Exert your dominance over pitiful humans in Conquest of Planet Earth
If you're looking for "The Creepiest Halloween BOO-ard Games Part 1" you'll have to steer your browser back more than a year to find my very first post here on MTV Geek. As you can imagine, it holds a special place in my heart: the place that likes to see psychos wield knives and monsters terrorize old ladies.
Looking back on that list just makes you realize how tightly interwoven the hobby gaming and horror fandoms have become. Since all of the games from last year's list were no more than a few years old, the only way to top that is a Halloween-themed list of shiny new 2011 releases. Unless you're already a board game addict, you probably haven't played any of these yet, so shamble over to your local game store and grab one for your next party.
Elder Sign and Mansions of Madness
Mythos fans have two great choices from Fantasy Flight Games this year if they want to get their Cthulhu on: should they play the co-operative dice roller Elder Sign, or the deeply thematic adventure game Mansions of Madness? The former plays in about one hour, while the latter takes about just as long to set up, so the type of Halloween gathering you plan of having will largely dictate this decision. For all the work involved, though, I honestly don't think you can have a better Halloween gaming experience than a Mansions of Madness scenario with the lights turned low and a dedicated keeper who provides creepy narration.
Don't even try to point at the shelves of vampire, werewolf, and zombie games when telling me that 50's pulp alien invasions aren't fit for a Halloween party. Childhood memories of Kang and Kodos hosting Treehouse of Horror Simpson's specials have formed a link that cannot be broken, although the extraterrestrials seen here in Conquest have much larger teeth. All the better for eating forty humans.
Conquest of Planet Earth take the alien invasion theme and bundles it up perfectly for casual gatherings where your players still want a game with some substance. It's not too complicated, yet it's not boringly simple, either, and the whole experience wraps up in a clean 60 minutes. Games from Flying Frog Productions make especially good Halloween party choices simply because they come with their own CD soundtracks of spooky mood music!
Parsely games fit in your pocket and can be played with a handful of friends or a crowd of a hundred, so why not bring one to your next Halloween gathering? Pumpkin Town is the obvious choice because of its setting, but all Parsely games follow the same formula: all player share a single character, and they will take turns controlling his actions in hopes of achieving some overarching goal.
The whole concept is derived from classic text-based PC adventure games, but since you probably won't have much luck getting your old Compy 386 to boot up, you're better off playing a Parsely game where one player acts as the "computer" and the others take turns inputting commands such as "go north" and "climb tree."
Heck, don't let my poor explanation turn you off, watch Mike & Jerry from Penny Arcade try out the original Parsely game, Action Castle. Trust me, it's worth every second of your viewing time. While you're at it, you can always invest in next year's Halloween: the newest Parsely game is Z-Ward, a survival horror experience that has already shattered its Kickstarter goal but won't be released until December.
Munchkin Zombies and Munchkinomicon
If you prefer some humor in your horror, then Munchkin won't steer you wrong. The long-running card game series has tackled just about every geeky genre there is, but zombies were new territory when they launched back in March. Munchkin is another game that fits into the "portable and easy to teach" sweet spot for party games, but it has the added bonus of heavy "screw your neighbor" gameplay to help rile things up a bit. For the true Munchkin Halloween experience, mix in the Munchkinomicon booster pack and its hilarious "Book of the Dead" parodies, or dial things back a few years and add a copy of the vampire-themed Munchkin Bites set.
Those are just my top picks, but there's a whole store's worth of other new Halloween-appropriate games for you to choose from, so here are some honorable mentions: Nightfall, Letters from Whitechapel, Eaten by Zombies, Panic Station, Spectral Rails, Arkham Horror: the Miskatonic Horror Expansion, Ghost Stories: Black Secret, and Resident Evil: Alliance. In the end, these are all great choices, but just try to remember that if you're sharing the gaming hobby with new players at a Halloween party this weekend, go easy on them and keep the focus on fun; they're just games after all.