We don’t usually think of Halloween as sitting around the table playing board games. This trio of excellent spooky-themed board games from Ravensburger and Funko Games should be added to our annual traditions. And not just for Halloween.
Whether you’re working together to defeat classic movie monsters, or competing to see the most ghosts at Disney’s Haunted Mansion, these family games are great for any time of the year.
Horrified: Universal Monsters
Game Length: 60 minutes
In a better parallel universe, Universal Studios successfully ushered in a wave of rebooted monster films, reigniting our love of the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s monster. Sadly, that never happened in our timeline, but we did end up with a fantastic co-op board game in Horrified: Universal Monsters.
Horrified brings together six classic movie monsters: Dracula, Wolfman, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Frankenstein (and his Bride), and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The monsters are terrorizing a village, and it’s up to our intrepid heroes to stop them. Heroes take turns running around the village collecting items that come in different colors and point values, while rescuing villagers and working to defeat the monsters.
Each monster has its own unique objective in order to defeat them. Dracula’s four coffins are spread out across the map, requiring over six points of red items to smash before he can be destroyed using yellow items. The Invisible Man requires items from certain locations to be turned in at the precinct, while Wolfman requires blue items of specific values to find the cure at the laboratory.
The standard difficulty includes three monsters, giving players a ton of options and goals, while avoiding the monsters’ attacks. At the same time they’ll need to be mindful when villagers spawn on the map – too many deaths lead to a game over, while rescuing them grants the heroes extra abilities, in addition to the unique traits of their hero.
If you’ve played other co-op games like Pandemic or Forbidden Island, you’ll recognize the familiar gameplay of running around collecting matching cards. But with multiple objectives and goals in play, Horrified smartly de-emphasizes the monotony of trading items, with the added danger of saving villagers (and yourself) from rampaging monsters.
The Haunted Mansion: Call of the Spirits
Publisher: Funko Games
Game Length: 30 minutes
While the derided 2003 ride-to-film adaptation never rocked the box office like Pirates of the Caribbean, I will die on the hill that the Haunted Mansion is the best non-pirate ride at Disneyland. It also makes for a solid set-collecting board game for families with The Haunted Mansion: Call of the Spirits.
Players spend the entirety of the game in the Endless Hallway, a circular series of rooms in the middle of the board, while the rooms around them are populated by ghost cards, along with the always-moving hitchhiking ghosts mini. The goal is to travel to different rooms, either by moving or spinning the hallway, and collect colorful ghost cards to score the most points when the game ends.
Ghost cards come in a huge variety of types and scoring patterns. Musicians and paintings score more for having multiple sets, dancers care only about pairs, and low-scoring grooms gamble with a free draw from the deck.
At the same time, players will want to avoid the hitchhiking ghosts, who travel around the board every round doling out Haunt Cards. Whoever has the highest value Haunt cards at the end must discard their biggest scoring ghost card combo. Some ghost cards let you move the hitchhiking ghosts around, while others are worth more if you’re willing to draw haunt cards yourself. The more daring ghost-hunters can duel other players to steal their cards, with both players betting on drawing additional Haunt cards.
The combination of collecting sets of ghosts while moving around the mansion strikes the perfect balance for a kid-friendly game that’s fun for the whole family.
Hocus Pocus: The Game
Game Length: 30 minutes
The black candle has been lit, and the Sanderson sisters have returned! In Hocus Pocus: The Game, players will need to play ingredient cards into a cauldron to stun the sisters a total of three times to break their curse.
The three sisters are stunned in three different ways: if the top card in all five piles have matching colors, if they have matching ingredients, or if both their colors and ingredients match. The catch is that players can’t openly talk about what they have in their hand – except to ask a single question before their turn. Does anyone have any newt saliva?
The result is a simple but interesting twist on Go Fish, as players must strategically play their cards in the central piles to stun a witch in as little time as possible – if the ingredient deck runs out, the players lose. Some cards can pass around Binx the cat to allow a player to play with an open hand, while others force the players to draw a spell card as the witches strike back by discarding cards or further limiting communication.
The components are very high-quality for such a small card game, including laminated cards, a Binx wooden figure, and a game box that looks (and opens!) like a spellbook. Hocus Pocus: The Game is best played with a group, but it’s easy to teach and plays quickly.