Supernatural themed board games
January 31, 2012 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Looking for favorite board games with a supernatural or otherwise dark theme.

I'm planning a board game night for some game collectors to show off their ghost themed boards, and also for attendees to try other games with a similar theme.

I can find lists of games online, but what I'm really hoping mefites can help with are games they've actually had experience with, or possibly merely been curious to try.

If you have experience with a game, besides a review of how good or bad it is, I'd like to know how easy it is to learn, and how long a round takes to play (because I'd like for most attendees to get some time with at least 2 or 3 games in a 2 hour span).

Bonus points for anyone who can let me know if Zombie! can be played in just 30 minutes or so (the game description says upwards of 90 minutes).
posted by Unsomnambulist to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My friends and I had a great time with "Betrayal at House on the Hill," which involves first building a haunted house by exploring it and placing tiles, and then, once a certain amount of "omens" have been revealed, one of the players turns traitor and the traitor and other players must compete to fulfill differing objectives, depending on one of 50 scenarios determined by what omen is revealed in what room.

The first time we played, the traitor was taken over by the spirit of a bride who had died before the wedding. The traitor had to knock out one of the other players and get them in the chapel with the ghost, and the other players had to find the fiancee's body in the graveyard and bring it to the chapel before the ghost bride could marry one of the players.

Another scenario had the traitor possessed by the necronomicon, and we had to steal and destroy the book in the furnace before he could sacrifice one of us in the pentacle room.

Each scenario is different, and the traitors and the rest of the players read different booklets, so they don't know each others' objectives and win conditions. We played about four consecutive games, even though we had a bunch of other games to try. We loved it.
posted by Rinku at 11:52 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My favorite is Arkham Horror, which is a game where you work together with your team mates to defeat some supernatural mega-demon (depends on the game...the villain is random). A group of friends and I play it every Halloween, and find it to be very helpful in setting a spooky mood (along with dim lights and creepy music). The only issue with this game is that it CAN take a long time to play (although there is a shortcut version), and the rules can be a little confusing. But it's very enjoyable, and if you have the time, I think it's definitely worth the time it takes to learn it.
posted by Happydaz at 12:10 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's good to get personal recommendations and descriptions from people with experience with the particular games, but mefites aren't the only strangers who can help you. BoardGameGeek is more than just a list of games. Each game will have forums with reviews, variants, and more. And there's an advanced search where you can be specific about what you're looking for. I'd imagine you'd want to at least say category: horror, max play time: 60 minutes.

By the way, the Zombies!!! page says it takes an hour, but I have not found that to be the case. I also no longer play this game because I found it so boring and annoying. A zombie-related game that sounds very interesting to me is Last Night on Earth.

I will say Arkham Horror can be very enjoyable, but it's best when you know something about the Cthulhu Mythos so the game world makes sense. And it definitely helps when someone (or most players) are familiar with the game mechanics, since there's quite a bit to keep track of. Having all the players cooperate against the game is a wonderful way to play, though — it's made me want to find more cooperative games rather than competitive ones.
posted by cardioid at 12:26 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Really enjoyed playing The Walking Dead board game. There are two versions, I've played the one based on the graphic novels. Zombie game, there are interesting little moral dilemmas that come up in the card deck where you can work with other players and against them.

Your goal, as one of the characters, is to collect enough resources -- ammo, food, gas -- to survive and successfully scout 3 locations, facing various randomized challenges (each location progressively more difficult) while not being overwhelmed by zombies (which appear as tokens on the board, appearing behind your movement). Allies, other characters who help you and increase your dice rolls, also appear and tag along throughout the game.

Didn't take too long to learn, and my family and I were hooked. Granted, we are also fans of the show/books. :) Up to 6 players, can also be played alone! And if there are less than 6 players, another cool feature is that if their character dies, they can regenerate as another character and continue on (though having lost their stuff).
posted by iadacanavon at 12:26 AM on February 1, 2012

Forgot to mention, Walking Dead playing time varies. Once I beat it in less than an hour, a couple times the game lasted several hours. Some luck involved.
posted by iadacanavon at 12:28 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Seconding Last Night on Earth and Betrayal. Also Ghost Stories if you want a very difficult co-op game, and Fearsome Floors for a kind of wacky fun game.
posted by Garm at 12:34 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: 2 or 3 games in a 2 hour time span? I'm pretty sure Arkham Horror isn't that short.

Games that I haven't played (but would really like to) but that sound like they fit your time constraints, rule simplicity, and theme are Drakon or Crows.
posted by losvedir at 3:12 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Man... the husband has a closet full of games, but almost none of them fit your criteria. However, I can definitely say that Arkham Horror is a major time sink. Now, a few suggestions based on games that I have actually played:

- It doesn't involve a board, but you can't go wrong with a few rounds of Zombie Dice, especially after a round or two of the larger games. Same with Zombie Fluxx, assuming you like Fluxx to begin with.

- I personally am not a fan of Mansions of Madness, but quite a few people are. It takes some time to set up and is runs like simplified Call of Cthulhu on rails, but it looks the part.

