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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100 Games to Know!

PAX East is one of several conventions under the PAX brand, all of which are dedicated to gaming. Created by the folks behind the popular webcomic Penny Arcade, PAX East has become a premier destination for video games, board game creators, and gaming enthusiasts from all walks of life.

One of the panels this year featured prolific puzzler and game creator Mike Selinker, author of The Maze of Games and creator of numerous popular board games and card games, including Unspeakable Words, Pathfinder, and many others.

He hosted a panel entitled 100 Games You Absolutely, Positively Must Know How to Play, and over the course of the hour-long event he ran down 100 board games, card games, and video games that he considers to be essential knowledge for every game fan and game designer.

He stressed that this was not a list of the 100 best, the 100 most important, or the 100 most fun games, and that virtually every person’s opinion would vary.

And then he laid out a fantastic list of games in many styles and formats:

  • Tabletop RPGs (Dungeons & Dragons, Fiasco)
  • Electronic RPGs (The Legend of Zelda, The Secret of Monkey Island)
  • Deduction Games (Clue, Mafia)
  • Tile Games (Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Settlers of Catan)
  • Tabletop puzzle games (Scrabble, Boggle)
  • Electronic puzzle games (Myst, Bejeweled, Portal, You Don’t Know Jack)
  • Platformers (Super Mario Bros. 3, Katamari Damacy, Limbo, Braid)
  • Simulators (Madden NFL, Starcraft, FarmVille, Minecraft)
  • Traditional card games (Fluxx, Gloom, Uno)
  • Deck-construction games (Magic: The Gathering)
  • Electronic action games (Mario Kart 64, Halo, Plants vs. Zombies)
  • Rhythm games (Dance Dance Revolution, Rock Band)
  • Strategy board games (Ticket to Ride, Pandemic)
  • Tabletop war games (Stratego, Axis & Allies)
  • Open world video games (Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft)
  • Creative tabletop games (Cards Against Humanity)

Several favorites of mine made the cut — like Mafia, a brilliantly simple murder mystery card game requiring nothing more than a deck of cards — and he had excellent reasons for including every game and excluding others.

Although plenty of worthy games didn’t get mentioned, I can’t come up with any game styles that Selinker missed, nor can I come up with any particular games that were egregiously excluded. I love Qwirkle, Timeline, and Castellan, for instance, but I feel like each of those gaming styles were well represented.

[He was careful to cover his bases.]

Can you think of any that the keen eye of Selinker missed, my fellow puzzlers? Let me know!

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United we solve…

[President Bill Clinton and Brit Hume team up to tackle one of Merl Reagle‘s crosswords.]

A while back, I wrote a post about some of the many puzzle competitions and tournaments that are hosted around the world. But ever since then, I’ve been pondering how odd it is that puzzle competition is so prevalent when puzzles themselves have always been a collaborative effort.

Think about it. Jigsaw puzzles can be solved alone, but aren’t your memories of previous jigsaw puzzles always the ones you solved with others? When you get stuck on a crossword, what’s the first thing you do? You ask someone nearby. I know plenty of couples that solve crosswords and other puzzles together.

[How great is this stock photo I found? It makes me laugh every time I look at it.]

Paradoxically, most group puzzle games are competitive, like Boggle or Bananagrams. Even the games where you build something together, like Words with Friends, Scrabble, Jenga, or Castellan, are all competitive games.

Board games follow the same pattern. The vast majority of them pit players against each other, encouraging adversarial gameplay that leaves a single winner.

[Let the Wookiee win…]

But thankfully, there is a small (but growing!) number of board games that have the same cooperative spirit that pen-and-paper puzzles often do. These cooperative games encourage the players to strategize together and help each other to accomplish tasks and achieve victory as a team. Essentially, instead of playing against each other, they’re playing against the game.

Whether you’re defending your castle from monsters (Justin De Witt’s Castle Panic) or trying to stop a monstrous evil from conquering the world (Arkham Horror), you succeed or fail as a team. It’s a wonderful gameplay experience either way.

One of the top names in cooperative board games is Matt Leacock, creator of Pandemic and Forbidden Island. His games are exceedingly challenging but an immensely good time, even if you fail to stop the viruses or the island sinks before you can gather up all the treasures. It just makes you more determined to play better next time. (This is a wonderful counterpoint to the disillusionment that can crop up when one player trounces another in standard board games.)

There are some cooperative games, like Shadows Over Camelot or Betrayal At House On The Hill that have it both ways, serving as a team game until one player betrays the others, and then it becomes a team vs. spoiler game.

While competitive gameplay certainly does have its advantages, sometimes it’s nice to take some time out and win or lose as a team.

What do you think, PuzzleNationers? Do you prefer games with a winner, or do you enjoy cooperative games? Are there any great cooperative games or puzzles I missed? Let me know!

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 be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!