Halloween is the perfect time to introduce new friends to board gaming. If you throw a costume party, everyone will be dressed up and ready to role play and if you don’t… well, who doesn’t like a little taste of the macabre this time of year? All you have to do is provide an easy game with an eerie theme and you’ll be sure to end the night with new gaming friends.
Here are some of my personal faves for introducing new friends to board gaming at Halloween.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a mostly cooperative game that locks you and your friends in a mysterious house to slowly discover that the house is haunted. When that moment happens, one player will become a traitor and some old horror trope will be chosen to continue the game plot. Those tropes range anywhere from whimsical (everyone has been shrunk and must escape a killer cat) to downright creepy (a giant tentacled monster is trying to devour everyone). The game ends when the traitor achieves their nefarious goal or the surviving players defeat the traitor.
This is one of my favorite gateway games to play with new friends. As long as someone knows how to play, it’s easy to teach everyone else as you go. Uncovering the dark secrets of a run-down house is a great bonding experience and reading the flavor text out loud in a dramatic way is always a big hit.
Before you play, you can also learn the rules of Betrayal by enjoying the two-part episode of TableTop!
If you know someone who is curious about Dungeons & Dragons but is tentative about diving into a big campaign, then try out Castle Ravenloft. Each player controls a hero and everyone works together to explore the castle and achieve an objective such as fighting a boss monster. Players also control the monsters that appear and collect tons of loot in their adventures. It plays like an introductory RPG that doesn’t have a dungeon master.
This game is a little heavier on the rules, but it’s much easier to learn than D&D. It’s also totally cooperative and helping each other out is not just encouraged, it’s necessary! You can also make sure your new friend has a positive gaming experience by choosing a scenario and hero that appeals to their interests.
No matter the role they take on, once they have that epic moment where they finish off the Dracolich or save you from the brink of death, they will be hooked. And if this game leads to a new player in your D&D group, you just got yourself a new friend for life.
In Shadow Hunters, each player secretly takes the role of a Hunter, a Shadow, or a Neutral civilian. Hunters want to kill Shadows, Shadows want to kill everyone, and poor Neutral civilians are just caught in the crossfire and are trying desperately to survive. Every player has a different victory condition and special ability, too, and both of those are also hidden from the other players. Much of the game revolves around figuring out who your allies are, who your enemies are, and not dying.
It only takes a couple of turns to pick up on the rules and you can teach someone the game without having to divulge secrets about each others’ characters too. The gothic anime artwork is perfect for a Halloween-themed game night and the game supports up to eight players, which also screams party game!
Munchkin is a spectacular card game for new gamers no matter what time of year it is. Around Halloween, though, you should try out Munchkin Zombies. The rules are the same: kick down the door, look for trouble, loot the room, and play or discard cards. The first player to reach level 10 wins. The difference is all in the theme.
You guessed it: zombies. But you don’t play as heroes and fight zombies. Instead, you play as zombies and try to become the most absurd zombies imaginable. Like, a zombie wearing soda can shoes and a fly paper necktie while swinging another zombie around as a weapon while on fire absurd. Did I mention that this game is downright hilarious and loaded with parodies?
Munchkin is one of those games that practically anyone will enjoy. It’s funny, it’s easy to play, and it’s competitive, but it’s not a big deal if you lose. If you’re still not convinced, watch Wil, Felicia, and Sandeep play Munchkin with Steve Jackson (the game’s creator) on TableTop.
Cthulhu Fluxx is a card game of pure chaos set in the famous mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft. The rules start out the same as regular Fluxx: draw a card and play a card. The rules change as the game goes on and you win by having Keeper cards in front of you that match the current Goal. There are also Creeper cards that you want to avoid and Ungoals that cause everyone to lose!
Besides being a really wild and fun game to play, Cthulhu Fluxx also lets you dive deep into the psyche of your friends. For example, there is a rule that encourages players to tell everyone their greatest fears. Play this game and you’ll definitely walk away having learned something new about your friends.
If you’re interested in learning more about this crazy game, take a peek at the Star Fluxx episode of Tabletop. There’s also Zombie Fluxx, which makes people groan out loud and is another excellent choice for your Halloween game night!
Finishing up the list is Smash Up, another easy-to-learn but challenging-to-master game that has lots of spoofs and comedic power for appealing to new gamers. To start, each player shuffles together two decks of factions (zombies, pirates, robots, dinosaurs, etc.) to form their own “smash-up” deck (zombie dinosaurs, robot pirates, and so on). Then everyone takes turns playing cards, destroying bases, and collecting points.
The rules are dead simple, Wil sums them up nicely in the Smash Up episode of TableTop. The tough part is finding a way to make your two factions gel so you can crush bases better than your opponents. Since this game is all about determining which pop culture archetype is the best (*ahem* dinosaurs), there is a lot of messing with other players that goes on. The card art and antics keep the game pretty lighthearted, but if you have competitive friends at the table, this is the game they will love!
Smash Up by itself works pretty well at Halloween but there is also the Monster Smash expansion which adds giant ants, vampires, werewolves, and mad scientists, all perfect for adding a little spook to the game.
Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast (Betrayal at House on the Hill, Castle Ravenloft), Z-Man Games (Shadow Hunters), John Kovalic/Steve Jackson Games (Munchkin Zombies), Looney Labs (Cthulhu Fluxx), AEG (Smash Up)
Feature Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast