The game is geared towards 1-5 players and can take roughly 30-60 minutes. It comes with a whopping 500 cards with nifty dividers to keep them neat and tidy, courage tokens (more on them later), a light/dark token, and a gorgeous playmate of the battlefield that will be Sunnydale. You will require around 3-4 foot square to play.
Firstly, layout the play mat in front of your current party of board gamers. This is where all the cards in play will be used and kept in view. On this play mat there are sections for the hero deck which contains potential allies to recruit, the villain deck which holds the bad guys you need to beat up, the bystanders that can get caught up in the fray, and associated big bad sections with their schemes, strikes against the players, and any villains that escaped.
There is also the library where you recruit your budding heroes, the area of Sunnydale where the villains like to hang out and cause trouble, a light/dark tracker which gauges the balance in the fight, and potential slayers that can join your party. All these combine to provide the board by which you and hopefully your friends will beat back the forces of darkness.
So, onto each player’s decks; the alpha and omega of your experiences and the means by which you claim victory. Start off by creating your deck with 8 Watchers and 4 Initiative Soldiers. Watchers are your recruiters which you can play to add heroes from the library. Initiative soldiers are your basic attack cards to take down evil.
Next, place the Potential Slayers, Wound cards, and Bystanders (face down) on their associated slots on the board. Remember to shuffle the cards that are meant to be face down on the board. No cheating now! After that it’s time to choose a Big Bad for the war. The Big Bad vary from the king of the vampires, The Master, the evil version of Angel, Angelus, as well as others. Pick one at random and add their related Big Bad Tactics face down underneath at random.
Afterwards, you need to create the Villain Deck. You want to make it a fair fight don’t you? To do this pick a Scheme card at random and follow its “setup” instructions. For instance, “Epic Struggle” tells you to add 8 Scheme Twist cards to the Villain Deck. Next, add 5 Master Strikes which are power attacks that can be sprung upon the player by the Big Bad. look out for those! Depending on the number of players, add the Villain Groups, Henchmen Groups, and Bystanders to the Villain Deck then shuffle. This makes up the encounters for Sunnydale battleground.
Lastly, time to construct your Hero Deck. Again, you want a fair fight so populating Sunnydale the cast of the show to help you is something you want to seek out. Pick 5 random Heroes and add all their related cards to the Hero Deck then shuffle. This deck is the main source of power for your own person deck. Once shuffled, place 5 Hero cards from the top in to the Library face up. You will be recruiting these heroes to aid in your efforts in vanquishing the demented souls plaguing the world.
Overall, the game is a vast center piece with lots of components. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the grand scale of the board game. However, the rule book has several quick reference guides to get you started in no time. This is great for those who want to lean into it quickly. It takes around 5-10 minutes to setup depending on how big your party is. It is not really design for the pick up and go adventures. But, great for a night of vampire slaying! The finished setup is very exciting and looks beautiful.