Meet the Contributors

Receive the latest posts directly to your inbox every week!

Sign Up Now

Tomb of Terror

Review Corner Writers

Posted by Review Corner Writers on Oct 1, 2015


In spite of a grammatically suspect title, Betrayal at House on the Hill flawlessly captures the mood of Halloween, that mixing of primal fear and goofy camp that is unique to the holiday. 3-6 players (though it plays just fine with 2) are horror movie archetypes like The Jock, The Psychic or The Scientist, exploring a modular, tile-based haunted house full of dark omens and spine-tingling events. The omens build until someone triggers the game-changing Haunt, which is randomly selected from over 50 possibilities. When the Haunt begins, one player becomes The Traitor, opposed by a cooperative team of the remaining heroes. Don't expect a very strategic game, but if you like meta-horror in the style of Cabin in the Woods or reading cards in the voice of Vincent Price, you won't find another game like it.


Michael Barnes

Review Corner Editor-in-Chief


When I say that I’m horror kid from way back, I mean it. I don’t much care for modern horror, I prefer classic monsters in gothic, Victorian settings. I’m a huge fan of Hammer horror- the vintage Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing films. Leave it to an Englishman working at Games Workshop in the 1980s to come up with the perfect companion piece to an evening of Brides of Dracula- Stephen Hand’s immortal masterpiece Fury of Dracula.

This game is incredibly rich with atmosphere and narrative pulling from several different incarnations of the Count including Stoker’s original novel. One player is Dracula himself, skulking around Europe with some sort of advanced Scotland Yard hidden movement mechanics. The other players are Johnathan Harker and his friends, desperately searching for the vampire’s trail to force a showdown with the lord of the undead. As Dracula travels across the continent, he leaves behind a wake of vampire brides and various men and beasts under his thrall. It’s up to hunters to coordinate their efforts to tighten a net around Dracula and end his reign of nocturnal terror.

Originally published in 1987, the first version was the best version but Fantasy Flight Games updated the design under Kevin Wilson’s guidance in 2005. It’s a nice- and also out of print- edition that adds some interesting new mechanics while sacrificing some of the original’s simplicity. FFG has recently announced a third edition that will feature some further changes and updates, and although I’m nervous about what that could mean I’m anxious to see what they’ve done with it. It’s my favorite horror game, bar none.


Imagine you're a ghost. Decades ago, while hosting a number of guests, you were murdered in your own home. Only now do you have a shot at revealing the details of the crime and finding peace. Communicate the heretofore unknown truth through vague dream images to reveal the where, how, and who. This is cool game with a very unique storyline unlike anything else on the market. It’s compelling enough for gamers and accessible enough for families. It’s a splendidly spooky story that is perfect for Halloween.


Last Night on Earth is far from a perfect design. It’s luck-heavy, swingy, and has the potential to totally flop if cards come up in the wrong order or the dice aren’t rolling your way. In spite of this--or perhaps because of it—the game manages to deliver a pitch-perfect B-movie narrative whenever it comes out for game night. It’s a game of desperate rushes across zombie-infested cornfields and daring last stands against seemingly unbeatable undead hordes.

It’s a game where the quiet farm girl from the outskirts of town plucks up enough courage to charge outside the mansion wherein humanity is making its last stand, with her chainsaw in tow and take down a half-dozen zombies before they take her down. It’s a game where the sheriff leaps from the truck, the group’s last hope of escape, to draw away the undead masses blocking their route to freedom. No matter what narrative comes out of the teetering stacks of cards and mountains of dice, you’re going to have a blast creating your own personal cheesy zombie movie every time.


Dead of Winter is the perfect title for Halloween. It takes place during the zombie apocalypse, in a frozen, wintry world where frostbite can be as deadly as a zombie’s jaw. The characters in the game also frequently face crossroads. These important decisions, with consequential outcomes, will put you in the place of that horror movie protagonist. Do you save the survivors even though it’s risky? Or do you selfishly maximize your chances of survival by shooing them away?

