19 Board Games By Theme for Your Halloween Game Night
Anything goes on Halloween. You can walk down the street in your pajamas and call it a costume and no one will blink an eye. So when it comes to hosting a Halloween game night, any theme goes, too.
Finding good board games to suit that theme might be more of a challenge, except that I’ve done all the work for you. Here’s a list of 19 board games and card games organized by themes – 8 themes in total – likely to make an appearance on Halloween. Not only do I cover the usual spooky themes of Haunted Houses, Cthulhu, Witches, and Things That Go Bump in the Night, but also Super Heroes, Aliens & Outer Space, and Pirates – Arr!
Looking for a little excitement this Halloween are ya? Why not get some thrills by exploring a haunted house? There’s that terrifying one up on the hill there – Betrayal at House on the Hill – enter it if you dare! It’ll provide an interesting adventure, that’s for certain – until the Haunt starts! Then you learn why the game has Betrayal in its name and the true fun begins! [cue eerie laugh] 3 to 6 players can explore the house together, but they probably won’t escape together. Playtime is about an hour. With numerous possible haunts, plus 50 more coming in the long-awaited expansion Widow’s Walk, no two games are alike.
Perhaps you have delusions of grandeur and would prefer to explore a mansion, rather than a rickety old haunted house. Mansions of Madness is ripe for exploration. This one has a Lovecraftian theme to boot. The new edition utilizes a handy app so everyone can cooperate instead of one player running the show. 2 to 5 players can run through the Mansion in 2 to 3 hours or you can play it solo – if you dare!
Hint for both games: read the cards in an spooky voice to increase the
terror fun and excitement.
Did I mention Cthulhu?!! I should not speak that Old One’s name so casually. We would not want it to hear and awaken – bringing madness and chaos to our dear world. However, if that’s the theme you desire to play on All Hallow’s Eve, you have many, many games to choose from.
The just-released Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu takes the mostly-familiar Pandemic play into the Lovecraftian universe with players attempting to close four gates before Cthulhu awakens, cultists and shoggoths run rampant or time runs out (controlled by the Player deck). Nicely crafted minis replace the usual cubes and pawns and the dark, Cthulhu artwork enhances the new theme. Of all the Cthulhu-themed games I list here, this one has the shortest playtime by far – 40 minutes – so it doesn’t overstay its welcome for 2 to 4 players.
Elder Sign, perhaps the next shortest, has 1 to 8 players take on the role of investigators struggling to combat one of the Ancient Ones – vast, powerful creatures that dwell in the space between dimensions. By rolling a pool of special dice, players will face adventures in and around the museum that has become the focal point of these strange creatures. The clock is ticking and bad things happen almost every night at midnight, so you better hurry and collect those Elder Signs because if the beast awakens all is most certainly lost! Playtime is about 2 hours. You can play Elder Sign solo, too.
Another dice game set in the Cthulhu-verse turns the traditional theme of investigators attempting to thwart the will of the Old Ones on its heels. In Kingsport Festival, you play the bad guys. As a high priest of one of the shadowy cults that worship the Old Ones, your goal is to dominate the city by invoking cosmic creatures and grotesque gods to receive their gifts. Take care to preserve your Sanity as you defeat the Investigators who seek to stop your mad mission. You must also overcome unexpected Events on your path to domination. You’re the bad guys: why choose the lesser evil? 3 to 5 can play Kingsport Festival in about 90 minutes.
For a longer, more immersive game, there’s the old classic Arkham Horror and the quickly-becoming-a-classic Eldritch Horror.
In Arkham Horror, 1 to 8 players choose from 16 Investigators and take to the streets of Arkham to prevent one of the eight Ancient Ones from breaking into our world. During the game, players will upgrade their characters by acquiring skills, allies, items, weapons, and spells. They must clean up the streets of Arkham by fighting many different types of monsters, but their main goal is to close portals to other dimensions that are opening up around town. If too many portals are open, the Ancient One awakens and players have only one last chance to save the world by defeating it in combat. Yeah, right, like that ever happens. Better to not let it in the door to begin with.
Eldritch Horror, inspired by Arkham Horror, has the Investigators exploring the most remote corners of the globe, to fight the nightmarish creatures that lurk in the shadows, and find the answers to the ancient mysteries! You’re not in Arkham anymore, the threat and terror has spread across the globe. You’ll need 2 to 4 hours to play this monster game – pun intended – for 1 to 8 players.
