and blindly accuses the other players until they get an idea of who might be on their side. Once you start to get a feel for your surroundings, combat begins. If you control one of the characters that is represented by one of the pieces that is on a square where a challenge has been issued, you can reveal yourself in order to initiate combat. (That may be the most complicated sentence I've ever written.) Combat is pretty simple. Unowned characters have to fight. Players can refuse (autopilot characters can't - making them either lemmings or serial killers). You add up all the combat values (everyone has a Day value and a Night value, which is kind of cute). Winner wins. Loser gets eliminated. You can't eliminate other people from your side (which is fortunate - the first combat in our game was Xander grumpily ambushing Willow).
So that's... kind of... it. You sort of poke around blindly until you figure out who is on your side, then you gather together to thump the enemies. Theoretically, there's a bit of strategy involved. The vampries are - generally speaking - heartier than the humans. But they're outnumbered. So the human players have better board control (don't forget, on your turn, you can move any piece) - plus, the location bonuses generally favor the humans, and the "Fate" cards can give bonuses to anyone. So the vampires should probably pick off the weak humans as rapidly as possible and then try and swarm Buffy.
In our game, Buffy (me) staked Drusilla (auto-pilot) early, then got annihilated by the Master (Anne) (in the Library, no less!). That led to a weird situation where, of the four remaining players, three were humans. Anne would move either the Master or Spike to a safe place on her turn, then the three other players would use their moves to get one of the vampires isolated. It took approximately a billionty years for the humans to win this war of attrition. Spike was bludgeoned to death with a book and the Master got hacked to pieces by Giles. (With a sword. In the Library again, if you're keeping track.) It took about a half hour for us to reach the inevitable decision. The longest, most excruciating, half hour of my life.
Still, that we managed to finish the game at all is a major triumph. Buffy: The Vampire Slayer The Board Game was clearly never playtested. For starters, if you play with 5 or less people, it is entirely possible that you're all on the same side. But you won't know until you spend a half hour gingering prodding at one another's colours. That's a fun evening.
Next, if you follow the rules, the game would never end. A player can always decline combat. So even if it boils down to lowly Cordelia, in the Abandoned Warehouse, surrounded by three vampires armed with tommy-guns... it doesn't matter. Going by the book, she can continually decline their invitiations to fight (as she should) and stand there (probably doing her nails and bitching about Wesley). We house-ruled that any revealed character has to fight. Which, again, is completely against the instructions in the flimsy A4 rulesheet.
This is a minor point in comparison with the two ones above, but there are also no rules about what happens in case of a tie. Again, we added a house rule. A tie kills everyone involved - therefore encouraging the game to end sooner.
It shouldn't be surprise to learn this, but Buffy: The Vampire Slayer The Board Game is a cheap shit piece of tie-in merchandise composed from the misprinted fragments of other games. No one bothered with the rules because they probably didn't matter. Die-hard fans were going to buy this, if for no other reason than the tormented/pensive SMG photo on the box. Other people weren't - somehow resisting her doe-eyed appeal.
The verdict? Expensive at £3.99. And if it weren't a charity shop, I'd demand my money back.