It was after leaving the safe confines of Vault 18, and heading west on an extended trek across an almost entirely deserted road towards Union City, that the initially phenomenally designed and written Fallout: New California started to show cracks in the plaster. It was subtle at first, but as I reached the I-138 – I-15 Beltway, and came across a massive battle between the NCR and Survivalist Raiders that quite literally exploded a long stretch of highway with mortars and vertibirds, questions starting poking at the back of my brain. The biggest one being: What kind of game is Fallout: New California trying to be?
Keep in mind, everything within this review is based around one 18ish hour playthrough, with one story path. New California has branches upon branches of narratives all weaving parallel and often intersecting with one another, similar to how New Vegas was structured. But where New Vegas started weaving and everything together around ten hours into the narrative proper, New California does it from the very first frame all the way to the end. So it’s entirely possible I accidentally played New California in a way that had me miss out on a ton of content.
For those of who may not know, Fallout: New California is a massive, character-focused narrative mod for Fallout: New Vegas. It’s been in development for seven years, by Radian-Helix Media, lead by Branden Lee and Rick Hukkanen. It takes place in 2260; twenty years after NCR-Enclave War and twenty years before the events of Fallout 3 and New Vegas. The game’s world space is about 66% the size of New Vegas, and it has nearly 17,000 lines of professional-level dialog from 60 voice actors.
You play as an orphan adopted into Vault 18, a control vault in the San Bernardino Valley, otherwise known as The Pass, and the narrative puts you up against, or allies you with, the last remnants of the Enclave on the west coast, a massive coalition of raiders called the Survivalists, the New California Republic (NCR) , and the Gangs of New Reno. It has thirteen different endings, many of them radically different from one another, and serves as an unofficial prequel to both Fallout 3 and New Vegas. But mostly New Vegas.
Anyway, up until the Beltway, I had gathered a small army of companions composed of my player character, her giant robot, her robo-dog, the mostly-functioning couple of Eric and Jamie, a recently-slightly-less-amnesiac badass tribal Kurtz, the “popular girl” Jennifer Hail, and the “unpopular girl” Kira Mann. Due to the fact that I had chosen the “Path of the Scientist” — one of two primary narratives that begins with a single choice you make about four seconds into the game — I didn’t really have a good handle on who Eric, Jamie or Jen were. From playing the Alpha version of New California, back when it was still called Project Brazil, I knew that the “Path of the Warrior” did indeed take time out to develop those characters…but also left the option open to interact with Kira and Kurtz anyway.
After following along with the development of New California, and remembering that its design and writing philosophy was heavily inspired by Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 2, I assumed that my companions would have quite a lot to say as the story moved forward, and most of what I missed back in the prologue would catch up to me. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
From quest to quest, running across the sparsely populated and confusingly large wasteland of The Pass, the only two characters who ever had anything to say were Kira and Kurtz. And even then, it wasn’t a lot. Kira would mention her primary motivation, finding her family, but the well characterized young woman who I got to hang around with in Vault 18 seemed to all but vanish once we’d reached the formal end of the first chapter. Kurtz had more to say as we moved through the game, but all of it seemed to be carefully scripted as to not affect the player character’s interactions with the world. There were also some mentions of both Kira and Kurtz going to talk to NPCs at what sounded like critical moments that just never happened.
It’s possible this was a bug that existed in pre-release build of the mod that I played, but I’m not entirely sure it was. What few moments of situational dialog I could find seemed to relate to events that simply didn’t happen in my playthrough, which makes me think that I did something that messed with quest. Having a few triggers missing makes sense, but nearly all of them? To make sure I would get the full intended experience, I only used the mods that the development team recommended with a fresh installation of New Vegas. To my knowledge, everything else in the game appeared to work as intended.
It’s easy to guess as to why Kira and Kurtz got more attention and more opportunities to speak their minds than the rest of your makeshift family from Vault 18: they’re the only two you can’t miss. I’m fairly certain it’s possible that Kira doesn’t join your team, though you kind of have to try to make that happen, but Kurtz will always be around if you want him there.
What baffles me the most, though, is that right before the end of the first chapter, after you escape the Vault, there’s a mechanic that’s introduced where you need to keep your new family and team together by being a good leader. You need to make sure that they aren’t at each other’s throats, and that their feelings are kept in check for the sake of survival. You can interrupt five (six, if you took Path of the Warrior and played your cards right) people arguing by firing your gun into the air, and then give a speech depending on your SPECIAL, skills and perks.
