Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1.16: Halloween-y Gaming Goodness

I love this time of the year--I'm in SoCal, so our weather is generally "More Hot" or "Less Hot."  Thankfully, this is the less-hot part of the year, and we've had some wonderful, dreary, overcast weather, just how I like it.  We're also approaching the holiday season, where much foody goodness will be had...but before then, we have Halloween.  I'm not some wierdo (well, not any more than anyone else is), but for some reason, the creepy, scary, and strange aspects Halloween engenders interest me.

With Halloween's approach, I figured I'd discuss some Halloween-type games, either legitimately scary games, horror themed games, games for Halloween parties--things of that sort.  I'm going to try to hit a few different areas of complexity and game type.  If anyone has any suggestions, especially for parties, by all means, suggest away.

Game number one, and the first game I thought of when I started this list, Betrayal at House on the Hill.  If you have access to this--if you own it, if a friend owns it, if a store near you happens to have it in stock, if you have a wad of dough or ebay is kind to you, it fits great with the horror theme--play it.  This game was published in 2004 by Avalon Hill (owned by Hasbro, so "Avalon Hill" is a technicality), it supports 3-6 players, and takes 45 to 90 minutes.  The first half of the game you are exploring a three-level house, building it room by room, discovering its secret perils and passages, and items that will hopefully help once the Haunt starts.  And that would be the second half of the game--at some point, things turn sour, and you usually find out one of your teammates has done some horrible thing, like re-animate the Frankenstein Monster, is trying to wed you to a ghost-bride, or just wants to feed you to his giant pet insects.  Each side (the Heroes and the Traitor) have separate victory conditions, and your goal is to fulfill your side's goal before your opponent(s).  With 50 different haunt scenarios, this game has a good amount of replay value, increased by the fact that the house will be built differently each time you play.  

The problem with this game--it's out of print.  Just as it happens with books, only a certain number were printed, and when Hasbro decided they were going to liquidate and then destroy the remaining stock of a series of games, the price dropped (from $40 to $10 or less), and then skyrocketed.  Currently you can expect to find this game on Ebay for around $100.

Next, something less expensive.  Zombies!!! is a 2-6 player game published in 2001 by Twilight Creations.  Like Betrayal, Zombies!!! (yes, the exclamation points are in the title) has a modular board, in this case, the tiles represent the town you are exploring.  On your turn you draw and place one of these tiles, then roll dice to move your character.  Each tile has numbers in the corner denoting how many zombies, life and ammo counters go onto the tile when it's played.  After moving your character, you roll dice again to move zombies; of course you're moving them closer to your opponents.  The goal of the game is to either kill 25 zombies or be the first to find and reach the helipad and ditch your friends.  While not a deep game, and mostly dice-driven, this game is fun and can be tense; also, while it retails at $30, you can find it for $20 or less if you shop around.  Another bonus, several expansions have been published for this game, each adding something new, such as a military base, zombie dogs, zombie clowns, or a shopping mall.  My main problem with this game is that it can take a long time, much longer than the 60 minutes the box says it takes. 

Third, a party game, and to stay with the decreasing price theme, this game is not $100, not $30, it's FREE!  Or $10...I'll explain in a bit.  Werewolf, Are you a Werewolf, Mafia--all the same game, but for simplicity's sake we'll just call it Werewolf, has been published in several different versions by several different companies.  One of it's main advantages, this game requires a large number of people--a minimum of 9, and can support many, many more.  It's origin is traced back to its development by Dimitry Davidoff in 1986 at the Psychological Department of Moscow State University, and is very well defined by his statement "Informed minority against an uninformed majority."

One person, the moderator, shuffles and gives one card to each player; this card is that person's role for the game, and is to be hidden from all other players.  Most players are given a "villager" card, but 2-3 players are given "werewolf" cards; the goal of the villagers is to eliminate the werewolves, while the werewolves only need to bring the number of villagers equal to the number of werewolves to win.  The game alternates between a day phase and a night phase--during the night phase all players close their eyes, and on the moderator's cue, the werewolves choose one player to "eat," removing them from the game.  During the day phase everyone opens their eyes, the moderator tells them who is dead, and then players throw accusations at each other.  Eventually a vote is taken, and the town kills one of the players, hoping to eliminate a werewolf.  This continues until either the villagers or the werewolves meet their victory conditions.  Each version of the game has "special character" villagers, allowing special abilities for a limited number of the villagers:  The bodyguard can prevent a death if he chooses to protect the werewolves' victim; the Seer chooses one character each night, the moderator indicating if that person is a werewolf or villager; the Stonemasons start the game knowing each other, giving them one ally.  Of course, special characters are much more delicious than regular villagers...

This game feeds on paranoia--the villagers have little or no information, but the werewolves know each other; once players are warmed up, there is a lot of discussion, a lot of yelling, and when the game is over, a lot of "I knew it was you!" or "I told you it wasn't me!", and some great discussion afterward.

Now, how much would you pay for this game?  If you call right now...  Like I mentioned earlier, there are several different versions and thus several different prices for this game.  For the most part you can get this game for around $5-10, but you could always make your own copy--a simple production would be index cards with "werewolf" or "villager" written on them, or if you have a small amount of technological savvy, you could create cards as elaborate as you wish, including your own images.

"What?!  Only three games, come on Lucio!  What if we want to have a Halloween get-together, three games aren't enough!"

That'll have to do for now, this post is approaching that "too long" area, but I enjoyed this, and you can probably expect at least one more Halloween post before, well, Halloween.

Images taken from Boardgamegeek.com


  1. The next post must cover Cthulu, lest the starspawn eat your face.

  2. I still have yet to play Betrayal at House on the Hill. *sob* Please do cover Cthulu. I've been wanting to play that for forever.

  3. I considered Arkham Horror, but that'll probably take a whole post--we'll see what I can do. Jackie mentioned Witch's Brew, Poison, and Ticket to Ride, Transylvannia (just kidding), I'll cover those soon.

    And Erin, play that game!