Head to Head Cult Horror Table-Top Game
13 Dead End Drive
It’s a rarity for me to stray into the world of Board Games, these days. I enjoy my fair share of them, but when it comes to the analytics of the Table-Top world, I usually look to Kyle to provide enlightenment. However, this time I think I have to drop my 2 cents into the hat. Or ring. Or however that saying goes. You see, in my humble opinion, the most horrific Cult Board game is 13 Dead End Drive.
I’m dead serious.
13 Dead End Drive is a family board game that came out in 1993, and it was AWESOME. You and other players controlled 12 different characters, all meeting up in the mansion of a recently deceased wealthy Heiress, Aunt Agatha. The 12 characters are all employees, friends or affiliated to her in some way. Agatha has left instructions in her will that whoever has their picture left at the end of the night will inherit all her millions. And, there is a Detective slowly approaching the house to ensure the proper party receives their reward. Now, we enter the horror part.
The board is a three-dimensional setup that contains a back wall with a fireplace, staircase, chandelier and picture frame. There is a statue in one corner of the board and a bookcase on the other. The picture frame has all the characters portraits, and whoever is displayed is the inheritor/target. The Stairs, Fireplace, Chandelier, Statue and Bookcase are all traps you use to straight up MURDER the other characters. Of course, to get the cards to activate those traps, you have to move characters onto the trap spaces. Now, each player has a secret hand of characters that they are playing as, and if you can keep any of your characters alive, you win. To maintain the secrecy, whenever you roll the dice, you can move up to two of ANY of the characters. Bluffing and moving your own characters into possible danger, even killing off a few of your own to throw off your opponents suspicions, is a huge part of the game.
This may not sound like your typical “Horror” game, and it’s not exactly marketed as such, but the concept of this game is terrifying enough. It’s the dark tale of Sadistic old lady’s last laugh from beyond the grave, making all her fake friends and suck-ups physically destroy each other as quickly as possible. From the Meta-Game, watching one of your opponent’s position one of your characters directly under the Chandelier, then smile like a lunatic as they throw the switch. That is the real terror: finding out exactly what horrific things you and your… “friends” would be willing to do to each other for a few paltry dollars.
This week Joe and I are debating about which game is the best cult horror table-top game. as you can see Joe has chosen 13 Dead End Drive. I never got a chance to play this game as a kid but it always looked like a very interesting combination of Clue meets Mouse-Trap! That is its own right is great and based on the fact that Joe still remembers it fondly fits into my definition of cult. However, I have a strong contender for 13 DED. The game I think is more cult than 13 DED is Betrayal and the House on the Hill.
Betrayal at the House on the Hill is a horror themed game where you play a group of people exploring a spooky house on a hill. Throughout the games you will find omens: A little girl alone in the house, a magical ring, or maybe even a dangerous looking spear. then roll a set of dice to determine if the betrayal happens! If it does then story of the game really starts. the betrayer goes off and reads a special booklet on how to be an awesome bad guy and the survivors (or possible survivors) all have to team up to stop the baddies.
For my definition of cult, I use a subject that people really haven’t heard of that when brought up to a fan of the subject, that fan goes crazy telling the person how much the game is amazing and how they love it. I can see people not agreeing that Betrayal is a game people haven’t not heard of and that would be a strong argument against it. However, this game sits in an interesting position. Since I consider Betrayal a gateway game, a game that can be played by non-gamers to get them into games, I think the relative audience is a lot larger than other games, thusly it is still not well known in the realm at which it would be relevant.
Grail games are usually cult games but not all cult games are grail games. By this I really mean that availability of a games does not always determine its cult value. 13 DED is probably really hard to get, as it has been out of print for a very long time, so some may consider it a grail game. However, I do not believe the other part of being a grail game is fulfilled by 13 DED, as no one is really seeking it. Betrayal is a grail game. well it was before they printed the second edition. Then it sold out very quickly. While I believe this pulls it out of the grail game category,I still believe it is cult because of the true nature of the game being sough after by those who love it deeply. I think of this much Rocky Horror Picture Show, even-thought Rocky Horror Picture Show is easy to get people still buy new copies of it all the time. Lack of availability does not make something cult.
Finally Betrayal has so much fan support that it is hard for me to believe it doesn’t not have a cult following. Much like Firefly has a ton of fan-fiction, cosplay, etc; Betrayal has one of the most active BGG pages I have ever seen. The game is bustling with fan made content, add-on’s, and special components. To see this much love for a game is great; however, it doesn’t get talked about often on a lot of the board game social media. Reviewers tend to play it and they move on. The game has a very loose feel so it is easy for fans to make their own stories and such but it falls a bit when compared to horror games like Eldritch Horror or Dead of Winter. This doesn’t mean it isn’t good it just feeds back into why it is a good gateway game.
I think you can see why Betrayal is more of a cult game than 13 DED. While I agree there is a ton of nostalgia associated with 13 DED i would surmise that is all it has going for it. Thanks again or reading and we will see you next week!