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Atmosfear (also originally known as Nightmare in Australia, the game's country of origin, and America) was a horror-themed board game developed and released in 1991 by Australian-based A Couple 'A Cowboys, and followed players as they attempted to confront their greatest fears while taking on challenging odds and a creepy host.

The main objective of the game is to collect six special keys, called Keystones, in various provinces across the six sections of the game board (referred to as "The Other Side"), then return to their starting spot. Once there, the player opens up a jar in the center of the board that houses all of their fearsnote  (written on slips of paper before the game begins). If the player chooses another person's fear, they beat the game. However, there is a time limit working against the players, via a videotape (later DVD) with a countdown clock that runs while players take turns.

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Their progress can be alternately aided or hindered by The Gatekeeper, a hooded being who will often interrupt the game and give various conditions (which are sometimes helpful, but mostly harmful) to one or all of the players. If none of the players win the game before the time limit of the gametape elapses, The Gatekeeper wins.

Several expansions and sequels were produced for the series:

  • Nightmare (1991): The original game, which introduced the Gatekeeper and the six Harbingers, who have authority over the various provinces in the game: Anne de Chantraine (a witch), Baron Samedi (a zombie), Countess Elizabeth Bathory (a vampire), Gevaudan (a werewolf), Hellin (a ghost- specifically, a poltergeist) and Khufu (a mummy). The game was a smash hit, and sold more than two million units.
    • Nightmare II (1992): The first expansion for the original game, hosted by Baron Samedi.
    • Nightmare III (1993): The second expansion, hosted by Anne de Chantraine.
    • Nightmare IV (1994): The fourth expansion, hosted by Elizabeth Báthory. A further expansion, Nightmare V, was intended to be hosted by Khufu and released in 1995, but was cancelled due to low sales of the original game and replaced with...
  • The Harbingers, a reboot of the series that was released in 1995 and co-developed with Village Roadshow and J.W. Spear & Sons. The game introduced a number of new elements, including the ability for players to take on the role of the Harbingers, the introduction of "sewer" areas and the introduction of a new race, The Soul Rangers, a group of dark skeletons that live in suffering and agony. Players who didn't make it to a Harbinger character emblem in time became a Soul Ranger, and could chase the other Harbingers around the game board in pursuit of their Keystones. This game introduced a change in the Key collection condition: players now needed to collect one of each color before attempting to win the game. It subsequently became one of the best selling board games in the U.S. and United Kingdom.
    • Atmosfear: The Third Dimension was an interactive tie-in PC game that replicated the experience of the board game for one player, and utilized multimedia, variable difficulty levels and voice work from the Gatekeeper to give players a similar challenge.
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    • Harbingers had two further booster tapes released (with shorter runtimes for a greater challenge), along with an addon/Spin-Off based on the Soul Rangers. Both Harbingers and Soul Rangers were later packaged into The Ultimate Conflict.
  • Atmosfear: The Gatekeeper (another relaunch) was released after a nine-year hiatus, but had one major difference — it was released as a DVD board game, and featured interactive elements that included players picking and choosing which of the Harbingers' terror-tories they could be transported to at certain points in the game. While the game featured many of the same rules and areas as its predecessors, it had a major change in the win condition: a player could only win if they drew their own fear after collecting the six Keys.
    • The Gatekeeper also received its own sequel called Khufu The Mummy, which featured a new gameboard, rule conditions and a new Harbinger (Medusa the gorgon).
    • A Compressed Adaptation of The Gatekeeper, known as Atmosfear Express, was released in Spain in 2008. This version gave the players 15 minutes to complete, providing a greater challenge than the base game, similar to the Harbingers booster tapes.
    • The Gatekeeper was later re-issued in 2011 for the game's 20th anniversary, and again in 2020 coinciding with the release of a dedicated app.
  • A 30th Anniversary Edition was made available on Kickstarter in 2021 that replicates the contents of the original Nightmare, with various bonuses available based on how much money users had pledged, including new Time, Fate and Chance cards.

The Spoony Experiment reviewed several games in the series, the original Nightmare and the "expansions" to Nightmare, along with Atmosfear: The Harbingers. It's also been played on Board James. The AFK show on LoadingReadyRun Streams has also played the series extensively, covering the original quartet of VHS games, Harbingers, and multiple attempts at the DVD edition of Atmosfear, most of which were aborted due to technical issues.


