Halloween is said to be the time of the year when the barriers thin between this world and the next, when all manner of creatures walk the streets in broad daylight and haunt your doorways into the night. A time when we don costumes, watch scary movies and play spooky board games. There are a number of modern board games that evoke the same excitement of a scary movie while allowing you and your crew to direct the actions of the characters.
If you've ever shouted at the TV when a character in a movie runs upstairs like an idiot instead of out the door to escape, then these thirteen games should suit you well because you play the characters trying to survive some predicament. Whether its a monster invasion, haunted house, zombie apocalypse, attack on your school of wizardry, a Lovecraftian mystery, or a superhero adventure, it's up to you to decide whether to run upstairs and hide, run out the door, or...
And for the kids who enjoy Halloween, too, I've included some games you can definitely play with the younger set. The others, well, you'll have to use your own judgement in terms of content and subject matter.
Imagine living in a place so wretched that it's not plagued by one, two, or even three monsters — but seven of the most horrifying fiends! In this fun cooperative board game, Horrified, you'll come face to face with Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon as you work together to rid the town of these maniacal or misunderstood creatures…before it's too late. Can your team stop them in time?
Horrified is a highly-rated thematic board game which supports both solo play and fully-cooperative play for up to 5 players. Playtime is about 1 hour and recommended ages are 10 and up. It also has great minis for the monsters. Perfect for Halloween!
2. Betrayal at House on the Hill
In Betrayal at House on the Hill, you and your friends explore the creepy house on the hill. There you'll find items both interesting and mundane in the dusty and sometimes bloody rooms of the dilapidated manor. Mysterious events will occur, guaranteed to send a chill down your spine - if you read the cards in a whisper. When the Haunt begins - and it will - oh, it will - one of you may turn traitor. Then it becomes a game of survival and the real fun begins! <cue eerie laugh>
No two games of Betrayal at House on the Hill are ever the same. The layout of the house unfolds as you explore it. Plus, there are 50 different potential haunts.
I've turned traitor more than my fair share of the time. As a Zombie King I chased down all the other players and turned them into walking dead. I once shape-shifted into a long undulating snake that my companions cheerfully chopped into itty bitty bits. The point is, this classic game is simply awesome. It's one of my all-time favorites to play on Halloween.
Avalon Hill recently released a 3rd Edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill which features a new rules set, new booklets, and new scenario cards. The tighter and more streamlined rules are intended to help new players jump right in. Unfortunately, they removed some of the immersive flavor text on the cards and didn't paint the minis. So, many gamers say Betrayal at House on the Hill 2nd Edition does a better job of immersing players into the theme via said flavor text and painted minis.
On the other hand, gamers are divided on the artwork, some prefer the old style, saying it's more immersive, while others prefer the new artwork. Here are two pictures to give you a comparison. The picture of the character boards and minis shows both the painted minis from 2nd edition and the unpainted from 3rd edition - the more photographic character illustrations are the ones in 3rd edition while the sketches are from 2nd edition.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of some of the room tiles with the new 3rd edition tiles on the right and their 2nd edition counterparts on the left. The updated artwork is certainly brighter and more colorful.
I leave it to you to decide which is more important to your playing style. I'm still playing the first edition from 2004 that has the Underground Lake on the top floor. I told you it was a classic!
Betrayal at House on the Hill supports 3 to 6 players, ages 12 and up, with a playtime of about an hour.
3. Alien: Fate of Nostromo
The Alien's structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. It stalks the corridors of the commercial starship NOSTROMO, hunting you and your crewmates.
In Alien: Fate of Nostromo, a cooperative board game, you must work together, move through the ship, gather supplies, and craft items to survive. Proceed carefully, though; the Alien could be just around the corner. And remember - in space, no one can hear you scream.
I'm a fan of the first two Alien movies. I can't wait to try this!
4. Not Alone
It is the 25th century. You are a member of an intergalactic expedition shipwrecked on a mysterious planet named Artemia. While waiting for rescue, you and your fellow crewmembers begin to explore the planet, but an alien entity picks up your scent and begins to hunt you. You are not alone! Can you survive the dangers of Artemia?
- When you play as one of the Hunted, you will explore Artemia using Place cards. At all costs, try to avoid, confuse and/or distract the Creature until help arrives by playing Place cards and Survival cards.
- When you play as the Creature, your job is to stalk and pursue the shipwrecked survivors. Wear down the Hunted and assimilate them into the planet forever by playing Hunt cards and using the mysterious powers of Artemia itself!
Hunted, can you escape the planet Artemia before the Creature gets you?
Two to seven players ages 10 and up can play Not Alone in 30 to 45 minutes.
