The nights grow long, the chill creeps in and the wind rustling through the trees sounds like dry bones softly scraping up from their graves. October is the perfect time of year for board gaming, after Summer’s outdoor distractions have shriveled away and before the holidays drink dry everyone’s free time like a chupacabra in a petting zoo. A ghoulish game is infinitely more engaging for a group than watching a scary movie, so invite your friends, light a few candles and sneak into the Halloween candy early.
Here are four of our favorite games for Halloween rated on a Spook Scale from 1-7 Screams, with 1 Scream being Scooby Doo-level scary and 7 Screams roughly equivalent to opening your January credit card statements.
Shiverstone Castle: The Card Game ($9.99) follows 2-4 junior ghosts out on their first haunting. All players study an image that shows 12 of the 20 castle occupants, then players take turns “scaring” inhabitant cards they remember from the original picture. Compact, clever and a little challenging, Shiverstone Castle is the perfect pumpkin to pick for kids 4+. Besides, who could resist those little ghost meeples? 1 Scream on the Spook Scale, more cute than scary.
Set in a creepy manor on Halloween in the 1920s, Mysterium ($49.99) is a new cooperative game that finds 2-6 psychics working together to help a troubled ghost (a 7th player) find peace. The ghost can only communicate the information about their murder through intricately illustrated Vision cards. The individual psychics must find connections between the imagery in their dreamlike Visions and the Suspects, Locations and Weapons laid out on the table to create a record of what one person did on that fateful night. Then, all the psychics receive a group Vision and must decide which set of Suspect, Location and Weapon is the correct one! Like interpretive Clue or Dixit with a death, Mysterium is an outrageously beautiful game. It even has an optional spooky soundtrack streaming from their website.
3/7 Screams on the Spooky Scale: classy-scary, like a Hitchcock thriller or an Agatha Christie novel. Mysterium is dark and suspenseful but bloodless, so I’d feel comfortable playing it with family or kids 12+.
For fans of The Gashlycrumb Tinies (or perhaps David Lynch?) we recommend Gloom ($24.99), the card game where life’s miserable and then you die. 2-4 players try to play as many negative events as possible down on their characters’ portraits. Once their lives are good and miserable, players seal the deal with an Untimely Death. Watch out, though, as your opponents may seek to offer your family reprieve with cards like “Slept Without Sorrows” & “Was Delighted By Ducklings” to cancel out your hard work. Gloom is a killer compliment to a bitter pint of beer or a blood-red flagon of wine: connecting all your silly tragedies into a narrative story will have your friends howling with laughter. 4/7 Screams, darkly funny and a little Gorey but nothing too graphic for teenagers.
Sure, it’s easy enough to yell “SMASH THE DOLL AND LEAVE THE HOUSE, THE WALLS ARE CRYING BLOOD” at the screen, but have you ever wondered if you’d really survive a horror movie? Find out in Betrayal At House On The Hill ($49.99), a semi-cooperative board game that’s frighteningly good at replicating the haunted house experience. Players start out on one team, revealing rooms of a spooky mansion that’s different each time you play. After enough creepy Omens happen, one or more players randomly become the Traitor and race the rest of the players (the Survivors) to accomplish their secret goals in one of 50 different Haunt scenarios. If your group is attracted to the variability of role-playing games but intimidated by the giant rule books, Betrayal is an awesome way to immerse yourself in a different (read: bloody & scary) world.
6/7 Screams, the game is chock full of dead bodies and otherworldly monsters; also it will turn your guests on each other in unsettlingly short order.
Do you have another favorite game that goes bump in the night? Let us know on Instagram or Facebook!