STOP! Whose turn is it? Answer! (Yes, my Gatekeeper!) Read these tropes:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The sewers beneath the Other Side in The Harbingers, where the Soul Rangers reside, appear to be this as the one beneath Elizabeth Bathory's province at least is large enough that Ja and the Death Rattle band are able to tour venues in it.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The phrase the Gatekeeper comes up with that a player has to repeat three times fast: "I'm a miserable maggot-munching mongrel".
  • Affably Evil: The hosts (some of which have had a Historical Villain Upgrade) start out being generally civil to the player, especially with Baron Samedi dancing and urging you to get the party started. As the games go on, however, they drop the pretenses and try to make the game as miserable as possible for everyone. Even Samedi. And they even pick on a chosen few more than the others.
  • All There in the Manual: The Harbingers has a 15-minute primer/introduction to the game rules for new players (and gives some brief information about the various Harbingers), which is only found at the end of the included VHS tape, forcing players to fast-forward through all the Harbinger segments to view it. Thankfully, later releases of The Harbingers put the rules presentation before the main game.
  • All or Nothing: Several of Khufu's games in his board game either have you double your bet or lose it and get some other penalty like moving to a Curse space as a result.
    • Baron Samedi's coin flip in the last few minutes of Nightmare II is an especially brutal example of this. If the player wins the flip they double their keys (and likely get a decent shot at winning the game in the process) but if they lose the flip they have to return all of their keys, effectively sealing their fate.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Becoming a Vampire or Soul Ranger removes the player from most of the game and turns them into an antagonistic servant of the host. Even worse, if they managed to collect certain cards before their transformation they can get some pretty deadly bonuses to harass the remaining players with.
  • Anti-Hoarding: Holding onto too many cards (or worse, keys) can quickly spell disaster if any other player or the host activates a particularly punishing effect to steal or remove them.
  • Anti-Magic: In Nightmare III, a "Protection" Fate card grants protection from the effects of any other spell a player may cast. In the case of Toad, Wart or Rat, their "Protection" cards also reflect any spell used againt them back at the caster.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Several Time cards give a potentially game-winning bonus near the final minute or later, but by that point, you may not have the time to take advantage of them.
  • A Winner Is You: This among other VHS board games had no good ending due to the lack of interactivity in said format. If you won before the time limit runs out, you simply stop the tape.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Happens in any game where the tape reaches its end and the current host wins by default. Better get used to it.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Baron Samedi seems like he's the exception to all the assholes that play host to the games - sure, he makes you hit the hole, but at the beginning he seems like an Affably Evil Friendly Enemy, a real fun guy who only punishes you if you're not getting the party swinging, and a breath of fresh air compared to the Gatekeeper. Halfway through, he starts becoming more of a Jerkass, especially to Dirtbag. The last ten minutes, he's all business. He also blatantly cheats in favor of whoever is playing his piece.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Baron Samedi again. He's extremely affable compared to the various other hosts and talks like a Jive Turkey during most of his dialogue but come the last few minutes of the game he's suddenly a lot more intimidating and just as ruthless as any other host.
  • Big "YES!": "Thrill Me" has a woman yell "OH YEAH!" after she's been asked "You like it?"
  • Black Comedy: Most of the games are prone to having moments of this.
  • Body Horror:
    • All of the hosts in the expansions go through painful-looking transformations as they become their final form, with Anne de Chantraine's being the most disturbing (at one point, it looks like a sharp beak has broken through her nose!).
    • If one looks at Dr. Mastiff's fingers, there's all manner of dental equipment protruding from the fingertips, and there's also a winding key on the left side of his lower jaw.
  • Burn the Undead: One way to kill a vampire in Nightmare IV is burning them alive.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • In-universe, most of the expansion's hosts choose one player to be the butt of demeaning jokes and disadvantages, as well as give them a humiliating nickname. Baron Samedi refers to one player as "Dirtbag", while Anne identifies three as "Toad", "Wart" and "Rat".
    • The "Hurt Me Plenty" Fate card from The Harbingers (and its Soul Rangers equivalent "Hurt Me Plenty Mr Twister") makes a player one, as every time they are persecuted the person who does so is given a free turn.
