Halloween Gaming

Halloween is easily my favorite holiday.  It's the one holiday where you can dress up as literally anything, you can go from house seeking free candy, and you can play tricks and enjoy scares and the supernatural.  These elements are also popular in many games, so it's natural there are plenty of games that are natural fits for Halloween.  Below are some of my favorites.  Enjoy!


The horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft is filled with insanity, death, and otherworldly monsters -- and The Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game captures those elements perfectly.  This game -- set in the 1880s, the 1920s, or the present -- has the players as Investigators, ordinary people who come into contact with horrors from beyond the world.  But the dangers aren't just physical: Insanity is just as dangerous, and the more players learn, the greater their sanity is threatened.  Players usually don't win by destroying the evil, but by delaying it or just getting away with body and mind intact.  this more modest goal distinguishes The Call of Cthulhu from other rpgs -- you're not trying to level up or accumulate treasure, just to survive -- which makes this ideal for stand-alone, one-shot adventures.


A nice  part of the haunted house is that it can contain virtually anything -- from ghosts to aliens to homicidal maniacs -- and Betrayal at House on the Hill captures this perfectly.  This board game has the players exploring a mysterious house, uncovering rooms, collecting items, and causing events.  However, there are also Omens -- and sooner ot later, these cause the Haunt.  One player becomes the Traitor, the rest are the Heroes, and they learn what the scenario is for victory.  But the Traitor and Heroes don't know exactly what the other side needs to do to win, so while the Heroes work together, they have to try and figure out what the Traitor needs to do while working towards their own victory.  And with 50 scenarios, Betrayal at House on the Hill has plenty of material for replaying.


The Munchkin line of games cover a wide range of genres but all follow the basic formula "kill the monster, steal the treasure, stab your buddy" as players compete to reach level 10 first.  Apart from supplying plenty of tricks (cards used on other players to keep them from a victory) and treats (the treasures), the three editions listed above have definite Halloween elements.  In Munchkin Bites! players can be Vampires, Werewolves, or Changelings (and, with an expansion, Mummies).  Munchkin Cthulhu has the players battling Lovecraftian creatures; but the players can also become Cultists.  Munchkin Zombies has all players as zombies, and the "monsters" they're trying to defeat are usually the humans who would be the stars of a zombie flick.  These are all very silly, very funny, and very good for Halloween.


There are several cooperative games based on the Lovecraft mythos where players work together to defeat the eldritch forces from beyond time and space -- Arkham Horror and Elder Sign come to mind -- but my favorite is The Witch of Salem.  Despite some poor writing (no mention of Lovecraft in the title, and the "witch"is male), this is a terrific game where players join forces to close all the open gates and confront the evil.  But monsters start gathering in town, the countdown track has two spots that can make the players lose, and if a player "closes" a spot that didn't have a gate the evil gets through and wins!

Another fun game series is Fluxx, and this extremely simple, quick card game also has two editions perfect for Halloween.  Zombie Fluxx has the players as zombies, trying to meet the Goals while dealing with the pesky humans that pop up as Creepers.  Cthulhu Fluxx has tons of Lovecraftian elements -- and they appear as many, many Creepers that may spell doom for the players.   These may not have deep strategy but work very well as 5-15 minute games.


Dice game are extremely easy and quick -- and these two are good for a very quick game that can be finished in five minutes or less.  Zombie Dice is a push-your-luck game where players are zombies trying to get 13 brains, avoiding the shotgun blasts -- and can stop to collect their brains for the turn or keep going to try and get more and risk losing all the ones they got this turn.  Cthulhu Dice has players rolling against each other to steal or destroy each other's sanity -- unless Cthukhu gets it all!  (This can also be played with any number of players with only one die.)


A party game for 8-15 people, Are You a Werewolf?  doesn't have any real skill but does have lots of fun.  All the players get a role (which they keep secret): most are villagers, two are werewolves, one is the Seer, and one person is the judge.  First, everyone (but the judge) stands still and closes their eyes.  Next, the two werewolves walk around, select a victim (who falls down, "dead"), then return to their starting place.  Then the Seer can ask the judge if one person is a werewolf.  After that, everyone but the judge discuss who they think is a werewolf, finally voting on one candidate who gets killed.  If both werewolves are killed, the villagers win; if the town is reduced to two villagers, the werewolves overrun the survivors for victory.  Are You a Werewolf? doesn't have any true strategy, but it gives the players a change to roleplay and bluff their way to victory/survival.


Okay, this last game doesn't have anything to do with horror or the supernatural -- but the name Apples to Apples sounds close to bobbing for apples, so I'm including it here.  Each round a judge gets a (green) card with an adjective or adverb, the other players select a (red) card from their hand that they hope the judge will think is closest to the green card, all the red cards are shuffled together, the players argue for which red card is the best (not necessarily their own), the judge picks their favorite, and the player whose red card was picked gets the green card as a point.  Players who played a red card get another red card, and the next player clockwise becomes the new judge.  When a player gets a certain number of points, they win!   Apples to Apples favors players who know each other, but otherwise it's a simple, fun way for folks to play and laugh at a party.

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