It’s game night. The best night of the week. And, truthfully, the only night of the week that even matters. You can’t wait to spread out the components of tonight’s first game as you await the arrival of your gaming group.
But what was that sound coming from down the hall? A squeal almost. Perhaps a gasp? Certainly a creak of some kind originating from the very heart of your home; the place where the games dwell. You hesitate to continue walking, but only for a moment. It’s game night and that means you must rise above the quiver of trepidation in your leg and ignore the tiny voice in your head pleading with you to turn around, lest you come face to face with one of the specters that haunts the darker recesses of your house.
There’s another mysterious sound as you enter the dimly lit game room. It’s softer this time, but still you begin to notice the hurried onset of sweat at your brow, which contradicts the autumn chill of the house. You arrive at the gaming table and it’s only then, in the soft glow of the setting sun that’s drifting through the room that you realize the sound wasn’t made by a ghastly creature or deadly monster. It was the squeaking of the partially lifted box cover from your newest game, that small rushing sound a lid makes when it’s closed too quickly. You smile and pick up the game, silently cursing your unnecessary cowardice as the quickening of your heart subsides.
But a familiar panic reemerges a moment later as a single question comes to mind: If there isn’t a phantom in the game room, then how did this box make a noise on its own?
It’s the spookiest time of the year, so sit back and let the ghouls from Board Game Quest be your guide through nine spine-tingling adventures in gaming. Just remember to leave the lights on as you play.
Best Spooky Board Games to Play on Halloween
Mansions of Madness: Second Edition (review)
Chosen by Tony:
When it comes to horror-themed gaming, it’s hard to beat Mansions of Madness: Second Edition. You and your fellow players are a team of investigators facing off against a variety of Lovecraftian terrors. However, this isn’t a simple dice chucker. Instead, you are dropped into a unique scenario and might not even know what you need to do to win. Expect a lot of investigation, interaction with a variety of non-player characters (NPCs) and, yes, even some combat. Mansions of Madness is also an app-assisted game, which not only runs the monsters and builds the board as you explore, but even has interactive puzzles to test your whit! And with a ton of thematic text and ominous music, Mansions of Madness is perfect for some Halloween gaming.
Chosen by Andrew:
If you need a spooky game, well, this one says Spookies right in the title. And my house happens to be in a very good trick-or-treating neighborhood so I often host our Halloween party for a large group of kids and adults. Similo is a great quick-playing party game for just this type of occasion. One player knows the secret character and mixes them in with 11 others. They then use the remaining cards to give clues if the secret character is like or unlike the character on the clue—it’s very much like Mysterium Lite. Everyone else has to eliminate choices until they can pick the secret character. Spookies just has lots of fun and appropriately spooky characters—Headless Horseman, Wicked Clown, Boogeyman, and lots of others.
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters
Chosen by Chris:
When our beloved publisher ordered us to select a spooky game for this list, Mysterium, Horrified, and Ghost Stories quickly came to mind. I wavered between these options for a while before realizing that my favorite scary game isn’t particularly frightening for those of us that have finished middle school. Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters is a light-hearted collect-and-escape cooperative game that is a favorite in my house. It’s simple enough to play with the kids and challenging enough that it doesn’t ever feel like a waste of our time. Even with the kids, we never play without the Creepy Cellar Expansion, which adds a few more mechanisms and ramps up the difficulty a few notches. The game isn’t “atmospheric” in the way some of my frenemy’s picks on this list are, but there is a true sense of impending doom as the board gradually fills up with ghosts. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t play this one year-round, but it still always makes an appearance right around Halloween.
Deep Madness (review)
Chosen by George:
Set in the near future, you control a team dispatched to investigate a deep sea science station that has gone silent. With an array of playable characters and a deep sea horror movie narrative, this game quickly creates a dark, stressful environment. You play with a team of six characters—all with their own unique abilities—that investigate the abandoned station. Each scenario has its own special win conditions and rules that add a unique aspect to this horror dungeon crawler. The terrifying monsters begin spawning all over the board while you try to complete your task against the clock. Not only do you have monsters to contend with but the station is filling up with water and your oxygen supply is limited. Planning your movement and actions can be just as stressful as combat. Over time you start to discover the story behind the monsters on the deep sea station and learn what was brought on board that caused your team to be stuck trying to survive on the vessel. With a plentiful amount of expansions, characters, monsters, and stories, deep madness effectively makes you feel uneasy about turning the next corner or trying to go through the next room filled with dark water. After all, who knows what is lurking in the deep?
