Halloween may be long past, but our love for zombie and horror board gaming is evergreen. There’s something about zombies, ghosts, werewolves, and other nightmares that are a great fit for huddling around a table with your friends. The horror genre is filled to the brim with great games, and we’ve assembled some of the best. This list is pulled together from my own tabletop experience and advice from the always-helpful community at BoardGameGeek.
Each game represents different mechanics, but since jump scares are nearly impossible in a board game, atmosphere is king in the horror genre. So gather your friends, dim the lights, and get ready to experience terror like only a board game can deliver. These are the best horror-themed board games.
Zombicide: Black Plague
In the original Zombicide released in 2012, you play as a survivor hoping to live through a modern-day zombie apocalypse. Black Plague changes up the formula by transporting you a fantastical medieval world of magic, dragons, and… well, more zombies. You control a paladin, or a knight, or a magician, among other character types as you look to combat the death magic of an evil necromancer. This fantasy version of a typical zombie story is refreshing and novel, and there are a ton of expansions available that add new scenarios, player characters, locations, items, and more.
Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein
Look, we’ve all thought about the practicality of Dr. Frankenstein’s penchant for bringing the dead back to life. In Abomination, you’ll get the chance to put it to the test. You’ll need to gather body parts, manage decomposing resources, conduct research, hire assistants, and more, all in the service of ending the terrible solitude of Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a worker placement game that casts you as a scientist competing in a grand competition. At times morbid, Abomination is dripping with theme and strategy, truly a perfect choice for a horror-themed game night.
Horrified: Universal Monsters
It’s the monsters’ world, we’re just living in it. In Horrified, it’s your job to thwart the nefarious plans of the most famous movie monsters of all time. Take on Frankenstein and his bride, the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon in this easy-to-learn cooperative game. You’ll take to the streets of a small village under duress from the monsters, and must take on the role of one of several heroes. Each one comes with their own strengths and weakness when it comes to fight off the monsters. If you’re looking for a showdown with horror’s most iconic monsters, Horrified is the game for you.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
- See it at Amazon
- Number of Players: 1-2 (1-4 with two copies of core set)
- Play Time: 10-120 min
If you’re looking for some Lovecraftian flavor, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a no-brainer. The base game comes with a small handful of scenarios that sends you directly into the jaws of cosmic mystery. You can use the suggested starter decks, or build a custom one centered around your chosen investigator’s special abilities. Gameplay sees you hopping from location to location to search for clues in order to advance the story while attempting to impede the deadly Mythos deck. Your investigator will inevitably take damage and acquire weaknesses over time that can affect future games in the campaign, making Arkham Horror: The Card Game one of the most thematic games on this list.
In the original Betrayal at House on the Hill, players explore a haunted house, room by room, until they trigger the titular betrayal, when an unsuspecting player turns on the rest of the party. In Betrayal Legacy, this formula is stretched out into a campaign-length legacy game that plays out over a prologue and 13 chapters. The story spans decades, and has players playing several generations of families that all fall victim to the hauntings of a house. Haunted house simulator in every sense of the concept, Betray Legacy is as spooky as it is novel.
The Fury of Dracula
The Fury of Dracula is an asymmetrical game where one player takes on the role of Dracula, and everyone else is a hunter looking to end his reign of terror. The Dracula player secretly moves around Europe each turn, exerting their influence and building up an army of new vampires. The hunters must deduce Dracula’s location and take him out before his army grows too large. While there is combat involved, The Fury of Dracula is mostly a battle of wits; how long can Dracula evade the hunters? How well can the hunters decode Dracula’s whereabouts? It’s a thrilling cat-and-mouse game that is endlessly replayable.
Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter is the closest thing to a board game version of The Walking Dead. The game is described as a “meta-cooperative psychological survival game,” which means that, while it is cooperative, there are elements of competition that carry through the game. Each player controls a group survivors during the zombie apocalypse, and all must work together in order to meet the shared goal. In addition, you’ll be working towards your own hidden goal as well. Sometimes that means hoarding the most medicine, or stockpiling the most ammo. Other times, you might simply want to betray the team and ruin group morale. No matter what, though, there’s no way to trust anyone at the table thanks to the group politics and interpersonal drama Dead of Winter brings.
Ghost Stories is a cooperative game that tasks players with protecting a village from the forces of hell. Each turn sees a new ghost that must be dealt with before the board becomes overrun with angry spirits. Combat is simple and rewards careful planning. Like many cooperative board games, Ghost Stories can fall prey to “quarterbacking,” where one player takes control and tells others how to play, but with the right group Ghost Stories offers up fast-paced and hectic ghost busting. It’s easy to recommend this one for a quick and casual game night.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
The game that popularized the whole “secret roles” mechanic now common to the party game scene, One Night Ultimate Werewolf will have your group flinging accusations and insults around the table. The goal is to learn who the werewolves are and expose them, but that’s easier said than done. There are other characters who can switch roles around, and even see which roles are not in play for the round. Because nobody can be sure who the werewolves are (including the werewolves themselves), each game is a chaotic flurry of accusations and desperate defenses that always end in a good time. Rounds are short, and the free phone app makes setup a breeze, which makes One Night an ideal party game.
Last Night on Earth
An homage to campy b-movie horror, Last Night on Earth plays out like an early Romero flick. You and your friends control characters that fall into the typical horror archetypes like the cool high school jock or the weird nerdy kid. Each scenario presents different goals that range from escaping town in a truck to killing a certain number of zombies. You can scavenge for items and weapons used to mow down enemies as you explore buildings. Last Night on Earth has proved to be so popular that is has spawned other genre parodies such as old school sci fi and high adventure. If you’re a fan of campy horror, Last Night on Earth is hard to pass up.
Mansions of Madness
Mansions of Madness takes the dungeon crawling and asymmetrical gameplay of Descent and Star Wars: Imperial Assault and transports its to the macabre world of H.P. Lovecraft. One player takes on the role of the Keeper and guides the others through one of several pre-written scenarios. As players make their way through the mansion, their actions and choices may affect the monsters they encounter. There are several expansion scenarios available, which helps to make your investment more worthwhile. Set aside a hefty chunk of time, however, as Mansions demands no small amount of attention, making it a perfect game for a dedicated group of horror fans.
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