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Subject: Is it possible to make a scary horror boardgame? rss

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Spencer C
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In honor of Halloween's upcomingness, I pose the question in the title.

Horror games are still fun due to the ambiance, but in other horror media a lot of focus is put on scaring the reader or viewer. I'm not certain this would be possible in boardgame format. For the sake of the discussion, I'm restricting boardgames to replayable and cardboard, card, and plastic -- this cancels out story-driven outings.

Certainly, I've been surprised by the intensity of some emotions that boardgames can create. The first round of Battlestar Galactica in which I was a Cylon is an unrivaled intensity point in my gaming history. I think something like fright, however, is extremely hard to generate in a cerebral way. I've seen a few films that manage to deliver the scare in such a manner (Quatermass and the Pit springs to mind) -- so it is possible, but what form that might take in cardboard I haven't the slightest.
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George Louie
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While games can elicit some emotions like like happiness and sadness, and intensity like stress, that emotion and/or intensity are the result of the in-game stress with the players desire to succeed or fail at the game. "Scariness" or "fear" from a horror type setting would require the player to actually feel threatened or believe he/she were in harms way.

Movies and video games use realistic sound and visual effects to increase the level of immersion the for the user/player. Books are immersive because they use descriptive narrative which triggers the reader's imagination and brings them into the story.

So, unless you're playing real life Jumanji, like the movie, you're just not going to have a game that will be immersive enough to elicit a sense of fear and/or horror in the player.
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Spencer C
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glouie wrote:
While games can elicit some emotions like like happiness and sadness, and intensity like stress, that emotion and/or intensity are the result of the in-game stress with the players desire to succeed or fail at the game. "Scariness" or "fear" from a horror type setting would require the player to actually feel threatened or believe he/she were in harms way.


But what about intellectual fright? Some ideas are scary, but in a more chilling, disturbing manner rather than creating a panic response. I think this type of fear might not be out of bounds for a game, though it would be very hard to achieve (especially and maintain replayability)
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J J
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Nope. But then I've never found film, television, or literature scary either. The former two can startle with sudden contrasts, but they are never actually scary in any way.

Disturbing can be done, as long as you have people who are willing to label subjects disturbing. Just look at Cards Against Humanity (which I happen to enjoy and not find the least bit disturbing ).
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Matthew Robinson
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Ouija board scared the crap out of me at camp when I was about 13. Not exactly a game though...
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Russ Williams
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JasonJ0 wrote:
Nope. But then I've never found film, television, or literature scary either. The former two can startle with sudden contrasts, but they are never actually scary in any way.

FWIW I on the other hand am trivially easily scared by horror films, and have felt fear from some scary literature, but I also don't recall ever feeling any similar fear from a boardgame.

So I think it would be very difficult indeed to make a truly scary horror boardgame.
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Robert Wesley
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Re: Is it possible to make a scary horror boardgame? worsened
zombie ouija-"Monopoly": DEAD 'Celebrities' edition.
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Inappropriate Andy
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I don't think you could easily do the 'jumping out of my seat' horror, not without accompanying audio/video/device a la Atmosfear: The DVD Board Game.

You could do persistent, psychological style horror but it would require a adaptation mechanic to play on the individual fears of each player.

I could see a game, played maybe in low light, using very evocative imagery and text where a player is pursued at every turn by their worst fears, until they are ground down into a blubbering mess. That'd be possible. Difficult but possible.

Edit: In hindsight, I think I've just described a good RPG?
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Freelance Police
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First step: Remove the mechanics. Nothing kills the atmosphere like looking up a rule.

Dice are often used to create uncertainty and tension, though not horror.

I think TIME story's format can be used for horror. You want to optimize which card to flip over, and your choice is pretty much irrevocable. The game's art is a bit moody and potentially disquieting. The back of the cards are not revealed, so can contain anything from text to graphic images. You could even have an app provide atmospheric sounds, and even the only lighting in the room when played with the lights off.
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Spencer C
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Sam and Max wrote:
First step: Remove the mechanics. Nothing kills the atmosphere like looking up a rule.

Dice are often used to create uncertainty and tension, though not horror.

I think TIME story's format can be used for horror. You want to optimize which card to flip over, and your choice is pretty much irrevocable. The game's art is a bit moody and potentially disquieting. The back of the cards are not revealed, so can contain anything from text to graphic images. You could even have an app provide atmospheric sounds, and even the only lighting in the room when played with the lights off.


