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Top Of The Table – The Best Games For Halloween

by Matt Miller on Oct 31, 2016 at 06:44 AM

Maybe trick-or-treating isn’t your thing, but you still want to do something fun with friends to celebrate the spookiest time of the year. Might I suggest a dedicated Halloween board game night? A few candles and a spooky background soundtrack can get you well on your way, but the most important ingredient is the right game. I’m here to help, with eight of my favorite games for a Halloween gaming get-together. 

Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Designer: Nate French, Matthew Newman
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a whole column looking at a great horror game called Mansions of Madness, an ambitious app-driven game for up to five players. If you want to tap that Lovecraftian horror vibe, but you’re playing with just a single friend or partner, you might consider Fantasy Flight’s new Arkham Horror card game. Based on the excellent board game of the same name, this new release is an ongoing story-driven cooperative adventure for one or two players (or up to four with two copies of the base game). The game allows for extensive customization of your personal card deck, and the card-based interactions are fast and streamlined, keeping the focus on the ongoing story. This is also one of Fantasy Flight’s living card games, so subsequent expansions allow you to continue the story with set cards in each release, rather than a randomized collection. This one is a great choice for small groups or couples who still want a full-featured game complete with creepy narrative elements.

Dead of Winter
Designer: Jonathan Gilmour, Isaac Vega
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

If you’re not afraid of confronting some disturbing and adult scenarios in your board gaming adventures, you can hardly go wrong with 2014’s Dead of Winter. Much like in the wildly popular The Walking Dead stories, this survival game finds the players in control of a group of survivors, desperately trying to survive after a zombie apocalypse. Sometimes conflicting victory goals for the different players can lead to morally complex conflicts, and might even see one of the players exiled from the settlement. The game demands constant, often painful decisions, and regularly results in fascinating options for emergent storytelling. The game also can be found as a separate standalone expansion, called Dead of Winter: The Long Night, all about a shady pharmaceutical corporation and its horrific experiments. 

Potion Explosion
Designer: Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi, Lorenzo Silva
Publisher: CMON

Maybe your Halloween game night needs to steer a little more toward family-friendly options? I’m a big fan of this great new release that’s all about crafting concoctions as young witches and wizards and trying to pass your final exam in potions class. The game is built around a cleverly constructed marble dispenser, which drops multi-colored marbles in random orders into several orderly columns. If you pull a marble ingredient and two new marbles of the same color touch, you get those ingredients as well. Once you have the correct ingredients for your potion, you can then use that potion for advantages in later rounds of play. Potion Explosion is tactile, easy to understand, and great fun for a family gaming group with a shared love for the wizarding world. 

The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow
Designer: Philippe des Pallieres, Hervé Marly
Publisher: Asmodee

There are numerous variations on the familiar Werewolf formula, but I’m personally partial to Miller’s Hollow. No matter the variation you choose for you and your friends, the basic idea is roughly the same. Role cards dictate whether each player is a villager, a werewolf, or one of a small number of characters with special powers, like the fortune teller, hunter, or witch – all of whom have special abilities that also might paint a target on their back if anyone figures out who they are. One additional player takes on the role of the moderator and dictates the flow of the game. Each “night” the werewolves kill one of the players, and in the “morning” everyone debates who might be the monsters. Built to be played with 8-20 players, this riotous party game encourages lying, critical thinking, and careful listening. A typical full game round plays in just 15-20 minutes, so everyone has a good shot at getting to be both a good guy and a bad guy by the end of the evening. 

Next Page: Conduct a séance to uncover a grisly murder, or confront hordes of zombies and necromancers as knights and wizards

Designer: Oleksandr Nevskiy, Oleg Sidorenko
Publisher: Asmodee

This fascinating twist on cooperative play shares a little in common with the old classic, Clue, in that the players are trying to figure out the mystery of a murder that happened in an old mansion, including the suspect, location, and weapon used in the crime. But from there the game takes a turn into the supernatural. One player is a ghost, caught between life and death. All the other players are mediums, trying to interpret what happened in that forgotten event. The ghost player provides “visions” in the form of cards to each of the other players, and tries to communicate what happened that led to his or her untimely demise. The séance vibe of the gameplay and the creepy silence of the ghost character combine to transform your game night into an atmospheric and often thrilling chase for the truth.  

A Touch Of Evil
Designer: Jason C. Hill
Publisher: Flying Frog Productions

I find myself returning with fondness to this excellent horror game on a regular basis. I love its pulp cinematic roots and 19th century horror homages. The town of Shadowbrook is beset by a terrible beast, and the players must find and confront the horror, whether it’s a menacing Nosferatu-like vampire or my personal favorite, the roving horrors of a Spectral Horsemen out to take his victims heads. A Touch Of Evil can be played either competitively or cooperatively, and every session finds players wandering the countryside to prepare for the inevitable conflict, even while confronting potentially traitorous town elders back at town, many of whom might harbor a terrible secret. The game’s campy photo art is great fun, nodding to the fanciful costumes of early 20th century film and the similarly overwrought emotions and terrors of those movie characters.  

Zombicide Black Plague
Designer: Raphaël Guiton, Jean-Baptiste Lullien, Nicolas Raoult
Publisher: CMON

The Zombicide franchise catapulted to popularity several years ago, thanks to its gorgeous minis, streamlined gameplay, and focus on constant bloody combat against the hordes of the undead. The recent Black Plague release takes a turn into the fantasy milieu, but provides much of the same fast and frantic battle fun, along with several fun new features. Players control paladins, knights, and other fantasy staples as hordes of zombies descend on their location. Characters level up as they chop and burn their way through the forces of evil in search of the necromancers behind the plague. A handy plastic character board holds your inventory of cards and actions, and keeps everything moving fast as you zip around the board bringing down the baddies. Black Plague comes with dozens of highly detailed plastic miniatures, bringing life and action to the table, and play supports everything from solo to six-person battles.  

Betrayal At House On the Hill 
Designer: Bruce Glassco (original), Mike Selinker (expansion)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

This board gaming classic recently got an injection of fun thanks to its first-ever expansion, Widow’s Walk. The original game gained notoriety as one of the early story-driven cooperative games to find success with the gaming public. Everyone investigates a haunted mansion and helps to build out new rooms as they explore, but one of the players is secretly a traitor, leading to constant suspense and fun suspicion. The Widow’s Walk expansion takes advantage of a whole generation of players who have wandered the halls of the house on the hill. Writers of the new scenarios include Max Temkin and Eli Halpern of Cards Against Humanity fame, Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade, and even Mikey Neumann from the Borderlands video games. All told, there are 50 new haunts to explore and discover from a variety of great writers, dramatically expanding the breadth of play options for anyone who has thoroughly worn through the original game’s surprises. Whether you tackle the base game for the first time, or you’re an established Betrayal player looking for some new surprises, this is a Halloween standby.  


Dozens of great horror, monster, and magic-themed games are out there to discover, many of which are perfect for a Halloween get-together. The recommendations above are just some of my favorites. Do you have a selection I missed? Let me know in the comments below. If you want some guidance on running the best board game night for your friends, don’t miss out on this earlier column. And let me know what you’d like to see in future installments of Top of the Table by dropping me an email or tweet. For all our tabletop coverage, click on the banner below to visit the hub.