For many, Halloween is THE holiday, beating out tried and true contenders like Christmas and Talk Like a Pirate Day. A day dedicated to horror, candy, and pretending to be someone -or something- else, what’s not to like? Now, with so many horror-themed board games out there, you might be asking yourself which ones are the best to help get everyone at your table into the spirit of the season. Lucky for you, our tabletop team scared up a few spooky suggestions:
The local town is being terrorized by monsters and you and your friends must rescue the townfolk and defeat the monsters. This great entry level cooperative game comes in the original Horrified version, featuring classic monsters like Dracula, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein and his wife, and the American Monsters, featuring Bigfoot, Chupacabra, and the Jersey Devil. Maybe a good one to play with Monster Squad in the background?
2: Arkham Horror – The Card Game
Dive into the mythos of the world of H.P. Lovecraft. You and up to three friends control investigators to unravel a mystery that takes you deep into the mythos of H.P Lovecraft. Lean on each other’s skills to explore locations, discover clues, and defeat other worldly creatures. With three scenarios and four ready to play decks in the revised core set and two more big box campaigns available, you and your friends have plenty of opportunities to dive into the eldritch mysteries.
3: Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd Edition
With a new third edition on the shelves, this game is great for entry level and experienced players alike. You and your friends start exploring a haunted mansion and half way through the game, the haunt begins. One of your crew turns into the traitor and the game gets flipped on its head as you work your way through one of 50 scenarios. Who will survive?
You and your friends are taking a steamship from England to Boston, but as you reach the open water, the ship is attacked by creatures from the deep. Work together to try and repel attacks and keep the ship together as you make your way to the final destination. Beware, members of your party are working with the creatures trying to sabotage skill checks, thwart your plans, and anything else they can to send your ship to Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. This longer game plays from 3-6 and is a great implementation of the hidden traitor mechanic.
5: Stranger Things: Attack of the Mind Flayer
Set during the show’s third season, Attack of the Mind Flayer is basically a hidden enemy/social deduction game for beginners. Players must avoid getting knocked out or taken over by the mind flayer while exchanging cards with each other. Possessed players try to get other players to also be possessed. Lovers of the show will appreciate the callbacks and the game may serve as a good entry point for more complex offerings in the genre.
A murder has taken place and a group of psychics is convening with a ghostly guide to figure out the culprit, location, and murder weapon. One ghostly player gives clues through the form of visions and the other psychic players must decipher clues and narrow down the suspects. Psychics only have seven rounds to confer and solve the mystery before the murderer gets away and everyone wins or loses as a team. A great game for 3-7 players looking for a cooperative puzzle, another Halloween party favorite.
7: Final Girl
In this solo only game, you are the Final Girl in a horror movie trying to survive against your choice of villain. Combine the Core Box with one of five available movie scenarios to defeat the murderer at the summer camp, the killer clown at the carnival, or the spectral menance in the haunted mansion. Mix and match villains, locations, and characters for hours of solo gameplay.
8: Blood on the Clocktower
Arguably the apotheosis of social deduction games, Blood on the Clocktower offers a rich system that makes every player role unique and special, and not only gives better management tools to the moderator, but gives them agency to influence the game towards either team. Player deaths aren’t the end (and sometimes aren’t even permanent), and their ghosts can provide information and even vote from beyond the grave. This is the game to break out when your Halloween party is down to a more manageable 15-20 people.
This co-operative narrative-driven boss-battler pits vagrants (the players) against ghosts on a haunted train with a 20s animation art style aesthetic. A delightfully spooky theme, and the over twenty scenarios worth of story makes Vagrantsong worth repeated plays.
10: Nemesis Lockdown
Fans of the Aliens movie franchise will love this brutally difficult sci-fi survival horror game that pits a team of humans against both parasitic alien lifeforms and a rapidly deteriorating base on Mars. Oh, and by the way, other players may have a secret mission to kill you as well. A suspenseful and unforgiving experience that makes this game a must-play during the halloween season.
11: Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape
This Halloween, if you are looking to have some darker action dive into Massive Darkness 2. From battling demons, to angles and everything in between, this dice-based dungeon crawler features six different classes. To sate your desire to dress up in different costumes, each class features wildly different gameplay, from different boards to mechanisms. Those looking for ‘something different’ in the dungeon crawl space will want to check this one out.
12: My Father’s Work
With one of the most intriguing board game themes we’ve seen in recent years, My Father’s Work puts players into the role of a mad scientist trying to follow in the footsteps of their father, and completing the questionable studies that may have led to their demise. Steeped in theme, this worker placement game takes place over multiple generations, and the accompanying mobile app sends the game’s narrative into some crazy directions depending on key decisions made by the players.
And there you have it, 12 spooky cardboard delights to darken your table while the trick-or-treaters pound futilely on your front door. Don’t worry if you can’t get to all of these before the stroke of midnight on November first, these games play just fine anytime. Besides, as the great poet Alain Jourgensen once said, “Everyday is Halloween”.