Spooky season came to Milwaukee early this year as monsters descended upon the city for the Midwest Haunters Convention.
These chilling vintage horror board games will pit you against monsters, ghosts, voodoo curses, boobytrapped mansions, haunted carnival rides, and the mummy’s tomb.
It’s not often that a board game can strike fear in the hearts of its players. The Ouija board is a classic example of a board that elicits unrivaled levels of irrational fear – so much so that some people refuse to touch it, or even be near it. But these vintage board games from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s are considerably spookier. We’re talking about games where a mummy’s voice echoes from its tomb, an electronic Deathhead determines if you win a battle against demons or perish, a game where you put voodoo curses on the other players, and plenty of haunted mansions with traps, treasures, and monsters lurking around every corner.
With their eerie box art and scary themes, these horror board games are full of spooky fun without putting your mortal soul in danger.
1. Seance (1972)
Your dear Uncle Everett has died in this rare board game from Milton Bradley. According to the directions, Everett was a spiritualist. He believed his spirit would return from the grave to guide the distribution of his wealth.
Although he left the bulk of his estate to his parrot, players (his nieces and nephews, of course) gather in his creepy Victorian mansion to hold a seance and bid on his remaining possessions of unknown value. Everett’s ghostly voice emanates from an actual record player hidden inside the seance table. When everything has been bought, Uncle Everett reveals how much each item is worth, or how much each player owes in taxes.
The player with the most money wins.
“When the game is over and the room is plunged into darkness,” the instructions read, “it is said that the image of Uncle Everett may be seen.”
2. Ghost Castle (1985)
Based on Milton Bradley’s earlier Which Witch? and Haunted House (The Real Ghostbusters board game was also a re-themed version of this), players had to collect ghost card and avoid traps as they made their way up the stairs to close the coffin lid and “lay the ghost.”
3. Mystic Skull: The Game of Voodoo (1964)
Of all the vintage board games on this list, Mystic Skull might have the most compelling design with that cauldron and skull pendulum. Each player is a witch doctor with a voodoo doll. When you stir the cauldron, the Mystic Skull spins and determines where you will place the next pin in your opponents doll.
4. Escape from Frankenstein (1983)
You’re on the run from the big green guy in this classic horror board game. Players move around Frankenstein’s castle looking for the key that matches their color, hoping to reach the laboratory and shut off the power before the monster comes alive.
5. Green Ghost (1965)
The Green Ghost is notable for being the first board game ever to glow in the dark. Was it exciting and mysterious, as the box would have us believe? That remains to be determined. The Green Ghost has players travelling around a board fraught with peril in the form of bat feathers, bones, snakes, ghost children, and spooky pets. The board itself rises up on stilts, so if a player makes the wrong move, their piece will fall through a trap door.
6. Alien board game (1979)
When Alien hit theaters in 1979, the Kenner toy company had the misguided idea to market the violent R-rated horror movie to kids. Of course, in the 80s every kid had a Jason mask and a Freddy glove, but this was 1979 and parents weren’t having it. Notoriously, Kenner had to pull their 18-inch Alien action figure from the shelves to quiet the controversy.
The now obscure Alien board game probably didn’t do much better.
In the game, aliens have invaded the Nostromo. Each player is an astronaut trying to make their escape on the shuttle. Also, each player inexplicably has their own personal xenomorph which they use to try to eliminate other players. Just like in the movie, right?
Note: While it may seem tempting, please refrain from laying eggs inside your opponents.
7. Ghost Train (1974)
Based on the classic Ghost Train dark carnival ride, this game simulates the experience by including sudden and jolting changes of direction, dead stops, getting stuck, and mechanical ghosts. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the expansion pack where you have to buy tickets, wait in line, and exit the ride feeling like you got seriously ripped off.
8. Mystery Mansion (1984)
Mystery Mansion isn’t your typical board game. This one dares to be different by sending players searching through a mansion comprised not of a single board, but rather 24 individual rooms in which the secrets may be hiding.
Players roll the dice and search for clues while building the spooky mansion room by room in hopes of finding a treasure chest filled with gold and jewels rather than cobwebs and dust.
9. Voice of the Mummy (1971)
The precursor to the Seance board game above, Voice of the Mummy was the first to utilize a small record player to make spooky sounds emanate from the mummy’s tomb. The mummy doles out instructions while players race around the three levels of the sarcophagus collecting gems.
All the fun of looting tombs without all those pesky curses!
10. Scream Inn (1974)
With a slogan like “We’re only here for the fear!” this must be the world’s first (only?) dark tourism board game. Players spin the wheel and try to get all of their pieces out of the haunted inn without disturbing a ghost.
11. Superstition (1977)
In Superstition, players wander around a cemetery trying to reach the Wizard’s Tomb (a plastic coffin) at the center of the board. But the graveyard is full of rubberband-powered traps with superstitions like a black cat and a broken mirror that may fling your piece off the board.
12. It from the Pit (1992)
The 90s were more about video games than board games thanks to Nintendo and Sega, so It from the Pit is a rare gem that takes advantage of the (then waning) popularity of slimy gross-out toys. Players move around the rocky mouth of the pit, trying to make a dash for the treasure chest while a giant green mechanical monster tries to pull their tiny plastic explorers into the bubbling green goo.
13. Horror House (1986)
A unique and bizarre 80s board game, Horror House had you facing off against 45 monsters from around the world (including the dreaded Umbrella Monster) in this electronic board game from Bandai. Players move through the house fighting these monsters while the Deathhead Roulette determines the outcome of each battle. The demons scream if you win. If you lose, a wicked laugh emanates from the “darkness of the horror house.”
Be careful with this one, though. Bandai recommends you never play alone.
Which of these vintage horror board games have you played? Let me know in the comments below!