Horror Board Games: Spooky Play with some Scary Secondary Values
Monster, horror and other Halloweenie themes have long been popular in both mainstream and hobby market board games. Modern examples range from the classic Fury of Dracula, which pits one to four vampire-hunting players in a contest against another acting as the titular Count, to Arkham Horror, an epic adventure game in which players cooperate to thwart the encroachment of various creatures and entities inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Of course physical responses to terror and shock are almost impossible to convey, given the limitations of the medium, but spooky subject matter has always been a favorite among board game publishers going back in particularly to the 1960s and 1970s, the prime years for horror and monster collectibles.
Because of the nature of horror and monster collecting, many of these games carry substantially higher value than other games from this period, and the usual advice I give asserting that playability, among current hobbyists, is a better barometer of worth than vintage, isn’t necessarily applicable. In addition, many spooky games of the past were elaborately produced in ways that aren’t easily reproduced, with many relying on one-of-a-kind gimmicks. The novelty of some of these Halloween-appropriate classics also means that the kids that had these unique games tend to remember them fondly and seek them out later in life.
So, in the spirit of the Halloween season, here’s a witch’s brew of some of the more interesting and more valuable spooky games that might be lurking in the shadows of thrift stores, yard sales and antique shops:
Haunted House (Ideal, 1962)
Haunted House (Ideal, 1962): Kind of like a very expensive advent calendar, but with ghosts.
This is one of the prime examples of a very valuable, desirable game of this type. The Haunted House game board is a molded plastic haunted house that is held in place vertically with supports. It’s almost like an advent calendar in some regards, with doors concealing the house’s resident ghosts and other spooky surprises. Play is a basic roll-and-move mechanic, with players trying to find a jewel and make it out of the house. It’s not much, but the game is an amazing artifact of its time and its gimmick—other than the cool toy house—is that instead of dice or a traditional spinner, the game uses this slot machine-like box to tally movement. When the lever on it is pulled, the box emits an eerie hooting-owl sound—without batteries—it’s all mechanical. Later editions of the game dropped the owl spinner and replaced it with a standard cardboard needle-and-dial style spinner, which is a rather unfortunate substitute. Complete, good condition copies of this game can range between $200 and $500, and there is a market for replacement parts, so incomplete sets still carry some substantial value if pieced out.
The Haunted Mansion Game (Lakeside, 1971)
The Haunted Mansion Game (Lakeside, 1971): Still likely cheaper than a day pass to the Magic Kingdom.
My favorite attraction at Disney World has always been the Haunted Mansion, and of course there is a vintage board game based on it. The Haunted Mansion Game is another simple roll-and-move game that features a neat board with rotating discs that change the path—as well as creating, at least in miniature, a sense of the great ballroom scene from the ride. The game simply looks amazing with some wonderful ’70s-era illustrations and the classic “kids digging this game” photograph on the box. This one is a hit for both the monster/horror enthusiast as well as the Disneyana collector. A copy recently closed at auction with a $157 winning bid with a missing piece and some significant wear, so expect more complete or better quality copies to approach $200 or more.
Voice of the Mummy (Milton Bradley, 1971)
Voice of the Mummy (Milton Bradley, 1971): A machine as much as a game.
Board games that talk or make sounds were a big deal before video games, and naturally there were several talking-, squawking- and shrieking-monster and horror examples. Voice of the Mummy is one of the more valuable and sought-after games in this class, regularly fetching between $100 and $150 for working, complete copies. The funny thing about this game is that the sounds aren’t electronically generated at all—it uses an actual battery-powered record player concealed in the game board to communicate with players and to tell them what to do with “The Voice” . . . spooky! This game’s value is greatly affected by its mechanical condition, with motors and belts being a factor, as well as the condition of the record. As with many battery-powered toys and games of the past, corroded or damaged battery compartments are also a common issue.
Seance (Milton Bradley, 1972)
Seance (Milton Bradley, 1972): A very rare, very valuable set of cardboard furniture.
Voice of the Mummy was followed by another game using a similar record player-driven mechanic. Seance is an exceptionally rare title in which the players are bidding on their deceased Uncle Everett’s former belongings. The record is used to “contact” the spirit of the dead relative, who kindly imparts an appraisal of each item along with whatever taxes must be paid. The player with the most money wins. Complete, good condition and working Séance games are valued by Uncle Everett to be worth around $250.
Green Ghost (Transogram, 1965)
Green Ghost (Transogram, 1965): The flash from this photo charged the glow-in-the-dark ghost until the next Christmas.
Finally, we have Green Ghost, a still rare but far more reasonably priced trick-or-treat game that weighs in around $50-$150, with complete and good condition copies at the upper end. Billed as “the exciting game of mystery that glows in the dark,” it’s another 3D game in which players spin and move, uncovering the creepy contents of trap doors and try to capture ghost kids and return them to Mama Green Ghost. A neat twist is that one of the kids is the Green Ghost’s baby, and whoever finds him is the winner. Obviously, this is not a strategy game. But it’s adorable. The game was reprinted in 1997 by Marx Toys, but the quality of the production was widely regarded as poor. Nonetheless, it still fetches $40-$50—that’s an appreciation of $10-$20 over its retail price.
There we are, then: spooky games with some pretty scary prices. Happy Halloween!
Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.
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