13 Tabletop Games to Sink Your Fangs Into This Halloween Halloween. The annual ritual of excessive sugar consumption, slutty witches’ outfits and older kids moping that they’re “too old for this”. The horror. But once you’ve slammed the door on the last candy beggars, the real supernatural fun can begin with… a board game? I’m not talking about that battered copy of Monopoly gathering dust where it belongs. Let me instead take you on a tour of 13 of the best thematic games to defibrillate your Halloween evening. 1.) Zombie Dice Publisher: Steve Jackson Games Price*: £10.99 No. of players: 2+ Play time: 10 mins Age: 10+ Ever fancied being the wandering zombie, rather than the desperately panicked survivor? Me neither, but Zombie Dice manages to make it fun. Each one of the dice represents a juicy human, and the player’s job is to do what comes naturally to a zombie: eat braaaaainnns! Accomplish this by rolling brain symbols, but beware! Roll three shotgun blasts and you’re out for the round. It’s standard Push-Your-Luck fare, spiced up with three colours of dice that offer different amounts of brains and shotguns. Thirteen brains and you win the game, so just how greedy for brains will you be? Pros: · Cheap, simple to learn and fast to play. · Push-Your-Luck games have a wide appeal: everyone likes to gamble! · No real limit on player numbers. Cons: · There’s not much game play depth here. · Not everyone likes zombies. Apparently. 2.) The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow Publisher: 999 Games, Asmodee and others Price*: £7.99 No. of players: 8–18 Play time: 20–30 mins Age: 10+ Be a werewolf, or be lunch. I mean, an innocent villager. Each night the werewolves kill and devour one villager, and then try to conceal their identity and vile deeds by day, hiding among the survivors, who then collectively vote to lynch a suspect. Play continues until either all the werewolves are killed, or the villagers have all been devoured and/or lynched in a frenzy of suspicion and paranoia. That’s just how things go down in werewolf-infested villages. Pros: · Easy rules: if you can bluff or fire up a lynch mob, you can play. · Great for large groups of varying age. Cons: · Elimination can suck, especially for younger players. · Requires a Moderator to create the atmosphere and facilitate gameplay. · The artwork might not be everyone’s taste (try Ultimate Werewolf instead). 3.) Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu Publisher: Z-Man Games Price*: £46.99 No. of players: 2–4 Play time: 40+ mins Age: 14+ Work together to kill cultists, defeat monsters, block the summoning of Elder Gods and prevent the world descending into madness and chaos. Cheery stuff then. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu applies a Lovecraftian theme to the bestselling Pandemic, so instead of curing diseases, players must seal shut four gates to other, terrible dimensions. With several ways to lose (or go insane) and everything against the clock, there’s a palpable sense of tension as the game progresses. Pros: · Beautifully evocative artwork and detailed playing pieces. · A satisfying challenge. Cons: · Not a Lovecraft fan? Weirdo. You might find the overall theme baffling. · Difficult, but then saving the world should be! · At risk from an Alpha Gamer telling everyone else what to do. 4.) Mysterium Publisher: Libellud Price*: £29.99 No. of players: 2–7 Play time: 40+ mins Age: 10+ “Is there anybody there?” Yes. And you’re all idiots. One player takes the role of a ghost attempting to guide a bunch of clueless psychics (the other players) to the circumstances surrounding his or her untimely and unjust demise. The ghost player can’t speak, but communicates by means of visions, represented by surreal paintings on Tarot-like cards. The mediums attempt to decipher these visions to ascertain suspects, weapons and locations, and either win or lose the game together. Think Cluedo and/or Dixit with an occult twist. Pros: · Great production quality that comes surprisingly cheaply. · Youngsters can often be more adept than adults at deciphering visions. Cons: · The silence can be frustrating and isolating for the ghost player. · Not everyone enjoys the vision-solving mechanic. 