October is here and with it brings the wonderful holiday that is Halloween. With the growth of the modern board gaming hobby in the last two decades, plenty of games have come out that have a theme appropriate for All Hallow’s Eve. These games run the gamut of being filled with spooky scenarios, the occult, monsters, and more. As a big fan of this holiday (and people that are always hosting), we have played a lot of games that fit the theme of October 31st. Some good. Some…well, the theme works.
10 or more plays
5 or less plays/demo
A Touch of Evil (2-8 Players) – If A Touch of Evil were a TV show, it would reside on the CW Network due to its campiness. There’s nothing wrong with being campy and AToE embraces it beautifully (much like its cousin, Last Night on Earth). Creatures, gossip, and witchcraft abound in this supernatural cooperative game. If you’re interested in a game that immerses you in the background and lore and has you chucking lots of dice, AToE is right up your alley. It foregoes that deep strategical decisions for a more thematic gameplay. There are several expansions for the base game that “fix” some of the general issues players typically have.
Any Cthulhu Game – Lovecraftian horror and the Old One’s as a theme is abundant in the board gaming world due to the mythos being released into the public domain and the IP being free to use. There is a rich backstory and iconic character (Cthulhu) to extract a ton of material from. I could fill an entire post with games featuring the Old One’s but for now, I’m sticking with games that have a slight Halloween feel to them (and that I know a little about):
- Arkham Horror (1-8 Players): A cooperative investigation, Arkham Horror Second Edition (the only one I have any experience with) is a sprawling narrative with a lot of good and bad. While players work together, they rarely interact with one another and some of the theme seems bolted on. The game can become a tad fiddly too with the amount of chits and record keeping needed. That being said, it’s still a doozy of a game. I prefer Eldritch Horror (more on that in a bit) but Arkham will satisfy that almost-heavy slot in a board gamers Halloween spot. If this sounds like a game that interest you, do note that a third edition is planned for release. It does look like it may change some of the core from second edition so research may be needed to discern which edition is right for you.
- Arkham Horror: The Card Game (1-2 Players): It wasn’t until this year that we started to appreciate card games and what they can offer. Arkham Horror: The Card Game exploded onto the scene in 2017 with great art, an intense theme, and sound mechanics. This game offers cooperative and/or solo play and a literal plethora of expansions have been produced. From a gameplay perspective, I’ve heard nothing but good things but I have heard that if playing with two players, you will want two base sets of the game to ensure that both players have access to the right amount of cards.
- Elder Sign (1-8 Players) – This is a lighter take on the occult of the Arkham Horror game but that doesn’t mean it’s quick. The game lasts a little longer than you’d like and at that point you wonder if you would have rather spent your time playing Arkham (or Eldritch) Horror for a fuller experience.
- Eldritch Horror (1-8 Players): Eldritch Horror was one of the first ten games we purchased and we were absolutely blown away by everything it had to offer. I’ve heard of the game being called a slightly more streamlined Arkham Horror and in my experience, that’s true but it also added some new bits to offset those changes. The main difference, to me, is that Eldritch Horror feels like a board game wheras Arkham Horror feels like a D&D session. Both have their benefits and both will have their detractors.
- Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (Players 2-4): Pandemic has branched out from the usual curing of diseases to the closing of otherworldly portals with this stand alone game. If you like the original pandemic but diseases was not your interest, Reign of Cthulhu might resonate more with you. It will still have some of the issues that other Pandemic games suffer from (re:Quarterbacking) but I like that they took the mechanics from a tried and true model and attempted something else.
Betrayal at House on the Hill (3-6 Players) – I’ve previously covered Betrayal but for a short synopsis, this is a game that I would recommend more for the experience. This is great if the players get into their characters and make decisions based on what the preacher or jock would do in that scenario. The Haunts can be hit or miss and the app is definitely needed for the character stat tracking (at least for my version) but the game is very thematic and fits the Halloween theme perfectly.
The Bloody Inn (1-4 Players) – This competitive game has players running their own motel where they plan to rob the guests that stay with them. Unfortunately, their morals dictate that robbing guests is wrong. But dead guests? Who would care if their goods get stolen? The only issue is the bodies that start to pile up and the police sniffing around. This definitely has a Bates Motel aura surrounding it and the game handles the mature material very well without overdoing it.
Broom Service (2-5 Players) – Broom Service looks like a cute game about witches delivering potions. While it is, it also is not. This game can be cutthroat and requires planning your turns in advance. The remake of Witches Brew, Broom Service can be unforgiving if your turn doesn’t go your way. It’s a game that feels like a gambling/push your luck game but is in reality a test of patience and bluffing. I absolutely love this game and cannot recommend it enough.
Cauldron (2-5 Players) – Cauldron has players acting as Wizards, Shamans, and such brewing potions and casting spells on one another. It’s a cute game that has players harvesting fields for potion ingredients and turning that into spells, new potions, or Magik (the victory point equivalent). It plays a little long for my taste but definitely has the vibe of a Halloween game.
