Halloween is around the corner and folks are once again in the mood for spooky stuff. Online, my FB feed is full of top ten lists of scary movies (have you seen The Audition?), books (Pet Sematary!) and video games (Silent Hill 2 is the GOAT).
Rarely do I see, however, a top ten list for scary boardgames.
That's a lie. I mean, you'll find some lists here and there. They'll probably talk about horror-focused boardgames like Arkham, er.. Horror and Dead of Winter. If you really think about it though, are boardgames REALLY scary?
It's really difficult to scare someone with boardgames. In a medium where most of the information is laid out in front of you and the pieces are generally static cardboard, the jumpscares and the frights are few and far between. Unless ipakita mo yung resibo sa kanila. But that's a different type of fear altogether.
So does that mean that boardgames are not a good source of halloween fun? Heck no. Boardgames are great for halloween get-togethers. But you'll have to harness what boardgames are great at. it won't be about the frights and screams. It's going to be about the dark, grim mood. It's going to be about the foreboding atmosphere, the sense of dread.
My dear, it's going to be about the theme.
MYSTERIUM is one of the most thematic boardgames to hit our shelves and tables. The premise is simple: 2-7 players gather around to solve a murder. One of the players plays the ever-silent Ghost, the victim of this horrible crime. His task is to help the players; who play as psychics and mediums in the game, find the murder weapon, location and the culprit.The Ghost does this by giving the players dreams and visions in the form of beautifully illustrated cards
System-wise it plays like Dixit meets Clue. There are several videos online that talk about how the game plays, but I'll be spending the rest of the article talking about what makes Mysterium an excellent Halloween game
The game just OOZES theme. Mysterium's components are all beautifully crafted with stylized art that evokes both whimsy and a gothic, fog-covered gloom. Sweeney Todd would feel right at home. The game is a sight to behold when spread out on the table. And while there are a lot of cards, gribblies and tokens, the game itself is deceptively simple. It all boils down to how you interpret the visions. You dreamt about a rat in a hat, would the dream be referring to the stoic soldier or the old librarian?
Mysterium can be played as a simple deduction game with all the lights on and everyone just laughing and having a good time. But the game comes alive when you dim the lights just a tad, put some candles on and play some appropriate music (which the publisher helpfully provides online for free!). The game benefits greatly from players not scared to lean into the mood. Instead of showing the dream card to the other players, have the receiver describe the crumbling, crooked tower they see in their mind's eye. Instead of nodding yes or no, have the Ghost knock on the table as a reply. Role play. Ham it up.
One other often overlooked strength of Mysterium is that while it is a halloween-appropriate game about a murder, there are no monsters to kill, little to no blood and gore to be found, and all the players fail and succeed as a team. This makes it perfect to play in mixed company, like when kids and your squeamish Tita play and they might not appreciate the more overt, violent and zombie-filled games.
all the halloween fun and no one gets hurt :)
Mysterium is currently in stock at Gaming Library and please swing back next time as I talk about another fabulous halloween-themed game.
Stay spooky, wag kang creepy.