5. Stuffed Fables
In Stuffed Fables, a cooperative adventure game, you and your fellow players take on the roles of brave stuffed animals, "Stuffies", sworn to protect the little girl that loves you from a scheming, evil mastermind: The Lord of Nightmares.
Playing in a large storybook that serves as your game board, rules reference and story guide, you'll experience an ongoing set of adventures when you and your stuffed companions are sucked into the Fall. The Fall is the dark and creepy world of nightmares from whence the monsters under the bed come; it is ruled by The Lord of Nightmares himself.
Players take turns rolling and assigning color-coded dice to perform a variety of actions, including daring melee attacks, desperate leaps across chasms, and searches of areas they encounter. All of the action takes place in the aforementioned storybook. How you interact with the characters you meet, determines your fate just as much as your actions do. It's sort of like a multi-player choose-your-own-adventure book wrapped in a board game.
Supporting 2 to 4 players, ages 7 and up, Stuffed Fables is ideal for families, as well as adults. Each session plays in 60 to 90 minutes. One of the great things about the game, is that you can bookmark your place and continue your adventure later.
6. Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
With characters and scenarios straight out of a B-horror-movie, Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game lets you experience the action yourself.
In this one-versus-many cooperative board game, you can play a Hero: the high school sweetheart, football hero, farmer’s daughter, town sheriff, hospital nurse, man of the cloth, or stranger in town. Or you can play the Zombie Master, the person responsible for bringing mayhem to this sleepy town in the first place.
Last Night on Earth is my favorite zombie-themed game. It supports two to six players ages 12 and up. Playtime is an hour to an hour and a half. The included CD soundtrack helps set the mood for an exciting adventure of survival, straight out of a horror movie. It's a classic!
7. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
A plethora of board games have been published utilizing the Cthulhu Mythos, but my favorite, hands-down, is Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition.
This app-driven, fully-cooperative board game is chock-full of theme: creepy monsters, mysterious occurrences, and cultists bent on opening a mystic portal to allow The Great Old Ones entrance to our world. One look at these horrific god-like beings is enough to drive you insane.
To save the world, however, you and your fellow Investigators must endure and solve the mystery. You'll explore strange places and encounter ghastly monsters in this highly immersive Lovecraftian game. It's the closest I've come to a roleplaying game experience in a board game. You can read a full review in our blog.
1 to 5 adventurous souls, ages 14 and up, can play Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition in two to three hours, depending on the scenario. Give it a whirl. It's awesome!
8. Betrayal at Baldur's Gate
Speaking of dungeon crawls...
If you prefer a fantasy-themed gaming experience, check out Betrayal at Baldur's Gate.
If you've played Betrayal at House on the HIll, you'll find the game play in Betrayal at Baldur's Gate quite familiar. But this time, you'll be exploring the iconic city's dark alleys and deadly catacombs - of Dungeons & Dragons' fame. Just like in the House on the Hill, you'll have to work with your fellow adventurers to survive this menacing city. Well, at least until some evil event turns one of you - or possibly more than one of you - against the others.
Did the whisperings of a deranged ghost cause your companions to turn traitor or was it that mind flayer's psionic blast? Can you and your party survive the ensuing mayhem? Or will you succumb and split (or slaughter!) the party? Watch out! Cursed armor can be a bitch. I speak from experience.
Betrayal at Baldur's Gate supports 3 to 6 players, ages 12 and up. Playtime is about an hour.
9. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Set in the wizarding world of the famous Harry Potter series of books, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative deck-building game. Taking on the roles of Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville, you and your chums must consolidate your defenses and work together to defeat the villains harassing your school.
This is a campaign-style game featuring seven boxes that you'll open as you play through the storyline featured in the books and movies. This allows young and/or newbie gamers to grow into the game as you reenact the seven-book story - typically over many play sessions.
While the player characters don't start with any special powers per se, each one has his or her own unique starting deck. Then as you progress through the seven games, your characters will gain knowledge and skills, just like the young wizards in the books.
Fans of the books and movies will recognize all of the key players, magical items, and spells featured on the cards in the game. By gaining Influence, you can add these cards to your deck, becoming more powerful and skillful as the game progresses. You'll also want to acquire cards that allow you and/or your fellow players to heal and, of course, to fight and defeat the evil villains as well as thwart their agenda to take over locations in the wizarding world.
Each of the seven numbered games can be played multiple times. This isn't a Legacy game. You can pick up the story anywhere you want, and play with different people each time. For a true Harry Potter campaign experience, however, I recommend you play through the games, in order, with the same crew.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a perfect gateway into the world of deck-building games. It's a must-have for Harry Potter fans of all ages. While it starts out pretty easy - making it likely you'll win the first few games - as you get comfortable with the game flow, it becomes progressively harder. The components and artwork are top-notch, making the game highly thematic despite being essentially a card game. We love it!
