Ghoulish Games to Add Homebrewed Horror to Your Halloween!

[Image courtesy of Chris Loves Julia.]

Halloween is but a few days away, and many puzzlers and game enthusiasts are in the mood for a fun, spooky round of seasonal board game shenanigans. A fellow PuzzleNationer asked if we had any recommendations for scary or atmospheric games in the spirit of the season, and we are happy to provide some.

Buckle up, fright fans, we’ve got some choice options for you today.


[Image courtesy of Dicebreaker.]

Ultimate Werewolf / Mafia / Salem 1692

All of these games are variations on the same idea: you have a group of people, and one or two of them is secretly the enemy. You must figure out who the bad guys are before they strike. Social deduction games like this are perfect for parties or group gatherings, because they’re easy to learn and they’re heavy on the replay value. (The viral video game Among Us is just the latest iteration of the concept.)

Whether you’re hunting for villainous mobsters (Mafia), hungry werewolves (Ultimate Werewolf), or crafty witches (Salem 1692), you’re bound to find a fun time. (With regards to Salem, our group often plays it a little differently, protecting the coven from secret overzealous witch hunters.)

[Image courtesy of Ravensburger.]

Horrified

If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly game with a spooky theme, Horrified is a great place to start. In this cooperative game, your group of heroes is pitted against some of the classic Universal movie monsters like The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. You must work together to complete specific tasks in order to defeat the monsters.

Horrified is more welcoming and less daunting than many co-op games, and that makes it a terrific starter game to introduce young and experienced board gamers alike to both spooky games and cooperative gameplay.

[Image courtesy of Geeky Hobbies.]

Mysterium

Nothing makes a game atmospheric like a murder to solve, and Mysterium goes way beyond Clue by having players work together to find the murderer. But there’s a twist, as one of the players is a ghost, and cannot speak. Instead, they offer visual clues to all of the other players, who are psychic mediums.

The mix of clever communication and immersive storytelling makes this an excellent choice for a macabre night of gameplay and murder-solving. And with a mix of suspects, weapons, and locations to choose from, there’s plenty of replay value here.

[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

Nyctophobia

There’s perhaps no fear more primal than the fear of the dark, and Nyctophobia uses that to its advantage, plunging all but one player into darkness. (Blackout glasses are provided for the players.) The now-blind players must try to escape a dark forest, while the one player who can see stalks them, removing them from the game one by one.

When properly executed, there’s no board game more immersive and scary than this one, as players have to navigate the game board by touch and be very careful with their spoken communication, since the villain is close by. It takes a little getting used to, but this unique horror-inspired game is unlike anything you’ve played before.

[Image courtesy of Tabletop Bellhop. ]

Dead Man’s Cabal

Sometimes it’s hard to gather friends and loved ones for a party. Well, in Dead Man’s Cabal, that’s not a problem, since you can simply raise the dead and make them attend your party!

As players compete to gather the most undead partygoers for their event, they can affect not only which guests arrive for their party, but the queue for other players’ resurrected guests as well. The dark tongue-in-cheek humor of the game only enhances the experience, making for a raucous and ridiculous time for all involved.

[Image courtesy of Research Gate.]

Gloom

If you’re looking for a darkly fun game with shades of The Addams Family or Edward Gorey, then Gloom is the game for you. In Gloom, each player is the head of a spooky family, and it’s your job to make them miserable in hilariously ghastly ways before they croak. And as you do so, you regale your fellow players with the ongoing tragic tale of their fates.

Not only that, but to ensure that your family has the most gloriously horrendous story, you can play cards on your opponents’ families that cause GOOD things to happen. Turn their misfortune into good fortune for your own gain!

The gameplay is accentuated by the beautiful clear playing cards, which allow you to stack different events and effects on your family characters and still be able to see what’s going on! For a silly and sinister time, Gloom is an absolute treat.


Those are some of our favorites, but here are a few honorable mentions to check out, organized by theme. (And we’re marked our personal favorites in bold!)

  • Kid-friendly games: Disney Villainous, Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters
  • Zombie survival: Dead of Winter, Zombies!!, Zombie Dice, Last Night on Earth
  • Spooky survival: Endangered Orphans of Condyle Cove, 10 Candles
  • H.P. Lovecraft-inspired horror: Eldritch Horror, Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, The Doom That Came to Atlantic City
  • B-Movie-inspired survival: Monster Slaughter, Mixtape Massacre, Betrayal at the House on the Hill (which now has a Scooby-Doo version!)
  • Escape room style: Unlock!: Squeek and Sausage, Exit: The Game: The Abandoned Cabin, Exit: The Game: Dead Man on the Orient Express, Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse

Do you have any spooky recommendations for Halloween board games, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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A Puzzly Radio Broadcast From the Past… Coming Soon!

As one of the strangest years in recent memory begins drawing to a close, puzzlers continue to adapt and innovate to ever-changing circumstances.

Trivia nights, scavenger hunts, and escape rooms have gone virtual across Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, Twitch, and other platforms.

By going online, crossword puzzle tournaments have hosted more than a thousand participants at the same time. And it’s not only one-day events like Lollapuzzoola and Crosswords Tournament From Your Couch, but larger ventures as well, including the ongoing Boswords 2020 Fall Themeless League, which has now entered its fourth week of competition.

And now, a group of intrepid puzzlers are embracing the technology of the present to take solvers on a journey to the past for a unique puzzly experience coming in December: The Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour.

Over the previous four years, the organizers of Club Drosselmeyer have hosted an event in Boston set in a nightclub during World War II. The events have featured era-appropriate costumes, music puzzle solving, dancing, and even a swing-time version of the Nutcracker Suite!

But given the current global circumstances, they’ve redesigned their magical December event, and for the first time, folks outside the Boston area can take part in a virtual Club Drosselmeyer event presented as a radio show from the same era.

You can buy tickets online to participate, and not only will you gain access to the radio show, but the puzzles as well. Depending on what tickets you buy, you can get downloadable puzzles or a physical kit sent to your home (the Drosselbox). Either way, you’ll be solving in real time as the radio show goes on, and even interacting with the performers on occasion.

From the FAQ page on the Club Drosselmeyer website:

The Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour will have three parts: the Radio Show, the Drosselmeyer Industries Switchboard and the Puzzles. As a player, you can plan the ultimate holiday evening gathered around the radio and interact at whatever level you feel comfortable. There will be no video camera watching you (no Zoom!) and our Drosselmeyer Switchboard will respond to how you play. Engage with all three parts of the production, or only with some of it- however you’d like!

The radio show will sound a lot like a 1943 radio show: songs, skits, performances and commercials. (Think of the Jack Benny or Bing Crosby Radio Hour.) However, there may be some surprises during the show and you’ll be called upon to help out.

Yes, you can actually call in during the event as part of the solving experience, engaging with a mix of prerecorded messages and live interactions with the actors.

You don’t, of course, have to participate on the day in question. The puzzles and prerecorded features will continue to run for months, so you can solve at your leisure. But for anyone solving on that special day, you’ll get a unique puzzly experience unlike anything I’ve heard of before.

This should be fantastic fun. Eschewing videocall-style visuals for a fully audio experience is such a cool idea, one that really embraces the spirit of the time period and adds tons of atmosphere. When you factor in the slang and delightful verbiage of the time period — plus the musical element — it sounds like an absolute blast. I’ve already purchased my ticket — and I wanted to spread the word. You can check out more details on Club Drosselmeyer here!

But be quick about it. As far as I know, the team is hoping to lock down their Drosselbox orders by November 1st in order to have everything locked and loaded for early December when the Radio Show takes place.

Will you be participating in the Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Or do you have other puzzly plans for the rest of the year? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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The Monster Mash-Up: Punny Costume Ideas!

Long-time readers know that we often host in-house wordplay contests. Not only do we invite our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles to participate, but our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers as well!

This month, the challenge was to create a punny costume for a wordplay-fueled Halloween party!

Participants could use famous phrases, quotes, celebrities, characters, and anything else they could think of, just so long as there was a punny element to the inevitable costume!

With both text and art submitted, let’s check out what these clever puzzly minds came up with!


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An enigmatic talk/game-show host… Rebus Fill-In

Just carry around pictures of Miss Kapowski, Miss Bundy, Dancer Gene, and Singers Clarkson and Rowland, then tear them up… Kelly Ripa

Someone all dolled up in a fabulous evening gown and hair stacked up high, but also wearing a flannel shirt, toting an axe, and covered in a bushy beard… RuPaul Bunyan

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A man in a sharp suit, dyed entirely pink, smoking a pipe and asking about your mother… Pink Freud

Someone in a striped shirt and beret, wielding a sledgehammer in one hand and a plate of thin pancakes in the other… The Crepes of Wrath

Kim Kardashian riding a broomstick… a Flying Buttress

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Slutty Sandy (from “Grease”) with Freddy Krueger hands and a Santa cap… Sandy Claws

A peanut butter cup carrying a ladle… Reese Witherspoon

A Great White shark dressed in a cereal box… The Jaws of Life

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An impaled Italian Stallion dressed in his boxing outfit and gloves, accompanied by someone dressed as a Boston Red Sox player… Rocky Horror Pitcher Show