This kind of mechanic, and the way it was introduced, would make a player naturally assume that it would show up periodically at important branching points in the game’s narrative. It’s an idea that I loved, and was excited to see how it would play out in the future. Except, I literally never saw it happen again. There was so much potential with that, and the interpersonal relationships that were established, and to see it all just…ignored after leaving the Vault confuses me.
There are two more instances of “give a big speech” to a crowd of people within the game’s multi-branching narrative that I’m aware of, but neither of them have anything to do with keeping your core group together.
All of that being said, pretty much every other character you meet in New California is memorable and developed to an at times ludicrous degree. Every time I met someone new, I couldn’t help but wonder why my companions weren’t nearly as interesting as them. This is something New Vegas managed to avoid by having a lot of topics already be available for conversation once you recruited any companion. More would open up as their personal storylines unfolded, and as such you’d learn more about them.
As I moved further into the game, and actually got to Union City, things started to pick up a little bit. New California’s depiction of the NCR’s rampant corruption and “manifest destiny” approach to expansion is very much in line with New Vegas and Fallout 2. The depth that it goes into exploring this on a localized scale is just as intelligent and well executed as any example from those two games. The interplay between General Silverman and Senator DuVille is extremely entertaining and feels right at home within the universe.
But then I walked outside and an Raider-controlled vertibird bombed main street. It was more than a little jarring. At this point, I was starting to notice an odd trend with how New California tells its story. Every time I’d get some meaningful, deep and interesting character interaction and get to make some important, genuinely morally complex choices, I’d walk around a corner and a giant set piece would happen. In the prologue, the Vault exploded. At the Beltway, the road exploded. Union City? Another road exploded. This continues to happen throughout the game, almost as if there was some sort of quota. It was genuinely strange.
Some examples are better than others, and there’s nothing wrong with the execution, but the pattern itself is what stuck out to me. For a game that prides itself so much on variety, player choice and a fully-realized world where nothing is ever black or white, why fall back on design choices that are, as someone with a decent understanding of Bethesda’s mod tools, inherently far more difficult to implement than pretty much anything else? A few instances did indeed show us more about the world of The Pass, but others weren’t as effective in that effort.
There are also instances within the narrative where the game basically tells you to run like hell, sometimes back the way you came, which, considering the at times annoying scale of the game world, is more frustrating than exciting.
All of that being said, New California, when it actually allows its story to flow and expand, does so organically and with exceptional tact. There are some instances where it feels like the game is overcompensating and writing way too much dialog to make sure it has enough, but none of it is ever bad or poorly delivered. The voice cast is pretty stellar and consistent throughout, which is seriously impressive. There were a few audio glitches and odd levels here and there, but nothing I’m sure wouldn’t be patched out in the next week or so, if not sooner or possibly already. As an aside, I do want to commend New California for having a significant chunk of its NPCs actually speak Spanish. The game is set southern California, and yet, if memory serves, the first time we ever actually get a reminder of close Mexico is to the West Coast Fallout titles was in New Vegas with Raul.
New California’s primary narrative is, without spoiling anything, absolutely worthy of the Fallout title. The stories you hear from a certain bounty hunter are a particular highlight, and the expansions of lore you can dive into within Vault 18 (the premise itself of which is the perfect Fallout balance of particularly terrifying and clever) and other areas are a blast. It all fits together into a surprisingly tight package, and it’s unfortunate that all of it is sorta buried behind a game with a weird identity crisis.
To its credit, New California never exploits or shoulders too much of the burden of its setting on previous installments. That is to say, it never uses a reference to factions or historical events we, the player, already know about, with reverence. The characters and world of New California operates as if it was part of the official Fallout-canon with well deserved confidence. All of that stuff is just part of their reality. It’s their life…even if some of it has fallen into myth and legend.
The way that New California tackles dialog and SPECIAL stats is probably my favorite thing about it. In New Vegas, there were skill checks and SPECIAL checks that opened up new dialog options that also allowed for different ways to accomplish a goal. There were also a few, not a lot, of Perk checks. New California expands on this system in a way that I absolutely love.
