Board Game Review – Nightmare (1991)

“Roll the dice!” The original Nightmare commercial had kid’s buggin’ out. Fan and lighting not included!

Are you ready for the Nightmare board game review, you maggot? You must say: “Yes, my Gatekeeper!” Today on cottagemixtape.com‘s Board Game Reviews, we take a look at J. W. Spear & Sons’ 1991 horror VHS board game, Nightmare.

If you grew up in the early 90’s you may be familiar with this board game, Nightmare! Named Atmosfear (in Europe and French Canada), it was created by Australian duo, A Couple ‘A Cowboys, and published by J. W. Spear & Sons. Upon its release, Nightmare grew into a worldwide phenomenon. In the video game dominated market of the early 90’s, getting kids to put down their controllers for a board game was no small feat. What made Nightmare board game so interesting was the game play, which was (more or less) dictated by a salty, angry old man, The Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper, would usually appear in jump-scare fashion on the TV screen and influence the game’s outcome by making you complete a task or take direction.

In Nightmare, you have to get the mood right with the lights down and volume up!

In some cases it will be positive, like being released from the “black hole”, but in most cases it’s negative (e.g. skip your turn). Either way, The Gatekeeper will probably yell at you and try to demean you. That is the fun of Nightmare! It was “interactive” (well as interactive as a VHS could be).

Before Stranger Things‘s “upside down”, we had Nightmare’s “The Other Side”, which is where our game takes place. The game play is fairly easy, the players assume the identities of a Harbinger: Baron Samedi, the zombie; Hellin, the poltergeist; Khufu, the mummy; Anne de Chantraine, the witch; and Elizabeth Bathory, the vampire; Gevaudan the werewolf. These players must move around the board collecting six of their keys, make it to the center of the board. At the centre, you must not pull your own (pre-filled out) “worst nightmare” card (e.g. “bats”, “fear of heights”, “a date with The Gatekeeper”) before the hour runs out.

So, years since I played it, I looked online and found a complete copy, that we played at a friend’s cottage. Was Nightmare all I dreamed it was from my childhood? Actually, I would say it is more fun than I remember. Simply because the host is so funny with his demeaning banter. Never has anybody yelling at you been so enduring. If everyone actually commits to the gameplay (saying the words), then it’s good fun. Everyone enjoyed it, even those who had never played.

The many faces of the manic host, The Gatekeeper, played by Russian actor, Wenanty Nosul. He really deserves an award for his performance. What range!

Nightmare is intense and intensely funny (probably not purposefully). Since much of the gameplay relies on the direction of The Gatekeeper. However, because of this, the replay value is limited. A game you can break out once a year or every other year and enjoy it once the antics are forgotten. Of course there are different outcomes, like winning and losing, in fact, we were laughing so much that we lost.

“‘Cause I’m The Gatekeeper, baby! You have to pay the toll, to get out of my black hole!”
More like Gate-kreeper, amirite?

It should be noted that there were many other sequels to the Nightmare board game in the Atmosfear Series, which features the other Harbinger characters as hosts (replacing The Gatekeeper). However, the other games may have a more elevated game play but the other hosts don’t seem to have the same charm as that masochistic old man. You can just tell by looking at the other sequels on Youtube. They look interesting but not as fun and engaging.

No VHS, no problem! The whole Nightmare video is available on YouTube here!

Rating – Nightmare Board Game (1991)

Loon icon (for rating)Loon icon (for rating)Loon icon (for rating)/ 5

I would definitely, recommend tracking down and old copy of Nightmare. We had a punishing good time playing it and laughed the whole way. They have sold millions of these internationally, it was a big hit that year, so they should be easy enough to track one down.


Players: 2 – 6 but probably more fun and easier with more players.
Duration: 1 hour + . The game runs an hour plus time to set up.
Ages: 12+
Learning Curve: Easy, anyone can play.
Notes: *Requires the video in order to play (so you need a VHS player or Youtube)

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