- If there is room for a two player game, Claustrophobia is a good one. One person controls the monsters, the other the adventurers... yes, it is something of a dungeon crawl, but involving a whole lotta demons in something that is not a generic fantasy world.

- Fury of Dracula can be interesting, although it's been a few years since I've played it so I can't remember enough to say more than that. It can take some time, but not as much as Arkham Horror.

- I only played Vampire: Prince of the City once, which is a shame. I remember it being an interesting area control game, once you get past White Wolf's inherent goofiness. (The same goofiness which led to it being given to me, naturally.) Do not confuse this with Vampire: Dark Influences, which is really simplistic and not all that fun.

- Rattus is not particularly ghoslty or supernatural... but it is about the Black Plague, and a lot of fun. Also you can get in a full game in 45 minutes or less, even with a room full of people who have never played it before, which gives it an advantage over a lot of supernatural-themed games because most of them take so long to play.

Also, this is cheating, but Pandemic can easily be re-themed as a global zombie outbreak game if you're the crafty type.
posted by daikaisho at 3:50 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Mystery Mansion is an old one that you'd have to find used, but it's worth a mention. The build-the-house-as-you go part is a lot of fun. As some of the reviews on BGG mention, the end game of finding the treasure and getting it out of the mansion can be a bit of a grind... not really for hardcore strategy gamers, but pretty fun for a casual, social bunch. At 90 minutes (according to BGG) it might be a bit long, but a lot of that can depend on how the mansion ends up being laid out, and where the treasure chests pop up.
posted by usonian at 5:03 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Zombie Dice is a dice game, not a board game, but it is super quick and would work as a great warm-up for people that arrive early or the stragglers that arrive too late to join a game in progress.

It plays similarly to Pass the Pigs. You decide if it's worth risking a shotgun blast and all the brains you've collected that turn in order to collect more brains.
posted by ignignokt at 5:51 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: It again isn't a board game per se, but Gloom is a silly card game that deals with dead people, ghosts, and mad scientists etc. and can be played in half an hour or so. It also has quite a neat mechanic where you stack cards on top of one another and they modify the cards below them.

Pretty neat and can be picked up for about $20.
posted by koolkat at 6:04 AM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Arkham Horror takes a long fucking time to play. Be aware. I've been in six hour games that only ended because we stacked the deck. Arkham Horror is awesome, fun, and really sets that creepy supernatural mood, but it's a commitment. I can't imagine playing Arkham and another one or two games all in a normal evening.
posted by telegraph at 6:28 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not a board game, but a party game needing no supplies: Werewolf
One day when I am less a hermit I shall try this game, as I've heard great things about it.
posted by Glinn at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Came in here too late, but I second Fury of Dracula. Plays a bit slow and requires one person to run the game (play as Dracula) and the others to hunt him as a team, but it's very cool and atmospheric. It'll take a full 2 hours, though -- slightly less if your Dracula is not particularly concerned with victory. I find Arkham Horror can get slow and bogged down by details (and by the fact that you're going to lose...) but if you're really into Cthulu it's great (there's also no way you could play a full game with newbies in under 2 hours. Impossible).

Run away from Zombies!!!. Seriously. The description is being very hopeful when it says 90 (a good rule of thumb for board games: they will take half again as long as the box says they will, especially on first playthrough). The last time I played Zombies!!! we started at 9PM. I went to bed at 2AM because I couldn't stand it any longer. My boyfriend came up at around 3:30 saying they had given up and declared it a tie. As far as I'm concerned the game only ends when one person gives in and lets another person win.

Last Night on Earth, while not perfect, is a lot more fun that Zombies!! It's also cooperative (one person controls the zombies and the rest work as a team to achieve the goal laid out in the scenario). It's sort of goofy, b-movie fun, but it comes with a spooky soundtrack and can be played seriously if that's what your group is into. Again, it's not a half-hour game, but it can be played in under 2.

It may be worth checking out The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow if you have a large group. It's just a deck of cards for a slightly more complicated version of Werewolf (aka Mafia), an old camp game, but board gamers love bits so the cards lend some authenticity. It can be played in under half an hour, it's easy to learn and really fun, and depending on the person running it it can be really legitimately scary.
posted by AmandaA at 9:12 AM on February 1, 2012

We like Last Night on Earth too-easy to learn, quick to play, fun.
posted by purenitrous at 9:36 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: It's hard to find now but there was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game that was surprisingly good for a licensed TV game.
posted by JJtheJetPlane at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Arkham Horror takes a really long time to play, but Elder Sign is much quicker in every respect, and has some fun mechanics.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:45 AM on February 1, 2012

Seconding Ghost Stories. It doesn't take too long, which is a plus for me, and is one of the few cooperative games I enjoy (Pandemic being the other). The Japanese spirits theme is neat, and the game is well-designed.
posted by Pomo at 12:31 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A middle ground between Arkham Horror and Elder Sign is Mansions of Madness, although it is a little pricey.
posted by JHarris at 5:38 PM on February 1, 2012

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