Fans of horror don’t have to wait for Hallowe’en to enjoy sharing a good scare with their friends. Board games aren’t all just about trivia and wordplay. Some of the best board games have a horror theme, and that doesn’t mean just the “whodunit” murder mystery types or those set in a dystopian future. The best horror board games include Lovecraftian creations, classic settings like haunted mansions, and a variety of survival horror variations.
Fans of jump scares, movies, literature, and board games will enjoy all of the following selections on this list, and there’s enough variety to choose from that you can use them for a variety of occasions. The best horror games are versatile and immersive, where one player takes all, or everyone wins by banding together to defeat a common foe. There are even a few that are fun for kids, so don’t be afraid to pull out a board game for that spooky halloween party!
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- The Best Horror Board Games in 2021
- 1. Best Overall – Betrayal At House on the Hill
- 2. Best for Lovecraftian Immersion – Arkham Horror
- 3. Best Budget Option – One Night Ultimate Werewolf
- 4. Best Story Driven Gameplay – Eldritch Horror
- 5. Best for a Survival Horror Party – Dead of Winter
- 6. Best for H. P. Lovecraft Fans – Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition
- 7. Best Whodunit Horror Board Game – Mysterium
- 8. Best Horror Game for Kids – Villainous
- What to Consider When Buying a Horror Board Game
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best Horror Board Games in 2021
1. Best Overall – Betrayal At House on the Hill
Betrayal At House on the Hill is the ideal choice for those looking for a versatile game in the horror genre. It’s a tile game, which means the game board, or in this case, “house” is different every time. The players build the haunted house as they explore it, using cards that they draw every turn. It can entertain as few as 3 and as many as 6 players, so it can be a party game as well as a more intimate game between friends and family members.
Each player takes on a different character, complete with a variety of stats like an RPG game. You have to work with your companions to survive but beware of the Traitor who will win the game if they go undiscovered for too long. Players can help each other with clues. Different scenarios to reach the story’s conclusion keep every storyline new and exciting.
There are two phases to the game, the Exploration and the Haunt, meaning that play time is limited to no more than one hour. The game starts with the Exploration phase, in which players build and discover the house on the hill. Once the Haunt phase begins, the Traitor is revealed, and each player must complete their own individual victory goal to win.
2. Best for Lovecraftian Immersion – Arkham Horror
This is the game to play if you’re into Lovecraftian lore, literary horror, or scary board games in general. Arkham Horror is not to be confused by the name of the infamous sanitarium from the Batman universe that appears in several movies and is also the title of a video game, Arkham Asylum. This horror board game is based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and was inspired by a role-playing game, Call of Cthulhu. Fans of historical drama will also enjoy this cooperative deduction game set in the fictional 1920s town of Arkham.
Arkham Horror is a game in which players have to work together in order to survive and achieve their own goals. Not only is there the horror aspect, but also the social deduction and role-playing options. Players take on the role of unique “investigator” characters, each with a different backstory, abilities, and items to battle against the Ancient Ones. It’s not only a great game for fans of Cthulhu but for those who are new to the Lovecraft universe.
There are a few variations on this game, thanks in part to the popularity of the subject matter, including Arkham Horror, the card game along with several variations and spinoffs. One example of a popular related horror board game also inspired by Lovecraftian lore is Eldritch Horror, which has several expansions that explore the same universe.
3. Best Budget Option – One Night Ultimate Werewolf
One Night Ultimate Werewolf isn’t just a cheaper, more versatile and efficient version of a bigger, longer game. Players have the option of combining this with related games, like One Night Ultimate Vampire, to mix things up a bit for your tabletop horror game night. It’s also one of the most economical choices on our list, easily worth the price of a game that can entertain 3-6 players. With a play time of as little as 15 minutes, it’s also great for a party or those on a tight schedule.
Are you a Villager or a Werewolf? A good guy or a bad guy? There are six different characters in the game, and players take on the role of one, and they have to work together to find out who the werewolf is. If the Werewolf goes undetected for long enough, on the other hand, they win.
The learning curve matches everything else about this game. There’s even an app for that. Really, this game comes with an app to help navigate your way through initiating gameplay, individual characters, and the various possible scenarios. It’s deliberately kept as simple as possible so everyone can skip memorizing the rules and get down to the game. Players only have a few scant minutes to discuss the events of the previous night, which varies depending on how the cards were dealt.
4. Best Story Driven Gameplay – Eldritch Horror
So you’re looking for a horror board game that’s based on Lovecraftian lore, but what you’re really interested in is the variety and creativity. Eldritch Horror explores a myriad of settings and characters from everyone’s favorite horror writer, making it the ideal choice for players that are fans of the literary angle in board games. This cooperative game goes well beyond the borders of small towns like Arkham into whole other worlds and dimensions.
There’s a wide variety of expansions available for Eldritch Horror, so players can explore a variety of settings and scenarios. The game can entertain up to eight people at a party or even one player who wants to explore a unique story on their own. Mystery and lore cards reveal more about the Ancient One the player is tasked with defeating.
Each player takes on the role of a different character with a variety of items and abilities. That includes card games along with themed expansion packs. The base game includes different stories for each Ancient One, and along the way players must work together to defeat the marauding enemies. Settle in, because this is a deeply immersive game that takes at least 2 hours to play.
5. Best for a Survival Horror Party – Dead of Winter
Speaking of popular themes within the horror genre, let’s not forget zombies and the phenomenon of survival horror. Dead of Winter has everything a zombie game needs, including a dark and sombre setting, diverse characters with varying abilities, and a compelling storyline that can go in a variety of directions. There are two challenges that survivors must play through as they lead their own factions, namely the zombie apocalypse and the harsh winter environment.
