It’s Halloween time again, which means it’s time to curse the children ringing your doorbell and interrupting your Friday the 13th marathon and your bowl of candy. It’s also time to drag your unwilling body to all manner of party and social gathering, which feels like a waste when Michael Meyers and Jason Voorhees are waiting for you at home with a nice slice of pumpkin pie. If you must go to a party and pretend that you’re amused by Kevin’s racist Mariachi costume for the third year in a row, you might as well make sure the entertainment is on your terms. Here are three board games to bring along with you to this year’s Halloween party.
A combination of Clue and an actual, literal seance, Mysterium casts players as psychics who are attempting to unravel a murder. They are aided by the victim’s ghost, who appears in their dreams to provide hints about the suspect, location and murder weapon. The player controlling the ghost distributes clue cards to each psychic, who then must interpret the cards and match them with the proper person, place and thing. The rub is that the ghost cannot speak except through these cards; it’s up to the psychics to guess what the ghost is trying to tell them. Luckily, the art on the cards is an absolute joy to behold and provides a great deal of small details from which to glean potential information. Each depicts a sort of surreal landscape painted in vivid colors and beautiful, soft lines, making them the highlight of Mysterium. It’s an all-around good time, and forcing Kevin to play the ghost means you don’t have to listen to him explain how Fox News is the most fair and balanced major news network.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
It was a fairly standard night, shirking through the capricious mansion, skirting supernatural horrors. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. Suddenly, Liz fell onto her side, and began to shake violently until her body tore itself asunder. From the shredded husk slithered an enormous snake, two headed and generously fanged. It began to weave through the rooms of the house, and, to your horror, started to grow, as if it wasn’t frightening enough already. It grew and grew and grew, until it wrapped itself around the world, crushing it in its planet-sized body. Damn.
This is one story of many that can unfold in Betrayal at House on the Hill, the board game game equivalent of a haunted house sim. Each game begins as a simple exploration of a spooky mansion, but about half way through it throws a wrench into the spokes in the form of a traitor. In its second half, Betrayal is more of a slasher flick, a sort of survivors-versus-Jason thing, except nobody knew who Jason was going to be, including Jason. The game randomly determines the traitor mid way through, and that’s half the fun. The tension of knowing that there will be a traitor, but not knowing who it will be blankets the first half in mistrust and suspicion, both solid qualities for any Halloween party.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
You already hate everyone at this party, so you might as well double down on that sentiment with One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a game that provides a suitable conduit through which to focus your unjustified rage. Here, each player is dealt a secret role, each with its own power. It’s the job of everyone at the table to figure out who the Werewolves are, unless you’re a Werewolf, in which case you must deflect and accuse others of being Werewolves. Deduction is the meat of the game, but it can be tricky when you realize that the Troublemaker could have switched your role, or that the Seer knows you’re the Werewolf, or that the Robber took your card and is now the werewolf. The game encourages wild accusations but because nobody can be 100 percent certain of who they are, those accusations may have no merit. The result is a frantic cacophony of allegations and desperate defenses all inside a tight five minute window. It’s a great social game that brings out the best (and worst) of your friends. It’s also a good excuse to scream at Kevin until your lungs give out.