Review: Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1969
Tagline: (none)

Board game cover showing Barnabas Collins character

how we met

It was one of those tales you hear that you think will never happen to you. My husband and I were driving down the road and saw a sign for collectibles down the road to the right a mile. We brake, turn and get to a very full, very fairly priced antique / junk store.

In the back room, the proprietor offered stereo equipment, vinyl and many board games. I looked through several of the games before deciding on four to purchase. I go to pay. That’s when it happened. That thing that will never happen.

He said, “I never do this, but do you want to look through the basement? There’s lots of games down there.”

Um, yeah.

I picked up a lot of games that day, in various conditions. Some to part out, some to try and save, some because I didn’t know wtf they are. Many of them were games I knew of but never expected to find in one place. This – this dark basement, sometimes lit only by my phone – this is where I met Barnabas. And his fangs, which I have avoided touching even to this day.

fangs held up by a pen


how it plays

This game could not be more simple. It’s a set collection game where you have a cardboard stand in front of you just waiting to house a glow-in-the-dark skeleton. All of the skeleton pieces reside in a coffin in the middle of the table. The coffin also contains a number of wooden stakes!

coffin filled with skeleton parts
coffin filled with skeleton parts

You spin a spinner and it lands on either a specific body part, a ring or a stake. If you:

      • Land on a body part you can support then find that body part and place it (for example you start the game with a clip on your cardboard and can only support a torso or a head – if you land on a different body part your turn ends. You can’t support a lower arm before you have an upper arm. Etc)
      • Land on a ring – this is wild and allows you to decide which body part to add to your skeleton
      • Land on a stake – this is bad and when you collect three stakes you have to return a body part of your choice plus the stakes and continue play
spinner of autumn colors


how it went

As happy as I am to own this game, I’ll admit it’s barely a game. It is completely dependent upon chance. The most challenging aspect is keeping your cardboard stand upright. (Although some of our group are challenged with spinners because it is an art that has been lost in this day and age.)

Even though the gameplay is simple, it’s not necessarily dull. It’s a short-cycle race and every spin counts. Short- and sweet-like.

complete skeleton
a complete skeleton

The game was not proof against the curse of my friend John, who seems to always roll low, always end up down the coal chute, always hit the red lights, always get the cold fries. He spun more stakes than that 48-year-old game had ever seen, I feel certain of it.

play or pass

Play. For one thing this game is worth a decent amount of money. For another thing even if you only pull this game out once a year around Halloween, that’s a pretty awesome tradition. And if you decide to assign curses or luck to the losers or winners, well, then I don’t really have anything to do with that. But spin well, friends!

If you find this game used, make sure that it contains the skeleton bits for four full skeletons. Most of the used versions are missing the fangs, which does not impact gameplay. And the fangs are old and gross at best.