With those spooky, scary skeletons sending shivers down your spine, you might want to lay off the horror games for a bit for something more tangible. With that in mind, here are five board games for your Halloween parties, dark and stormy nights, or weekly game days.
Five Board Games to Make Halloween a Spooky Delight
Betrayal at House on the Hill
A classic choice, Betrayal is one of my personal favorites for introducing people to tabletop games. The game starts off with this rag-tag group of adventurers just looking around a haunted house, finding mystical artifacts, and facing off the unknown. Everyone works together, trading items, assisting with trials, and trying to get that darn vault open.
Then the Haunt begins, dropping players into a B-rated horror flick (more Syfy-originals than Trolls 2). You may all be a Goonies rip-off, scrambling to find a hidden treasure stashed under the floorboards. More likely, one player will become a traitor and, infected by madness, zombie virus, lycanthropy, etc., try to kill everyone. The rest of the rules for each Haunt are different, and it’s very rare that you’ll play the same one twice in a row.
If you’ve already burned through the 50 scenarios included in the game, there is the Widow’s Walk expansion, which adds some nifty features and improvements in addition to 51 new Haunts to conquer. If you’d prefer something a little more fantasy, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate recently released, adding a Dungeons & Dragons spin with 50 new Haunts.
Elder Sign / Eldritch Horror
This is a two-fer, since they are more or less the same concept done in different ways. In Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror, you are working with your party to seal away one of the many Great Old Ones threatening the fabric of reality and sanity. You must travel to places unknown to solve mysteries via dice rolls, utilizing the skills of your investigators and the power of your items to augment the “okay” rolls and avoid the bad ones.
Elder Sign keeps things simple, using cards to generate the rooms of the Miskatonic Museum and the curious portals to Other Worlds. It’s a race against the clock, as every four turns will pull a Mythos card and either make things easier for the players or much, much harder. One thing I enjoy about this one is how, should the Elder God awaken, you get one last chance to beat the sh!t out of it! I’ve only ever done this once, and it was a close call to be sure. But that thrill of pelting Cthulhu with dice will never get old.
If you’re up for a much longer, globe-trotting adventure, Eldritch Horror is probably more to your taste. It takes the adventures of Elder Sign and expands on them, making it a vibrant experience that might not be for the faint of heart (or attention). This one was recently featured in Tabletop, so I’ll let Wil Wheaton and his gang show you what to love about this one
Not everyone wants to go all out on Halloween, of course. Maybe you’ve only got thirty minutes before the theater presents its midnight viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Or maybe you’ve got a lot of folks over who haven’t played a lot of board games before. Try Smash Up, then!
Unlike the previous entries, no dice are necessary. Instead, each player picks two of the eight included factions and shuffles them together. Then you compete to have the most presence on a variety of bases, scoring points and racing to 15. Why are Zombies and Robots working together to fight Wizards and Dinosaurs on an Alien Mothership? Doesn’t matter!
Each faction has its own unique mechanics, and they work together in oddly beautiful ways. Ninjas can sneak onto the battlefield at the last minute and remove powerful enemies from play. Pirates like to shimmy everyone about and blast the small fry to Davey Jones’ Locker. There’s also the Tricksters, who can rig traps onto the bases and keep other players from playing things entirely!
The many, many, many expansion can help add the Halloween flair. There’s the “Obligatory Cthulhu Set” and the “Monster Smash” boxes, each adding four unique groups and mixing well with the older factions. Plus, the main box has plenty of room for you to fit them all in!
Letters From Whitechapel / Fury of Dracula
Once again we have an instance of two games that work on the same premise but operate in different ways. In Letters From Whitechapel, one person plays the infamous Jack the Ripper as they elude the police (i.e. everyone else). I think you can figure out who the big bad of Fury of Dracula is.
In both games, the person doing the bloodwork operates in secret, laying traps for the other players to stumble into. The main difference is setting; do you want to traverse the streets of London and achieve something that no one was ever able to do, or would you rather face off against the great Count himself?
If you want a more thorough look at what to expect, check these videos out.
A Touch of Evil
Let me tell you about Flying Frog Games. They are just plain weird. Instead of using fancy drawings, they get a bunch of actors to pose in ridiculous costumes for their cards. The games are sprawling adventures, and expansions double or triple the size of the base game and throw in detailed miniatures, tokens, and soundtracks. And I love it.
A Touch of Evil is an old one from them, but it is no less delightful. This one goes for Gothic Horror, pitching players against mysterious villains who roam the darkened streets, looking for blood. Meanwhile, the players are either working together to stop the menace or racing one another for the glory!
But it’s dangerous to go alone, so you can take one of the many town elders along for the epic showdown! But they have secrets of their own, and that dagger their holding may not be for the vampire/werewolf/ghost pirates you’re trying to slay…
And that’s all for this list! Do you have any board games you save for the start of the Skeleton Wars? Are there any dark warnings you think people should know before starting these terrorfests? Let us know in the comments.