(The Board) Games People Play: #4, Horror House

Could you escape a haunted house?

Tuesday 28 December 1982

I have had some close shaves in my time. Firstly, the 343 or 350 to Mossley Hollins can be quite scary. Especially when some of my peers try to run from the back to the front of the bus whilst the vehicle’s in motion. Even more so as the 343 negotiates Winterford Road. I would walk from Mossley Hollins to Waterton Lane, but decided against it after last year’s awful winter.

Still, it is nothing on Tinker’s Passage and having to run past Fine Fare for the last 343 or 344 to Brookbottom. Dodging the dog poo in a dimly lit passage after losing to Hyde United is the last thing I wish on anybody. Even Stalybridge Celtic fans.

When I met up with a friend in Copley, he had this great game called Haunted House which we played for an hour (it scared him witless). It ended up being three hours and I remember the date very well: 06 September 1981. We ended up having a sleepover. My mother was livid, though glad to find I was safe.

Shortly after 1981, Action GT sold this sublime horror game.

Horror House

Back in 1983, the Dungeons and Dragons franchise was pretty popular. The arrival of home computers meant text adventure games, or arcade adventure games in fantasy settings. This led to the rise of Games Workshop and its Warhammer franchise. Not least the amount of man hours spent painting intricate counters.

Action GT’s Horror House offered a gateway drug to the harder stuff offered by Games Workshop and Forbidden Planet. Your aim was to escape the Horror House and return to the 1980s in one piece. En route you had to fight monsters which set it apart from a common and garden racing game. You had to collect different coloured keys to gain access to certain rooms.

Instead of a dice, you used a spinner and negotiated your way through several rooms. The spinner formed part of a plastic head of The King of Demons. With three eyes, the green plastic head incorporated part of the board and the spinner. Its piece de resistance was a speaker with five different sound effects (powered by a single C battery).

There was 45 monster cards including six King of Demon cards. As you entered a room, you picked a random monster card featuring your opponent. The artwork for an entry-level RPG game was superb.

The outcome of each skirmish with, for example, Frankenstein, is decided by pressing a plastic sword into the King of Demons’ mouth. If you heard a scream, you defeated the monster. If you received a ghostly laugh, you lost. A clash of swords meant a draw, so you needed to poke the sword again.

If you have the board game, it is quite an enjoyable way to waste an hour. It is good with two players, though better with four players, a pizza, and a beer. Here’s what the Birdpoo Toy Reviews YouTube channel has to say on Horror House.

S.V., 04 December 2017.

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