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle - Monster Box of Monsters
When you've played through all seven games of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, what's next? Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle - Monster Box of Monsters is the perfect followup.
The Monster Box of Monsters umps the ante by adding Creatures to the Villain deck. Plus it adds Encounters the players must face along the way to make the game still more challenging.
In order to win, you must not only defeat all of the Villains, but also the new Creatures, and deal with all the Encounters as well. Perhaps that's why the rulebook recommends that "This game will play best if you combine it with all the Hogwarts Battle game content after you complete Game 7."
In addition to Creatures and Encounters, the Monster Book of Monsters expansion adds Luna Lovegood as a player character. It also introduces two new mechanics: Detention and Banishing.
Detention comes in the form of 20 bad cards that you Heroes may acquire - often through Dark Arts events. These cards gum up your deck and do nothing useful, but can be quite harmful. If you discard a Detention card in response to a Dark Arts event or Villain/Creature ability, you lose 2 hearts. Ow!
Thankfully, The Monster Book of Monsters also provides Banishing: a way for players to get useless or harmful cards out of their deck permanently. The Banishing ability is provided on some of the expansion's new Hogwarts cards. Being able to remove cards from your deck is a common element of deckbuilding games and a welcome addition to this one.
10. Wonder Woman Challenge of the Amazons
In Wonder Woman Challenge of the Amazons, Wonder Woman and her Amazon allies must defend their home island from enemies!
The Amazons, a powerful tribe of warriors, have lived in peace for centuries on the tranquil island of Themyscira. The peace is shattered when one of their enemies invade. Now it's up to you to defend your home from Ares, The Cheetah, or Circe. In this cooperative game, you'll strategize together, face your foes on the battlefield, and rise to meet the challenge of the Amazons!
Can you defend your island home and defeat your enemies?
Wonder Woman Challenge of the Amazons supports 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, with a playtime of 45 to 60 minutes.
11. Marvel Champions: The Card Game
Rise to the challenge in Marvel Champions: The Card Game, a cooperative Living Card Game that invites you to embody the world's most iconic superheroes.
The Marvel Champions: The Card Game core set allows up to four players to combine their efforts and thwart the twisted schemes of three different villains! Discover extraordinary powers, battle the forces of evil, and experience the Marvel Universe like never before.
Because it's a Living Card Game, new heroes are released regularly, along with new villains, challenges, and adventures to test these champions!
Marvel Champions: The Card Game Core Set is a highly-rated thematic board game which supports both solo play and fully-cooperative play for up to 4 players. Playtime is 60 to 90 minutes and recommended ages are 14 and up.
There are already oodles of Hero Packs and big expansions available to provide an endless variety of play. Want to Try It Before You Buy It? Now you can! Marvel Champions is also in our Game Rental Library. [Learn How to Rent Games]
12. Dead of Winter
The story-based game of survival, Dead of Winter, sets 2 to 5 players in the midst of a small, weakened colony of survivors in a world where most of humanity is dead or zombies.
During a harsh winter in this apocalyptic world, you and your fellow survivors are dealing with your own psychological issues and imperatives. Each of you has his or her own personal secret objective that may not jive with the needs and goals of the community. Still, you must find a way to work with the others. Together you'll fight off outside threats, resolve crises, find food and supplies, hopefully keep the colony's morale up, and achieve one common goal (victory condition).
Games of Dead of Winter can end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. 2 to 5, ages 13 and up, can play this epic struggle for power and survival in 1 to 2 hours.
13. Arkham Horror 3rd Edition
In Arkham Horror, 1 to 8 players choose from 16 Investigators and take to the streets of Arkham to prevent one of the eight Ancient Ones from breaking into our world.
During the game, you can upgrade your character by acquiring Skills, Allies, Items, Weapons, and Spells. You'll fight many kinds of monsters. However, your main goal is to close the portals to other dimensions that are popping up around town. If too many portals open, the Ancient One will awaken and you'll only have one last chance to save the world by defeating it in combat. Yeah, right, like that ever happens. Better to not let it through the door to begin with.
This new edition of Arkham Horror has a new modular board and other changes that streamline play. Games of Arkham Horror 3rd Edition should clock in at 1 1/2 to 2 hours - much shorter than the original Arkham Horror! It supports solo play and fully-cooperative play for up to 6 players ages 14 and up.
There you have it: 13 thematic cooperative board games for Halloween. Now all you need do is pick up a few at your friendly local game store Here Be Books & Games. Then pour yourself a glass or mug of your favorite autumn beverage, grab a plate of pumpkin cookies and set off on an adventure!