A plaid bowtie and cummerbund with a black pork pie hat, black sunglasses, and a goatee… Breaking Brad Majors

(Here’s one for a family!) Mom, Dad and kids all dressed like Freddy Krueger or Edward Scissorhands… The Blady Bunch

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Picture it: A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

A man with a Chuck Norris beard, scowl and cowboy hat, wearing a short trench over a black Jedi knight outfit looms in the doorway of a smuggler’s cantina. He slowly pushes back his coat with a robotic hand revealing his holstered sidearm and drops his lightsaber from his sleeve into his other hand…

Luke SkyWALKER, Galactic Ranger

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One of our contributors even created a delightful puzzly rebus for you to unravel! Can you identify this Halloween icon from the clues provided?

guess who

Do you have any punny costume ideas? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: 13 Monsters

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It’s nearly Halloween, and monsters are a seminal part of the season’s festivities.

Maybe you’re hunting them alongside Buffy, the Winchester brothers, or agents Mulder and Scully. Maybe you’re trying to survive them, like any number of nubile teens at parties, secluded cabins, lakeside retreats, or after hours at the school.

Or maybe, you’re making them.

There’s a grand tradition in pop culture of monster-making, from Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Moreau to Rita Repulsa and Mr. Sinister.

And who hasn’t wanted to make their own monster at one time or another?

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Well, you get your chance in 13 Monsters, a cutesy-spooky build-’em-and-fight-’em game with a load of skill and a little luck required.

13 Monsters combines the attentiveness of Memory, the dice-rolling skills of Yahtzee or Tenzi, and the tactical timing of Bears Vs. Babies or Fluxx to create an enjoyable gameplay experience that’s more fraught with tension than you might expect from a game featuring such heartwarming big-eyed monsters.

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And while we’re on the subject, the art for these thirteen monsters is out of this world. The creatures are visually striking, gorgeously rendered onto the tile pieces, and so vivid that they practically pop out into 3-D.

Each has a distinct flavor, adding horns, fangs, wings, and all sorts of tiny details to hint at the deeper, darker worlds they might inhabit. I cannot say enough good things about the art direction behind this game.

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The game starts with a 9×9 grid of tiles, all face down. The pieces of thirteen different monsters are scattered across this grid, and you must find matching pairs of monster pieces to build your gruesomely adorable fighters. If you flip two tiles and they don’t match, your turn is over.

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Once you locate a pair — the two tiles making up the top of the head, the two tiles making up the eyes, or the two tiles making up the body — you place it in the play area in front of you, and you may draw again. You can keep drawing until you fail to make a match.

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If you have all three sets — no matter if they’re from the same monster or their element symbols match — you combine them to form a full monster.

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Once you have a full monster, you can attack your opponents with the goal of taking one of their matched pairs for yourself. (This is one way to assemble a complete, matching monster.)

Different monster combinations have different powers as well, depending on how many of your sets match. This can grant you the power to swap parts between your monsters, freeze tiles on the memory board to prevent other players from taking them, or look at additional tiles on the memory board.

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As you can see, there’s a lot going on at once, and the more monsters you assemble, the more options you have available. You need to keep track of what tiles have been revealed, what pairs your opponents have, what pairs you need, how dangerous their monsters are, and how dangerous your monster is. (There’s also the threat of the thirteenth monster out there, which is the most powerful.)

Testing your memory, your ability to assemble the best monster from the pieces you have available, and gauging when to strike for maximum effect, this game will keep board gamers and puzzle fans alike on their toes.

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We were impressed by how much gameplay was packed into what seemed like a simple memory/combat mashup game. The wealth of options available, the stunning artwork, and the addictive gameplay quickly made it a hit at the gaming table.

Plus the relative family friendliness of the monsters ensured that younger players could get into the game as well, exposing themselves to several different gameplay styles all at once.

While it may remind you of Dr. Frankenstein’s famous creation, 13 Monsters is no cobbled-together stroke of luck. It’s a well-assembled machine.

[13 Monsters is available from 13-monsters.com and select European outlets.]


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The Great Crossword Debate: Overused Vs. Obscure

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Making a great crossword puzzle is not easy. Heck, making a GOOD crossword puzzle is not easy.

You want the theme to be creative, innovative even, but still something that can be intuited from a clever title and crafty clues.

You want the clues to be engaging, challenging, funny, tricky, and loaded with wordplay and personality.

And you want the grid fill to be fresh and interesting, yet accessible. You want to avoid obscurities, abbreviations, nonsensical partial-phrases, and the dreaded Naticks where two difficult entries cross.

