Halloween is a special time of year for many gamers, as we have an overabundance of rich and interesting games to choose from to make for a memorable spooky tabletop party. As the board gaming industry produces new blissful boxes at a breakneck pace, it’s easy for great games to be quickly forgotten or lost in the shuffle of an overcrowded market. However, we often come back to our favourite Halloween games, giving them a shelf life that outlasts many titles that win greater critical reception.
With all this in mind, I recently polled the DWP crew to collectively determine which Halloween games are the greatest within our small bubble. Four of the games stood far above the rest in popularity, which we’d like to share with you now. To find out which games rise up from the grave, leaving others to be slashed into an unidentified body count, follow us into this abandoned cabin of an article…
Designer: Henri Pym
Artists: Édouard Guiton, Thomas Choux
Players: 2 to 5 Time: 45 to 60 minutes Ages: 14+
Monster Slaughter is essentially a board game rendition of the movie Cabin in The Wood which in itself is a spoof of Evil Dead tropes. It plays fast, is oozing with theme, has great bits, incredible table presence and is easy to teach. Each player begins with picking which family of monsters they desire to be. Players plot out at the start the order they intend to carry out the murder of a group of human meat bags in a 3D cabin.
Be it through bluffing, alliances, discussion and betrayal, the core of the game comes from being clever. In my last game, two players repeatedly barricaded my teen wolf in an empty bathroom to consider his life choices… it was, in a way, beautiful. The much overlooked scare mechanic is also important as the game plays out like a blood thirsty cavort of hide and seek. Players can chase the victims they suspect the others are targeting back into hiding to be killed later or setting themselves up to kill that person in a subsequent round.
Designer: Prospero Hall
Players: 1 to 5 Time: 45 to 60 mins Ages: 10+
Why is Horrified a really good game and worth checking out? Because of how its theme and graphic design make the most of its basic mechanics. And because of how it solves the problems that most other traditional-monster-based games have: predictable storyline and limited replayability.
What Horrified does is force the players to face multiple Monster threats at the same time, and presents unique ways to dispose of each monster. For Dracula, you smash all the coffins and then beat him in a Boss Fight. For the Mummy, you slide the scarab pieces of its tomb around until you break the curse. For Frankenstein’s Monster (and his Bride), you must teach them what it means to be human by discarding certain items while in their spaces. Meanwhile, each Monster has their own unique moves and attacks which make your lives difficult and terror-ful. Accumulate too much terror or run out of time and you lose.
The rules are unusually flaw- and confusion-free, showing that time and trouble were taken to tie up all loose ends and make sure everything was clear.
Publisher: Portal Games, Libellud
Designers: Oleksandr Nevskiy, Oleg Sidorenko
Artists: Igor Burlakov, Xavier Collette, Oleksandr Nevskiy, Oleg Sidorenko
Players: 2 to 7 Time: 45 mins Ages: 10+
The thing I love about Mysterium … is the social cooperation that takes place – the spirit must use clue/art cards to steer the investigators in the right direction so they can each correctly determine the “what”, “where” and “who” of the horrible crime that took place. Players can help each other ascertain what the spirit could have meant with their particular clues to move along to the big answer – whodunnit. And you do need the help, as you have just a week (i.e. 7 turns) to solve the mystery.
After each investigator has – on their own or with help from their colleagues/fellow players – correctly identified the what/where/who cards assigned to them, the final phase of the game begins: discovering the “true culprit”. Out of the combinations each investigator has, one of them will be the final, correct one that will free the spirit from the mansion. The spirit gives a round of clue cards that will identify the correct combination, and the team of investigators must work this out together. If they succeed before the week is over, they are able to leave the mansion with much healthier bank accounts, and the guests will no longer be bothered.
BETRAYAL AT HOUSE ON THE HILL
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Designers: Bruce Glassco, Rob Daviau, Bill McQuillan, Mike Selinker, Teeuwynn Woodruff
Artists: Dennis Crabapple McClain, Christopher Moeller, Peter Whitley
Players: 3 to 6 Time: 45 to 60 mins Ages: 12+
Shockingly, we don’t have any coverage of Betrayal up on the DWP website. However, those who love the game wanted to share a few thoughts for this piece:
For me, the appeal is the creepy stories that the game tells. Betrayal isn’t about deep strategy, elegant game design, balanced mechanics, or any of the other things that hobbyists usually look for in a game. Mechanically, it’s solidly in the “Ameritrash” school of game design, but the concept of the variable haunt leading to 50 different scenarios is excellent. The game dives into its theme and doesn’t ever come up for air. It knows what it is, and delivers on its promise of providing a cool/weird/spooky story full of memorable moments. – Steve T
I like Betrayal because it feels like something I loved as a kid, a Scooby Doo Mystery, so it’s not surprising that there is now a Scooby edition of the game. The haunts can be both very silly and super creepy, and the game can offer some really exciting moments, as it seems as if every game I’ve been involved with comes down to one big set of die rolls. – Matthew R
Well, I haven’t played it in ages, but I do like it for its juicy haunts and immersion, as well as its replayability and variability. It’s quite rules-light and hence welcoming to newcomers. – David W
Games that didn’t make the top of our voting list, but that are worth investigating and perhaps even go treasure hunting for include:
Haunt the House is an adorably spooky game from Kids Table Board Gaming, where players get to take on the role of ghosts, competing to scare the most living humans. With a 30 minute play time and mechanics that allow for younger players, this is a Halloween game that will absolutely appeal to families.
Mall of Horror takes the zombie trope of trapping the stereotypical roles of jocks and cheerleaders inside of a shopping mall, and weaves in a nasty party game of voting and alliances. Players literally decide which of them will be tossed to the zombies until only one player remains alive!
Magic Dance was originally published in 1988, and is a twist on classic games like Sorry and Trouble. Players each control squads of witches, the identities of which are all hidden under tall black cones. As everyone wishes to whisk their witches to their goal, everyone inevitably loses track of which witches are theirs, making for hilarious moments of confusion!
Whether it’s one of our favourite games, or your own personal favourites, we hope that Halloween gaming is a part of your seasonally spooky celebrations!