Dead of Winter is set in a dystopian future in which zombies are taking over the earth, and humanity has been reduced to a few struggling colonies. The game mixes co op play with individual objectives that are different for each character, with the possibility of one player acting as a traitor that betrays their fellow humans. A variety of outcomes are possible, with everyone winning, or a lone survivor, or maybe even everyone losing.
There’s a lot more going on here than just killing zombies. Players also have to supply their followers with food and supplies along with keeping their spirits up until spring comes. With a playing time of about 60 minutes to 180 minutes, and its ability to accommodate as many as 5 players, this is an ideal game for larger groups with limited play time. Break it out at parties, family game night, or on a rainy afternoon.
6. Best for H. P. Lovecraft Fans – Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition
If you think looking for Lovecraftian games will help to narrow the choices you have when it comes to horror board games, think again. This genre might have been a niche preference at one time, but today it is so popular there are literally hundreds to choose from. Mansions of Madness combines the features of other Lovecraftian games, like Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror, and organizes them into an anthology of Lovecraft’s work in board game form.
The game mixes elements of both the co-op and deduction style games, in which players have to work together but also get information from each other. There are four different scenarios possible for each game, and they vary in length and difficulty if you need to adjust the playing time or learning curve. If you already own the first edition of the game, a kit is included to integrate the older accessories.
Mansions of Madness is one of the more expensive games on the list and has the most to organize when it comes to various accessories and components, the app being one example, but also including hardware like figurines, dice, resources, and role cards. That’s also a high value, however, given how much is included and that it can entertain two to five people for as long as three hours. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment for anyone who enjoys both H.P. Lovecraft and horror board games.
7. Best Whodunit Horror Board Game – Mysterium
For those that enjoy deduction games like Clue and horror board games like Betrayal at House on the Hill, Mysterium is the ideal choice. It combines the best features of both, like role-playing and a fun backstory and averages out the playing time to about 45 minutes. Anywhere from two to seven people can play, but the rules vary depending on the number of players.
This is one of the best horror board games when it comes to incorporating both co-op and deduction game options, plus it’s set in a haunted house filled with ghost stories, Warwick Manor. Players take on the roles of either investigators, a psychic, or the ghost themselves to piece together a tragic story. The winner is the person who catches the killer, as it often is with these types of horror board games, but there’s a twist. One player is the murderer, and it’s possible that they will evade justice.
Mysterium is one of the best horror games in the sense that it blends the elements of the genre together in a compact, easy game that as many as seven people can enjoy. The lack of complex rules and a detailed backstory makes it easier for kids as young as 10 years old to enjoy, which also makes it ideal for mixed age groups.
8. Best Horror Game for Kids – Villainous
Face it, even the grown-ups are going to end up playing this game, maybe even more than the kids, so don’t be misled into thinking Villainous is only for children. On the other hand, in a situation where the adults are playing something more frightening, this is a nice alternative to younger players who might not be ready to confront the Ancient Ones. The best horror board games are the ones that everyone can play.
If variety is an issue, there are a number of expansions that go with the base game, referencing other Disney properties like Marvel. Either way, the focus is always on the villains, and interaction between the players is based on an asymmetric system in which everyone has vastly different traits and abilities. For those who play more intense tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, games like Villainous can be an interesting way of learning to work with a variety of abilities and exploring the “Evil” side of the moral alignment spectrum.
The Disney characters are popular enough that everyone will understand the references in the game, even if they haven’t seen the corresponding films. The pieces and artwork are unique and the game design is both immersive and efficient, often ending the gameplay in 60 minutes or less.
What to Consider When Buying a Horror Board Game
Variations on the Horror Theme
Horror board games are both versatile and popular, which means they can cross-over with other genres. Most horror games have an element of role-play or action and adventure in them. Some are tile-laying games, while others depend on dice-based movement, co op gameplay, or card development.
The concept of game expansions might have started with board games, so video games fan know who to blame. On the other hand, when it comes to both the hard-copy and digital expansions for board games, the base games are still available and playable.
Number of Players and Setting
Everyone thinks of a Hallowe’en party when it comes to horror games, and although that’s one option, horror-themed board games can be fun for a number of other occasions. Any dark and stormy night is a natural setting, but even a bright, lazy Sunday afternoon can be more fun with a bit of shadow. Some horror games are so complex, like those from the Lovecraftian universe, even a single player can have some fun with selected scenarios.
Frequently Asked Questions
What other kinds of themed games are there?
The popularity of the fantasy genre guarantees that this could be the largest category of themed board games currently available. That’s especially true for franchises that have appeared in feature films, with Harry Potter and Games of Thrones being two of the biggest examples. Other themed games you can fin include action and adventure, mystery, and various historical time periods, such as the old west. A lot of these themes can and are combined with horror.
What other kinds of horror games are there?
Horror is such a popular genre in the gaming universe that it appears in several forms. The games on this list focus more on crossovers with role-playing games, action and adventure, and mystery. Big names in tabletop games, like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, have horror-themed versions of the classics for virtually every fan base.
How many horror games have a digital version?
Virtually all board games have a digital counterpart these days, and horror board games are no exception. The base game of almost every entry on this list is available in either an online version or an app that will work on a phone, a tablet, or a desktop. Versions of the game with expansions When it comes to board games of any genre, it’s often available in a version that includes a multiplayer option as well a single-player option
Last update on 2021-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API