The perks you gain from conversations, and exploring the game’s larger world, have an actual impact on not only your stats, but also the story. A perk you get in hour one can be applied in hour ten, and just because you pass a skill check doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll succeed in what you set out to do. Sometimes the characters will get what you’re saying, but ultimately won’t care or change their mind. It lends another layer of immersion to the world that is endlessly intriguing to me.
SPECIAL stat checks, which typically only showed up once, and rarely twice in a conversation in New Vegas, now appear in at least 50% of conversations in the game. There are even situations where the further you get into a topic, the harder the checks become, which creates a very effective illusion of an actual conversation where two sides have clearly set personal boundaries about what they will and will not talk about. Y’know, like talking to people in your everyday life. It’s a small thing that has a big impact on the characters you meet, even if it’s only a brief encounter.
Aside from my problems with how companions are handled in New California, my biggest issue with the game is that so much of the world is barren desert. And not like how New Vegas was a desert; that actually had side quests and places to explore in between larger settlements to break up the monotony of going from A to B. New California doesn’t have anywhere near enough of those to justify the scale of its worldspace. The side quests you do find are actually pretty fun and tie into the larger lore of the narrative, but they’re few and far between.
The map also, notably, doesn’t feature many landmarks by which to orient yourself. It’s not something you’ve ever needed to actually do for gameplay reasons, but I always found it help with immersion and establishing the game world if you could look towards a giant tower (White Gold Tower in Oblivion, Washington Monument in Fallout 3, Lucky 38 in New Vegas, That Giant Mountain in Skyrim, and whatever-it-was-called in Fallout 4) to get a feel for where you physically were in relation to everything else.
Walking literally six minutes north from Union City to a power relay (which you can avoid doing under certain circumstances, at the cost of not further fleshing out the narrative) and running into one settlement with no quests and only one character who has anything interesting to say on the way is not enough from a gameplay perspective. Narratively, sure, yes, you can make an argument that this particular region of California should be that barren. But what makes sense there does not always translate well to gameplay.
I’m sure that the two custom-voiced radio stations, both of which are filled with an impressive combination of exclusive covers, public domain tracks, and brand new music composed explicitly for the game as well as their respective DJs, is meant to serve as a sort of bridge or stop-gap between points of interest, just as it was for Fallout 3, New Vegas, and Fallout 4, but it’s just, again, not enough.
There was a point later in the game, the context of which I’m not going to spoil at the request of Project Lead Branden Lee, where you need to run all over The Pass…revealing map markers that have their discovery distance set to about four feet. Basically, this means that exploring The Pass is very much discouraged, since finding your footing in an open world game like this requires a decent amount of map markers so the game doesn’t feel so empty. These were places that I had actually passed through prior to this specific quest, and there weren’t any map markers.
New California leaned way too much into the authenticity of the wasteland than it needed to. I’m sure the goal was to increase immersion, but all it ultimately did was take me out of the experience. Half the time I wouldn’t even get a combat encounter when walking about thirty percent across the game’s map. Not everything needs to be combat, but if developing more side quests just wasn’t realistic, then the least that could be done would be to slap down a few more raider camps in the general pathways players would take to get from A to B. That honestly makes more narrative sense than there being empty tracts of land, considering the difficulty the NCR is having with the allied Raider factions all across San Bernardino.
This disconnect was so distinct that there were times where it felt like the first fifth of the story, which took place almost entirely in the superbly designed and fleshed out Vault 18, was an entirely different game from everything that happens later in The Pass. Part of that might be because I played the Alpha way back when, which was pretty much only that part of the story, but even that had undergone some significant overhauls and redesigns in the past five years. It really didn’t play the same, even if some aspects remained familiar.
Vault 18 felt like a place where people actually lived, worked, and eventually died. It had a layout that made sense, and pretty much every NPC in there had something interesting to say and worth listening to. The Pass mostly doesn’t feel like that. There are moments scattered about, and when you find them they’re effective and draw you in like nobody’s business, but when they end you’re right back in the middle of the nowhere.
Fallout: New California is an uneven game with phenomenal character writing, attention to detail, inspired new mechanics and expansive world building that would be a worthy addition to the Fallout canon. At its best, New California stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Fallout 2 and New Vegas. At its worst, it’s a giant empty desert that constantly reminds you of how close it came to accomplishing what it set out to do.
