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Top 10 new Halloween board games and tabletop RPGs 2023

Top 10 new Halloween board games and tabletop RPGs 2023
Halloween and tabletop gaming is a popular combo (Picture: Trick or Treat Studios)

GameCentral takes a look at the year’s crop of horror-themed tabletop games, including everything from Resident Evil to Dungeons & Dragons.

As Halloween approaches, I’ve been immersing myself in the world of horror-themed board games and tabletop role-players. Horror has always been a popular genre for tabletop games but there’s a bumper crop of them this year, including many based on video games , such as Resident Evil and Sea Of Thieves .

Things were already horrifying at the Essen Game Fair – Europe’s biggest tabletop convention earlier this month – as I watched attendees playing a preview of the gory Saw: The Jigsaw Trials board game, in which players have a cardboard body that they must try and keep alive, while trying to survive both Jigsaw’s traps and those created by opposing players. Two-player role-playing game Eldritch Escape: Tokyo also proved popular – a creepy cross between Dark Souls and Pacific Rim.

So, grab your flashlight, ready your garlic, and join me as I reveal the best tabletop games to play on Halloween and beyond. Games that will keep you and your fellow players enthralled well past the witching hour, with options for all ages and budgets.

Resident Evil: The Board Game

Steamforged Games has really captured the essence of the iconic Capcom series in this new board game, recreating the ominous Spencer Mansion’s chilling atmosphere, enigmatic puzzles, and relentless hordes of grotesque creatures (you’ll have to provide the bad dialogue). Players step into the shoes of legendary characters like Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, as they and other S.T.A.R.S. team members start building a mansion map and try to stay alive.

Resource management is at the heart of the gameplay, forcing you to make difficult decisions about whether to conserve ammo and resources. As you move further into the campaign you come across some very familiar enemies and traps, as well as a random element introduced by various chance cards. There’s plenty of different ways to play this modular game, with 19 dynamic scenarios, but it can also be experienced as a (relatively) terrifying standalone experience.

RRP £99.99 – out now

Old school monsters are the best (Picture: Ravensburger)

Horrified: Greek Monsters

In this great looking strategic cooperative game, you get to revisit some of the defining myths of Western civilisation, by assuming the role of various Greek heroes, each armed with unique abilities and skills. The heroes are striving to recapture iconic mythical beasts such as Medusa, Cerberus, Chimera, and Minotaur who are running amok.

The modular board design ensures that no two adventures are the same, as lair tokens must be flipped over to reveal which monster’s hideout you’ve discovered, creating various different difficulty levels and monster combinations. This latest addition to the excellent Horrified series has more than enough new content to stand out this spooky season.

RRP £40 – out now

Dungeons & Dragons – Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk

In this new tabletop campaign, your party is back in the beloved town of Phandalin, originally introduced in the introductory adventures of Dungeons & Dragons’ fifth edition rulebook. It’s where everyone cut their teeth fighting goblins on the High Road to the Triboar Trail and now there’s a whole new questline that sees adventurers dealing with an additional threat, as Phandalin becomes corrupted by otherworldly powers that, amongst other things, lead to cows sprouting tentacles.

One standout scenario is the Brimy Maze, where you must navigate a complex network of traps and puzzles in the shape of a brain. The Shattered Obelisk is a masterclass in dungeon design, that will test both wits and mettle to solve mysteries and stamp out growing corruption, as you uncover more about the peculiar happenings plaguing the town.

£69.99 – out now

Sea Of Thieves: The Board Game

Ahoy, landlubbers! Rare and Steamforged has brought the beloved Sea Of Thieves franchise from the digital realm to your tabletop. However, while it captures the spirit of high seas adventure, it’s not without its problems. Just like the video game, it revolves around cooperative gameplay, as you take on the role of treasure-obsessed pirate. Each character has unique abilities that add depth to the strategy, making team composition a vital element of success.

Unfortunately, the mechanics of the game are a mixed bag. The modular board design and dynamic objectives create replayability, but some may find the gameplay overly complex, which is the very opposite of the game. The resource management aspect is engaging, yet it can slow down the pace. Where the video game is shallow and easy going the board game version requires quite a bit of patience and dedication to master some all of its intricacies.

RRP £59.99 – out now

Come get some (Picture: Wizards of the Coast)

Magic The Gathering – Secret Lair X Evil Dead

The upcoming Secret Lair collaboration between Magic: The Gathering and cult classic Evil Dead promises a unique trip to the woods for both trading card enthusiasts and horror fans. Wizards of the Coast has spared no effort in creating a malevolent experience and the key to this expansion are the innovative new gameplay mechanics: ‘Destroy the Dead’ allows you to destroy all creatures in one go, while ‘Cabin of the Dead’ allows you to create a zombie.

Legendary characters like Ash Williams, armed with his chainsaw, can challenge even experienced Planeswalkers, with a mix of resource management and Deadite battles. While this 80s throwback’s blend of humour and horror might not appeal to all Magic purists, an impressive amount of effort has gone into it, with art by Fay Dalton, Warren Mahy, and Josh Newton.