  • Call-Back: In the original Nightmare, the Gatekeeper started off normal but had glowing green eyes by the end. In The Harbingers he starts off with glowing green eyes.
  • Camera Abuse: In the introduction to The Harbingers, a die slams through a pane of glass, causing it to look like the screen is broken.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: The instructions draw attention to key names and words by using all capital letters.
  • Catchphrase: Each of the hosts in the original series have one that they order the players to say every time they appear:
    • The Gatekeeper's "ANSWER Me! / Yes, my Gatekeeper!" (VHS)
      "ANSWER! / Yes, my Gatekeeper!" (DVD):
    • Baron Samedi's "Thrill me! / Yo, Baron, I can dig it!"
    • Anne de Chantraine's "Confess! / Mea culpa, Anne..."
    • Elizabeth Bathory's "Indulge me...! / Forever, my lady!"
    • Dr. Mastiff's "Whose go? Smile!"
    • Khufu's "Who is the mummy? / YOU ARE THE MUMMY!"
      • Furthermore, each host has a signature way of stopping the action to issue a command; the Gatekeeper simply yells "STOP!!", the Baron uses "Yo! Whose go?", Anne uses "Silence!", Elizbeth uses "Suffer!" and Khufu uses "All bets are off!" (or "Mummy on the move!" in events where his sarcophagus needed to be moved to a different chamber)
  • Character Tics: Anne de Chantraine has a tic (curling her lip or moving her head back rapidly) that pronounces itself more and more as the time elapses.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: In Zombie, The GM Is a Cheating Bastard as Baron Samedi gives the player who has his token a Time, Fate, and Chance card. If one of the players has the correct Time card, they can take all of their cards seconds later!
  • Chewing the Scenery: All the hosts relish in delivering their lines in the most over-the-top way possible. The actress playing Anne de Chantraine and Elizabeth Báthory merits special mention, as she goes from relatively normal to over-the-top screeching in the last ten minutes of each tape.
  • The Chosen One: One of the players is selected to be this at the beginning. Unfortunately it doesn't pay off as much as you'd expect, if you don't count carrying out some of The Gatekeeper's pranks from time to time.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each character has a color associated with them. With the exception of Helin (whose color is purple), the colors were different between the original Nightmare and the later games:
    • Anne de Chantraine: orange (originally blue)
    • Baron Samedi: green (originally white)
    • Elizabeth Bathory: red (originally grey)
    • Gevaudan: blue (originally black)
    • Khufu: yellow (originally red)
    • Medusa: lime green
  • Cool Key: Each character has 6 keys. The more you collect, the more powers you get. As such, they are a big part of the game.
  • Counting to Three: Baron Samedi in Nightmare II tells Dirtbag to get out of the room before he counts to five, or they'll miss that many turns. He counts "three, four, five" particularly fast.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Players move around in one of these in the original game trying to collect keys while the Gatekeeper occasionally pops in to invoke effects based on what type of space the players are currently standing on, giving out both penalties and rewards to players who landed on a specific type.
  • Cursed Item: The black key in the DVD game. A player must have every color key on hand except this one to start heading for the Well of Fears, and it can be "stolen" by other players or handed off by landing on them. Khufu uses a Curse card that has a similar effect.
  • Dark Fantasy
  • The Dead Can Dance: "Thrill Me" features several dancing skeletons busting moves in the background.
  • Dimension Lord: The Gatekeeper, who rules over "The Other Side".
  • Dramatic Thunder: Every single time the Gatekeeper wants to get your attention. Some other hosts have different sound effects; for instance, Khufu the mummy has a high pitched scream and Anne de Chantraine has a whip crack. Usually ended up as a Jump Scare, which was probably the point.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The original game's clock counted upwards instead of down to zero like in future installments.
    • The original Gatekeeper was just a man in a hood who became slightly more demonic near the end of the game. The expansions went much further with the concept and had the various hosts/Harbingers turn into a One-Winged Angel as time wore on.
    • The Gatekeeper would, in the original game, assign the Chosen One nearly a quarter of the way into the game. Subsequent entries would have the Chosen One assigned before the game begins.
    • Various spaces from the original Nightmare, specifically "Chance" spaces (and their associated cards), spaces marked with an X, spaces where you had to roll your number to play again, miss a turn and even release all players that were stuck in the Black Hole were removed for later entries. The coin that came with it was also left out for The Harbingers, but then reinstated first as a possible minigame in the 2004 game, and then fully reinstated in Khufu primarily as part of one of its Chamber challenges.
    • The original game never included character cards. These were introduced in The Harbingers onwards.
    • The original game's key spaces had a number on each of them so only the player with that number could collect a key from that space.
    • Speaking of which, the keys were originally much larger to allow messages relating to their powers to be printed on them. The Harbingers onwards significantly shrunk them down and the aforementioned character cards included Keystone indexes highlighting their powers in that game. The key powers were removed for the 2004 game, with only the "Black Hole" power retained.
    • The duelling system in The Harbingers was significantly different from the 2004 game in which it used a dedicated set of cards for each Harbinger to duel each other with; dice duelling was also limited to doing so with Soul Rangers. The Soul Rangers used similar "weapon cards" that could be obtained by dumping Keystones.
  • Egopolis: The Harbingers' provinces/terror-tories have designs based around their backgrounds and personalities.
    • Anne de Chantraine has a giant mutant pumpkin for her province in The Harbingers, while in the 2004 game, she has a witch's hut.
    • Baron Samedi has his Cathedral of Jive in The Harbingers, while he has a disco forest in the 2004 game.
    • Elizabeth Bathory's Harbingers province is the Castle Cathtice. In the 2004 game, her terror-tory is a hellish landscape with a hand-like structure at the center of it.
    • Gevaudan has the Forest leGevaudan as his province in The Harbingers, while the 2004 game gives him a more generic foggy moonlit forest.
    • Helin has the funhouse-like "Toybox" in The Harbingers, while her terror-tory in the 2004 game is a child's bedroom, apparently the same room in a haunted toyhouse to the left of the bed.
    • Khufu's Harbingers province is "Hollywood on the Nile". In the 2004 game his terror-tory is an Egyptian tomb. His casino in Khufu the Mummy also counts.
  • Evil Laughter: This is sometimes part of the Background Music in The Harbingers.
  • Expansion Pack: Both the original game and The Harbingers had additional "booster tapes" that utilized different requests/penalties delivered by The Gatekeeper/hosts. The Vampire also has an additional deck of cards for Nightmare, the Black Rose.
  • Extra Turn: Aside from the (sometimes optional) ones the host can give you, getting one for rolling doubles is a special ability of Soul Rangers Woks (Orange), Zass (Yellow), and Rott (Blue).
  • Fan Game: As opposed to the attempts at devising the unreleased expansions for Nightmare, The Harbingers has a ready-to-play example in The River Styx, which has an element of spending keys (now "coins") for certain actions.
  • Final Battle: Khufu has one in the form of "Khufu's Ultimate Challenge". The challenge plays out as a poker duel, in which the player tries to beat Khufu's own hand to win the game.
  • For the Evulz: Most, if not all, of the hosts.
  • Game Face: Players will know they're approaching the endgame when the host drops all pretense of affability and begins showing their true colors, complete with a monstrous makeover.
  • "Get out of Jail Free" Card: Certain Fate and Time cards serve this purpose for players who end up in the Black Hole. Some cards can also free players from certain inhibitive tasks such as having to roll a 6 or their number to play again.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: Inverted with The Soul Rangers, where the object is to get rid of your keys to receive their powers and win the game, whether by leaving them on their spaces or handing them off to other players. Otherwise, have all of your color in Nightmare or one of each in Atmosfear.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: In Khufu, the mummy quotes Inhotep's "mi casa es su casa".
  • Griefer: The Soul Rangers (given to any player who can't reach a Harbinger totem in the first ten minutes), whose primary goal is to chase the other Harbingers around the board and steal Keystones from them.
  • Hate Sink: No matter what the other players pull on you, you'll inevitably end up hating the Gatekeeper and the other hosts even more, since they are supposed to be antagonistic, sadistic jerks.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Gatekeeper yells at you as soon as he suspects you're not doing his every word as they leave his mouth, punishes you for not calling him by his whole name in time, seethes with hatred at the player who rolled lowest in his games, and blows up when you win. One can only wonder what sorts of terrible things he could do if he was actually able to see the actions of the players.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Sometimes, the host will force you into a no win senario- such as the Gatekeeper forcing you to roll a die and announcing that if you rolled a number from 1 to 6, you’re banished (as in any number at all).
  • Heads or Tails?: Nightmare comes with a plastic coin to flip for such events as collecting a key for drawing the right "Chance" card or taking other players' cards if in possession of certain keys. Sometimes, you actually benefit from the coin coming up tails.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: In Real Life Anne was just an ordinary woman accused of witchcraft and Bathory was a crazy serial killer. Here, Anne is a real witch and Bathory is a real vampire.
  • Historical Domain Character: Both Anne and Bathory were real people who actually existed, though they probably weren't evil monsters... well, not physically at least.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Anne de Chantraine wasn't actually a witch in Real Life, just the first person to be burnt as one. Elizabeth Báthory was technically history's first Serial Killer.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Gatekeeper is banished by Dr. Mastiff (offscreen) in the interim between The Harbingers and The Soul Rangers.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In Nightmare II, Baron Samedi complains that he hates bad manners, then immediately decides to snort and spit.
  • Incoming Ha- "STOP!" *Thunderclap* "I am.....the GATEKEEPER!"
  • Jerkass: The Gatekeeper, definitely. His cutting remarks and jibes can seriously wound a person's self-esteem. Other than that, he's still pretty dickish throughout the game, taunting and trolling the players.
    • Anne de Chantraine (the witch) can get pretty mean too...and so can the Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
    • Baron Samedi is this only towards the end of the game.
  • Jive Turkey: Baron Samedi and Dr. Mastiff.
  • Jump Scare: Some of the Time cards involve a player suddenly screaming or shouting something at a specific time, they benefit if they can get this reaction from other players.
  • Kick the Dog: In-universe by the Gatekeeper (in reference to punishing the weakest player in the game) in The Harbingers booster tape:
    The Gatekeeper: Let's kick the dog while he's down...HE IS BANISHED!!! It's cruel to be kind.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: Khufu in his game likes to use the name of a certain Egyptian queen in phrases like "Tough Nefertiti". He admits early on that he just likes saying "Nefer... Titty".
  • Large Ham:
    • All of the hosts, really, but the Gatekeeper in the original (and The Harbingers) has to be the largest.
    • In one of the Harbingers booster tapes, the Gatekeeper forces everyone to recite the phrase "I am a soul-sucking maggot" twice, then laughs maniacally at them.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The expansions for the original game spoil the final form of each host on the boxart. Likewise, the end of each of the first three expansions spoils the final form of the next host, making it less of a surprise for people who are playing the games in order.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules:
    • As pointed out in the Spoony One's review, starting from Nightmare II, more and more sets of cards started to be introduced that broke the game flow. Chief among them was Nightmare III's "spell cards" - there were several named spells, but they wouldn't work unless you had a specific pair of cards from the deck and someone read the activation phrase off a specific time card, which was virtually impossible to do in the course of an hour-long game. Likewise, "Witch's Trade" cards that expressly gave one player permission to ask another for a specific spell card wouldn't work because the one being asked wouldn't voluntarily give an advantage to someone else.
    Spoony: So assuming you get the two exact spell cards you need out of this entire deck (sprays all the spell cards into the air), which you won't, and someone else gets the time card with the activation phrase you need to play the spell, which they won't, and the time card hasn't already expired, which, trust me, it has, yeah, then you can play your spell.
    • Nightmare IV introduced a new rulebook and game mechanics involving vampires, with Elizabeth Báthory notably telling players to turn to specific pages of their rulebooks and read it all the way through while in the middle of a game (and at one point, the screen froze for several moments so the players could read through a list of commands). Any player who had become a vampire (usually if they were unlucky to roll a 1 during certain times when Bathory was on the screen, or being "bitten" by another player who had become a vampire) to start drawing from an entirely separate card pool, and they could either be killed off permanently if another player found a card that countered or destroyed them, or restored to normal gameplay if their target had the corresponding card. Likewise, there was two infamous twists, one when there was under eighteen minutes left where Bathory would automatically turn a player into a vampire unless they had certain "Black Rose" cards, and one when there were under five minutes left where she would eliminate a player from the game if they were unlucky to have their number rolled on a die by an opponent (unless they had the time card that allows them to continue). This may have contributed to declining sales and the decision to retool the series.
    • The Harbingers, to the point of the developers fearing they made the game too complicated (leading to a segment demonstrating the rules being included in the VHS tape). Between the various abilities associated with each Harbinger, the Soul Ranger/sewer mechanics, the Fate cards and the Gatekeeper's twists, most players have to speed through their turns in order to have a hope of winning within the allotted timeframe.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Arguably the entire game, as Spoony pointed out. If no one is in a position to win by the end of the game, then the Gatekeeper (or whoever is hosting) will start randomly giving all of the keys to whichever player can roll the highest number.
  • Made from Real Girl Scouts: In Khufu, the mummy mentions his Shepherd's Pie, made from real (and fresh) shepherds.
  • Meet the New Boss: Dr. Mastiff in The Soul Rangers. He's not The Gatekeeper, but he's not exactly nice.
  • Mood Whiplash: The ending of Nightmare IV segues from the fully-transformed Elizabeth telling viewers she hopes they wake up with her staring them in the face... to a Totally Radical music video where Baron Samedi and skeleton dancers are gyrating wildly.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Mastiff.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Elizabeth Bathory (for a few minutes, anyway). She licks her fingers, makes suggestive comments about the players and generally acts seductive. The problem starts when she begins turning into a monster, and still tries to act seductive.
  • Mummy: Khufu.
  • Nice Hat: Baron Samedi's tophat, which is used as his character piece starting in The Harbingers.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Dr Mastiff is a Dentist, Radio Host, Soul Ranger.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • The "Staring Contest" in the original game. It lasts for two minutes, which will probably result in all but the most adept starers losing a key.
    • In Nightmare IV, one of the twists was that Elizabeth could remove a player from the game permanently if they were unlucky with a roll of the die, in addition to transforming players into a vampire that is forced to stalk the other players and play spoiler.
    • The booster tapes for The Harbingers are only 45 minutes instead of the standard hour, and have an additional limitation in the form of fewer Keystones per province if more players are present.
  • No Fair Cheating: The original game's rules advise against rewinding or pausing the tape, considering it cheating and therefore leading to an automatic win for the host. The DVD games likewise state that stopping or pausing the game is not possible, not that you could do even if you tried.
  • No Fourth Wall: The Gatekeeper and the various hosts actively engage in commands, singalongs and even short discussions with the player throughout the series.
  • Non Standard Game Over:
    • In Nightmare IV, if someone manages to eliminate a vampire who's holding a certain Fate card or everyone is turned into a vampire, that's game and match; everyone loses.
    • In The Harbingers, if more than half of the available players fail to become a Harbinger by the 10-minute mark, the game is forfeited.
  • Oddball in the Series: Khufu the Mummy is this not because of it being a direct sequel to the 2004 game, but due to it being not set within the Other Side and having a much different gameplay structure.
  • One-Winged Angel: Each of the hosts in the expansions adopts a gradually more horrific form as the game goes on. The Gatekeeper in the original looks pretty much the same at the start and end of the game, the only difference being more sinister lighting, a few subtle makeup effects and contact lenses that make his eyes big and red. Baron Samedi in the second expansion already looks pretty gruesome when the game starts, but becomes more and more demonic as the game progresses. Anne de Chantraine starts out as a foxy lady, but becomes the stereotypical "ugly green-skinned wart-covered witch" by the end of the game. Finally, Elizabeth Bathory starts out as a normal (if slightly spooky)-looking woman, but morphs into an outright Eldritch Abomination (a bat-human hybrid) by the end. Averted in The Harbingers and its add-ons, where the Gatekeeper keeps the same appearance throughout.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Frédérique Fouché (who played Anne de Chantraine and Elizabeth Bathory, and was a fluent French speaker) had a bad habit of doing this during Nightmare III and IV. While it's suitable for Anne (given her French surname), Fouché's performance as Bathory has her lapsing back into mispronunciations of words like "biting" ("bitting") and garbled dialogue due to her heavy accent. This isn't a problem in the French versions of the game, where she speaks in her natural language through both tapes.
    • Happens in pretty much all versions of the game hosted by one of the Harbingers; since their initial voices become replaced by deep growling as they advance towards their final forms, making them difficult to understand and causing their initial accents to slip.
