October is my favourite month because that’s when I try to cover as much Halloween gaming as possible. After all, Oct 31 only happens once a year, and what better way to celebrate it by playing a bunch of good horror-themed games?

This year’s Halloween-themed picks were not too hard to piece together, as a number of gaming companies seem intent to ride on the horror theme quite early.

Magic gets gothic

Wizards Of The Coast’s Magic: The Gathering (MTG) trading card game (TCG) just gets bigger and better. And it looks set to be even cooler with a direct tie-in to the hallowed season, with the horror-themed Innistrad.

It has werewolves, vampires, zombies, geists (that’s German for ghosts) and, of course, plenty of human types that would like to keep them away, or dead and buried!

We’re talking about clerics and other holy types that would serve as the typical counterfoils to the evil kind.

That’s right; every single one of the 264 cards in the set is linked to horror. Some even reference pop culture’s most famous horror icons – see if you can spot all of them!

For the first time in Magic’s 18-year history, it features double-sided cards. In order to flesh out the “day” and “night” themes better, the set designers decided to feature “transformations” once certain conditions were fulfilled.

It’s a fine way for Human cards to become Werewolves for instance. They’re simply awesome!

Seasoned MTG fans will definitely go all out to pick up 15-card booster packs, while the less experienced may want to get an Intro Pack or two.

Each Innistrad booster pack will have one double-sided card, so there is a possibility of getting two rare cards, or better yet, a rare and a mythic.

Intro Packs are 61-card decks with fixed decklists, and with a bunch of rares and uncommon cards, they’re fun to play as is.

Those with more experience with the game are probably close to completing their playsets of the new dual lands. They are functionally similar to the ones we already have from the Core Sets. Their only difference would be them pairing opposing colors (hence the term “enemy” duals), which are different from the allied duals.

There are plenty of cool Legend and creature cards that are awesome, for those intending to build Zombie decks, Vampire decks or Geist decks, or … well, you get the picture.

I love Zombies, and it’s nice to see Wizards revisiting the Blue-Black combo for this favourite race of mine. By the way, Vampires see the addition of Red to its traditional Black.

Innistrad is available at most game shops, with booster packs starting from RM11 for a 15-card booster.

Going underground

Halloween may be a Western thing, but that doesn’t mean that you have to play only Western-type games, right?

Thanks to local boardgame enthusiasts and suppliers, I picked up a rather curious-looking mystery-themed game called The Message. Okay, so it isn’t exactly creepy horror, and more subterfuge/espionage, but this will do for something
totally left-field.

The Chinese-themed card game is created by Qian Qi Animation, and is supposedly based on themes and elements from a movie of the same name.

In this card-based game, players randomly select one of the three identities – Underground, Army and Passerby. To spice things up, each player can choose one character out of 18 available ones. Each character has a unique special ability.

The object of the game is to collect appropriate sets of “information” cards based on the faction selected. All function cards divided into three types – Red, Blue or Black (signifying false information).

During each round, each player draws two function cards. Then, the player transmits one of his function cards to other players. Other players can collect the requested information while attempting to avoid Black information.

Certain cards can interrupt and cancel opposing information as well as removing the Black cards. Any player with three Black information cards are automatically eliminated.

It’s a simple and light game that’s more suitable to the party crowd, but experienced gamers will relish the beautiful art.

The Message retails for RM95, but is now having a special promo of RM75 for a limited time only.

Bowling for blood

Last one for the week is a classic game that has recently gotten the cardboard treatment, thanks to the good old eminent gaming merchants, Fantasy Flight Games.

Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game is actually a card version of the famous Games Workshop miniatures game that had its heyday back in the late 1980s.

Think of it as fantasy football/rugby played amongst Humans, Orcs, Dwarves and large
rat men known as Skaven.

The premise is simple – you win by almost any means necessary. So unsportsman-like conduct, which would be totally unacceptable in real-life, such as fouling, and worse, are actually standard behaviour in Blood Bowl.

I think this is perfect in Halloween gaming because sometimes you just want to beat your opponents using some of the most repulsive and evil races known in fantasy-dom. And keep score.

Before you go, “oh no, another card game”, the good news is that this Blood Bowl game is entirely self-contained, with no additional parts and purchases required to play.

Imagine Games is bringing this mighty fine product in this week, with each box selling for RM135.

Time to get some games going on people!

* Chee Yoh Yang can’t get enough of Innistrad, wants to play The Message again and again, and kick some Human behind in Blood Bowl using evil rat men. Special thanks to Hasbro Malaysia, and Imagine Games for their contributions in making this month’s Cards & Boards happen.

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