RRP £29.99 – out 29th January 2024

A terrifyingly good deal (Picture: The Pokémon Company)

Pokémon Trading Card Game: Trick or Trade BOOster Bundle

The Pokémon Trading Card Game universe is about to get spookier with the arrival of Trick or Trade BOOster, for Halloween, with each box containing 50 mini booster packs, containing three cards each. This expansion introduces ghost-type pokémon like the chilling Gengar and the spectral Mimikyu, infusing an eerie twist into battles.

The cards are adorned with intricate, haunting artwork and each one features a special Pikachu pumpkin stamp in the corner of the artwork. It’s fun for fans eager to embrace their cute and cuddly Halloween spirit, and who might prefer cards to candy.

RRP £19.99 – out now

Warhammer Underworlds: Deathgorge

Warhammer Underworlds returns with a spooky nautical twist for the Age Of Sigmar setting, in its latest two-player skirmish game, Deathgorge. This introduces updated mechanics and characters that promise to shake up the roles considerably. At the heart of Deathgorge are the two warbands, Cyreni’s Razor, who have a Spirit Guardian in the form of an octopus-like sea creature, and the Thricefold Discord Daemons, who are dedicated to the chaos god Slaannesh.

These gruesome creatures are relentless, using mechanics such as Temptations, which force you to choose between one of two negative outcomes, as you try to decide which is the lesser of two evils. This adds an intriguing strategic layer to the game, as players must carefully balance aggression and survival.

The game also introduces new cards and objectives, allowing for diverse strategies and unexpected twists. The rival decks, for instance, rewards players for attacking first or using magic, encouraging bold plays. With its beautifully detailed miniatures and strategic depth, Deathgorge is a must-try for fans of the franchise.

RRP £65.00 – out now

The night he came home… and played a board game (Picture: Trick or Treat Studios)

Halloween 1978

Iconic horror masterpiece, Halloween finally gets a board game outing, just as Jamie Curtis hangs up her knife from the film franchise. In this gripping asymmetrical one vs. many game, the majority of players embark on a chilling journey across the board, diligently exploring eerie houses in search of vital items and about-to-be-victims Tommy and Lindsey. Their ultimate goal is to escape to safety with Tommy, Lindsey, and a crucial set of car keys, or thwart the relentless Michael Myers while inflicting significant damage upon him.

As Michael Myers, one player silently stalks their prey, lurking ominously. Unseen unless directly observed, Myers looms as a perpetual menace throughout the game. Victory for the Myers player hinges on the calculated elimination of characters, or the strategic prevention of the other players’ escape.

When a player’s character meets their violent demise they forfeit their possessions but rejoin the game with a new character plucked from the movie’s rich lore. Halloween delivers spine-tingling suspense and strategic thrills and is even better with the John Carpenter soundtrack on your speakers.

RRP £59.99 – out 22nd November 2023

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Descent: Legends Of The Dark – The Betrayer’s War

The Betrayer’s War is a beast of a board game, with some insanely huge and awesome miniatures – if you liked Gloomhaven you’ll be an instant fan. Building upon the successful Descent series, it offers a fresh take on cooperative dungeon-crawling. Intricate storytelling is key, as The Betrayer’s War immerses players in a world of treachery and dark magic. Each character has unique abilities and upgrades that evolve as the campaign unfolds, fostering a sense of attachment and investment.

The game’s combat system shines, as you team up in thrilling battles against monstrous foes, including armies of dragons led by Dragonlord Levirax. With an innovative dice system, that balances strategy and luck, combat is dynamic and keeps all players on their toes. The app integration helps to streamline the gameplay, managing monsters and events seamlessly and giving you a sneaky chance to check Facebook as you play.

However, the sheer complexity of the game may be overwhelming for newcomers, as it requires a significant time investment. Component set-up and rules can be daunting at first, but the rewarding depth and immersive experience make it worthwhile. The Betrayer’s War offers a compelling blend of storytelling, strategy, and character development, making it a must-play for avid dungeon crawler enthusiasts willing to invest the time to unravel its mysteries.

RRP £159.99 – out now

Norfolk as you’ve never seen it before (Picture: Free League)

Tales From The Loop: They Grow Up So Fast

Looking for some hometown horror? They Grow Up So Fast is a tabletop role-playing adaptation of Simon Stålenhag’s acclaimed art and narrative universe, successfully capturing the essence of childhood wonder and mystery seen in Stranger Things and now transported to the Norfolk Broads. This kids-on-bikes role-player takes place across four scenarios, covering each season of the year.

What better place to look for alien eggs than England during the spring of 1980, while listening to Rocket Man on the radio? When the egg hatches during the summer scenario, the stakes are upped, with a storyline straight out of E.T. The tension continues to rise from there, across the changing seasons, as you try to keep your new charge hidden and ensure you all make it safely through the year.

RRP £27.99 – out now

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