When it comes to horror and spookiness in board games, we have a lot of options. Thanks to the plethora of games about zombies, Lovecraftian mythos, and other gruesome elements, we can make our tabletop experiences as tense as we want. So with Halloween night right around the corner, what better time to dust off a monster filled tabletop game for a good dose of horror and tension. I’ve put together my list of my Top 10 Horror Themed Board Games. And to stop the usual choices from dominating the list, I tried to keep Cthulhu themed and Zombie games from appearing too many times (no more than 3 of each). Should you want more in that genre, we have a top 10 list for each already!
Top 10 Horror Themed Board Games
Honorable Mention: Eldritch Horror (review)
As much as I wanted to put Eldritch Horror on this list, I just really don’t get a scary or spooky vibe from it. While I really enjoy playing a globe-trotting adventurer trying to keep a Great Old One in check, it’s really more of an adventure game than a horror game in my opinion. That being said, it’s such a great game with a solid theme, it deserves an honorable mention at least.
10. Zombicide (review)
If you want to experience hordes of raging undead, then Zombicide is your drink of choice. It’s not higher on the list because I don’t get a huge horror vibe from it. Characters are fairly powerful and it’s really not until late in the game, when rounds are spawning undead in large masses, that the tension finally starts to appear. However, for a dice chucking minis game where you can slaughter the undead by the dozens, it’s hard to find a better choice. Plus, there are a few different themes for you to choose from: modern day, fantasy, and the upcoming sci-fi.
9. Mythos Tales
The game play in Mythos Tales is inspired from the unique game Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. However instead of trying to solve murders in London, you are investigating strange happenings in familiar Mythos locations. Mythos Tales is all about the story, having no game board, dice, or miniatures. The only thing that keeps it from being higher on this list is the number of errata and errors plaguing early editions of the game.
In this cooperative game, players are conducting a séance in a house where someone was murdered. One player takes on the role of the ghost (the victim of the crime), who can only communicate with players through the use of dream cards. The other players must correctly identify The who, what, and where of the murder before time runs out. Mysterium is easy to learn, but definitely challenging to win.
7. Machina Arcana (review)
A cooperative steampunk and Lovecraftian horror themed game, Machina Arcana will have players descending into a dungeon in a neo-Victorian world. Players will be trying to survive the horrors of Machina Arcana as they seek to improve their characters and fight off nasty monsters of the mythos. This game uses its theme to the fullest and creates a dark and creepy world for the players (and monsters) to inhabit.
6. The Bloody Inn (review)
In this competitive game, each player is an innkeeper trying to amass the most wealth. And what better way to earn extra money than to steal if from your guests. But, obviously you can’t steal from them while they are living (that would be dishonest). So instead, The Bloody Inn will have you murdering your guests and trying to dispose of the bodies before they are discovered. Then you can rob them to your heart’s content. With some macabre artwork, this unique card game is perfect for those looking for an economic game with a horror twist.
5. Psycho Raiders
Not for the faint of heart, Psycho Raiders bills itself as a “Horror Simulation Experience”. While most games aim for balanced gameplay, Psycho Raiders isn’t shy about its asymmetrical nature. One side takes on the role of the campers trying to survive, while the other controls the raiders, whose goal is to murder those poor campers. The raiders start the game stronger and in more control than the campers, but through the use of weapons and allies, the campers can turn the tide…if they can survive long enough. Psycho Raiders almost feels like an old hex and counter war game with a Friday the 13th theme.
One of the most unique games (and newest) on our list, Nyctophobia is a 1vMany game that will have a group of players trying to survive as a maniacal predator chases them in a pitch Black Forest. The catch is that the survivors must play the game wearing blackout sunglasses. Their goal is to find the car and survive until the police arrive to rescue them. Blindfolded, they must physically feel their way around the board to make their moves. All the while the other player, who is not blindfolded, is hunting them down.
3. Dead of Winter
It’s the middle of winter and players are trying to survive in a zombie infested world. While the theme isn’t that unique, the game play in Dead of Winter is pretty great. Resources are limited, the dead have risen, and players are just trying to survive. What’s clever about Dead of Winter is the great Crossroads mechanic, which really helps players have some fun with the story. Each round players must go out and scavenge for supplies hoping to fend off bites from zombies that can spell their doom. And to make matters worse, players all have a secret objective, some of which might make them secretly a traitor.
2. Betrayal at House on the Hill (review)
Betrayal at House on the Hill is already in its second edition and has a couple of spin off games (Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate and the upcoming Betrayal Legacy). However the main core of the game remains the same. The game starts out as a fully cooperative game with players exploring an old mansion. At some point during the game, one of the players becomes a traitor (who or when is unknown at the start) and will turn on their former teammates. The haunts, as they are called, are all fairly unique with each having its own story and goals for both teams.
1. Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Coming in at the top spot is the second edition of this Lovecraftian game of horror and survival. In Mansions of Madness, players take on the role of investigators trying to get the bottom of strange happenings in the towns of Innsmouth and Arkham. This edition of the game is now fully cooperative, with the Cthulhu Mythos monsters being controlled by an integrated app. I must say, the app integration is fantastic, bring narrative elements, errie sounds, and handling a lot of book keeping during the game. Mansions of Madness is a fantastic time of exploring, battling horrific monsters, and trying to stay alive.
1-5, 14+. 120+