Halloween approaches, and what better way to celebrate than by breaking out a few spooky board games? Last year we shared a list of 13 games for Halloween, and this year we’ve got 13 more, selected by Dave Banks, Rory Stark, Anthony Karcz, John Booth, and yours truly. So grab some candy corn or other non-sticky sugary treats (caramel apples are right out), and play some games!
I know what you’re thinking: “Pandemic? That’s not a Halloween game.” Usually, no, but this year everyone’s scared of Ebola and Enterovirus D68, so what better way to conquer your fears than by finding cures for nasty viruses? But I should warn you: chances are, the nasty viruses will wipe you out. Here’s hoping life doesn’t imitate art.
Pandemic is a now-classic cooperative game, where you work together to formulate cures before the diseases wipe out too much of Earth’s population. The On the Brink expansion adds a few new roles, more virulent diseases, plus an optional bioterrorist role.
Hate being on the losing side? Next month, you’ll be able to pick up Pandemic: Contagion, where you get to play a disease trying to wipe out the human race. That reminds me: better go get your flu shots.
Pandemic: 2 to 4 players (5 with On the Brink), 8 and up, about 45 minutes to play.
2. Mord im Arosa
Mord im Arosa is a bizarre little murder mystery that requires careful listening. You drop wooden cubes into this tower of boxes, trying to hear which floor they land on. Of course, the goal isn’t to figure out whodunnit so much as to pin the murder on somebody other than yourself. Be careful, though—sloppy investigations leave behind even more clues for other players to find.
Mord im Arosa: 2 to 6 players, 10 and up, about 60 minutes to play.
3. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: The Skinsaw Murders
You already know I’m a huge fan of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, but the second adventure deck, The Skinsaw Murders, is a particularly good set for Halloween. Pumpkin-headed ghoul scarecrows, ghostly haunts, zombies, and crows—it might be a good time to revisit Sandpoint. For extra credit, throw in Syrinscape‘s Pathfinder-themed soundscapes while you play.
4. Tragedy Looper
Tragedy Looper is a game from Japan that got an English printing from Z-Man Games this year. It’s a brain-bending puzzle: one player is the Mastermind, trying to wreak havoc with various tragedies: serial killers, conspiracy theorists, and so on. The rest of the players are trying to figure out who’s behind the plots, and they loop back in time to prevent those tragedies from happening. It takes some time to learn but it’s worth the effort, and playing it out feels like a horrific version of Groundhog Day.
Tragedy Looper: 2 to 4 players (4 is ideal), 13 and up, about 2 hours to play.
5. Dead of Winter
There are hordes and hordes of zombie-based board games on game store shelves; what makes Dead of Winter so great, you might ask yourself, before pointing out that it doesn’t even have plastic minis! Dead of Winter is billed as a “meta-cooperative psychological survival game” which means all players are working toward a common goal, but individual players also have secret objectives. In order to win, both goals must be achieved for each player. But beware! Among the players, there may also be a betrayer, working to thwart your plans by driving down morale. The result is lots of tension, suspicion, and second-guessing each other’s motives. Dead of Winter is one of those games on everyone’s “must play” lists this year, so the only thing more horrifying than surviving a winter in a colony surrounded by zombies might be trying to find a copy to call your own.
Dead of Winter: 2 to 5 players, 12 and up, approximately 60-90 minutes.
6. Night of the Grand Octopus
Have you often thought to yourself, “I wish I could share the obsession and madness that accompany worship of Cthulhu with my kids”? Now, at long last, there is a game for you: Night of the Grand Octopus. In this light-playing and non-threatening family game, players secretly move their cultists and their octopi offspring from room to room of an English university. If you end up in the same room as another occultist, you must negotiate or bad things can happen. End up in a room with an monster, and your game is over. But if you end up alone, you can grab magical goods. Grab enough goods and you can summon the Grand Octopus and win the game!
Night of the Grand Octopus: 3 to 5 players, 7 and up, 20 minutes.
7. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Few party games at our table get the comment “Come on, let’s play one more time” as often as One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Most people are familiar with werewolf and mafia type games, where players assume roles with special abilities and then try to root out the werewolf (or mafioso) in their midsts. There are plenty of variations, but One Night Ultimate Werewolf is special for a few reasons: First, it looks great; it has wonderful art. Second, you can play this particular game with as few as three players. Third, you don’t need a moderator. Just download the iOS/Android app and start having fun. Fourth, there is just a single round, play is fast. For us, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a game worth playing a lot more than just a single night.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf: 3 to 10 players, 8 and up, 10 minutes.
8. Dungeons & Dragons – Castle Ravenloft Board Game
How perfect is this to set the scene for a late October night of D&D board gaming:
“The castle rises over the dark forests of the land of Barovia, looking down upon a sad, frightened village surrounded by an endless sea of dense fog and mist. The master of the castle, Count Strahd, is a vampire, and the night and its creatures belong to him…”
Strahd and Ravenloft go way back in D&D lore, but even players who’ve never rolled a saving throw or tangled with kobolds can dive right into this cooperative game as heroes on a mission to defeat Count Strahd and the various monsters within the castle – no Dungeon Master necessary.
