Whether you’re throwing a big neighborhood party, or staying home with the drapes closed this Halloween, chances are there’s a game to suit both your tastes and this spookiest of seasons. To help you celebrate Halloween I’ve picked out six games in six different styles including board games, video games, and games to play with kids.
Board Game: Bring Out Yer Dead
What could be a better game for Halloween than one which uses tiny wooden coffins as playing pieces?
In Bring Out Yer Dead, players assume the roles of the head of rival families who compete to get their dead relatives into the best spots in the city graveyard. The better the spot, the more points the player will earn for that coffin. Only so many coffins per day can fit on the gravedigger’s cart–the rest are tossed into the river to count against your final score–so players must bid at the beginning of each day in order to obtain one of those coveted slots.
In addition, players may rob graves for treasure, or gather “fate” cards which grant special single-use powers, including being able to bid higher than the standard card values, switching your relative’s poor location with an opponent’s better one, or rescuing your coffins from the water. The artwork is wonderful and easily makes up for a few issues in the text which can leave some of the rules open to interpretation. Although the theme could be considered morbid (you certainly don’t want to be inviting anyone to play this who has recently lost a loved one), the illustrations and gameplay are more Monty Python than Pet Semetary and won’t scare even the most nervous of guests.
One for the Kids: Ticket to Ride, Halloween Freighter Expansion
Ticket to Ride: The classic introductory board game in which players work to build railways across America (or various other cities, countries, or continents depending on which version you’re playing) might seem like an odd choice for this list until you take a look at its list of many and varied expansions and discover that it has a dedicated Halloween pack. Halloween Freighter isn’t a true expansion, rather it replaces your existing trains with pumpkin loaded orange freight wagons, but it wins in terms of cuteness and not-so-spooky fun.
It also includes stations which allow it to be used with all existing Ticket to Ride games and maps. If you want a smart, strategic game you can play with children on Halloween that avoids the spooks, consider investing in it.
Card Game: Gloom
Gloom can best be described as The Addams Family meets tabletop gaming. Each player is responsible for a family, attempting to keep their own as miserable as they can by piling on every tragedy they can conceive of, whilst simultaneously trying to cheer up opponents families with happy events such as weddings.
The cards are transparent which allows modifiers to be stacked atop family members without preventing important details from being seen: a huge help in remembering what has occurred so far, although the transparency makes the cards nightmarish to photograph! Gloom is a story-telling game and players are encouraged to talk a lot during their turn, detailing the latest events in their family’s ongoing saga, just as GeekMom Shiri’s children did when they recently bought the game. Not always a great choice for the introverts but fantastic to keep chatty relatives at bay for a short time!
Dice Game: Zombie Dice
The number of zombie-themed tabletop and video games is staggering these days, and although many of them are very good indeed, I chose Zombie Dice for this list because it is one of our go-to games when we want something quick to play in between longer games, or something to pack into a bag to play in a restaurant.
The game is cheap, small, simple to learn, and easy to play–my in-laws even bought their own copy which they frequently take with them on vacation–and my six-year-old often requests to play it. These days there’s also a Christmas-themed expansion to keep you going right through the holiday season.
Cooperative Game: Elder Sign
Set in Arkham Museum during 1926, Elder Sign pits a team of players against forces attempting to raise an ancient evil God from its slumber. The players make their way through the museum, attempting dice rolling challenges to win both resources and the eldritch symbols (“Elder Signs”) required to seal the portal and keep the Ancient One from rising. Failing the challenges can result in losing sanity and stamina, plus the appearance of additional monsters to fight.
The game is exceptionally well themed and sits within the Lovecraftian mythos making it perfect for Halloween. Although daunting when first set out on a table, the cooperative gameplay make it much easier for newbies to learn because the whole group can help them as the game progresses. Because of this, my friend who often finds herself overwhelmed by more complex strategy games was able to really enjoy playing with us.
Video Game: The Seventh Guest
The Seventh Guest is a classic PC game from 1993 (now available on Steam, iOS, and Android) which hasn’t lost any of its disturbing nature even as its once state of the art graphics have become increasingly laughable. Players solve puzzles to make their way through the spooky Stauf Mansion and discover what happened to a group of guests who were invited to a dinner party in 1935 and never left. Although a single player game, the nature of the puzzles makes it great for group play with a bunch of people sitting around a screen and working together to solve the mystery of Stauf Mansion. The game generally focuses on puzzle-solving and avoids bloodshed (there is no combat element), however, the ending is positively horrifying and left me reeling for many nights after completing the game for the first time.