Everyone likes a good scare for Halloween, but more importantly, it is a good time for friends and family to create their own fun.
There are several great horror-themed board games out there that are filled with thrills and chills. More importantly, these games provide safe, good times during the Halloween season.
Because of some of the scary imagery and themes, the following board games probably aren't for younger children, though generally all of them are suitable for ages 12 and up.
Fury of Dracula by Fantasy Flight Games is based upon Bram Stoker's timeless horror novel and picks up several years after the events of the book leave off. Abraham van Helsing and his intrepid band of vampire hunters have the dastardly count on the run throughout the great cities of Europe. One player takes on the role of Dracula as he attempts to escape the hunters and create a new cadre of vampire drones to follow him. Up to four other players take on the role of hunters who must search a continent in their quest to stop Dracula's madness. This game lies heavily on the deductive powers of the hunters as they search out Dracula, and random event cards will help or hinder their quest. With its literary pedigree and vast scope, Fury of Dracula is fun and challenging for hunter and hunted alike.
The Walking Dead: The Board Game by Z-Man Games (not to be confused with the TV version by Cryptozoic) is a terror-filled journey into zombie country that is based upon the original comic books. Choose one of the survivors of the zombie plague as you pick up allies and items and attempt to reach various objectives. Be careful, however, as you develop a trail of zombies behind you wherever you go. If you have to double back, you must flip over a zombie marker to reveal how many of the undead you have to fight in order to make your way to safety. Fast-paced and chilling, The Walking Dead: The Board Game is a fantastic romp through a zombie-infested world.
Flying Frog Productions' game A Touch of Evil is an exciting contest that pits early 19th century New England villagers against one of four monsters. This game appears to owe quite a bit to Tim Burton's 1999 film “Sleepy Hollow.” In addition to a vampire, a werewolf and a scarecrow, one of the monster villains is a spectral (headless) horseman, there are several town elders with secrets to hide, and the setting in both time and geography is very reminiscent of the film. Players can choose to either compete or cooperate to take on the monster, but first must investigate the village of Shadowbrook to find clues and items to help with their quest. Try to take on the monster too early and you'll end up its next victim.
Also from Fantasy Flight Games is Mansions of Madness, a frightening journey based upon the works of noted horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. In this clever and inventive board game, four investigators search through a haunted house, which is newly created every game using tiles. One player takes on the role of the Keeper, a malevolent force that uses various creatures to stop the investigators. This game also boasts some amazing miniatures from the Lovecraft universe. A lot of fun and genuinely creepy, Mansions of Madness may require you to keep the lights on at bedtime.
Perhaps the most accessible and family friendly horror-themed board game out there is Betrayal at House on the Hill by Wizards of the Coast. Similar in some respects to Mansions of Madness (both involve investigators moving in a tile-created haunted house), Betrayal is definitely its own game. Three to six players work together to explore a scary old house. Once a series of events occurs, however, one of the explorers turns traitor and allies himself/herself with a host of monsters. The traitor and the explorers then must read from separate scenario books that detail their victory conditions, known only to them. This is a great game that consistently provides narrow victories and terrifying moments. With more than 50 different scenarios, or “haunts,” this game has tremendous replay value.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org