Meet the Contributors

Receive the latest posts directly to your inbox every week!

Sign Up Now

Creature Feature Games

Review Corner Writers

Posted by Review Corner Writers on Oct 7, 2016


It’s the most ghoulish time of the year! Halloween is upon us and the season of ghosts and ghouls, witches and weirdoes, and tricks or treats is stepping into full swing. I love it, and I’m already deep into my annual vintage horror movie-a-thon with a couple of choice Hammer flicks lined up for this evening (Twins of Evil and Taste the Blood of Dracula, in case you were wondering). And of course, playing spooky board games is a fine way to enjoy the Halloween atmosphere. So I tasked the Review Corner writers once again to come forward with some creature feature games- but this time, two of the heavyweights were disqualified. Fury of Dracula is out of print now and I editorially banned the over-represented Betrayal at the House on the Hill. And Psycho Raiders, the best horror game ever published, is a small-press game that isn’t available at Miniature Market. They still managed to come through, even if a couple of these are, by my estimation, a little marginal. Regardless, here is our Halloween Creature Feature!

Michael Barnes

Review Corner Editor-in-Chief


Michael:

Halloween is at its best when it is for the kids- no sexy Sherlock Holmes costumes, no guy passed out in your bathroom drunk wearing a Donald Trump mask, no extremely violent or gory horror movies. I am all about kids making costumes, gorging themselves on candy, and some good-natured spookiness. HABA makes great games for young children, and Spookies is one of their more recent successes. Featuring fun illustrations and a super cool setting, this is a simple push-your-luck dice game about a gang of kids exploring a haunted house. The further you go into it, the riskier it gets. If they miss hitting the criteria for the die roll for the floor they are on, they run back out of the house. I love this game and my kids do too, and we’ll be bringing it out a few times this month for sure.


Charlie:

What's better than being a giant lizard and destroying Tokyo? Being a giant lizard dressed as a ghost and destroying Tokyo. While the Halloween expansion is certainly the lesser of the two King of Tokyo extensions, it is definitely worth your time if you've gotten a lot of mileage out of the base game.

The new costume mechanic allows you to gain a temporary special ability which can be stolen. It's a riot watching someone acquire a shiny new witch outfit and then get immediately smacked upside the head and lose the thing. Additionally, the new characters of Pumpkin Jack and Boogie Woogie are interesting and worthy of play. Check out this underrated expansion.


Nate:

The Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System has four entries now, but none of those games has a stronger setting that the first one, Castle Ravenloft. Taking its cues from the old D&D module, the players dive into the lair of Count Strahd, where they will face hags, spirits, gargoyles, and all sorts of other beasties. While the game doesn't really distinguish itself from the other games in the series mechanically, the horror-themed bestiary and the great scenario design create an intuitive dungeon-crawling experience crossed with a good haunted house game. It'll feel right at home during those Halloween game nights, and if you have other games in the system it's easy to incorporate it into what you already have. Just don't be surprised at how robust that swarm of rats can be.


Drew:

Some of the best horror movies feature demons and other nasties ready to invade the world and devour humanity. A game in that same vein is perfect for Halloween. Enter Claustrophobia, where demons have tunneled up from underground and have taken over the world except for a single human city. In this two player game, one takes the role of the humans (including condemned criminals). The other controls the innumerable demons. Scenario based play keeps things fresh and the game has a fantastic combat system. As the heroes take damage, they lose lines of abilities, so they actually become less flexible until death finally grips them. Meanwhile the demon player uses dice to activate various special abilities. A perfect game for a carnage filled Hallow's Eve.


Byron:

Horror board games tend to be Sisyphean slogs through flip-a-card Tartarus. It's understandably hard to capture gut-numbing terror using what the gaming community typically considers "good" mechanics, i.e. those that reward cold logic and decades of foresight. As a horror junkie, I'll take my ghoulish atmosphere where I can get it, but thank the Bog Fiend games like Dark Gothic exist. This semi-cooperative deck-building game proves that you don't need a wagonload of plastic, a 5-hour play time, and a soundtrack CD to get a spooky, Hammer Films vibe going. Although it borrows liberally from games like Ascension and Legendary, Dark Gothic's 4-resource economy and concepts like Dark Secrets/Shocking Discoveries give it a unique identity closer to its bloated, board-based predecessor, A Touch of Evil. The standalone expansion, Colonial Horror, plays to a smaller crowd but packs in even more melodrama in the form of Lightning Strikes and Roaming Monsters- further expanding the capacity for Vincent Price-esque roleplaying.


Pete:

I'm a sucker for the B-movie tripe that seems to make its way to televisions nationwide this time of year, and the analog version of that is A Touch of Evil, from Flying Frog Productions. It's a fantastic co-op/competitive adventure game with a hint of mystery, but that's not what makes it special. The cast of characters, and I mean a literal cast of real, live people, dressed up in drapery and flouncy blouses and photographed in living color both for your enjoyment and their perpetual humiliation that makes the game. It is the board game embodiment of something that would appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000, from a visual perspective. To add to one's unabashed incredulity at the gonzo presentation, the game even ships with its own order of a Grade-A Willamette Valley cheesy soundtrack, heavy on the synthesizer and atmosphere, but hold the taste. I kid you not, the whole thing is this amazing, beautiful mess and it works to a degree that I, myself, never would have imagined could be achieved. In any other situation, the costume designer should have been dragged into the street and beaten about the head and shoulders with the unconscious body of the music director, but I can't help but admire the giant, brass balls on Flying Frog for putting this thing out. It just fits the game, despite all odds, and I can't imagine it being better if it had Boris Vallejo artwork and a John Williams original soundtrack.

The even more amazing part is that the game is very, very entertaining and well designed. It's easily better than Last Night On Earth, which I adore, from a design perspective. It leaves players plenty of room to hang themselves while allowing a truly unique narrative to unfold every time it gets tabled. The replay value is great, and with several expansions' worth of additional material available, it's a game that had and continues to have legs. I totally recommend it for anyone who likes something like Eldritch Horror but wants to see the game played on a more intimate, more confined area. I love it, and with dim lights, a couple fistfuls of your favorite concoction, and the soundtrack played at just the right volume level, it's quite the experience.


Raf:

There's been a murder, and the victim is you. Well, one of you anyway. Mysterium is game of seances, spectral visions, and murder mystery. It takes place in a mansion haunted by one of the players at the table. The rest of the players are supernatural psychic investigators tasked with solving the mystery. Each player needs to follow up on a lead, identifying a person, a place, and a murder weapon before sunrise. The dearly departed victim arranges these leads behind a screen and spends round after round feeding the psychic investigators clues. The catch here is that the ghost can't talk and must help the investigators by sending them psychic visions. Gorgeous ethereal art decorates the large cards of Mysterium and the detectives have to attempt to interpret this art to solve the mystery. Did the ghost give them the haunted night walking through a forest to suggest the Gardener? Or maybe the sword is meant to suggest the evil barber's scissors.

Round by round players will chat among themselves giving the ghost an idea for how they're interpreting the cards that have been given. Some players required a more literal directive, with others clueing in on the general feel. If each player can divine the three aspects of their lead, there is one final round where the ghost hopes to reveal the true murdered. The theme falls apart just a little bit in this final round, but that isn't anything to worry about. Mysterium is the perfect game for a spooky night and is great for non-gamers as well. Turn down the lights, light a candle, and settle in to the spooky world of Mysterium.


Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

click here to log in