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Halloween Gaming, Part III: Miscellaneous Malevolence

Arkahm Horror: Call of Cthulhu, the board game. A massive game in almost every respect (scope, game length, pages of rules, price tag...), this cooperative game has all the players working as a team to stop an Ancient One from destroying the world. Highly recommended for those who love H. P. Lovecraft or games that simulate the RPG experience without requiring a lot of prep work. One downside, though: despite taking 4+ hours to play, the game isn't terribly difficult to defeat, which can lead to some anti-climatic endings. Fortunately, the many expansions address this by considerably upping the challenge (the Dunwich Horror expansion, in particular, has ben very well received).

A Touch of Evil: The newest offering from the guys who designed Last Night on Earth (see my top pick in Part I of this guide), Touch of Evil has the players working separately to defeat one of four different villains (the Scarecrow, the Horseman, the Werewolf, and the Vampire), and is very much a disciple of the Talisman school of game design: move around the board, bulk up your character, and then take on the Big Baddie. Of course there's a reason why Talisman is so wildly popular--this type of game is crazy fun--and ToE even improves on the formula by keeping the playing time down around an hour.

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Fearsome Floors: If you're the sort to shy away from games that require spatial reasoning skills, this might be the most terrifying horror game on this list. First, players move their tokens on the board, racing innocent victims through a dungeon toward the exit. Then the Monster moves, following a specific and unvarying algorithm: he moves forward until he "sees" one or more player tokens, at which point he turns and moves toward whichever is closest. As the Monster may turn several times during his movement, much of the game depends on your ability to correctly extrapolate his course. Played among analytical types the game can get bogged down in number-crunching, but in a casual group it's an exciting contest with lots of "oh crap, I did not see that coming" moments.

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Gloom: I'm no fan of "take that!" games, in which the players are constantly playing cards on one another to hinder progress (think: Killer Bunnies or Muchkin, neither of which I can abide). That said, two aspects of Gloom serve as an antidote to my reflexive dislike. First is the great theme, which turns the usual screw-your-buddy mechanic on it's head: the object is to be the most miserable, so you play horrible events on yourself and sic such things as "picnic in the park" on your opponents--ha! Second, the game features cool transparent cards, which allow you see the accumulation of various bonuses and penalties. Not a game I'd play often, but once a year before Halloween is just about perfect.

Werewolf: A number of commercial versions have cropped up (The Werewolves of Millers Hollow, Do You Worship Cthulhu?, etc.), but all you really need are the rules, a deck of cards, a bunch of friends, and a healthy dose of paranoia. You can read my ruminations on the game here.

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Those are my recommendations for Halloween Gaming. If you'd like to second any of my nominations, or add your own to the mix, feel free to do so in the comments.

See also: Halloween Gaming, Part I: Zombies, Halloween Gaming, Part II: Vampires and Witches. You can also view the entire Halloween Gaming Guide on one page here. Or, if you are in market for good games regardless of theme, check out my Good Gateway Games Guide.

Posted on September 25, 2008 to Games


And just to forestall some "how could you leave out ______??!" comments:

Betrayal at House on the Hill, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game, Vampire, It's Alive, Dia de los Muertos, and Midnight Party were omitted because they are no longer available in English (though you can still get Mitternachtsparty, the German version of Midnight Party). All of these are great games though, and if you find one via Ebay or elsewhere you should consider picking them up.

Knock Knock, Trick or Treat, When Darkness Comes, The Haunting House, and Hellrail were omitted because I didn't have the space to list everything, and these games, while passable, didn't make the cut.

Zombie Fluxx was omitted because we hates it! We hates it forever!!

Posted by: Matthew Baldwin on September 26, 2008 1:06 PM

I really like Gloom. For me, the game is all about the story. Each of the family members has a funny bit of backstory, so we insist that every time you play an event on the character you have to explain how it came to pass. With a good group of friends, the stories we end up telling have us practically suffocating with laughter. The actual gameplay is fun but secondary.

Also, it has a great mechanism for deciding who plays first: it's the person who's had the worst day, decided by vote. Inspired stuff.

Posted by: Bugs on September 26, 2008 3:37 PM

Arkham Horror easy? I must be playing it wrong... 3 times I gathered friends to play, 3 times we ended up Ancient One food...

Posted by: Nelson Nieves on September 26, 2008 7:43 PM

Man, if you've won Arkham Horror, you're playing it wrong. It's almost impossible to win.

Posted by: Rufus on September 26, 2008 10:19 PM

Wow. I'm feeling really informed about Halloween games. Where do you get this info?

I'm always on the lookout for cool games but end up sticking with the old (really, really old) standbys.

Posted by: Holly Kay on September 29, 2008 12:03 PM

Arkham Horror has kicked my butt so many times! Marathon games, where we're just monster surged to death. Wow. It's fun, it's scary, but it's never been easy.

Posted by: Dulcie. on September 29, 2008 12:35 PM

How could you leave out...

Doorways to Horro?!

Oh yeah. Because nobody ever heard of it.

Posted by: Sam on September 29, 2008 12:39 PM

Yay, Bugs does the same thing we do with Gloom: it's all about enacting the story. We've played countless rounds with plenty of cocktails interspersed, in part because it's so much fun to out-story each other. The more elaborate and surprising, the better. Easily the only card game I've played where myself and the players have been doubled over laughing.

Posted by: Sunday on October 2, 2008 4:01 PM