Nothing beats a good Halloween party. You've got a chance to drink and be merry, to hang out with some good friends and awesome people, and to show of whatever costume you've decided to don besides. Of course, a party can get mighty boring if there's nothing to do there save mingle, right?
Now, I've always been a fan of nerdier pastimes - tabletop games in particular. Even if you've never played a board game or tabletop game in your life, they can be a great way to pass the time. Even better, there's a whole plethora of different games that genuinely feel as though they were designed to be played on a dark, stormy All Hallow's Eve.
Betrayal At The House On The Hill
We'll start with one of my personal favorites. Betrayal At The House On The Hill puts players in the shoes of any of a rag-tag band of paranormal investigators ranging from a football star to an aged professor to a six year old girl. This group of friends have somehow managed to find their way into an ancient, haunted mansion. As they explore the house (exploration is simulated through the random placement of map tiles onto the table), they'll come across a number of powerful artifacts and encounter a wide range of supernatural events. Eventually, one of the artifacts will trigger the Haunt.
Basically, that's when everything goes straight south and monsters begin roaming the halls.
There's a whole book of different haunts, which are selected based both on the characters being played and the artifact which kicked off the event. They range in absurdity (and there's a wide gulf in difficulty). Some of them might see all the players desperately working together to stop the Haunt, while others might end up having one of the players pitted against the others.
All in all, good fun!
Everybody loves them a little bit of Cosmic Horror on Halloween. Set during the roaring twenties, Arkham Horror casts each player as one of 16 different investigators; each one with their own strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities. The goal of this one is simple: the players will travel around the town of Arkham doing battle with cultists and abominations in an effort to prevent one of the Elder Gods from being summoned. Depending on which god they're up against, this might be either difficult or downright impossible (players can either pick their poison or leave it to chance). Should they fail to prevent the summoning, they can then engage in a desperate battle against the divine Eldritch abomination (unless it's Azathoth, in which case the game simply ends).
It's a little tough to pick up at first - and a little complicated - but once you get the hang of it, it's a total blast.
Call of Cthulhu
What kind of list would this be if I didn't at least mention Call of Cthulhu? Now, I'm well aware this won't be everybody's cup of tea - after all, it is a tabletop RPG - but just the same, it's a fantastic romp through the works and world of H.P. Lovecraft. The players in Call of Cthulhu are pretty much ordinary people rather than superheroes or great warriors (as is common in so many tabletop games). That makes the cosmic horror they'll find themselves facing all the more terrifying.
It's also assumed that most of the players - even in the event that they somehow win - aren't going to survive or retain their sanity in the end. If you're a fan of cosmic horror (and you know a game master with the chops to run a session or two), then Call of Cthulhu might well bring some downright awesome flair to a party.
Don't Rest Your Head
As an insomniac myself, something about this game just clicked with me. See, Don't Rest Your Head is a tabletop RPG about staying awake. Doesn't sound so frightening on its own, does it? Basically, each player controls a superpowered insomniac protagonist wandering the streets of a warped, horrible reality known as The Mad City. Though character motivations may vary, ultimately, everyone here has the same goal: staying awake.
Trust me. You don't want to know what happens if your character falls asleep.
This'll be the last tabletop RPG I recommend, I promise; Deadlands was just too awesome not to include here. Basically it's a high magic/steampunk western horror RPG. Player traits and attributes are determined by drawing cards from a poker deck, at which point the party sets out into the frontier lands to fend off magical mutants, bandits, undead, and a mysterious race of beings known as The Reckoners, which feed on negative emotion. The game itself can easily be played with pencil and paper, dice, a deck of cards, and a few poker chips.
Last Night On Earth
Ever wanted to participate in a zombie flick? Here's your chance. Last Night on Earth is a board game which simulates a zombie apocalypse taking place in the small town of Woodinvale. Players can take on the role of either hero or zombie. Heroes must survive through the night using cunning, ingenuity, and luck, while zombie players have a whole host of tools at their disposal to make sure the heroes don't. A modular board randomly determines the town's layout at the beginning of each game, and a deck of cards displaying a particular scenario (or a win condition for the players).
The game ends when the heroes succumb to the zombies, satisfy the win condition, or survive until sunup.
Letters From Whitechapel
Welcome to London, circa 1888 - the time of the Jack The Ripper murders. Should you choose to play Letters From Whitechapel, one of you will step into the shoes of the legendary serial killer himself. The rest of you are a group of street detectives and police officers desperately collaborating in an effort to catch The Ripper before he claims yet another life. The Ripper's goal is to take five victims without being caught. The goal of the Officers is to catch him. Simple, right?
Not so much. The game board's made up of around 199 numbered circles linked together by dotted lines. The Ripper can move between numbered circles, policemen move between crossings on their patrols, and The Ripper's Victims move randomly between the same circles as he. Bring your thinking caps to this one, for sure.
City of Horror
Sorry folks - the last few entries are all going to be zombie-related. If that's not your cup of tea, you can stop reading now. You might want to at least give City of Horror a look, though. This one's a zombie game with a rather interesting twist - your fellow players are at least as dangerous as the undead horde (if not more so). See, in order to survive the apocalypse...you're going to have to kill at least a few of your friends.
There will be backstabbing, there will be intrigue, and there will be pleading, bargaining, plotting, and anger. All that's only exacerbated by a whole host of secret cards which could be held by any survivor at any time. Of all the games here, City of Horrors might well be the closest you'll get to being in an actual zombie apocalypse.
Left 4 Dead/Left 4 Dead 2
Alright, so maybe board games aren't your thing. That's perfectly alright. There's a whole host of incredible survival horror video games out there for you to sink your teeth into as well. Take Left 4 Dead and its sequel. Though not terrifying in the strictest sense, it's nevertheless a fun, challenging way to spend an evening with a few friends. Plot's pretty simple here: world's been overrun by zombies. You're survivors. You need to escape.
Oh, it's also a shooter, by the way. That might change a few people's minds, I'm certain.
No More Room In Hell
I'll top off the list with a multiplayer entry pretty much perfect for a LAN party. No More Room In Hell is a zombie survival designed for Half-Life 2 - one which does zombie survival right. Ammunition is scarce, visibility is poor, and the living dead are everywhere. If you try to run-and-gun your way through, you will die. Simple. You - and your friends; this is a co-op experience, after all - will need to play it smart if you're going to survive.
Also, don't get bit. You'll turn into a zombie if you do.
Honorable Mention: Call of Duty: Black Ops(Nazi Zombies)