  • Please Keep Your Hat On: Baron Samedi flashes the exposed brains beneath his during his game.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • In each of the DVD games, the Gatekeeper and Khufu use the word "crap" in regards to players who don't get the right roll of the dice in certain scenarios.
    • Khufu takes it further through some punny word swaps, such as saying "Nefertiti" as "Nefer-Titty" and using "asp" in place of "ass".
  • Recycled Script: Due to the 2020 release being a reissue, the accompanying app reuses most of the script from the 2004 game.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Each host's final form has their natural eyes being replaced by more demonic ones, at which point the camera often goes into a close-up so the players will be disturbed.
  • Regional Bonus: The European/UK releases of Nightmare IV came with an exclusive set of Chance cards, something that the other versions of it didn't have, at the expense of half of its Time cards.
  • Retool: The Harbingers, which brought back the original Gatekeeper, changed the gameboard and introduced several new concepts like The Soul Rangers.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Medusa. She made her sole appearance in Khufu, where (unlike with the Nightmare expansions) she substituted for him as a playable character.
  • Road Block: The Gates in The Harbingers serve this purpose. After the Gatekeeper introduces them into the game near the 10-minute mark, they can be used to block a player's passage. Players would need to roll their number to get past them unless, as a Harbinger, they had the Keystone that allows them past (also allowing them to reposition the gate anywhere they like).
  • Roll-and-Move: You move depending on how much you roll with one or two dice, unless you're instructed otherwise.
  • Sadist: The Gatekeeper really wants the players to suffer.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Early on in The Harbingers, The Gatekeeper gives the players the choice to either take free turns, or screw over the other players. Later on, most of his choices are more designed to screw over whoever's turn it is.
    • You'd better thank him for giving you a choice, no matter how much you don't want to, or he'll make you miss a turn for being rude!
  • Sanity Slippage: The most egregious example would be the Gatekeeper himself in The Harbingers...he's gone from perpetually-angry to Laughing Mad...and he seems to throw the players more bones early on in the latter game as a result.
  • Scarab Power: One of the goals in Khufu is getting Scarabs and putting them in Chambers, which fits the Egyptian theme.
  • Schmuck Bait: In the 2004 game, the Gatekeeper may let you banish one of the players. If you select someone who's not in the game, or find a "booby trap", he'll banish you (or in the case of the latter, make you miss a turn or return a Key.
  • Sequel Hook: The end of the first three Nightmare expansions include a special video for the next game in the series, revealing the final form of the host.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Baron Samedi implements these as cues during his game.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Many pairs of cat-like eyes peer through holes in the walls during the fourth area of the tunnels from the 2004 game.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: Anne noticeably gives away keys a bit more freely than the other hosts... of course, this is all just to lure the players into a false sense of security in the early game before they start to get torn apart in the second half. By the endgame she's just as devious and bloodthirsty as the other hosts with plenty of bad effects to screw the players over in the final minutes (i.e. forcing a player to roll their number twice before they can play again if they don't have both halves of a spell by the 50-minute mark).
  • Taking You with Me: A huge amount of cards and effects seem to only exist to give losing players a chance to flip the bird at the winning players one final time before the host defeats all of them. Special mention should go to any heavily damaging ability that activates in the last 30 or so seconds of a game as by that point its likely far too late for the loser to catch up and only serves to prevent someone else from winning.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: In certain scenarios the player who is winning can end up banished, with the comment "Nobody likes a showoff!"
  • The Tape Is A Cheating Bastard: The Baron Samedi expansion blatantly cheats in the favor of whoever is using that piece.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: The videotapes/DVDs rely on The Gatekeeper or other host more or less predicting exactly how the players will react and in what timeframe, via specific commands ("Hands up!", pausing for a player to identify themselves, etc).
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: The Gatekeeper can sometimes be helpful.
  • Timed Mission: Players have a set time limitnote  to obtain all six Keystones, return to their starting point (or get to the center in the DVD game) and draw a fear. If none of the players can complete this task within the time limit, the host automatically wins the game. Each game also had a different on-screen graphic representing the countdown:
    • In the original game, it was a blue timer whith the moon in the top left corner, which went through its phases -from crescent to full- every 10 minutes.
