WARNING! You May Not Be Able to Go Back to Scrabble!
Sure, you can play Toss the Body Part or Bobbing For Apples or, heck, even Boo-opoly at your Halloween party, but what if you have some geeks (“Urr, we prefer to be called gamers, thank you”) staring at you from beyond the half-empty bowl of cheesy Monster Fingers? We’re not talking about nerds, those shadowy computer techies who constantly blabber about UML notations and perfect C# datatypes (I wouldn’t trust these shifty spectacle-clad types). No, I’m talking about a group of people who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and BattleTech and who, somewhere along the way, slipped into the dark underworld of self-parody and discovered, to their horror, the realm of Steve Jackson and company!
Steve who? If this is your reaction, be thankful you are still so innocent, unsullied by the addictive hand of geeky adventure gaming, and leave this site immediately by clicking on an ad. However, if you are brave (or bent) enough to thrust forth into this dank cavern of ungodly groans, eyerolls, Cheetos stains and bleary eyes from eight hours of Zombies, continue on at your own peril!
Steve Jackson Games
Steve Jackson is a game designer who formed his own company, SJ Games, in 1980, releasing such titles as Car Wars and Illuminati. He made national news in 1990 when the Secret Service raided his offices and almost forced him out of business. The U.S. Government believed one of his games to be part of a computer hacking ring! (So much for “Intelligence”.) The bungled raid brought about the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil rights group protecting computer users.
Along with SJ Games, there is a milieu of companies publishing everything from collectible card games to fantasy board games. However, you have a Halloween party to run, so what follows is a list of extremely entertaining, geeky games fitting your Halloween theme. Play at your own risk! It starts with bad puns and double entendres, and may lead to gruesome kills with a half-breed gnome wielding a laser-phaser-banana-phophaser or your character getting cursed by picking up a duck in a dungeon!
These games are best consumed with alcohol, if only to drown your sobs of pun-induced insanity.
Based on the bestselling Munchkin series of card games, it is described as an adventure dungeon game without all that roleplaying stuff! Picking up cards, you can play the part of such races as vampires or werewolves, and to win you have to go up levels by killing monsters. On your turn, you flip over a card (I mean, you “open a dungeon door”) and reveal what’s inside. It could be a curse, a minion who will join you, or, of course, a monster. You may be faced with such terrors as “Acro Bats”, “Heck Hounds”, “Mortal Com Bats”, a “Were-Hamster” or even a “Wight at the End of the Tunnel” (hey, I warned you about bad puns!) A successful kill allows you to pick up their loot, which can be such treasures as a “Cam Shaft”, a “Dead End”, “Fangpaste”, armor such as the “Schadenfreudian Slip”, and the “Sword of Beheading People Just Like in That Movie.”
Of course, the fun in Munchkin Bites, as in all Munchkin variations, is that everybody else can either help you fight a monster (for a share of the loot) or screw you over by helping the monster. My favorite tactic, of course, is plying cards to help the monster, then offering to help the player you just screwed over!
There are not only over two dozen variations of Munchkin (Star Munchkin, Munchkin Fu, Munchkin Impossible) but sequels of variations (such as Munchkin Bites II: Pants Macabre.) All Munchkin variations can be played together, so you can have a Space Munchkin with banana lasers fighting gothic Ding Bats with nunchucks. Oy vey!
Another great Halloween theme is Munchkin Cthulhu, where you get to fight monsters Lovecraftian style. And yes, there are two other sequels for that variant as well!
Would Steve Jackson only develop one type of game with endless variations and sequels? Of course not! Chez Goth is a variation of Chez Geek, the game of apartment life. Get a job at the start of the game (corporate drone, drummer, web designer, etc), and gain slack points to win. To gain slack, you have to buy stuff and do activities to slack off, such as buying beer, getting a tattoo, sleeping, receiving good – or bad – nookie, etc. Other players can attempt to block you from gaining slack, such as blaring the television to interupt your sleep or stealing your beer. Sound like real life with annoying roomates?
In Chez Goth, the variation (sadly, it just went out of print, but check Ebay or second-hand stores), you and your friends are, of course, Goths. Your jobs include Adult Toy Store Clerk, Goth Model, Poet, and Barrista (“One double latte chocacino ventissimo coming up, with a little black umbrella”). Along with slack points, you also have Gloom points, which is a good thing! Moping and complaining cards give you gloom, as does a visit from a fellow Goth (misery loves company). Activities and buying suff to gain slack points include “Watching the 11 o’clock News”, “Vampire Nookie”, “Cutting Remark”, “Go to Funeral”, “Interview with Anne Rice”, and gaining “The Collected Very Heavy Works of Edgar Allen Poe”!