It’s 100% worth playing, but don’t go in expecting to get your full singleplayer Fallout fix. New California probably won’t sate you. At least, not on just one playthrough. The sheer number of choices and endings packed into New California all but guarantees that each replay of the game will be fresh and interesting…even if getting from one point to the next can be a bit of a slog.
Trust me: it’s way more fun the second time around.
Images courtesy of Radian-Helix Media.
This game was reviewed using a provided pre-release build.
Overwatch in a nutshell
How do I talk about a game that should have been dead about a year ago, but is still going strong? If you didn’t get that, the game I am talking about is Overwatch. A game that is strictly online, which means no story mode to find out the lore behind this game. If you want to learn about the lore, then join the line buddy. Players have to wait months til another origin short comes out about their favorite hero, which makes sense if you want to keep an online game alive. Recently a new “hero” has been announced called Ashe, and we got a bunch of clues about who she is from a McCree short.
Even though Overwatch came out in 2016, they are still releasing new heroes. According to a video by Your Overwatch, there are 5 new heroes coming out within the next couple of months. Once a new hero comes out, there is a good week or so before they are available to play. That means you have little time to master this new hero before they are out in comp. If you didn’t notice the error in my previous sentence then I will repeat it: a hero that is made to counter certain heroes. Do I believe this statement? Of course not, because Overwatch is about skill and luck at the same time. You need enough skill to be able to counter your counters with any hero, but you also need luck in order to group with a team that also has enough skill to carry its own weight.
The lowest ELO I have gone down to is bronze in Overwatch competitive and that is the lowest you can go. I had the worst luck in getting grouped with players that didn’t use mics. Now using mics doesn’t automatically guarantee a win, but it increases the chances. It is better to try and formulate a plan to win against your enemy, than to try and blindly attempt to understand your teammates actions. So, if you do decide to play competitive mode, then please try to talk to your teammates.
So, when do you believe that people will stop playing Overwatch? In my opinion, I believe the game is already dying, but you have players like me that come back to the game after months of quitting, just to see if it became a little less toxic. I quit because I was tired of the toxic players that kept throwing games and leaving so that you were missing a teammate. Something that Overwatch needs to work on the most is leavers. If you never played this game, then you wouldn’t see the problem with someone leaving, because you would get a new teammate right away. No, that would be common sense and common sense doesn’t work in Overwatch.
If they leave in the first 30 seconds to a minute, then the game is cancelled and no one loses anything, but any later than that then you have to hope that the player comes back. Leavers don’t make sense, because they still receive a loss from leaving, but there is the rare exception where someone just disconnects. If they do, then they have a chance to come back and help out the team. That is the only way you get the blank spot in your team filled.
The game will die when they finish releasing heroes and when we get the origin and shorts for every hero in the game. Then again, they are releasing new heroes every few months, so that day won’t be anytime soon. Blizzard makes money from the ever-growing Overwatch league and from the new players that joined because of sales and new heroes. I only bought the game because some friends wanted to play with me. The sad thing is, that I haven’t played with them since I bought the game because we have different play styles. I am a support main and I can’t play with someone that charges into a battle and doesn’t expect to protect the healer that is keeping them alive.
Should you buy?
So, what is my take on this game? I actually hate it more than anything else, and I wouldn’t exactly recommend it to others. It is a fun game to play with friends, but once you start playing with randoms, that is when the stress happens. I am not in a high ELO and I will take a quick break until next placements just so I can get my third gold weapon. The main reason we play comp is to say we have a high standing and to also say that we have a gold weapon for this hero, so praise us.
So, buy a mic, don’t get too stressed and remember unless you are on PC—you aren’t going to find yourself in the Overwatch league.
Hopefully you enjoyed this review. Comment to let me know what game you want me to review next, and I’ll see if I can play it!
Image courtesy of Blizzard
Let’s Unpack This: Star Realms: Frontier Unboxing
Also, say hello to our new video wing of the Fandomentals over on YouTube, Fanfinity!
In this video, I’m taking a look at White Wizard’s newest addition to their Star Realms series of deckbuilding games, out now at your local game shop.