    • In Nightmare II, the timer was placed above a heart-rate monitor line, the peaks becoming more pronounced as time wore on.
    • In Nightmare III, the timer was placed above a stream of flames which grew higher as the game progressed. The flames would also erupt whenever Anne appeared during the last 10 minutes of the tape.
    • In Nightmare IV, the timer was red and placed in front of a group of candles that gradually burned down/disappeared every 10 minutes, eventually being blown out when time was up.
    • In The Harbingers, the timer was visible at all times in the top right of the screen against a storm that grew more turbulent as time passed by (though the timer still sometimes got obscured by the clouds).
    • In The Soul Rangers, the timer only periodically appeared on-screen for about 15 seconds after roughly every 5 minutes. The background was just various video effects within Dr. Mastiff's surgery, sometimes showing him taking breaths from an oxygen mask.
    • In the 2004 DVD game, the timer was represented on a mist-like graphic that gradually went from blue to red (in reverse order of rainbow colors) as time passed and moved around the center of the screen in the manner of a screen saver text, while the background gradually shifted through various areas of the Other Side until around the last 5 minutes where there was a red misty void with keys frantically flying around (the whole background disappearing just before time is up).
    • In Khufu, the timer was represented by an hourglass without any clear indication of how much time was left as the sand ran out, whilst the background shifted between different areas of Khufu's pyramid. The background would occasionally shift to one of the four chambers during a "Mummy on the Move!" event and the hourglass would be replaced by a timer in the last 5 minutes.
    • The app has its timer in a misty void while various stylised symbols based on those on the game board appeared. The screen color would periodically change to one of the Harbingers' colors to signify which Harbinger the Gatekeeper was speaking to. A button resembling the Well of Fears appeared beneath the timer to be touched when a player had won the game.
  • Title Drop: The first Atmosfear game was originally called "Nightmare", a word The Gatekeeper often mentioned during the course of the game. Of course, given the Writing Around Trademarks mentioned below, it does kind of lose its edge...
  • Total Party Kill: If the players are really unlucky in Nightmare IV one of Elizabeth Bathory's vampiric servants can end the game immediately with one of these... and no, we're not kidding... there really is an instant kill card for the whole team.
    GAME OVER Card: If you become a vampire, and your prey attempts to destroy you, this card immediately ends the game. Scream "In the name of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, I end this game!" Then press STOP.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • IV had one player get turned into a vampire and forced to "bite" players it could find (with an entire set of gamecards associated with it), and another being permanently banished from the game.
    • Khufu uses a completely different gameplay style that involves collecting "Treasure", playing games of chance to lay down "scarabs" in four chambers, then heading to whichever chamber had a sarcophagus in it to play an Endgame.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: The Black Hole is portrayed as some kind of space the Gatekeeper/host can send anyone to and release at any point, but nobody can move while they're there. Ways that the player can be released from the Black Hole, other than the host releasing them, included having a corresponding Fate or Time card, trying to roll their own number each time their turn came around (in the 2004 game), or having possession of the corresponding key. In The Harbingers, Soul Rangers could instantly release themselves from these spaces even when sent to one by the Gatekeeper, while in The Soul Rangers, Sep and Zass each had powers that could be activated by landing on them.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Elizabeth Bathory starts out as a hot vampire woman. Key word being starts.
  • VHS Game: The video acts as a clock while players compete with the board game. At certain times, the host (or guests) would announce changes to the rules to keep the players on their toes. The host wins the game if time runs out without a winner.
  • Villain Song: "Thrill Me" for Baron Samedi, which is heard over the closing credits of Nightmare II and in full at the end of Nightmare IV.
  • Villainous Harlequin: The concept of Hellin, who is briefly seen in the videotape for The Harbingers.
  • Wicked Witch: Anne de Chantraine.
  • Wooden Stake: One of the ways to kill a vampire in Nightmare IV is a wooden stake.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: This was the reason for the name change to Atmosfear in Europe.
  • "X" Marks the Spot: The host will occasionally show up to activate special effects or events for players who have landed on spaces marked with an "X" to either reward or punish them. Some of the penalties that they hand out can get pretty brutal.
  • Your Size May Vary: As detailed under Early Installment Weirdness, the size of the Keys themselves varies between games.

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