5.) Fury of Dracula (3rd Edition) Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games Price*: £54.99 No. of players: 2–5 Play time: 120+ mins Age: 10+ Fans of Twilight and True Blood will wonder where all the pretty people are, but this is about proper vampires. And dodgy accents. One player is Dracula, moving secretly around Europe attempting to spread his diabolical influence, whilst the other players are the hunters from Bram Stoker’s classic, trying to track down and destroy him. Budding vampire-hunters will need a combination of brains and brawn to get the better of their undead foe and avoid becoming the hunted themselves. Excitement mounts as the heroes close in, only for the dastardly villain to slip through their fingers and turn the tables on them. Pros: · Pretty much top of the league in the Hidden Movement/All vs One genre. · Co-operative AND competitive play in one box. · It’s pretty faithful to the theme of the novel. Cons: · Long play time. · Fairly complex for novices. 6.) Zombicide: Black Plague Publisher: Cool Mini or Not/Guillotine Games Price*: £84.99 No. of players: 1–6 Play time: 60–180+ mins Age: 10+ If you’ve always thought the best way to face the zombie apocalypse is in a suit of armour and waving a broadsword around, then this is the game for you. Zombicide: Black Plague is a hugely entertaining medieval zombie-bashing fest for up to 6 players, who must hack their way through a never-ending tide of zombie Walkers, Runners, Fatties and dreaded Abominations, along with the odd cackling Necromancer for good measure. Pick a scenario, select a survivor, get issued with a rubbish starting weapon, and then get busy bashing, cleaving, slashing and… searching for better things to bash, cleave and slash with. Pros: · Felling a zombie Fatty with a great big hammer is strangely satisfying. · Fantastic components. · The medieval theme works perfectly. · Loads of expansions and add-ons. Cons: · There’s no great depth here, but you came to kill zombies, yeah? · Pricey, but shop around online for a great deal. · Some won’t like the never-ending nature of the zombie waves. 7.) Bang! The Dice Game: The Walking Dead Publisher: USAopoly Price*: £21.49 No. of players: 3–8 Play time: 15–30 mins Age: 10+ Play as a Survivor, a Saviour or a Renegade Loner. Wipe out your opponents, protect your buddies and avoid the attentions of roaming Walkers. Roles are hidden from the start, meaning you don’t know who your enemies are, so pull up some chairs, eye each other with deep suspicion and distrust, and get rolling! All your favourite characters from the TV show are here, with an art style taken straight from the comic books, so there’s something for fans of both. Pros: · Evokes the theme well. · Yahtzee-style play is simple and familiar. · Quick game time and caters for up to 8 players. Cons: · Features elimination, but games aren’t that long. · Hard to get hold of a copy. · Expensive for what it is. 8.) Mansions of Madness (2nd Edition) Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games Price*: £92.99 No. of players: 1–5 Play time: 120+ mins Age: 13+ A fantastically atmospheric game combining investigation, puzzle-solving, battering things to death with fire extinguishers and, naturally, barking madness. It’s the 1920s and players are investigators exploring strange goings-on in a spooky old house, filled with mystery, danger and Lovecraftian horror. The whole game is run by a downloadable app that takes the donkey work out of rules-mongering and set-up, leaving you to concentrate on trying to stay alive and sane. Pros: · Beautiful, thematic artwork. · Intuitive app that also plays a creepy soundtrack! · Easy to learn. Difficult to beat. Cons: · Very expensive, although shopping around can save you almost £30. · The essential app is heresy to many purists. · Games can be long, although the app lets you save your progress. 9.) Ghost Stories Publisher: Asmodee Price*: £39.99 No. of players: 1–4 Play time: 60+ mins Age: 12+ Put on your best pyjamas, start badly lip-syncing and join the fight against a monstrous, ghostly evil. How strong is your Kung-Fu? After all, you and your friends have always wanted to be Taoist monks fighting off legions of diabolical foes to protect a village of grateful peasants from the Lord of Hell, Wu-Feng. Well haven’t you? There’s few games that make your heart fill with dread when a particularly troublesome foe appears (The Black Widow in this case) and are positively exhausting from the relentless onslaught of bad guys. Make no mistake, Ghost Stories is both challenging and has fairly gross imagery on its beautifully illustrated cards. Not for little kids. Pros: · Fast, frenetic gameplay. · Beautiful, if gory, illustrations. · It’s nice to see an Eastern theme. Cons: · It’s certainly tricky to win, but you can vary the difficulty. · Perhaps too gory for younger wannabe monks. 