But you also want to add to the lexicon of grid fill, leaving behind the tired vowel-heavy words that have become cliche or crosswordese.

Even if you accomplish all that, you also want your puzzle to have an overall consistent level of difficulty. Having a bunch of easy words in the grid only highlights the hard words necessitated when you construct yourself into a corner. A sudden spike in vocabulary and eccentricity is always noticeable.

So completing every grid becomes a balancing act between new and old, pop culture-loaded and traditional, obscure and overused.

This raises the question posed in a Reddit thread recently:

Which bothers you more, words that you probably wouldn’t know without a dictionary OR filling out OLEO and ARIA for the millionth time?

Both options had their proponents, so I’d like to give you my thoughts on each side of this cruciverbalist coin.


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Obscure Over Overused

A well-constructed grid can overcome the occasional obscure entry. After all, since you have Across and Down entries, several accessible Across answers can hand you a difficult Down answer that you didn’t know.

You can assist with an informative clue. It might get a little lengthy, but like a well-written trivia question, you can often provide enough context to get somebody in the ballpark, even if they don’t know the exact word or phrase they need. If it FEELS fair, I think solvers will forgive some peculiar entries, as long as you don’t go overboard.

Also, if you’re a crossword fan, you’re probably a word nerd, and who doesn’t like learning new words?

As one contributor to the thread said, “I’d rather eke out a solution than fill in EKE OUT or EKE BY again.”


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Overused Over Obscure

The very nature of crosswords demands letter arrangements that are conducive to building tight grids. Your vowel-heavy entries, your alternating consonant-vowel ABAB patterns, the occasional all-consonants abbreviation or all-vowels exhalation or size measurement… these are necessary evils.

But that doesn’t mean the cluing has to be boring. I absolutely love it when a constructor finds a new twist on an entry you’ve seen a billion times. I laughed out loud when Patti Varol clued EWE as “Baa nana?” because it was a take I’d never seen before.

Here are a few more examples of really smart ways I’ve seen overused entries clued:

  • “It’s never been the capital of England (and it surely won’t be now)” for EURO (Steve Faiella)
  • “Name-dropper’s abbr.” for ETAL (Patrick Berry)
  • “It’s three before November” for KILO (Andy Kravis)
  • “Fix plot holes, maybe” for HOE (Peter Gordon)
  • “50/50, e.g.” for ONE (Michael Shteyman). This one really plays with your expectations.
  • “Hawaiian beach ball?” for LUAU (George Barany)

Still, this is no excuse for going incredibly obtuse with your cluing just to be different. Making an esoteric reference just to avoid saying “Sandwich cookie” for OREO might be more annoying to a solver than just the overused answer itself.

On the flip side, you can treat them as gimmes, cluing them with familiar phrasing and letting them serve as the jumping-off points for longer, more difficult entries or the themed entries the puzzle is constructed around. Some familiar words are always welcome, particularly if a solver is feeling daunted with a particular puzzle’s or day’s standard difficulty.

(One poster even suggested pre-populating the grid with common crosswordese like OLEO, kinda like the set numbers in a Sudoku. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that approach before.)


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So, have we come to any conclusions today? Probably not.

As I said before, it’s a tightrope every constructor must walk on the way to finishing a crossword. Every constructor has a different method for getting across, a different formula for success. Some even manage to make it look effortless.

What do you think, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Do you favor overused entries or obscure ones? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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PN Updates: A New Puzzle Set! And More!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

Today we’re happy to spread the word about an exciting new puzzle set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App! It’s our latest deluxe set, Creature Features!

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Jam-packed with spoooooky special themed puzzles and loads of ghoulishly great crosswords at all difficulty levels for you to enjoy, this puzzle bundle is a seasonal treat with a few tricks as well to keep your puzzly wits sharp!

It’s available for in-app purchase now alongside lots of terrific puzzle sets — for instance, check out the Fall Set for the Daily POP Crosswords App! — waiting for your puzzly attention.

And say… while we’ve got you here, we’ve got a question for you:

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Have you signed up for our PuzzleNation Newsletter yet?

It’s the best way to keep updated with all things PuzzleNation. There’s news, special offers, and you’ll be first to hear about any new projects, including sneak peeks, downloadable bonus puzzles, and more! (Plus we won’t bombard you with endless emails!)

Do yourself a favor and sign up! Just this week, for instance, we had some free puzzles and a special promotional offer for our fellow PuzzleNationers!

Don’t miss out! It’s never been easier to enjoy everything PuzzleNation has to offer, right from the comfort of home, at the touch of a button.

Happy puzzling, everyone!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!