I guess Russian Roulette technically is a game (of chance) that inspires fear, though I wouldn't place it in the horror genre.
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Richard Keiser

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Horror is extremely subjective, so hitting the target is extremely difficult.

Getting player A to be frightened by the same as player B would most likely require to trigger only basic fears in humans.

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Patrick McInally
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InappropriateAndy wrote:
I don't think you could easily do the 'jumping out of my seat' horror, not without accompanying audio/video/device a la Atmosfear: The DVD Board Game.

You could do persistent, psychological style horror but it would require a adaptation mechanic to play on the individual fears of each player.

I could see a game, played maybe in low light, using very evocative imagery and text where a player is pursued at every turn by their worst fears, until they are ground down into a blubbering mess. That'd be possible. Difficult but possible.

Edit: In hindsight, I think I've just described a good RPG?


There's a rules-light RPG called Dread that does just this, though I've yet to actually play it. It uses a Jenga tower to mechanically build tension while the players participate in a horror story. So in a way one could call it a board game, as its only core mechanic is a classic.

I'm planning a game for Halloween, will see how it plays out in practice! In theory it looks remarkably effective.
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Phillip Harpring
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Sam and Max wrote:
First step: Remove the mechanics. Nothing kills the atmosphere like looking up a rule.

Dice are often used to create uncertainty and tension, though not horror.

I think TIME story's format can be used for horror. You want to optimize which card to flip over, and your choice is pretty much irrevocable. The game's art is a bit moody and potentially disquieting. The back of the cards are not revealed, so can contain anything from text to graphic images. You could even have an app provide atmospheric sounds, and even the only lighting in the room when played with the lights off.


You know... as far as voice recognition has come these days, someone could make an app-assisted board game that listened for keywords to be read out loud from cards, and play sound cues or change the ambient music based on that. My son has a robotic stuffed animal that reacts as you read the book it came with. And it could have a USB lamp or something attached to the tablet that got messed with.
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George Louie
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Sobriquet wrote:
InappropriateAndy wrote:
I don't think you could easily do the 'jumping out of my seat' horror, not without accompanying audio/video/device a la Atmosfear: The DVD Board Game.

You could do persistent, psychological style horror but it would require a adaptation mechanic to play on the individual fears of each player.

I could see a game, played maybe in low light, using very evocative imagery and text where a player is pursued at every turn by their worst fears, until they are ground down into a blubbering mess. That'd be possible. Difficult but possible.

Edit: In hindsight, I think I've just described a good RPG?


There's a rules-light RPG called Dread that does just this, though I've yet to actually play it. It uses a Jenga tower to mechanically build tension while the players participate in a horror story. So in a way one could call it a board game, as its only core mechanic is a classic.


I'm planning a game for Halloween, will see how it plays out in practice! In theory it looks remarkably effective.


Good catch/idea/match, but I thought the original poster said no "story-driven outings." I remember reading about DREAD a few years ago and I as intrigued.. but then I watched Wil Wheaton play it on Table Top and it didn't look very interesting. It literally looks like a group of people reading a story out loud, while playing Jenga. Even at that, I doubt the tension of keeping a tower of blocks would translate well to actually scaring players.. In fact, it probably detracts from the horror in the story, as players shift focus from the storyline to the Jenga tower...
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Greg
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Is there room for legacy type mechanics to introduce the elements of consequence that's needed to generate the desired emotional state?

It's tough to get people attached to a thing such that threatening it is meaningful if they know that the game will be restarted and it'll be back to normal.
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Russ Williams
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x_equals_speed wrote:
Is there room for legacy type mechanics to introduce the elements of consequence that's needed to generate the desired emotional state?

It's tough to get people attached to a thing such that threatening it is meaningful if they know that the game will be restarted and it'll be back to normal.

It seems like legacy mechanics involving destruction or permanent alteration, if they arouse any real fear, would be more a fear of financial loss ("oh no, I'll have to buy the game again if I want to play again with these cards that are being torn up"), which doesn't really seem like very serious horror. Plus that kind of financial fear is not horror within the game/story, but rather external/meta fear.

(I can also imagine legacy mechanics pulling some people out of the story/game as they think or talk about the coolness/stupidity/whatever of legacy mechanics...)
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Martin Larouche
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The scariest boardgame i know is Tragedy Looper.

It's the only game i know where the theme (which is that of a dark suspense, which is a close cousin of "horror") actually comes through and makes the players feel the emotion linked to that theme.

It's the fear, on both sides, that ANY move could be your last... and you'll have something like 12 to 15 moves to do to win the game as a protagonist. As the Mastermind, it's the fear that your actions will be found by the protagonists. And we found it's really actual fear...