10.) Gloom Publisher: Atlas Games Price*: £19.99 No. of players: 2–4 Play time: 30+ mins Age: 13+ Never has misery been so much fun! In Gloom each player controls one of four miserable, depressing families that inhabit an equally miserable and depressing world. You must hasten your family members’ shuffle from this mortal coil, but first ensure that they are as miserable and depressed as possible. The game uses unique transparent cards allowing you to heap misfortunes (and pesky fortunes) on characters whilst still seeing all of their effects. Perhaps you will Pursue them with Poodles, or Maul them with Midgets, whilst simultaneously cheering up an opponents’ family with new jobs or love affairs. You bastard. Pros: · Darkly humorous theme. · Innovative transparent cards. · Backstabbing fun! Cons: · For 5–7 players you’ll need to buy all three expansions. · To get the best out of it you need to engage in some storytelling. · Expensive for a card game, but that’s the drawback of the plastic cards. 11.) Run, Fight or Die Publisher: Grey Fox Games Price*: £19.99 No. of players: 1–4 Play time: 40+ mins Age: 13+ Tool up, bash some Zs and get that shrieking cheerleader to safety! Players compete to save townsfolk and get them to the relative safety of the town limits. Saving folk that are useful allies earns you less points. The complete liabilities are worth a whole lot more. Through all of this you must constantly push back and fight off successive waves of the walking dead. Run, Fight or Die takes the Yahtzee-style dice rolling from Bang! The Walking Dead, the hordes of miniatures from Zombicide and combines them into a darkly humorous game of zombie survival. Pros: · Just the right amount of cartoony imagery and dark humour. · It’s fun laughing at your opponents getting lumped with annoying followers. · Great value for money. Cons: · For co-operative play or 5/6 players you’ll need expansion sets. · It’s no fun getting laughed at when you attract those annoying followers. 12.) Eldritch Horror Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games Price*: £49.99 No. of players: 1–8 Play time: 120–240+ mins Age: 14+ Do you have what it takes to save the world from impending, seemingly inevitable doom? Or should we just break out the straitjacket now and save you the trouble? Back in the Lovecraftian world of the 1920s once again, you might think of Eldritch Horror as a more expansive, globetrotting version of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (see above). Once again you and your fellow investigators are working against the odds to gather obscure artefacts and turn back the tide of monstrosities, ancient evils and creeping insanity. Pros: · Stunning artwork. · Captures the global theme and the scale of the darkness you face. · Caters for up to 8 players. Cons: · LONG play time, especially with lots of players. · Things can often feel a little dice-/luck-dependant. · The scale and detail can be daunting. 13.) Betrayal at House on the Hill Publisher: Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast Price*: £39.99 No. of players: 3–6 Play time: 60+ mins Age: 12+ If you’re looking for a boardgame that recreates those haunted house B-movies of your youth, then this is it. At first glance this might seem like a poor man’s Mansions of Madness, and whilst it’s certainly cheaper, there’s plenty here to set it apart from its Lovecraftian counterpart, and for added fun, one of the players is always a traitor, so everyone not only has to defeat the horrors they face, but also uncover the rotten apple in their midst! Pros: · Pre-painted character pieces. · Relatively quick gameplay. · Good value for money. Cons: · Not the best quality components. Room tiles can warp over time. · The board can end up sprawling a bit, so use a big table! · The game can slow and get a little complex when the traitor is revealed. *Quoted prices are recommended retail prices (RRP) only and do not represent the real world prices available in stores and online. Shop around for bargains!