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Ms. Pac-Man Board Game Review and Instructions

How to Play | Review | Final Verdict | Comments

How to Play

Objective

To be the first player to have Ms. Pac-Man eat all of the dots in their section of the game board.

Setup

Each player picks a ghost and places it power side up (fully colored) on the corresponding spot in the center of the game board. Place a yellow dot on every game board space other than the exit spaces. Each player spins the Ms. Pac-Man spinner to determine who gets to play as Ms. Pac-Man first. Whoever plays first as Ms. Pac-Man removes their ghost from the game board and places the Ms. Pac-Man spinner on one of the white circle spaces on their side of the game board.

Movement

Both the Ms. Pac-Man Player and the ghosts must follow these rules when moving.

  • Players can move in any direction which includes being able to move back over a space they already moved through on their current turn.
  • You can not move through any of the yellow walls on the game board.
  • When a player enters an exit space they can re-enter the game board at any other exit space. Using an exit space counts as two spaces (one for each exit space).

    Moving Through An Exit Ms. Pac-Man
    The purple player has rolled a three. The purple player could choose to use the exit space and enter the board on any other exit space on the game board. Moving through the exit space will count as two spaces.

Ms. Pac-Man Player

The Ms. Pac-Man player always plays first. The player spins the spinner and then moves the corresponding number of spaces. Whenever Ms. Pac-Man leaves a space that has a yellow pellet on it,  it is removed from the game board.

Moving Ms. Pac-Man
The Ms. Pac-Man player spun a three. They will get to move Ms. Pac-Man three spaces in any direction. The player should try to avoid the purple ghost though.

Ghost Players

After the Ms. Pac-Man player has moved, the ghost players take turns moving in a clockwise fashion. Each player rolls the die and then moves the corresponding number of spaces. If you roll a “F2” you can move your ghost pawn two spaces but you also have to flip your ghost to the opposite side. If your ghost was on the strong side it will flip to the weak side and if it was on the weak side it will flip to the strong side. If a ghost lands on another ghost, the current ghost moves forward one space.

As a ghost player you need to try and catch Ms. Pac-Man (as long as you are on your power side). If a ghost lands on Ms. Pac-Man, the player that the ghost belongs to will take control of Ms. Pac-Man. They remove their ghost from the game board and the previous Ms. Pac-Man player adds their ghost to the game board. The new Ms. Pac-Man player moves the spinner to any space that has a white circle on it (most likely on a space of the same color as the current player). The new Ms. Pac-Man player immediately gets to spin the spinner and move.

Capturing Ms. Pac-Man
The purple player has rolled a two. When the purple player lands on Ms. Pac-Man, the purple would gain control over Ms. Pac-Man.

Power Pellets and Capturing Ghosts

When a pellet on a power square is ate, all of the ghosts are flipped to their weak side and all of the ghosts will stay on their weak side for their next turn. This allows Ms. Pac-Man to capture the ghosts by landing on them. If Ms. Pac-Man captures at least one ghost, any ghost captured will be returned to the center of the game board and Ms. Pac-Man will get one extra turn.

Capturing Ghosts in Ms. Pac-Man Board Game
The Ms. Pac-Man player has ate the power pellet. This turns all of the ghosts to their weak side. If Ms. Pac-Man lands on any of these weakened ghosts, the player controlling her gets an additional turn.

End of Game

When the last dot is removed from one player’s section of the game board, that player wins the game.

Review

Back in 1982, during the middle of the Pac-Man craze, Ms. Pac-Man was released. Seeing how successful Ms. Pac-Man was, Milton Bradley decided to try their hands at creating a board game of the arcade classic.

When I found Ms. Pac-Man at a rummage sale for a $1 I wasn’t expecting much. Most of the old video game tie in board games are not considered to be very good. Since I like collecting old video game merchandise and it was only a $1 after all, I decided to pick up the game even though I knew that there was a good chance that it was not going to be very good. While the board game is a lot more faithful to the original game than I was expecting, that doesn’t make the Ms. Pac-Man board game a good game.

A Faithful Representation

Just like with the Donkey Kong board game, I have to give the creators of the Ms. Pac-Man game some credit since they did a pretty good job simulating the arcade action of the game. The board game incorporates most of the mechanics from the arcade game which includes eating the pellets, the chase between the ghosts and Ms. Pac-Man, the exit spaces that take you to another part of the game board, and the power pellets that allow Ms. Pac-Man to eat/capture the ghosts.

The game could have easily went with a simple generic roll and move game where you would just roll the dice/spin the spinner. Most games of this era would have pursued this path since a lot of these games were only made to cash in on a current fad. The designers decided to put in some time to try and implement as many of the mechanics of the arcade game as they could.