Image courtesy of White Wizard
Tabletop Terror: The Fandomentals Guide To Halloween Gaming
The spooky times are upon us folks. In just a couple days the spirits of the night will take hold, and the world will descend yet again into the darkness and horror that is All Hallow’s Eve. And for most of us, that means Halloween Parties. Maybe you’re hosting one, or maybe you’re just attending one. It’s always good to have board games ready for a party, to bring people together and have some fun that doesn’t require cramming around a screen. But how do you please everyone at your party? If one guest only likes fun and campy spooks, while another is in to Halloween for the guts and gore, you may find yourself struggling to select games to bring to the dinner table this year. But fear not! Games writers Cat and Dan have teamed up to bring you a curated list of games, each selected especially for some of the most troublesome ghoulies who might haunt your Halloween fête.
Best Game To Play With Your High Goth Friend
They’re the first to arrive and the last to leave. This is their time of year, and they have gone all out. White face paint, black clothes, a frilly shirt. This is standard for them year round, but there’s something different about them come Halloween. There’s a spring in their step, a twirl to their parasol, and a twinkle in their eyeliner. They will accept only the darkest and most dramatic activities this Halloween.
Our Recommendation: Fury of Dracula
Fury of Dracula has been a classic staple of horror gaming since it debuted in 1987. The 2006 reboot, and its 2015 revision, have done nothing but increase its popularity. Based on, what else, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the game places players right into the gothic world of Victorian Europe. One player takes on the role of the infamous Count, and the other becomes one of his hunters: Jonathan Harker, Lord Godalming, Dr. John Seward, and Mina Harker.
The game is largely one of deduction, with the hunters using clues and signs to follow Count Dracula as a he carves a bloody swath through the continent. You gather items, defeat the minions of Dracula, and contend with the Count himself as he misleads, obfuscates, and lies as only he can to throw you off the scent. The game ends when Drac or the hunters bite it, he completes his dark mastery of Europe, spreads his vampiric curse, and survives. Winning requires smarts, cunning, and a flare for the dramatic even Dracula could appreciate. In the novel, Dracula was killed and the world freed from his dark presence. Will the same happen to you?
Best Game To Play With Your “Psychic” Friend
They “knew” you were going to have a party, after you made the Facebook event, and they “knew” you needed more napkins, even though you had plenty and would have preferred they bring more snacks. They keep you updated on your horoscope, carry a tarot deck in a belt holster, and will almost certainly get very drunk and predict someone’s doom tonight. You should make sure the game you pick ensures that the doomed person won’t be you.
Our Recommendation: Mysterium
Our choice of Mysterium should be no surprise to board game fans, as the game of guessing and ghosts is already considered a classic by many despite its youth. One player in this game plays as the ghost of a murdered servant and the rest are mediums summoned to their master’s house to find out who did the deed. Think of it as a cooperative Clue, with someone playing as Mr. Boddy. The ghost, who is otherwise silent, hands out clues to the mediums to help them guess who the killer was and where and how they did it. If they can figure it out, and agree on their choice, in time, then the ghost will be set free to enjoy his eternal rest. If they can’t? They’re doomed to roam the halls forevermore.
Best Game To Play With The Scooby-Doo Fan
They may not be as into the guts and gore as other people, and they may have a thing for the campier side of horror, but this guest is one of the most enthusiastic year in and year out. They make great sandwiches, kick butt at charades, and rock a mean ascot. As well, they’ve probably got the best costume at the party (though your goth friend will fight them over it). They’ll want a game that isn’t too spooky, one that captures all the fun and silliness they love about the holiday.
Our Recommendation: Betrayal At House On The Hill
You can’t beat Betrayal for sheer classic Halloween flavor. Taking the roles of stock horror film characters like “The Professor” or “The Little Girl,” players enter a creepy old mansion that you don’t know the layout of until you begin to explore it. All sorts of strange things can happen as the house grows, from ballrooms in the basement to a balcony-adjacent kitchen. Players gather items, deal with mystical events, or are visited by dark omens that presage the dark presence in this house. When enough omens are drawn, or the players are highly unlucky, the game shifts and becomes a new challenge as they race to defeat a new and powerful enemy.
