Monday, April 22, 2019

5 Horror Board Games You Should Have on Your Shelf

As much as I love RPGs, sometimes I just don't have the energy for a full dungeon delve or battle with the outer madness from beyond the stars. But I still want the opportunity for a fun game I can play with a few friends that can lead to some memorable experiences. Last month I wrote a post titled 5 Fantasy-Themed Board Games You Should Have On-Hand (For When Players Don't Show), and I thought I'd follow it up by talking about some scarier games this month.

Because I'm an avid fan of spooky things in general, and these are some games I always enjoy playing.

#1: Betrayal at House on The Hill

You knew this one was coming.
I fell in love with this game the first time I played it (that story is in the entry So I'm Related to an Ax Murderer for those who are interested in reading it), and no matter how many times I've played this game I've never had the same experience twice.

The short version, for folks who've never played, is that your little party are going up to the creepy old house on the hill to poke around. Mediums and curious kids, college athletes and old priests, the layout of your party changes almost as often as the floor plan of the house itself. Once you enter, you need to look for items while avoiding dangerous happenings. When the omens are right, though, the haunt begins! Will it be a ghostly murderer, an ancient hag, an angry beast from the bowels of the earth, or a werewolf on the rampage? All of these, and more, are options depending on what room you're in when the final omen reveals itself.

While the original Betrayal at House on The Hill is great, I recommend grabbing it and the sequel Widow's Walk at the same time in order to maximize your options. While I haven't had the spare dosh to get my hands on a copy of Betrayal Legacy yet, I am very interested in seeing what it brings to the table.

And, of course, Betrayal at Baldur's Gate allows you to get all Dungeons and Dragons on this game, for those who still want at least a fantasy setting with their horrific monsters.

#2: Zombies!!!

Seriously gross, and seriously fun!
The first time I ever played Zombies!!! was when two players didn't show up for a game night, so we set aside the campaign and brought out this little piece of zombie survival goodness. The idea is simple; you're all in a town that's been overrun by zombies, and you need to get to the helipad in order to escape. In addition to being filled with the walking dead, though, the town is just packed with weapons, health kits, and even extra ammo to help you keep whacking zombie skulls while you stay on the move.

While the basic version of the game gives you a full town, and several modes of play (competitive, cooperative, etc.), I'd really recommend shelling out for the full package with all the extras if you like the game. You don't need everything in The Ultimate Collector's Box, but with super soldiers, zombie clowns, zombie dogs, a mall, a university, and army base, and dozens of other areas of play and optional rules, it really does give you everything you could ask for.

Except a bigger table to hold it all, that is.

#3: Arkham Horror

Mmm... now with 350% more cultists!
I love H.P. Lovecraft's work, problematic as many of the old pulp stories are, and I particularly enjoy games that draw on the Cthulhu mythos. And while I don't personally own a copy of Arkham Horror, one of the best ways to get me to sit down in the game room at a convention is to offer me a seat for playing a round of this game.

A branching path game where you can assemble your team of investigators to try to stop the strange cults, aberrant monsters, and awakening gods of the mythos, this one is always an absolute ball. Even when everyone dies, goes mad, or both in no particular order, it's still a good time had by the table.

#4: Coma Ward

Now we're getting serious.
I remember seeing a video for Coma Ward when it was first coming out, and it immediately hooked me. Because while I love horror-themed RPGs, they can be a little intensive in terms of time and effort over the long-term. But a board game where you all wake up in a coma ward with no memory of who you are, and have to piece it together while dealing with horrific hallucinations and other threats to your body and sanity that will only last a few hours can keep the screws nice and tightened.

I will say that this one runs the risk of getting silly and campy if folks aren't invested, and playing it straight may not be to everyone's taste. Still, if you like the sort of stuff that makes your skin taut and your hair stick up at the back of your neck, this one can be a lot of fun.

#5: The Last Friday

And last, but not least...
I have a thing for slashers. And for those of you who care about such things, I'm a die hard Jason Voorhees fan (I wear a hockey mask ring when I'm out and about, just so other horror fans know). So, while this game is a blatant, Sam's Club Brand Horror version of Crystal Lake, that doesn't bother me in the slightest.

If anything, it enhances the amusement factor.

The Last Friday is a pretty simple game. One player takes on the role of the musclebound maniac trying to kill everyone, and the rest of the table are the camp counselors scrambling to stop him. As their friends die, though, the counselors dig deep, and become hunters, banding together to put a stop to the slasher once and for all... or to die trying!

And, if you're curious, there's a sequel game, too. Last Friday: Return to Camp Apache deals with a new horror being unleashed... a demon that tortures and slaughters people in their dreams. And while the illustration on the cover looks more like Wolverine than everyone's favorite burned-up child killer, every horror fan out there couldn't help but see the colossal wink that comes with this one.


Well, you've had your five recommendation, but wait, there's a couple of bonuses for you! If you're a fan of both cheesy B horror films, and you like digging through resale shops looking for out-of-print games, then you should keep an eye out for Grave Robbers From Outer Space! I wrote a longer article about it subtitled The Best Card Game You'll Never Play for The Dead Walk a little while ago, and serious horror game enthusiasts should definitely keep an eye out for a copy while they're on the prowl.

Also, if you're a fan of all things horror (in addition to gaming in general), then you might want to take a look at some of the articles up on my Horror archive. It's small for now, but it won't stay that way for long!

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday! Do you have a recommended game I missed? If so, leave it in the comments below!

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  1. Haven't played them myself yet, but DM friend of mine has a couple and he likes to bring them out for shorter gaming sessions.

  2. Personally, I'd add Darkmorn Manor (I think that's the right name... been a while!) based on the Chill RPG game. Every game is different, and it is a lot of fun. Add some roleplaying to it and it could be a great!

  3. Dead of Winter. That is pretty tense.