Players choose from five characters (Human Rogue, Dwarf Cleric, Dragonborn Fighter, Eladrin Wizard, and Human Ranger), each with different strengths and weaknesses. Using a simplified version of D&D combat rules, you explore Castle Ravenloft and battle a range of monsters, supporting villains, and Strahd himself. The game provides 13 nicely-varied adventure scenarios, and winning isn’t easy: The fun is tense and thrilling.
Castle Ravenloft Board Game: 1 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, time range to play varies (1-3 hours, depending on the adventure scenario and number of players)
9. King of Tokyo: Halloween Expansion
What could be more Halloween-ey than playing as a giant monster with a flaming pumpkin for a head or pile of dark ectoplasmic goo? Well, Iello, makers of the original King of Tokyo (and the upcoming King of New York for which this Collectors Pack has a promo card) have a few extra tricks up their sleeves. Not only do you get two Halloween-centric monsters, and orange and black dice, there are two new gameplay elements: Gift Evolutions and Costumes.
Costumes are just that. You want your Pumpkin Jack to be a Pirate Robot Clown? Then save up some energy and buy them! Even better, steal them from your opponent. The Costume cards are extremely powerful, so you’ll want to spread them out and shuffle them into the main Power deck (that is, unless you want your game to be done in 15 minutes).
Gift Evolution cards are the toothbrush and dental floss that no one wants in their trick-or-treat bag. They’re extremely useful in that they help strip away some of the powers granted by the Costumes; but they’re only for Boogie Woogie and Pumpkin Jack. It would have been nice to get “Gifts” for all the existing monsters too. Despite that one quibble, King of Tokyo: Halloween is a refreshing expansion, in that it chooses to focus on the fun side of Halloween rather than the horror side. Not only is it a solid addition to the original game, it’s chock full of more Halloween goodness than a Werewolf jacked up on candy corn.
King of Tokyo: Halloween: 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes. (Requires base game to play.)
10. Smash Up: Monster Smash
Alderac Entertainment Group brings all the ghouls to the yard with their latest Smash Up expansion, Monster Smash. While Smash Up is already pretty spooky, what with its zombies, ghosts, and Lovecraftian horrors, Monster Smash goes full on B-movie schlock-fest with Mad Scientists, Vampires, Werewolves, and Giant Ants. In typical style, each new faction has a certain play style. Mad Scientists infuse their creations with new power. Vampires mow through other minions to fuel themselves; which is helpful when the Giant Ants start to swarm. And Werewolves recruit new members to the pack to gain the upper hand. The art is amazing, as always. The Elvira lookalikes in the Vampire deck and the Giant Ants, especially, took me back to those Saturday afternoons I spent glued to the latest horror double-features. The new factions play a little more straightforward than previous expansions and while “power counters” are new, they aren’t quite the unique addition that madness from the Cthulhu expansion was; but with factions as iconic as these, you don’t need embellishment. Besides, who can resist Ninja Vampires? Or Robot Werewolves? Or Time Traveling Mad Scientists? Or…
Monster Smash: 2 to 4 players, 14 and up, 45 minutes
11. Munchkin Bites/Munchkin Cthulhu
Munchkin Bites is a never-ending joke, cleverly disguised as a tabletop version of LARP sensation Vampire: The Requiem. When a werewolf can put on black nail polish to help him fight a Sunbeam, you know you are in for a campy and punny adventure. To maintain suspense, there are bats everywhere! If a bat comes into play, other players can add bats to the battle. And you never know, someone might imitate Bela Lugosi to go up a level!
Munchkin Cthulhu is a tabletop crossover game. Players can use the Necronomicon in their battle against the Great Cthulhu, or even H.P. Munchcraft himself. Yes, the puns are that horrible. Terrible I say. Enough to drive you mad. At which point you become a cultist – a crazed follower of the Old Gods. When every player but one is a cultist, the last sane person goes up a level just for keeping his wits. If all players become cultists, the game is over. The player(s) with the highest level automatically win! Tacticians beware, you can never stop being a Cultist voluntarily. You are insane, after all. To add to the Halloweeny horror, there are Goths everywhere. Any time a creature with Goth in its name is played, players can also add Goth creatures to the combat.
12. Zombie 15′
Okay, of course it wouldn’t be a Halloween games list without at least a few zombie games, right? I do like playing long, thematically rich zombie games, but sometimes you just want to jump in and run for your life. That’s where Zombie 15′ comes in. It’s a real-time cooperative zombie game that takes 15 minutes per session. I mentioned it in my earlier roundup of zombie games, and it’s a blast to play (though it takes a while to set up each scenario). Just because the zombies are slow and shambling doesn’t mean your game needs to be!
Zombie 15′: 2 to 4 players, 14 and up, 15 minutes.
13. Legendary Encounters
Halloween monsters traditionally include vampires, werewolves, and zombies, but how about some xenomorphs? Alien is a classic scary movie, and Legendary Encounters lets you relive the whole series, or mix it up. There are several ways to play: you can go full cooperative, or you can throw in alien players when people succumb to chestbursters, or you can even have a hidden traitor working against you. This deck-building game does a great job of recreating the tension of the unknown. (Read my full review here.)
Legendary Encounters: 1 to 5 players, 17 and up, about 45 minutes.
Happy Halloween, and happy gaming!