1-6 Players • Ages 14+ • 60-120 minutes • Between Printings
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Chosen by Brandon:
It all starts from the supposed comfort of your home. The creak of the floorboard. The bump in the attic. The whispers in a forgotten language followed by a sudden rise of goosebumps. Something’s amiss and the power’s just gone out and you feel a creeping crawling sensation. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is the perfect narrative-driven game to play on a dark stormy night with candles and an atmospheric soundtrack. As it’s cooperative, everyone is in it together, so the sense of survival is high as health (both physical and mental) begins to deteriorate. Players take on the role of investigators digging into worlds ripe with hunting ghouls, shadowed cultists, asylums, and elder gods. Every action requires a test against your strengths/weaknesses. If the threat of pulling the auto-fail chaos token from the bag during a skill check doesn’t add to the tension, then the decision about which path to traverse or whether to flee from a dangerous threat might. Add to this the fact that it’s about to release an eighth campaign, and already features standalone scenarios, add-on investigators, and a plethora of fan-made material, this is an experience that will continue to provide scares well beyond the Halloween season.
The Night Cage
Chosen by Tahsin:
As I know from my former life as a Dungeon Master, creating atmosphere in a tabletop experience is a challenge. With a board game, it’s even harder because publishers and designers have to rely on illustrations and graphic design first and foremost. Additionally, the game mechanisms have to have a kind of inherent consistency and break player expectations at the right moments. The Night Cage from first time designers Christopher Ryan Chan, Chris McMahon, and Rosswell Saunders hits these design challenges like a candle coming to light a dark room. With a more abstract horror theme of being trapped in a lightless maze, the game feeds on the inherent fear of isolation and darkness. Random monsters appear to sap your light, and the player’s only cooperative hope is escape. It doesn’t feel like any other cooperative game. Letting down your friends when navigating the cage feels much more impactful, and, as such, the game’s tension pulses minute by minute. If that’s not enough for a horror game, I don’t know what else is.
Folklore: The Affliction
Chosen by James:
As I debated between this and Eldritch Horror, the difference came down to Folklore’s base game and the first expansion tended to be focused on gothic horror classics such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and skeletons. As a game, Folklore plays as a mix of choose your own adventure game, a dungeon crawl, and an overland adventure. And the narrative of the game invokes those brisk dark autumn nights that I associate with Halloween. Mechanically, this game can be random, a bit fiddly, and occasionally unbalanced but I love the overall experience it provides. The fictional land of Kremel, where the game takes place, is cursed and magic is powerful but rare. Your party slowly powers up and finds better gear as they adventure through this region of dark forests, forbidden tombs, and small towns. Just having your party delve into dimly lit dungeons or creep through cemeteries filled with the walking dead makes this game feel like it was tailor made for Halloween.
Chosen by Michelle:
Listen, I know I’m supposed to suggest a game that requires you to leave the lights on and drawing monsters from the terrible memory of a Witness meets that criteria. I’m not one for spoopy games but everyone loves monsters on Halloween. MonsDRAWsity is great even if playing over Zoom and there are plenty of cute moments if playing with children for the holiday since they get so enthusiastic describing the monster for the round. For those who are not skilled at drawing, you bet that one or both of the following will happen: 1) you will draw something far from the actual monster or 2) you will draw something even more horrifying than what was described. The Witness only has 20 seconds to try and memorize the picture of this bizarre creature (e.g. everything from having no eyes to having too many eyes), and this party game benefits from having a terrible memory. Beware though, even scarier is the fact that there are at least two confirmed expansions for the game should you have encountered all monsters in the base game! Hurry—it looks like your wallet is screaming and running in the opposite direction!
Chosen by Jason:
“Fear is the mind killer”. One of my favorite quotes from Dune. Sometimes the most impressive feat is when a story or experience engages our senses and becomes more in our theater of the mind. Nyctophobia does that most uniquely, as you’ll be playing this survival horror game blindly. With nothing more than your fingers and sense of direction, you and the other players must grasp your way around an unseen map from a killer who’s stalking you. It gives the feeling of running through the dark woods, panting, while you try to live. If you’re looking for a Halloween game that captures the feeling of the holiday, this is it.