But it’s not just the setting that makes it the perfect Halloween game. The best horror is about building suspense, not simply yelling “boo!” And that’s where Dead of Winter excels. There’s a chance (about 50/50) that one of the players is actually a betrayer, sent to destroy your hard work. But all the players have a unique goal that puts them slightly at odds with the team goal. All players take actions that seem suspicious and the resulting paranoia is wonderfully evocative of the season.

The rising suspicion – which may or may not be unfounded – elevates Dead of Winter from simple zombie title, to a game of strategy taking place mostly in the players’ minds. You experience fear as you see those around you taking suspicious actions. Happy Halloween.


Tired of trying to save witless jocks and hapless cheerleaders from things that go bump in the night? Burned out on Cthulhu: the Shark Jump Expansion? Then perhaps it’s time to kick back with Gloom and kill your family of weirdos in the most tragic way possible. Just be sure to watch out for your neighbors’ good deeds, because nothing spoils a fratricide like the kindness of strangers.

Gloom turns the “take that” card game on its ear, requiring 2-4 gamers to play tragic cards on their own family members and cards with positive effects on other player’s families in an effort to prevent their demise. Transparent cards create a layered tale of woe that ultimately ends in the death of the person affected, and the player who kills off their entire family in the most horrendous way wins.


Covers are typically abhorrent. The first time I heard Hilary Duff slicing up The Who classic “My Generation” I lost several years of my life. However, every once in a while someone tears the leather off the ball with a stunning take that totally redefines a classic. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is the equivalent of Jimmy Hendrix’s slant on “All Along The Watchtower”. It takes the core of Werewolf and redefines it as its own in a beautiful and superior way.

In five minutes without a moderator it distills the most fantastic moments of The Resistance and other marquee social deduction titles into a deep and feverish heart pounding blast. The clock is running, you’re up against it, and every single moment is going to be filled with urgency and manipulation. The metagame is under constant evolution as both good and evil players are incentivized to lie and coerce. More direct and consistent than any of its peers, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is so great that I regret the time spent writing this mini-review when I could have squeezed in several games instead.


Halloween is all about escapism, a little wanton fantasy and assuming outrageously alternate identities, right? Well, Terror in Meeple City allows you to take on Kaijū-sized personas wreaking havoc on a town’s terrified denizens. After carefully setting up a miniature city, you’ll proceed to literally destroy it by flicking your monster’s disc about the streets hoping to knock-down buildings, meeples and even other creatures. It takes a bit of strategy in deciding which city blocks to target and of course a fair amount of skill to actually hit what you’re aiming at. Beyond that it’s also a ton of crazy, chaotic fun. You eat people, toss trucks, actually blow your own fiery breathe to knock stuff over and employ unique monstrous powers in your path of destruction. With all the right ingredients to make any Halloween party a smashing success, this outrageous dexterity game has few equivalents.


City of Horror embodies that which makes Halloween so much fun: Trick or Treat. The whole game can be boiled down to yanking the rug out from under your opponents, creating false alliances, and willfully tossing your so-called-friends into the crush of flesh-mad zombies. The dark art sets the mood as well, making this way more 'death metal' than 'Monster Mash'. I envision City of Horror as the perfect Halloween party game, where you and six of your friends can spend an hour and a half lying to one another about how much they matter to you as you toss them off of the water tower into the arms of the awaiting legions of the undead. This is definitely the game I'm going to be playing this Halloween!


In spite of a grammatically suspect title, Betrayal at House on the Hill flawlessly captures the mood of Halloween, that mixing of primal fear and goofy camp that is unique to the holiday. 3-6 players (though it plays just fine with 2) are horror movie archetypes like The Jock, The Psychic or The Scientist, exploring a modular, tile-based haunted house full of dark omens and spine-tingling events. The omens build until someone triggers the game-changing Haunt, which is randomly selected from over 50 possibilities. When the Haunt begins, one player becomes The Traitor, opposed by a cooperative team of the remaining heroes. Don't expect a very strategic game, but if you like meta-horror in the style of Cabin in the Woods or reading cards in the voice of Vincent Price, you won't find another game like it.



Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

click here to log in