Board games used to be something relegated almost exclusively to children. From Candyland or Monopoly, these games were (and are still) the epitome of “fun for the whole family.” Even so, back in the ole’ days, you could find the occasional cardboard box that promised those brave enough to investigate their contents a nightmarish gaming experience. I mean speaking of “nightmare,” anyone remember the game – Nightmare? A “VHS board game” that came with a cassette tape you followed along to while playing, all hosted by the sinister “Gatekeeper.” A bonafide nostalgia booster in itself and a major inspiration for the retro-tinged film Beyond the Gates. So, sure, the horror board game is certainly nothing new. It has, however, come a long way from the days of Nightmare. Here are five creeptastic games inspired by some of our favorite horror films, tv, and literature.
The Thing – Infection at Outpost 31
Perhaps the most high profile title on this list, Infection at Outpost 31, from Mondo and Project Raygun is like a way more complex version of Clue, only set within the world of John Carpenter’s The Thing. You and 3 to 7 of your best friends play as MacReady and a number of other characters from the classic flick (but seriously, who wouldn’t want to be MacReady?) in an attempt to escape the frozen arctic while evading the terror of “The Thing.” Ultimately, one among you is the alien creature in disguise and must do whatever it takes to sabotage the others’ mission. Just be careful not to get caught. Outpost can be a tad time consuming (like those old times spent playing marathon games of Monopoly that seemed like they would never end), but the gameplay is pretty addictive once you get the hang of it. Just be sure to play with people you trust. Much like the characters in the film, I’d hate for you to allow your deep seeded resentments to bubble up as the paranoia starts crawling under your skin. Just a thought.
When it comes to “Lovecraftian” tales of the Ancient Ones and the cosmic fear of what lies just beyond your view, Eldritch Horror, fits the bill. You play as part of a co-op (up to 8 players) on a mission across the globe to gather clues in a race against time to stop an elder being from destroying the world at large. The “Ancient One” can vary depending on the cards drawn at the top of the game, and, yes, Cthulhu is an enemy option. Gameplay is constantly in flux based of the moves and decisions of the players. You’ll find yourself sucked in by Eldritch Horror’s ever expanding lore that unfolds with each passing turn. With over 300 cards and 250 tokens, the replay value on this little gem is high up there. Not to mention, there are currently enough expansion packs to fill all of Innsmouth.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Taking inspiration from classics of the William Castle canon and a bevy of other cinematic and literary spook-tales, Betrayal at House on the Hill is a fun romp through a haunted house of your own making. Much like Darren Lynn Bousman’s recent Abattoir, you’re literally building the “House on the Hill” (AKA the game board) one room at a time with randomized tiles. It creates a fun layer of tension as you’re never sure just what the hell you’re walking into. Of course, one of the 3 – 6 players is likely a traitor and it’s up to the good guys to snuff them out. Betrayal has been the winner of a number of awards and with a playtime estimated at only about an hour, this is the perfect game to break out spontaneously towards the end of a quickly fading dinner party.
Mixtape Massacre is a love letter to all things 80s horror, and, perhaps, the most accessible game on this list for tabletop newbs. The board is a representation for the town of Tall Oaks, which happens to have a serious serial-slasher problem. You get to slip on the mask of your favorite screen villian (or at least a non-copywritten facsimile) from a little red headed doll, a pasty-bald white guy with a leather fetish, and even a gaunt girl in a tattered dress and long black hair that conceals her face. Players roll a regular die to move and an “action die” adorned with a fist, knife, and pentagram, each symbol dictating whether your set loose to slay victims or under attack yourself. Gameplay moves quick and is filled with fun nods to tons of horror classics.
Ferox: Invaders and Cannibals
Ferox: Invaders and Cannibals is perhaps not the most politically correct board game you will ever find, but it is inspired by the Italian cannibal cycle of the 70s/80s (Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox), so what do you expect? Needing only two players, one player takes on the role of “cannibal” and the other the role of “invader.” The invaders are made up a film crew that has crash landed on an island lost to time. The cannibals immediately see this collection of film nerds as a threat. Both players go back and forth, picking each other off until there is one final champion.
Each of these games is a reminder that horror can be found no matter what the medium. Roll the die and roll to die! Which is your favorite?