Thinking about having all your friends dress up as Super Heroes for Halloween? Well, then here’s a trio of games perfect for that challenge.
Super Frenemies Unite! in DC Comics Deck-Building Game, a competitive card game in which you take on the role of a famous DC Comics Superhero – or in the case of Forever Evil a Supervillain! Your goal is to acquire the most Victory Points (VPs), mostly by defeating Villains and Super-Villains. To accomplish this, you’ll have to build a good deck by acquiring more and more powerful cards from the Line-Up, defeating Super-Villains, and ridding your deck of Vulnerability and Weakness cards as quickly as possible. Defeating Villains and Super-Villains is much like acquiring Equipment, Locations, Super Powers and Heroes from the Line-Up: you simply buy them with Power. Your only real Attacks are against your fellow Super Heroes, hence the Super Frenemies. Setup is quick, as is the game play (30 to 45 minutes) and 2 to 5 can play. Choose from several sets with different characters.
Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game for 1 to 5 players, takes a little longer to setup, but offers a pure cooperative-play experience with players working together to defeat the scheme of one of several villain Masterminds. Over the course of the game, you’ll recruit powerful heroes in order to build a stronger and more resourceful deck. During the setup you can choose which heroes to include and which Mastermind and minions to work against. With oodles of expansions, each featuring more heroes, masterminds and schemes, the possibilities and replayability are endless. Legendary also has a relatively short play time of just 30 to 60 minutes.
Munchkin: Marvel Edition fuses the classic Munchkin card game fun of monster-slaying and role-playing with the most iconic characters from the Marvel universe. It’s a stand-alone Munchkin game that comes complete with Treasure and Armor and plenty of monsters to fight, plus Allies, Affiliations, Powers, and custom S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Role cards. Perfect for Munchkin fans who are ready for an epic Marvel Super Hero battle to reach 10th level for 3 to 6 players with 1 to 2 hours to play!
If you’re thinking of leaving the planet for Halloween, then let me introduce you to a few friends you might meet out in the black. Some are more friendly than others.
Of the less friendly type – very less friendly, mind you – there’s Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deckbuilding Game, a cooperative game set in the Alien universe. Players each take on one of the ten roles like Commander, Gunner, Synthetic, etc. seen in the movies and recruit powerful allies such as Ripley, Corporal Dwayne Hicks or Christie the Mercenary. The game takes players on a terrifying journey through all four feature films: Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection as they work together to complete challenging mission objectives. Scan rooms, attack Xenomorphs, avoid Facehuggers like the plague and try, TRY to avoid the ultimate death… becoming the victim of a ravenous Chestbuster. ‘Game over, man. Game over!’ Any player that suffers that horrific demise, takes on the role of a Xenomorph and must try to stop the other players from completing their mission objectives. So work together or die trying in Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game. Each mission for 1 to 5 players runs 30 to 60 terrifying, edge-of-your-seat minutes. This is not an easy game to win.
Of the more friendly variety, there’s Firefly: The Game. Based on Josh Whedon’s awesome tv series Firefly, Firefly: The Game takes you out to the black – tell them I ain’t comin’ back – to find a crew, find a job and keep flying. Players captain their own Firefly-class transport ship, traveling the ‘Verse with a handpicked crew of fighters, mechanics and other travelers they pick up at planets and stations right out of the tv series. Each game is different depending on the Story card chosen, which specifies the winning conditions of that game. Expansions add more Jobs, Contacts, Ships, Stories and Setup options. Some even expand the explorable areas of the ‘Verse. Dripping with theme, this is the perfect game for 1 to 4 Firefly fans to explore in 90 to 150 minutes! Play the soundtrack or tv series in the background for an even more immersive experience.
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a witch on a broom stick silhouetted against a full moon. Thus enters Broom Service to our Halloween repertoire of games. A remake of the award-winning Witch’s Brew, the card-based game Broom Service, combines luck and skill and balances timely bluffing with clever hand management. 2 to 5 players, play wild witches zooming on their brooms and covering miles with their vials throughout the magical realm. They score victory points by delivering potions via this Broom Service – pun intended. You’ll need to gather roots, herbs, and fruit to brew your concoctions, and Drizzelda will help charm away the cloudy weather. Play the right card, at the precise moment, and whoosh to the win! Playtime is 45 to 75 minutes.
Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum. There’s always a pirate or two lurking on the streets on Halloween. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few pirate-themed games to warm your toes like that bottle of rum.
First up is a push-your-luck style game – and what pirate hasn’t pushed his luck at one time or another? It’s appropriately called Dead Man’s Draw. Your goal is also appropriate to the theme: amass the most booty. But there’s a catch: if you get too greedy, you could lose it all! Players draw cards one at a time trying to collect the most loot, comprised of ten suits with six cards each. Draw different suits and your treasure grows. However if you get two of the same suit, you Bust and your turn is over whether you want it to be or not. Knowing when to stop and bank your cards is the biggest decision you have to make in Dead Man’s Draw, but being too timid lets braver opponents sail on by with bigger, more profitable turns. 2 to 4 players can play Dead Man’s Draw in about 10 to 15 minutes.
Looking for a richer-themed pirate board game? Black Fleet puts you in control of three ships on the high seas, each with its own purpose. Use your merchant ship to transport goods between ports to earn some honest money, your pirate ship to attack and pillage other merchants and bury the goods on desert islands, and your navy ship to sink your opponents’ pirates. You can use your fair and ill-gotten gains to improve your ships with advancement cards that provide powerful abilities. Play fortune cards to surprise and outwit your opponents, earn money faster than they do, and pay the ransom for the governor’s daughter to win the game! 3 to 4 can play Black Fleet in about 60 minutes.
We’re already on the seventh theme and narry a vampire, werewolf or ghost in sight. No problemo. The next two games will take care of all three of those things that go bump in the night.
Shadow Hunters is a hidden role game of survival in which you play either a Shadow, a supernatural creature of the night; a human Hunter, whose job it is to destroy said Shadows; or an innocent Civilian, caught in the middle of their ancient battle. The key to survival, and victory, is to identify your allies and enemies early because once your identity is revealed, your enemies will attack using their special abilities like Demolish, Teleport, and Suck Blood or their equipment cards such as the Rusty Broad Ax or Fortune Brooch. When this ancient battle comes to a head, only one group will stand victorious. Excellent for larger groups, 4 to 8 players can run through Shadow Hunters in about 60 minutes.
Ghost Stories is a cooperative game in which players play Taoist monks protecting a village from incarnations of the lord of hell – Wu-Feng – and his legions of ghosts. Working as a team they must exorcise the ghosts that appear, making the best use of their special abilities and the help provided by the villagers to accomplish their task. Wu-Feng’s legion of ghosts have their own special abilities and will do their best to thwart your mission so Wu-Feng can return to life and haunt the village to eternity. Beautiful artwork and awesome bits really make this game a treasure for 1 to 4 players with a playtime of 60 minutes.
It wouldn’t be Halloween in this day and age without a few walking dead shambling around. I’ve written whole articles on zombie games in the past and covered Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game by itself in gory detail. So this time, I thought I’d lightly cover a different, but also extremely popular zombie apocalypse game: Dead of Winter and its sequel Dead of Winter: The Long Night.
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game puts 2 to 5 players in a small, weakened colony of survivors in a world where most of humanity is either dead or diseased, flesh-craving monsters. It’s a story-centric game about surviving through a harsh winter in an apocalyptic world. The survivors are all dealing with their own psychological imperatives and have their own personal secret objectives, but must still find a way to work with the others. Together they must fight off outside threats, resolve crises, find food and supplies, keep the colony’s morale up and achieve one common victory condition. Games can end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. 2 to 5 can play this epic struggle for power and survival in 1 to 2 hours.
Dead of Winter: The Long Night is both an expansion for Dead of Winter and its own stand-alone game. The Long Night introduces a new location where horrible experiments spill out into the town unless players contain them. It also adds bandits and their hideout, colony improvements, a graveyard, an all new cast of survivors, plus new zombies, items, main objectives, secret objectives and more. Dead of Winter: The Long Night can likewise be played by 2 to 5 players in 1 to 2 hours.
So there you have it: board games for 8 different themes for your Halloween game night. Suit up and get playing!
Copyright © 2016 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.
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