This “Haunt” changes based on where the Haunt was triggered and by what omen, and you will almost never get the same one twice. They range from a mass shrinking to an outbreak of werewolves to a full on demonic summoning, and often require a player to turn traitor and kill, transform, or delay their former friends as they try to escape. It’s a great game with infinite replay-ability and is just cartoony enough to keep it from truly scaring anybody. The 2016 Widow’s Walk expansion adds to the potential with all sorts of new monsters, haunts, and rooms for you to explore.
Best Game To Play With Your Gamemaster
They’re still miffed they had to move your session this week for the party, but they’ll get over it when they find the snack table (a DM’s one weakness). You’ll have to deal with them turning their nose up at games that allow for “structured” play, or stories that are “already written.” How do you please the lover of RPG’s when you only have one night to play?
Our Recommendation: Vampire The Masquerade 5e
It’s difficult to pull off pen-and-paper in a one time setting, but we at the Fandomentals are firm believers in the power of one-shots to capture all the fun of a good tabletop session without the long term commitment. And one of the best games for that, on Halloween or in general, is White Wolf’s newest edition of their classic Vampire the Masquerade. As Cat covered in her review, the new edition goes along way to update the game and improve its accessibility for a new generation. At its core a heavily story and character-driven game, Vampire doesn’t require quite as much minute number crunching other games do. It also fits quite well with Halloween, allowing you to craft a dramatic tale of horror and tragedy around one of the most classic monsters of all time. The only real question is, which clan are you going to be?
Vampire the Masquerade: 5th Ed. is available at most local game shops, from World of Darkness, and on Amazon, where the physical book retails for $42.95. And keep an eye out, as the Camarilla and Chicago by Night books will be releasing soon to supplement your vampiric experience.
Best Game To Play With The Bookworm
They showed up dressed as someone from the 19th century, and are offended when nobody gets it. It’s not their fault nobody’s read the marginalia of Poe. They can tell you which books every horror movie is ripping off of, and they hold a grudging respect for Stephen King (even if, they say, he hasn’t been good since he wrote IT). They want a game that scratches their love of literature, while keeping things as bone chillingly spooky as their favorite dark novels.
Our Recommendation: Masque of The Red Death
One of our favorite games coming out of GenCon this year, Masque is a truly unique experience in the board game world. The game is a mix of strategy, deduction, and planning as you attend the famous ball given by Prince Prospero at the locked Abbey. Just as in the story, which is helpfully printed in the rules, players must gain favor with the Duke even as the plague known as the Red Death ravages the countryside. Fritter your time away with idle gossip and petty insults while secretly plotting your own survival. When the ebony clock strikes midnight, your only hope for survival is your ability to remember. It’s got beautiful art from Gris Grimley that makes even the box look like a Halloween decoration, and the gloomily colorful board and Ebony Clock standee make a bold statement at any party. Hopefully yours ends up better than Prospero’s did…
Best Game To Play With The Horror Film Snob
They’ve already gotten into three arguments with the Bookworm over the IT adaptations, and they brought a stack of beat up VHS’s in lieu of the bean dip you asked for. You don’t even OWN a VHS player. Nobody has heard of any of the movie’s they’ve brought, and you’re scared that one of them may end up being a snuff film. Any film you suggest is derided as pedestrian, cliched, and, worst of all, not scary. So how do you make them happy at the tabletop?
Our Recommendation: YOU Are The Maniac!
He’ll already be itching to play this based on the box, a beautifully designed thing built to look and feel exactly like the old VHS’s so many classic slasher flicks came in. It even has the wear and tear that signifies that yes, this is an original. But inside is not B-grade scares and badly done makeup. Instead, YOU Are The Maniac contains a well paced strategy card game that allows players to step into the shoes of their favorite slasher villains. Played across three “films,” you compete to rack up the highest kill count among all the slashers in the game. Chasing down victims, acting out scenes with the Maniac deck, handling the various plot twists, and killing the Final Girl at the end of the movie; it’s all in a days work for the killers in this game. It’s fun and darkly hilarious, working well as a fast-paced party game you could even play while watching one of the movies that inspired it!
YOU Are The Maniac! is published by Counter Culture Cards and can be purchased on their website for $24.95
Best Game To Play With The History Geek
They know the complete history of Halloween and will happily spend all night telling you exactly why and how candy corn came to be. They’ve been to Salem dozens of times, and complains that the rituals in Hocus Pocus aren’t historical accurate. They obsessively find old newspaper clippings from one hundred years ago to send you. They want a game that’s fun, scary, and has well sourced historical backing, dang it!
