Oh, the horror… Of never playing these horror board games!
Please don’t leave.
These games are some of the coolest installments of scary pop culture ever conceived. A horror film has to abide by certain tropes, but a horror game is a different monster altogether. It can be as cheesy as it likes, and even if it isn’t truly scary, it’s the gameplay that really matters.
Be it Halloween, the Day of the Dead, or Tuesday, the entries on our top list are a fine way to get your creep on. These horror board games will include a Fear Factor, scoring anywhere from Joe “No Hey-Hey-Hey” Rogan to Robin Williams (as seen in One-Hour Photo).
We confess that this scoring method is not the most accessible metric ever developed.
Top 7 Best Horror Board Games
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Players: 3-6 | Complexity: 5/10 | Asymmetrical Semi-Cooperative | Fear Factor: Cartoon Frankenstein, and he’s moving very slowly
Ya like haunted houses? Well how about hills? What a coincidence.
In Betrayal at House on the Hill, you and several other players will navigate a haunted house that changes every playthrough. Room tiles are placed at random, one by one, as players explore a rickety old mansion full of traps and treasures.
Of course, this is clearly something the playable characters would do together, including a 4th-grade boy, a high school athlete, an old-man scientist, and a grouchy-looking Slavic fortune teller. Look out, Friends.
After a randomly determined interval spent exploring the house, “the haunt” will begin. A betrayer will be randomly determined, and they get their own instruction manual chock-full of unique scenarios. Mummies, vampires, Thanksgiving dinner dramas between estranged brothers, you name it — Betrayal offers a ton of horrifying scenarios.
So What does a Traitor Do, Exactly?
The traitor battles their former allies using an army of minions and/or new powers. Typically, he or she has a sinister new objective, such as:
Awaken a mean ghost
Bring home a goth boyfriend to meet your military dad
Meet a military ghost and bring him home to awaken your dad’s mean goth boyfriend
Excellent replay value and good creepy fun. On the other hand, its chits and tokens are generic, having to cover such a wealth of different scenarios. Sometimes, your zombie army is represented by little teardrops that have an “M” on them, or similar.
Oh, and good luck to a first-time player who is designated the traitor. He has to read two pages of new rules by himself in a separate room before the haunt begins. Maybe you can watch a horror movie while you wait for him to come out.
Still, one of the best horror board games. More fun for newbies the second time around and onward.
Letters from Whitechapel
Players: 2-6 | Complexity: 5/10 | Asymmetrical Deduction | Fear Factor: Jack the Ripper’s secret collection of female teeth
Since you are here, we assume you wanted the best horror board games. Well this one is legitimately morbid. Pioneering the novelty of turning historical serial killing into good family fun, Letters from Whitechapel sees several detective players squaring off against a single opponent: Jack the Ripper.
As history buffs may have guessed, the Jack player will be murdering prostitutes.
If you are still reading, you’re our kind of gamer! All the best horror board games are at least a tad horrifying. The ladies of the night are represented by small circle tokens, so don’t worry about nudity or any such thing. You can imagine the tokens nude if you want, we guess.
Jack plots his way across a beautiful map of London, choosing where his murders will take place. He will secretly move one space at a time across numbered locations. The police players have to scour the map to find him, receiving no clues until they stumble upon Jack’s trail.
Jack’s goal every round is to reach his secret hideout, so while chances of finding him are low early on, astute police players can find patterns. Since Jack has to return to the same hideout every round, the police have multiple opportunities to narrow in on wherever it is he’s calling home. You declare a police search on his location, you get him. The end.
Is This Actually Fun?
It is normal to feel slightly guilty as Jack, although the worst thing you will do is place some tokens on a slab of cardboard. At its best, this game is not only eerie but tense. When Scotland Yard is at last closing in, you may decide that the previous 60 minutes, spent playing the fatalistic equivalent of Battleship with no ships, were worth it.
It’s those first 60 minutes. We happen to find it engaging. If you like puzzles, you will be very mentally active during the slow section of the game. But some players get to yawning. What we’re saying is, bring something else to youth group game night. Wait until the annual conference of logisticians and other weird old men, and then bust out Whitechapel.
For real, if you play this with the right group, it’s superb. And probably one of the only horror board games that actually gives you chills.
Fury of Dracula
Players: 2-5 | Complexity: 7/10 | Asymmetrical Deduction | Fear Factor: Bela Lugosi wearing a speedo
If you read through our Whitechapel section above, you already grasp the premise of Fury of Dracula. If you did not read it, is our writing not good enough for you? We slave away in this kitchen-office-Honey Bucket combo, and you don’t even look at us anymore!
Let’s remain amicable though. This is another asymmetrical deduction game. One player is Count Liberace (compare with the picture on the box — it’s uncanny!), and the others are vampire hunters.
Dracula must sneak across the countryside, creating sexy new vampires who are always women. The book was like this too. Didn’t you know Dracula was a Victorian metaphor for the emergence of sexuality in young single ladies? No wonder they call him “Big D.”
Anyway, a quartet of chaste monster killers keeps on the count’s trail while gradually building anti-vamp toolkits and dealing with the obstacles Drac leaves behind: A thirsty new vampire, a gang of hypnotized rural villagers, an uncharitable review of Seward’s doctoral dissertation, etc.
Why Don’t I just play Whitechapel?
What Fury of Dracula brings to the table beyond Whitechapel is, aside from some stunningly gorgeous art, a layer of complexity in the form of all those traps, items, and dramatic encounters. Unlike wimpy Jack, the count will not go down without a fight. There is a clock that tracks day and night, and if you locate Drac during the day, he is strong, but vulnerable.
Locate him at night, and it will probably take all four of the hunters to put him down.
Do the hunters split up to cover ground, or group together for safety? The Dracula player may simply wait for a lone hunter to get a mite too close.
Like the original novel, this game can be stiflingly boring if you don’t find Dracula. Dear god, please, not another Lucy-Mina chapter! And WHAT is Van Helsing going ON about? Here. Here is some actual speech from Van Helsing in the book:
Keep it always with you that laughter who knock at your door and say, ‘May I come in?’ is not the true laughter. No! he is a king, and he come when and how he like… Then tears come, and like the rain on the ropes, they brace us up…
Ah, the ol’ rain on the ropes. The real fury of Dracula burns because Van Helsing won’t stfu long enough for anyone else to get a word in edgewise. Are we still even talking about the best horror board games?
Like Whitechapel, this game gets really good when you’re on Drac’s tail, hounding and skirmishing and trapping. It just takes a little time to get there.
Players: 2-5 | Complexity: 3/10 | Thematic Storytelling | Fear Factor: A toddler in plain sight who announces their intent to scare you before they actually try to do it
Sometimes, you pitch Gloom to people and they break out in a grin. Other people make a face like yellow goop just cascaded from your mouth.
We would like to see more goop in general, but we also think Gloom is one of the best horror board games. It’s on our list, isn’t it?
The premise is this: You represent a family of misfits. You will be doling out specific misfortunes to these poor people like they are cuddly little kittens and you are a small child with limited coordination. Your family wins by accruing more suffering than any other family and subsequently dying. See? You’re helping them. So what if it hurts? Toughen up, Sally!
Amusingly, you hamper enemy families by furnishing them with awards, sunshine, fun dates, and long walks on the beach. You can make an enemy family member quite happy, and then promptly kill them so that they have no more opportunities to be sad, denying your opponent victory points.
What is Your Relationship to These Families?
You’re basically a capricious few gods with bets regarding the destinies of some very confused mortals.
Oh. Okay. Thanks.
The cards are neat: Transparent for overlap, displaying the most recent condition applied to a character without obscuring the underlying card art. But as fun as it is to elaborate on the stories of these hapless fools, the whole thing sort of boils down to numbers.
If you play with a group that doesn’t have fun with the story, this game is going to be soulless number crunching. We firmly believe this to be one of the best horror board games… Just play it with artsy types.
Players: 2-7 | Complexity: 4/10 | Asymmetrical Mystery | Fear Factor: Foppish nobles with powdered wigs giggling about something mysterious
You know that game with Dix in it? What is it? Oh, Dix-It. This horror board game is like spoooooky Dix-It!
That’s underselling it though. Mysterium is a murder mystery in which one player is the ghost of someone who was murdered in a mansion.
The other players, competing psychics, have arrived at the mansion to solve the mystery. You know they are psychic because they’re each sporting a monochromatic outfit, and nobody wore the same color to this shindig.
Explain that, skeptics! Or should we say, “skep-Dix…-It?” Nope, we should not say that. Unfortunately, this website does not have a delete function, so we will have to just move forward.
Please Never Write “Skep-Dix” Again
Fair enough. The ghost will be handing out a series of clues to each psychic, consisting of some really cool giant cards with enchanting illustrations on them. The ghost is trying to pick cards with imagery that matches the clue they want a psychic to guess. These cards, though, there is a lot going on in those pictures.
There may be a dozen things depicted on one card. If ghostie wants you to figure out that his killer might have been a mustachioed man, he might give you a card depicting a large office area, and among a ton of other objects depicted, scissors on the desk.
Because you trim mustaches with scissors. Or something.
He could give you an additional card featuring a cat. Because cats are hairy and so are mustaches. Does the ghost even want you to solve this murder?
The problem is that ghosts have limited cards to choose from, so they have to make do. You win by being a better psychic than the other players. Or being a ghost whose murder is solved.
Victory! But also you’re dead. Horror board games are like that.
Mysterium is a tiny bit less exciting than it could be when you’re playing as one of the psychics. And for the ghost, setup takes a long time. But ultimately, the whole thing is beautiful, creative, and easy to learn, which mostly outshines the flaws.
Plus, come on, you can’t take a little time to set up one of the best horror board games? In our day, we spent hours setting up elaborate blood pentagrams just to tie down the neighbor kid in the center. Then we would get right in his face and manually induce ourselves to the brink of vomiting.
Where’s today’s work ethic?
Dead of Winter
Players: 2-5 | Complexity: 8.5/10 | Cooperative Survival, Betrayer | Fear Factor: Being invited to two Christmas parties, and each host will be offended if you do not attend their party in full. Merry Christmas.
While we sat around the hearth arguing over whether “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a sinister tool of the patriarchy, there was a zombie apocalypse.
Oops. Not that we really could have stopped it. But now our only form of entertainment is this incredibly difficult horror board game about zombies in the winter.
Let us be upfront about this: Dead of Winter is harder than a man trying to convince his lady friend not to go out into the cold. Zing!
You and a crew of rag-tag survivors are living in a compound. You will have to forage for food, supplies, and weapons. This isn’t really about cool zombie murder and flashy gore. You will prefer to avoid killing zombies as often as possible unless you control a survivor who is trained for lethality and carries a deadly weapon.
This is about surviving, not looking like a badass. Most survivors will have, like, a bag of peanuts and a receipt for adult diapers that they keep meaning to get rid of when no one is looking.
Stop Talking About Adult Diapers and Tell Me How to Play
Everyone has a chief objective defined by a chosen scenario, but each player also has a random secret objective. To win, both objectives must be met. Additionally, there is the possibility that one of the players is a traitor, whose goal is basically to ruin everything for everyone else.
The traitor’s job is to accomplish some secret objective like gathering a cult following of new survivors. This objective must be accomplished before morale drops to zero. If morale hits zero and the task is accomplished, the traitor wins.
The hardest part about Dead of Winter is that it constantly demands action from the players. These actions will require other actions, which will require other actions, and by game’s end you are stretched so thin someone could blow a bubble with you.
You’re gonna see morale hit zero a lot, just so you know. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of this game (which is awesome despite the difficulty), check out our full review!
Players: 1-6 | Complexity: 3/10 | Cooperative Survival, Tactical | Fear Factor: One of Zombicide’s female zombies who causes you to seriously contemplate necrophilia for half a second
You wanted more zombies, right? There’s no shortage, and there rarely is. We’ve covered another zombie horror board game above, but does anyone remember Nickelodeon’s old cartoon, The Angry Beavers? Dead of Winter is the Norbert of this duo. Zombicide is Daggett.
In this game, you’ll be navigating a randomized city map, picking up weapons and other useful tools, murdering zombies with abandon. Well, not total abandon. As you kill zombies, you level up. As you level up, the zombies get meaner and more plentiful. You want to strike a balance initially.
But eventually you just have to get your hands red and start mowing ‘em down wholesale. Of all the horror board games on our list, this one is probably the biggest. This thang is HUGE. There are loads of miniatures, and they are all quite detailed, particularly for those that come from a board game. Normally, it’s hobby wargames that employ so many minis at such a level of detail. But Zombicide is a cut above in this regard.
There are also just a Z-load of expansions, standalone variants, and other additions. There’s a medieval version, a medieval orc version, and as of this writing, a soon-to-be-released outer space edition.
We’ve reviewed the base game here if you’d like to know more about the specific pros and cons of Zombicide.
The conclusion of your life, that is!
Just kidding. But did our list of the best horror board games scare you out of your pants? Hopefully not, because this is a PG-13 website. Also, we have a different list for that sort of thing. *wink*
Even the best horror board games come with their flaws, but shouldn’t horror be ugly? Would you prefer My Little Pony games for a spooky night in? Nothing creepy about grown men loving MLP. We actually used to work with a 28-year-old brony.
He often wore a captain’s hat and a vest. We did not keep in touch.