Campy Creatures (2-5 Players) – A relative new comer to the board gaming world, Campy Creatures features iconic monsters (Blob, Mummy, Vampire, etc.) capturing mortals for experimentation. This game has some bluffing and auction mechanics that really require additional playthroughs to fully grasp. The first game or two will make sense and are aided by the wonderful art, but the game doesn’t shine until all players understand the true values of the cards in the game. The theme is great and the replayability is high but I do warn that it will take a game or two before everything clicks.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger (1+ Players) – While this game can technically fit an infinite amount of players, I would limit it to three or less and four at the absolute most. The game is played like a Choose Your Own Adventure book split into five chapters (which is great as it can be used to ‘save’ your progress). This is a simple storytelling game that follows a detective and a psychic. The game is replayable but isn’t something that you would come back to over and over again…except for when you want something simple and spooky near Halloween. The only downfall is that this game doesn’t change when adding players. It plays the same solo as it does with twenty…it’s just a lot more manageable with less people.
City of Horror (3-6 Players) – City of Horror is a Zombie survivor game that relies on players negotiating and scavenging to ensure that their survivors make it to the end of the game. Thinking of the game as a story told over four hours (turns, not game length) helps players learn the ins and outs of what they’re supposed to be doing. The game features bluffing and backstabbing and will not be for everyone due to the conflicts that arise. However, for those that do enjoy such mechanics, City of Horror is a test of betrayal and negotiating. I have watched this played. I own this game. But I have yet to get it to the table. It’s actually bypassed the shelf of shame and moved into the trade pile.
Clue (3-6 Players) – Clue is the classic detective game that revolves around a murder mystery. This will be the oldest game mentioned but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. The best thing that Clue offers is that everyone has played Clue. It’s the Monopoly of this list. You can sit down with a few players and play a game in relative short time. Bonus points for players that appear in costume.
Dark Gothic (2-6 Players) – Set in the world of A Touch of Evil (mentioned earlier), Dark Gothic acts as an abridged deck-building version of AToE. Unlike AToE, the game features only a single winner as players fight their way to defeat monsters and villains. It’s a fine game that I wish played a little faster.
Dead of Winter (2-5 Players) – DoW is a medium weight game dealing with zombies and how players will survive the elements. The rules appear fairly fiddly at first but click once a game has reached a few rounds in. The game can be played cooperatively or competitively and because of this, it does offer the opportunity for some backstabbing and cutthroat tactics. It’s also a game that needs more players than less to play. This game can be difficult to succeed at but typically always creates a narrative that players will feel drawn to and remember.
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space (2-8 Players) – Escape from…is basically if The Thing and Aliens had a baby and that baby was a hidden movement, paper-and-pencil game. The tension is thick as aliens and humans navigate the different space compartments, trying to either eat the humans or escape in the escape pods. What sets this apart from similar games is that no one knows what side they’re on and there really isn’t any teams. It’s possible for a human to reach a pod and escape and see the other humans lose the game. The game is simple to learn and has a wonderful reference sheet for each map. The tension is thick and the game becomes an exercise in silence until a few stand tall.
Flick ’em Up: Dead of Winter (1-10 Players) – Dexterity games have their place in Halloween and what better way than to flick wood pieces at zombies? There are ten cooperative scenarios offered by the game and while fun, the set-up is a little too much for my liking. The components and art work help create a very thematic neighborhood and if you plan on playing several scenario’s in a row, the set-up becomes more bearable. It can be easy to get lost in the enjoyment of flicking components across the table.
Fury of Dracula (2-5 Players) – Dracula is one of the most famous monsters so a Halloween without his appearance would be blasphemous. The game has hunters trying to find and subdue Dracula during the day while he moves at night. The game is a one vs. all approach with each side having variable powers. This is an excellent game and one of the heavier that will appear on this list.
Ghost Stories (1-4 Players) – This is a cooperative game that has players protecting their village from a ghost army that’s haunting a town while they try to return the main ghost’s ashes to their proper resting place. This is a game that is best with the full player count and it drips with theme. The art is great and the game definitely leans into the need to be cooperative. That being said, this wasn’t for me as I hated the rulebook, the randomness, and the difficulty. This game felt like a task at a job that I would hate. It was poorly explained but they still expected complete understanding.
Gloom (2-5 Players) – Gloom is a storytelling game. While it has some card management and the ability to take or place cards on other players items, the reason you play Gloom is to recite the most depressing and macabre tales that you can about your family. Think of it as a more morbid version of Schitt’s Creek as horrible events befall the eccentric family you’re in charge of. The worse the event, the better your score will be. This game won’t be for everyone but is fun when the creative juices get flowing. It also features transparent cards which can stack on one another that I have not seen replicated.
