October is the one month of the year in which I feel an urge to play board games with a particular theme — SPOOKY!! Christmas time is great for movies, but less so for board games, but there are plenty of games with ghouls, monsters, zombies, and mystery to help keep anyone in the “mood” this time of year.
Personally, I’m not that into the ‘horror’ theme, so you will notice those types of games missing from my list. I guess you could consider this a more family-friendly list of great, spooky games to play.
#10 – Zombie Dice
While Zombie Dice is a very quick, push-your-luck game of dice-rolling — I actually believe that the theme gets through well. Players will start to get into the mood to chant, “Brains!!!!” as you roll your trio of dice. You can up the theme even more if you have the Hunk and Hottie dice. You will really want the juicy brains of the football player and cheerleader, but they are elusive and dangerous…watch out for those shotgun blasts.
#9 – Fairytale Gloom
Any Gloom game would fit into this category, I believe, but I particularly enjoy the Fairytale version. Since your goal is to give your characters gloomy, awful lives — it really does feel like you are trying to tell a spooky, ghost-story version of these famous characters’ lives. From fairytale to macabre with a few card plays and some creative story-telling.
#8 – Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters
Of course, just about any game featuring ghosts is going to fit in perfectly with a list of spooky games. I’ve never played the cooperative game Ghost Stories, so Treasure Hunters is the ghost-coop game of my choice! My family is starting to learn decent strategy for this game and we love chanting, “Fight, fight, fight…” during ghost rolls towards the end of the game when the tension starts to escalate.
#7 – Set a Watch
While you could argue that Set a Watch is just another fantasy-themed game of heroes vs. monsters, the setting is what I believe gives the game a great spooky vibe fitting for the month of October. Your band of travelers is apparently out of harm’s way while traveling during the day, but must rely on the safety of firelight while camping at night — when the wave of monsters will attack furiously, night after night. The campfire is your life blood and your power to see and prepare. If the fire starts to dwindle, the monsters will use the darkness to their advantage….
This is becoming one of my favorite cooperative / solo games and has a wonderful, spookiness to it as well.
#6 – Tiny Epic Zombies
Zombies was the first Tiny Epic game that I either owned or played. I love the tiny, zombie meeples that you get with this game (and there is definitely a horde of them!). Tiny Epic Zombies is mostly a cooperative title, but keeps the games tense and exciting each play-through with the random three objectives that are provided during each session. One game you may have a focus of fixing a helicopter, but find yourself helping to find an antibiotic the next time. The character cards have asymmetric player powers and if your group has a player with an evil streak, he/she can feel free to play as the Zombies and try to munch on some Mall Brains. I have previously reviewed Tiny Epic Zombies if you’d like to know more about this title.
#5 – BOO
BOO and Sprawlopolis are easily my two favorite “tiny package” games (sorry, Tiny Epic…but these games are truly wallet-sized). And even though Sprawlopolis features Wrecktar, BOO fits into the spooky theme much better. This is a card-laying and flipping game of trying to outscore your opponent by having more of your ghosts visible at the end of the game. The white ghosts will do their best to scare the black ghosts (flipping that card over) and vice versa. There are great strategy and puzzling elements in BOO that I highly enjoy, plus I adore the aesthetic appeal of the game. BOO is another game I reviewed earlier this year if you’d like my in-depth thoughts about this “Handy” title.
#4 – Awkward Guests
Awkward Guests, from Megacorpin Games, is a murder mystery. A wealthy man has passed away and he lived the kind of life that easily turns associates into enemies. Throughout this deduction game, you will trade valuable information with the other detectives trying to figure out where all the suspects were during the crime…working with the coroner to get autopsy information…listening to household staff for important clues. This is my favorite murder-mystery board game and has the right amount of spooky to be a great grab off the shelf in October.
#3 – Ex Libris
There shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary about a trip to the library, right? Sure, libraries tend to have horror sections….but what if you went to a library that had nothing but monster titles…nothing but gruesome tomes of darkness and treachery. Furthermore, what if the librarians themselves were monstrous creatures straight out of your nightmares? In that case, you may have just stepped into Ex Libris — a wonderful, worker placement game with a bit of card drafting and hand management. Put together the spookiest (and best organized) book shelves and you will become the Head Monster Librarian!
#2 – Villainous
It is hard to think of a game that fits the family-friendly version of costuming for Halloween — famous villains from Disney movies — than Villainous. You can play as fantasy heroes, farmers, and captains of industry during the rest of the year. When October rolls around, it’s time to take on the role of Hades, Maleficent, and Jafar as you try to prove which villain is the greatest of them all.
The asymmetry of each character makes it a joy to keep coming back to this game, exploring the play of each villain, finding ones that fit your own personal style of play…plus the artwork for the cards in Villainous are outstanding — not just inserts of old movie footage — but well-designed new pictures of famous characters.
#1 – One Night Ultimate Werewolf / Werewords
And…for my favorite spooky game –> Bézier Games takes the crown. For me, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a perfect option. The darkness and mystery involved in every game’s night phase. Who is doing what? What will things look like when I awake in the morning? Then, the morning and the automatic mistrust that permeates the table. You can smell wolf in your presence…but where exactly is that smell coming from? And then, the verbal dancing –> “I’m this because…”, “but I did that, so…”, “why isn’t Tom saying more…awful quiet…” 5 minutes later –> statements have been made, cases defended, accusations are rising. The werewolf has been causing terror and someone has to pay for the crimes! Time to point fingers.
And what’s best…after all the tension and emotions…the smiling and laughing afterwards, when the scene is over and we can all enjoy the silliness of the roles we were trying to portray and the actions that happened to us during the night.
Bézier’s game Werewords also fits into this category as well — night phases, a werewolf, a seer….uncertainty and mistrust….for groups that don’t like the role-playing as much and prefer a lighter degree of bluffing and betrayal, Werewords is a wonderful option to get that Werewolf fix in.
There you go my board gaming friends, that’s my top 10 list of spooky games to play — whether it be October or just any time when you feel the need for a haunting good time at the table. Feel free to share some of your favorites here in the comments and over on my Twitter feed as well.