Our Recommendation: Salem 1692
Salem:1692 is a fantastic replacement or addition to your rotation of deduction games that you’ve been playing for years. Unlike standbys like One Night Ultimate Werewolf or Are You A Werewolf, Salem grounds itself in the real Salem Witch Trials while maintaining all the suspicion and plotting we love. As Dan said in his review, Salem is a well researched and fun game that is visually stunning to boot, and you can read more about it in the previously linked review. Your history snob friend will never expect you to pull the next game straight out of the bookshelf!
Best Game To Play With That Guy Who Takes RISK Way Too Seriously
There’s a good chance this person is also your Gamemaster, and they’re certainly in your group, but they aren’t in it for the roleplay. No, this guest wants to prove that they are so much smarter than anyone else at the table. They have probably seen Patton too many times, and an entire wall of their apartment is covered in maps. But there isn’t really anything scary about Risk or Stratego (except for their length), so how do you make the tabletop general happy?
Our Recommendation: Eschaton
While the dark fantasy setting of Eschaton doesn’t at first seem to have the trappings of Halloween, the eldritch plot and beautifully grotesque art make it fit right in with its more seasonal friends. Taking on the role of a cult leader in a world on the brink of Apocalypse, players must battle for territory and the favor of the Dark One as they recruit men and monsters into their unholy ranks. Only one cult can walk at the side of the Dark One when the Eschaton comes, will it be you?
Best Game To Play With Your Hungry Friend
This guest will not leave the snack table, and always fills a plate when the party moves away from it for any reason. They’ll probably suggest a Taco Bell run sometime around midnight. Yet they always seem hungry, famished even. Are they looking at your skull? Why do they keep trying to steal your hat? Why are they moaning like that? Wait, where’d the bookworm go? Do you smell blood?
Our Recommendation: Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
There are A LOT of zombie games out there, and it was really hard to narrow it down. But there’s only one game that captures the full experience of the living dead, and that’s Flying Frog’s Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game. I mean c’mon, it’s in the title! Now celebrating ten years in the gaming world, Last Night on Earth is as much an ode to Romero and his ilk as YOU Are The Maniac is to Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter.
Playing as zombie movie cliches like high school kids, scientists, teachers, and more, most players must navigate the dangers of a zombie apocalypse. One or two players, however, get to play as the brain-hungry zombies. Each playable scenario is different, whether you’re rescuing a fallen friend, trying to escape, or just trying to “not die,” it’s easily re-playable. And with ten years under its belt, its had a lot of time to come out with expansions and supplements (22 as of this writing), including a spin-off Timber Peak and a spin on the cliche alien movie with Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game. Load the shotgun, keep your cool, and always remember to double-tap.
Best Game To Play With The Pescetarian
This guest really likes fish. They haven’t just cut meat out of their diet, they’ve cut nearly everything that else isn’t aquatic from their diet as well. You can’t get over the strange and salty smell that comes off of them, though, or how cold and clammy their hands always are. Sometimes you catch them mumbling to themselves in a strange language they keep insisting is just Polish. They’re quiet and a little odd, but they make great sashimi, so it’d be a shame not to have a game that caters to their unique self.
Our Recommendation: Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu
A spin-off of the popular Pandemic series of worldwide disease simulator games, Reign of Cthulu replaces the science and medicine with chaos and madness. Players take on the role of a 1920’s investigator working to stop the return of the Old Ones from their cosmic prison. They must defeat monsters, gather items, and seal the portals before the most ancient of evils can bring doom to the world. It’s a mix of strategy and teamwork as you and your fellow investigators move through classic towns like Innsmouth and Dunwich in search of an end to the evil. But beware, there are things man was not meant to see, and one’s mind does have a tendency to get lost in the darkness.
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu is published by Z-Man games and can be bought from their website for $49.99, as well as most retailers.
There you have it! Ten games we guarantee to spook and surprise, entertain, and ennervate in equal measure. Now all that’s left for you to do is finish your costume…but wait…is someone early? Better get the door, that growling sounds awfully impatient.
What games do you like to play for Halloween? Did we leave any off that we shouldn’t have? Sound off below!