Last Friday (2-6 Players) – The theme and artwork of Last Friday are amazing but the game just lasts way too long (I go into much more detail here). This is a game that needs to be played all the way through as the stand alone challenges just don’t work but the balance between sides is all over the place depending on which part of the campaign you’re on. Maybe the expansion fixes the issues but as is, I can’t really recommend the game as a worthwhile waste of your time.
Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game (2-6 Players): This is an incredibly thematic game that is a take on a B-movie zombie film. There’s a lot of dice chucking and randomness, but the theme more than makes up for it. For a deeper look, I direct you to my review here.
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition (1-5 Players): From what I know, MoM is a more intense (re:campy) version of Betrayal at House on the Hill. I’ll be able to answer that better in the near future as we wait for it to arrive on our doorsteps. Anyways, this is a longer game that that features cooperative scenarios (driven by an app that’s free to download) that has players dealing with the mythos of Lovecraftian horror. The app acts as the DM to lessen the burden on players and the record keeping they’ll need to perform.
Mysterium (2-7 Players) – Based around a seance that occurs on October 31st, Mysterium has a ghost trying to help mediums solve a murder. This is sort-of like a modern offshoot of Clue as players try to deduce the particulars around the crime. I can see this game being very group dependent as the roles are split and there’s deduction and such.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf (3-10 Players) – This is a quick party game that revolves around who is the werewolf. It’s easy to learn and compact, which make it great for traveling and there’s even an app that will assist players with set-up. If you enjoy bluffing and deduction card games, you’ll like this one. If you don’t, I would pass.
Psycho Raiders (2-7 Players) – Sometimes Halloween just needs a gore fest. Hostel has proved that the mainstream audience sometimes wants something a little more than just psychological terror and Psycho Raiders follows that motto. This is a simulation of a generic horror trope and the cards showcase a graphic and obscene amount of violence.
Room 25 Ultimate (1-8 Players) – This is one of the only games that I was iffy on including as I don’t know if it really fits the Halloween theme…but I love the movie Cube and consider that to be scary and as Room 25 Ultimate is basically the board game version of Cube, it’s allowed to appear on the list. This game is fun as it has a cooperative and competitive (hidden traitor) mode as players try to move rooms and escape. I’m definitely biased as I rate it higher due to my love of Cube but even from a non-biased perspective, it’s a fun little modular exploration game with a sci-fi/horror back drop. I would recommend the Ultimate version over the others as it seems to have worked out the kinks that the previous versions had.
Shaky Manor (2-4 Players) – This is a perfect children’s level Halloween-themed game as players are shaking boxes (that are rooms) to manipulate items into place based on what their objective is. There are spiders and ghosts and snakes (you know, the typical haunted mansion fare) to really drive home the theme. The game is light and might work with some inebriated adults but works best for a younger audience (in my opinion).
The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 (4-8 Players) – Based off the incredible 1982 movie staring Kurt Russell, this board game adaptation has players dealing with a hidden traitor(s) in a highly interactive bluffing/roleplaying game. The game is definitely better with more players. A full count of eight players will really make the game shine but it’s still worth playing as long as you get at least six people together. The gameplay is relatively simple and plays almost like a party game but with a board and components (which are lacking in quality, sadly).
The Village Crone (1-6 Players) – The Village Crone is a game that screams Halloween. Witches, potions, and spells make up the theme of the game and the art and names for the potions help cultivate that October aura. The Village Crone is also a game that isn’t very good. If it wasn’t for the theme, I wouldn’t have mentioned it. It’s a slow and plodding game with too much randomness to offer any fun. For more of my disdain, I have a write-up on it here.
Tiny Epic Zombies (1-5 Players) – Arguably the newest game on this list, Tiny Epic Zombies packs a great experience in a small box. To be completely honest, this game has replaced Zombicide for me for the time being. It’s quicker, the set-up is less extensive, there isn’t as much bookkeeping, and the different ways to play create an experience that I enjoy. This isn’t to say that I won’t play Zombicide again (more on that game next) but now that I have the option to play three or four entries of Tiny Epic Zombies compared to one game of Zombicide, I know where my loyalties lie.
Zombicide (1-6 Players) – First things first, there are a ton of Zombicides to choose from. Of the ones that I’ve played (and that’s quite a few), I would recommend either Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue (for a modern take) or Zombicide: Black Plague (for a more medieval setting). This game is just you and your teammates grabbing weapons and mowing down an endless horde of zombies. The miniatures are great and the difficulty can be as easy or as hard as you’d like. It’s basically Left 4 Dead in board game form. The only downside is the set-up and amount of ‘housekeeping’ needed each round.
Zombie Dice (2+ Players) – Zombie Dice is a great, cheap filler game that works with the theme given. The game exists around chucking dice and pushing your luck. As there is a fixed score that players are trying to get to, games typically last in the ten minute range and since only one player is acting at a time, any amount of people can join in the game. This is a great filler game and an ideal addition to a Halloween themed event.