Haunt the House
Drive away ghost hunters from the house you haunt!
October is the season for scares. But instead of getting scared by a ghost story, what if you could be the one doing the scaring?
In Haunt the House, players take on the role of ghosts who are trying to frighten ghost hunters and collect the souvenirs they leave behind.
Designed by Josh & Helaina Cappel and published by their company Kids Table Board Gaming, Haunt the House is a great game for a spooky Halloween feel without being scary for younger kids.
How to Play
Set out room tiles (depending on the number of players) and place a Ghost Hunter on each. Each Ghost Hunter card displays a set of four specific Scares required to frighten them off, and every player begins the game with three Scare cards in their hand.
On your turn, you may either play two regular actions, or you may BOO! a room.
Action: Play a Visible Scare
Play a Scare from your hand face-up into a room. It must match one of the types that Ghost Hunter requires, which has not already been fulfilled by other face-up Scares.
Once you’ve played a visible Scare, you may immediately use the power of the room in which you played it.
Action: Play an Invisible Scare
You can play any Scare from your hand face-down into a room. It does not have to match the requirements to frighten the Ghost Hunter in that room. However, if it does match the requirements, you’ll get a reward later when that room is BOOed!
Action: Draw Cards
You may use an action to draw back up to the hand limit of three cards.
Actions are fine, but when do we get to scare the Ghost Hunters? That’s what BOO is for. Calling “BOO” uses your entire turn, but it’s the primary way to earn points.
After you call “BOO” on a room, reveal any invisible (face-down) Scares: each player who played at least one that matches the types required gets a Skull token (or a Phantom card).
Then compare all of the Scares with the Ghost Hunter’s requirements. Add more Scares from your hand if you need to “finish off” the BOO.
If the BOO succeeds, you get the Ghost Hunter card as a reward.
At the end of your turn, if you did anything other than a successful BOO, you may discard Scares from your hand (or keep them if you want), then draw up to a hand of three again.
When a player claims their fourth Ghost Hunter, every other player gets one last turn.
Earn points at the end of the game for Skull tokens and Skull symbols on your Ghost Hunter cards. But the Gear on the Ghost Hunters you’ve captured can be even more important! Sets of matching Gear are worth points equal to their count squared. Each player starts the game with two hidden Gear tiles.
Phantoms are optional but add another layer to the game. You can draw Phantom cards (draw two, keep one) instead of taking a Skull token.
Each Phantom has a one-time use power that can help you, if you play your cards right. You can play a single Phantom card for free with your action turn (not with a BOO unless explicitly stated).
Phantom cards also have a Skull value – but only if they’re played, not if they’re kept in your hand.
Haunt the House is a great game to get in the Halloween mood without being too spooky. Our kids loved the idea of being the ones who got to do the scaring.
Josh’s graphics and Appoline Etienne’s illustrations strike just the right note for a “spoopy” game. The ghosts are inoffensive: more like Casper and less like Slimer. The Ghost Hunters are diverse and their expressions range from cautious to seriously creeped out.
I appreciate the care that went into the graphic design, as well – the four Scare symbols are very easy to tell apart, and each player’s cards can be distinguished by both color and pattern. When playing with a colorblind friend, he was able to discern each player’s cards from the patterned backgrounds.
Some of the Phantoms and room powers can be mean. All the attacks have a devil symbol, so they are easy to spot and remove if they cause a problem for your family. And you’ll always have enough non-attack rooms to fill your house, even at five players.
The Phantom cards helped keep things interesting – the special powers may cause you to take risks you wouldn’t otherwise, or change your strategy to gain points in different ways. The “Sleeping” Phantom uses your two actions (instead of being free) but gives you three skulls. “Mimic” causes you to lose a skull, but doubles a scare card you use to finish a BOO.
The Phantoms are generally well balanced with more powerful Phantoms giving fewer skulls (or even negative skulls). However, a few can seem unbalanced depending on the game conditions (i.e. “Vanishing” allows you to avoid an attack or gives you two skulls if unused).
Not the Perfect Scare
There are a few things that keep Haunt the House from being a perfect fit for our family.
We first played this with the whole family. But five players is probably the worst player count for Haunt the House. There was too much waiting between turns and the game dragged on. There wasn’t much for our kids to do while waiting for other players, so they struggled to stay engaged. We fared much better at just two or three players.
There is a little bit of press your luck and bluffing with the invisible scares. This combination is hard for our kids, so that might have impacted their engagement
We also struggled to remember a few of the rules – like when players are and aren’t allowed to draw cards – even after several plays.
When playing Haunt the House with only adults, there was a lot laughing while players snuck in and BOOed rooms just before others got the chance. Despite a runaway leader in that session, the play had enough weight to keep all the adults interested and competitive.
While it wasn’t the perfect match for our family, Haunt the House is a well-crafted Halloween themed game that mixes deduction, press-your-luck, and set collection well. If you can’t collect sets of your favorite candy, this might be the next best thing this time of year.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Haunt the House from Kids Table Board Gaming for this review.
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Haunt the House
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 8+ (some reading)
Playtime: 30 minutes