Halloween is fast approaching, and it’s time for another look at the best horror and supernatural-themed games out there for your special Halloween gaming night! We’ve already had a look at the Sleepy Hollow creepiness of A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game, and the B-movie zombie madness of Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game; now it’s time for a bit of classic haunted house mayhem with the new edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill (shipping this week!) and the classic Dracula-hunting fun of Fury of Dracula.

Betrayal at House on the Hill was first released by Avalon Hill in 2004, and the brand new second edition should be getting close to the virtual shelves of Games Paradise as you read this. If you’re a fan of those classic 80s horror movies like Fright Night, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street and Re-Animator, this will be just the thing for that scary Halloween gaming! The victims, sorry, I mean players, each play a character entering and exploring a haunted mansion built up with room tiles; encountering omens and gathering items. Pretty standard stuff so far. But at some point during the game, everything gets turned on its head as the Haunt begins! One of the players will be revealed as the traitor, and from then on the game is played according to the special rules in one of 50—that’s right, 50—different classic horror scenarios.

There were a few issues with some of the rules in the first edition—for example, the classic one where an underground lake could be encountered on the second floor of the house—but all that has been fixed and streamlined with the new edition, which upgrades the components and even adds a few new scenarios. The amazing thing about Betrayal is its replayability. While the initial phase of the game can be quite similar, once the Haunt begins all bets are off and you never know what particular blend of villain, beasties, and special conditions you might come up against. Also of course, with a game like this chock full of classic horror movie clichés and characters, there’s opportunity aplenty to share your favourite movie quotes, show off your bad accent, and generally extend the whole experience into a roleplaying game experience. Perfect for Halloween!

Perhaps you like something a little more serious however … a little more classic. And what could be more classic than Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the game based on the book—Fury of Dracula? Definitely one of my all-time favourites, I have great memories of playing this one (in the original 1980s Games Workshop edition) late at night with friends on the night of a full moon and by the light of flickering candles.

Luckily, Fantasy Flight Games re-vamped (you knew it was coming, didn’t you) the original and brought this fantastic game back to gaming tables everywhere in 2006. If you’ve ever donned a cape and plastic fangs, you’ll know the fun of playing Dracula, and this game lets you wield his evil influence over Victorian Europe as you move from London to Transylvania and everywhere in between, laying traps, setting red herrings and delaying tactics, gathering and unleashing your human and animal minions—all to thwart Van Helsing, Mina Harker, Lord Godalming, and Dr. Seward as they follow hot on your heels. You’ll use an ingenious system of cards to lay down your trail, but all your movement is done in secret. It’s that secret movement, and the fun of putting horrific obstacles in the path of the other co-operating players, that makes being the Dracula player in this game such a huge amount of fun. You’ll gloat, cackle and make mw ha haaa haaaaa noises as you set down each card, watching the other players desparately try and beat you to the next location to drive a stake through your heart.

Every gamer should have a copy of Fury of Dracula in their collection, and it’s my personal favourite for Halloween gaming. But next time, we’ll have a look another excellent contender for the perfect creepy game—FFG’s classic Lovecraftian masterpiece, Arkham Horror…

by Universal Head

For more information about these games, visit Fantasy Flight Games, Wizards of the Coast and BoardgameGeek. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for both of these games at Headless Hollow.

Universal Head has been designing for clients across the globe for more than 20 years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites www.tekumel.com and www.battleloremaster.com. His blog site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for boardgames.