It's the ONE most thematic game i've ever played as it's the only one that conveys it's theme properly amongst all those i played. That's strange indeed since the mechanics of the game are fairly abstracted in the end.

Other "horror" games usually only end-up as adventure games. There's little actual difference between Arkham Horror and Runebound in the style of games they are.
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Ernie Olsen
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How about a creepier version of Dead of Winter where you are against the zombies, but one by one you gradually begin to change (and then play against your team). You can fight the change but it's ultimately inevitable(unless the game ends). It would be a card driven story and you take the cards from a tray in front of a curtained box. Your final transformation would be signaled when you go to take your next card and then a gruesome hand would spring from the box and touch yours.
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Greg
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russ wrote:
x_equals_speed wrote:
Is there room for legacy type mechanics to introduce the elements of consequence that's needed to generate the desired emotional state?

It's tough to get people attached to a thing such that threatening it is meaningful if they know that the game will be restarted and it'll be back to normal.

It seems like legacy mechanics involving destruction or permanent alteration, if they arouse any real fear, would be more a fear of financial loss ("oh no, I'll have to buy the game again if I want to play again with these cards that are being torn up"), which doesn't really seem like very serious horror. Plus that kind of financial fear is not horror within the game/story, but rather external/meta fear.

(I can also imagine legacy mechanics pulling some people out of the story/game as they think or talk about the coolness/stupidity/whatever of legacy mechanics...)


I'm not sure about that - there's a difference between "This card will be torn up" and "Timothy Doyle who's been by my side since we started this thing last year and has saved all of us once is at risk and we can win the game, but leave him to perish or risk everything to get him back"

In Pandemic Legacy
Spoiler (click to reveal)
when a character turned traitor and left some of the players in my group were really upset by that because they'd invested themselves in him and had imbued him with a degree of personality as he was upgraded between games. That loss had an emotional charge. It didn't create a horror effect because the game wasn't set up to do it,
but I felt it was a proof of concept that a legacy game could generate the emotional charge necessary to have something that could be threatened in a creeping insidious mutilating way that could create that effect.
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Spencer C
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We were similarly affected by the moment in Pandemic Legacy you mention. I would definitely allow for legacy style games in the discussion -- my restriction on story-driven was more for RPG-style games, which while interesting, are not really games by the commonly used parlance around here.

I also wonder whether the secret counter-operative mechanic could be used to create fear. Games like BSG certainly are able to create tension and suspicion, but the traitors are fairly opaque in the range of what they can do. If a game could be set up such that the traitor was not only secret in identity, but also secret in scope of how they were capable of manipulating the game, it could approach something at least like the tense tingling of anticipation and sense of wrongness. It would be hard to satisfy the repeatability constraint, however.
 
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George Louie
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UanarchyK wrote:

I also wonder whether the secret counter-operative mechanic could be used to create fear. Games like BSG certainly are able to create tension and suspicion, but the traitors are fairly opaque in the range of what they can do. If a game could be set up such that the traitor was not only secret in identity, but also secret in scope of how they were capable of manipulating the game, it could approach something at least like the tense tingling of anticipation and sense of wrongness. It would be hard to satisfy the repeatability constraint, however.


That's interesting. I've not played it yet, but what about something like Captain Sonar. I think it might get pretty intense, if each team was playing in their own small darkened room with glowing green screens and echoing "pinging" noises going on. and only able to hear each other through a static-y radio... I guess it depends on how much you want to commit to making the game.. LOL

or do a hybrid Captain Sonar with of some sort of progressively more intense shocking tech, where near torpedo hits translate to actual shocking..



https://www.amazon.com/Daron-Shock-Ball-Potato-Game/dp/B0010...
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Kirk
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Try Zombie 15'

It is streesful and a bit "scary"
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John Prewitt
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Psycho Raiders

Done & Done. Game about Psycho Raiders raiding 4 hiking teenagers and murdering them... or letting their sinister friends in the nearby town murder them. There's guts, gore, explosion, murder... fun times for all. Unfortunately it just went OOP, and I just sold my copy before it did (argh). It's rated "X".

(a picture of the game):
Spoiler (click to reveal)
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Pete
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Make a horror themed cooperative game and give it to gamers. The catch? If you lose you have to play 3 rounds of Munchkin Cthulhu.

Pete (thinks that'll drive some real fear into them)
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Jakub Lucký
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Not sure about boardgame, but I have played quite simple RPG (no D&D), which made me quite scared using Jenga: Dread
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