In search of inner terror
Darth James
United States
West Virginia
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Some board games do a great job of using theme and mechanics to create an immersive experience for the players. But I've yet to find a board game that adequately creates the same kind of tense and disturbing atmosphere as a well-done horror novel or film.

Maybe I'm desensitized or something by TV shows like Supernatural, Buffy, and American Horror Story and movies like Tokyo Gore Police, but none of these games really felt like anything more than a game. The artwork was, in general, tame.

The upcoming Kingdom Death: Monster has what I would consider profoundly disturbing art, but in terms of gameplay looks like it eschews the horror in favor of a more "Monster Hunter" approach.

So here is a list of horror games I have tried in my quest to find one that will really creep me out. Feel free to add your own experiences in the horror genre, and maybe together we can find a game that will really melt our eyeballs.

Edit: Please note that when I say "What it does right" and "What it does wrong" I am usually referring specifically to what it does right and wrong in terms of being a terrifying experience.
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1. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:237] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
Darth James
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West Virginia
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This was one of my first forays into the wider world of gaming, and many people would consider this the pinnacle of horror. While the game is thematic, in general it does not do a good job of imparting a sense of fast-approaching doom and hopelessness. The investigators are simply too powerful, especially if you play with more than a couple.

What it does right:
-Creates a thematic experience that allows for immersive roleplaying
-Weightier game mechanics simulate the feeling of partaking in an arcane ritual

What it does wrong:
-Investigators are far too powerful, especially in groups
-Combat is anti-thematic; Cthonians cannot be killed with a shotgun irl (I've tried)
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2. Board Game: Elder Sign [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:463]
Darth James
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West Virginia
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Arkham Horror's baby brother is a lighter version with many of the same thematic elements (investigators battling the Great Old Ones and their minions) but in a streamlined package. This falls farther short of the mark than AH, in many ways precisely because of how streamlined it is.

What it does right:
-Flavor text on museum cards is generally good; very often the required dice rolls are thematic as well, though you really have to think about this to see it
-The clock mechanic adds a greater sense of urgency, especially in multiplayer games

What it does wrong:
-Gameplay falls flat; in many ways it really is just Yahtzee
-Certain investigators are pretty much instant-wins
-The game is substantially easier than Arkham, even with mid-tier investigators
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3. Board Game: Claustrophobia [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:187]
Darth James
United States
West Virginia
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Claustrophobia is an interesting entry in the horror genre because in many ways it's more of a dungeon crawl than a horror game. You could replace the miniatures with elves and orcs and the underlying gameplay would change very little. There's nothing particularly scary or disturbing about the game in general, though I will say that pre-painted miniatures add a nice feel.

What it does right:
-Nicely done miniatures help draw players in
-Decently fun gameplay

What it does wrong:
-Decently fun gameplay that in no way imparts any sort of horror
-Theme is almost the definition of pasted-on
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4. Board Game: Ghost Stories [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:191]
Darth James
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West Virginia
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Ghost Stories is another "horror" game that doesn't really fit the bill. The artwork is too pretty to be terrifying, the Eastern theme doesn't do it any favors in the scary department, and the gameplay is so crushingly difficult that it leaves very little time for players to focus on anything other than optimizing their turns.

What it does right:
-Brutal difficulty; it's very easy for players to die and Evil to win

What it does wrong:
-Art style and general tone are not aimed at creating a terrifying experience
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5. Board Game: Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:532] [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Darth James
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West Virginia
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I've heard people say that LNOE plays pretty much like a B-Horror movie. Maybe you need to buy some expansions for that to work, because it never seemed to click for us. Gameplay was clunky enough that it distracted from the story, which was barely present to begin with.

What it does right:
-More games should include soundtracks to aid immersion
-Game board and miniatures set the appropriate tone

What it does wrong:
-Card artwork does NOT set the appropriate tone
-Fiddly gameplay distracts from the already weak storyline
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6. Board Game: Nightfall [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1313] [Average Rating:6.52 Unranked]
Darth James
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West Virginia
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We only tried the base game of Nightfall, and while it was decent as a deck builder, it fell short as a horror game.

What it does right:
-Generally good artwork reminiscent of an actual film in the horror genre, Underworld

What it does wrong:
-Artwork reminiscent of Underworld
-Gameplay weakly represents the horror genre; could easily be swapped out for a different theme
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7. Board Game: Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:892]
Darth James
United States
West Virginia
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I've got my eye on several games in the genre that I want to try.

Games I think might create the experience I'm looking for:
-Study in Emerald
-Call of Cthulhu LCG
-Level 7 Omega Protocol

Games I don't think will provide the experience, but I'll try anyway:
-Mansions of Madness
-Resident Evil DBG
-Tannhauser
-Level 7 Escape
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8. Board Game: Space Hulk (third edition) [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:223]
Don Weed
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
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I've written about this before and I think Space Hulk comes closest to delivering this kind of feeling. Seeing all those blips running in parallel to your path and lurking ahead of you. Are they really creatures or a stray reading anomaly?

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9. Board Game: Camp Grizzly [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:2318]
Don Weed
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
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I just backed this game too which seems to promise the 80's slasher flick experience. You play a camp counselor with a homicidal maniac on the loose. You have to collect the items you need from the cabins to make use of one of the limited escape routes.

Haven't played it yet but have heard a number of satisfied reviews.
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10. Board Game: Eldritch Horror [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:46]
Don Weed
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
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Eldritch Horror has a nice mechanic that can bring across this type of worry too. Spell cards are two sided. On one side (the one you can see before you use the spell) they just tell the spells requirement and effects. On the hidden side is the spell's detrimental effects, or not. You never know what will pop up when a spell is used so the tension mounts somewhat.
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11. Board Game: Atmosfear: The DVD Board Game [Average Rating:5.51 Overall Rank:14259]
Don Weed
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
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Atmosfear relies on the players to create as creepy an atmosphere as possible and the live action on the DVD (or tape) can add to the experience. Lots of nicely made creepy props with these too.
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12. Board Game: HorrorClix [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:4049]
Don Weed
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
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This one is cheaply available and has appropriately painted minis to get in the mood. Themed expansion sets and maps help set the gruesome mood in this one.
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13. Board Game: Deadly Russian Roulette: Die or Be Rich [Average Rating:5.96 Unranked]
Don Weed
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
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Now that's scary!
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14. Board Game: Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:275] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Don Weed
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
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This one has some promise but won't be available to the kickstarter backers until NEXT Christmas. Cowboys vs. Cthulhu and more. Maybe on par with claustrophobia with more minis and options for enemies.
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