Fans of the Pac-Man franchise should appreciate the effort put into the game. The artwork is well done and does a good job maintaining the style of the arcade game. This means that the Ms. Pac-Man board game would work as a good display piece.

A Bland Roll and Move Game

Even though the game is faithful to the arcade cabinet, that doesn’t mean that the Ms. Pac-Man game is actually a good game. I would actually consider it to be a pretty bad game overall. The biggest problem with the game is that it is just boring. The new mechanics just don’t do enough to make Ms. Pac-Man anything more than bland roll and move game.

Let’s start with the pellet mechanics. The pellet mechanics are kind of nice since they do a solid job simulating the same mechanic from the arcade game. The problem is that they don’t really add any decisions or strategic options to the game. Other than the power pellet, the pellets are just obstacles that you just need to clear from the game board. Even the power pellets don’t add that much to the game since they are only one use items. It is hard to predict when it is best to use them since you have no idea how well you are going to spin or how well the ghosts are going to roll. You just need to guess when the best time would be to use it.

One of the biggest problems with the pellet mechanics are that they are responsible for a lot of the luck required to win the game. Whoever rolls/spins best will end up winning the game unless a player makes poor decisions. Whoever gets to be Ms. Pac-Man first has a pretty big advantage since they will be able to clear several of their pellets before any of the players’ ghosts even get within striking distance of Ms. Pac-Man. In the game I played the first player cleared a fourth to a half of their pellets before they were even challenged by a ghost.

Luck also can work against a player due to never being in the right spot at the right time. You could be a ghost chasing Ms. Pac-Man and are about to capture her when another player who rolls before you gets to capture her first. This moves the Ms. Pac-Man figure to the other side of the board. When you reach the other side of the board there is a good chance that the Ms. Pac-Man spinner will have already been captured by another player. This happened to me several times before I was able to capture Ms. Pac-Man for the first time in the game. I ended up only keeping control of Ms. Pac-Man for like two turns before the other players took her from me.

As a ghost you can also be unlucky by continually rolling the “F2” side of the die. I think at one point I rolled the “F2” side three or four times in a row. Since this keeps your ghost on the weak side, you can’t do anything to help yourself. Going after Ms. Pac-Man while weak is just giving Ms. Pac-Man a free opportunity to capture you which gives the player a bonus turn. While weak, all the ghosts can do is stay close enough to be able to strike on the next turn while also staying far enough away that Ms. Pac-Man can’t capture them.

Components

Overall I thought Ms. Pac-Man’s components were pretty good for an early 1980’s board game. The ghosts, Ms. Pac-Man, and the pellets are all made out of plastic instead of cardboard which is nice. The artwork on the game box and the components is good. I could see the box being something a Ms. Pac-Man collector might want to display with its nice artwork that is very reminiscent of the arcade game.

My one complaint with the components is the game board. The game board is just too small. Each player only has seventeen pellets that they have to collect. That may sound like quite a few but it isn’t. If the first player was able to spin really well they could theoretically win the whole game in only a couple moves if none of the ghosts were able to capture them. This is extremely unlikely but it could happen. Even if control over Ms. Pac-Man changes hands several times, the game is still too short. If one player gets lucky and has several turns to collect pellets without having to worry about ghosts they will create a large lead which will be hard to overcome. With a larger board the game would have lasted longer which means that good and bad luck would have balanced out more which would have improved the game.

Other Tidbits

  • The Ms. Pac-Man board game is quite easy to learn and play. While the instructions are a couple pages longer than they needed to be, they should only take around five minutes to read though. I can’t see the game taking more than five minutes to explain to new players.
  • Unless control over Ms. Pac-Man changes constantly, the game will probably take between 15-20 minutes to complete.
  • At times it can be hard to see where the walls on the game board are located especially in areas which contain a lot of ghosts/Ms. Pac-Man.
  • Due to the rule that Ms. Pac-Man always gets to start, the game ends up skipping players’ turns whenever control over Ms. Pac-Man changes. This is not really fair for the player(s) skipped over.

Final Verdict

While the Ms. Pac-Man game does a good job simulating the arcade game, it doesn’t do a good job actually creating a fun engaging experience. The game is just boring to play and relies way too much on luck to determine the ultimate winner. Even though the game has some unique mechanics, it is not much different than every other roll/spin and move game.

If you are a fan of the Pac-Man franchise or like collecting old video game merchandise, the Ms. Pac-Man game may be worth looking at. The theme/artwork is well done and should appeal to collectors. Otherwise you are probably better off avoiding the game.

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