Like Munchkin, you can play variations together, (such as Chez Greek and Chez Guevara) allowing Goths to live and fight in the same apartment with college drunkards and slacker guerilla warriors!
This is a board game brought to you by the good folks at Twilight Creations. This is the ultimate Halloween game, and it drags you moaning with limp, blood-drained brains into the wee morning hours when you have to stumble in, blurry eyed and stubbly, into a business meeting (no, I don’t know anything about that!) Each turn, you place down a large tile in a town, which is immediately filled with zombies. One tile is a helicopter pad. The object of the game is to either kill 25 zombies and be proclaimed the winner or to … well, run! Run for your life! Run, crawl, claw your way to the helipad, where the first person to actually reach it gets to leave the zombie-filled town and win the game.
The problem is that you will die. Again, again, and again. Hordes of living corpses constantly surround you, backing you into corners, eating your flesh and ripping your heart out, then taking a grisly spoon to scoop your tasty brains. All you have are your wits, a shotgun with limited ammo, and the ability to pick up medical packs and extra rounds as you make your way through the congested town filled with pasty white figures with gripping, entrail-scuffed fingernails.
To increase the tension and competition, the players (each of who is a human trapped in the mall) are NOT your friends. They are doing everything to screw you over, throw you to the zombies, and outrace and outgun you. If you die, you start over at the town square and try all over again. You also lose half your zombie kills from your previous life. Yes, in one game, after 4 hellish hours, I had collected 24 zombies … then died once again.
Yes, Zombies! has expansion packs and sequels, as well as a variant called Humans! You are a zombie trying to capture humans, and you win if you accumulate enough points from eating or infecting the humans you capture. Other players can block you by arming the human you attack. And, in the grand scheme of adventure gaming, yes, you can play Zombies! and Humans! together in one game, with some of the players being the zombies and the other players being the humans. Bloody fun!
One point to consider – this game is to be played last in your Halloween games night. You’ll be too exhausted to move after it is finally finished. Trust me on this one.
Grave Robbers From Outer Space
A fun, tongue-in-cheek card game from Z-Man Games. You are a producer attempting to make a B-movie. Cards to build your movie include Characters, Props, Monsters and Locations. The game ends once the “End of Credits” card is played, and the person with the most points (the movie set with the most valuable characters and props) wins.
Players try to upset their opponents’ movie sets by unleashing monster cards or “special effects” to destroy props and kill characters. My favorite is the special effect card “We’ve seen your breasts. Now you must die.” Your action is the ability to kill any female character from any player’s movie. Ha ha, B-movie fun!
Yes, yes, of course there are variations to this game (close to a dozen), and yes, you can play them all at once. Other B-movie games include Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom and Kung Fu Samurai on Giant Robot Island!
One Halloween games night, we played Film Frenzy. Sadly, it is out of print, though copies are available on Ebay and second-hand stores. It is a card game played to an action movie, though you can watch and play the game to an action/adventure horror movie (Underworld is a perfect candidate!)
You are dealt cards at the beginning of the movie, each with specific actions, such as “Character hanging onto a large moving vehicle”, or “Character pulls a hand gun”, or when a Doomsday device is displayed. The first person to place the card down matching the action on the screen gains the point. Whoever accumulates the most points at the end of the movie wins.
Faster, Brainless Games
Try these quick card and board games between trick or treaters shouting at your door:
Give Me the Brain and Lord of the Fries – By Steve Jackson and Cheapass Games, you work at a typical fast food joint, and you and all the other employees are zombies (no “bitey” sarcasm, please). You must perform basic tasks to win the game, but unfortunately there is only one brain to go around. You must steal the brain from someone else to perform your tasks! Lord of the Fries is a stand-alone game similar in theme – and … (gasp!) … I hate to tell you this, but they CAN NOT be played together! (But go ahead and try.)
The Great Brain Robbery – Similar to Give Me the Brain, you are a group of zombies attacking a passenger train. Passengers mean brains! The object is to find the brain with the highest IQ, then successfully defend holding onto it until the train comes to a “stop” and the game ends.
Kill Doctor Lucky – An extremely entertaining inversion of Clue, and the bestseller from Cheapass Games, players are attempting the murder Dr. Lucky in his mansion. The first person to kill him without being seen by the other players wins. Opponents use Failure cards in an attempt to block the player from successfully doing the grisly deed.
There you have it. Lots of ideas for geeky games to play at your Halloween games party. Dress up, gather round a table with delicious home-made Halloween snacks, and begin throwing around body parts and dice, curse like a zombie when another player screws you over, and groan with the heavy stench of parody and bad puns that will continue late into Halloween night!
Find most of these games at:
There are, of course, many other geeky adventure games with a horror theme to play on Halloween night. Please add your own ideas by commenting below.