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Not one to just buy something just because a website told you to? That’s a good thing! You shouldn’t just make compulsive purchases, though know that if you love board games, have friends that do, and have the time to play them, you’ll still probably purchase this one, but at least it’ll be based on good reasons!
The Front Door
Betrayal at House on the Hill was designed by Bruce Glassco, a World Boardgaming Champion, and published by Avalon Hill, who under Hasbro has brought us the revised Axis and Allies, and the reissued Diplomacy.
The Entrance Hall
The adventurers begin their exploration…
This game is a Horror-Adventure game, designed for four to six players. Each person plays a character with four skills; Might, Speed, Sanity and Knowledge. Each player takes turns exploring the titular house during the Exploration phase, moving a number of spaces up to their Speed stat. By entering through a doorway, they flip a room tile to reveal a random room, making each session a new mansion.
Their turn ends when the player is out of moves or is given a card, usually by the room: Items grant bonuses (typically) and events can do a number of things, from increasing/decreasing a stat to changing the location of the room. There are also dice rolls for some cards and rooms, which involves dice with one, two or zero pips on them. The mechanic is interesting, as the number of dice you roll is linked to you score in a stat, so if your character has a three in Sanity, there will be a better chance of scaring (and hurting) the character than one with a six. Something to consider when choosing a character.
Then there are Omens, which are usually beneficial items, but carry the risk of bringing on the Haunt, the second phase of the game. Roll less than the number of Omens in play and the Haunt revealer checks whom the Traitor is. That player separates from the group, and both sides read from their manuals to find out which scenario they are playing.
The Mystic Elevator
Your guide to killing your former allies!
The Haunt system is the Highlight of the game. The Omen drawn and the room it was found in determine the scenario, and the two usually make sense together. The scenarios, which include some great horror clichés, from vampires and werewolves to cannibals and mad scientists. New rules come into play depending on the scenario, and each side has differing goals to achieve their victory.
As an example, one of the scenarios, Lost, involved the traitor being an alien who brought the house back to his home dimension. The air was poisonous, dealing damage to players each turn as they sought to play the proper song on a pipe organ (an interdimensional teleporter) to send themselves home. Players could gain bonuses by making Knowledge rolls in the proper rooms to find clues, but the alien could sabotage the teleporter in rooms of his own.
This creates a fantastic sense of cooperative play and balancing team capability with a random player turning traitor later on. And the above example was just one of fifty (50) possible scenarios. With each game lasting anywhere from one to two hours, that’s more than two straight days of a game that is never the same twice.
Even a game as great as this does have downsides. Tracking each character’s stats is meant to be done with detachable plastic sliders, but they tend to be too loose to effectively use, at least over pencil and paper. Also, for a game designed for such a large amount of replay value, there are way too few cards. The number of Omens makes sense, as they make a lot of sense with the number of dice, but by the third game we were seeing a lot of the items we had received before.
Finally, and this may just be my preference, but a few small reference cards for each player to explain what actions they could perform in a turn would have been nice for new players.
If Your Side Wins…
Now you know what to look for!
Ultimately, this is the best fifty bucks I’ve spent in a long time. Even with the downsides, my group (we’re still looking for a name for the group, by the way) is still looking forward to the next time we play this. Everyone wants to be the traitor, and everyone wants to win, but even the losing side enjoys hearing the results of their failure to accomplish it.
That’s something I’ve never been able to say about any game before it.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is for ages 10 and up, requires moderate reading skills and may be difficult for younger audiences to pick up on their own. Experienced board gamers advised. This review was written using the Second Edition of the game. A special thank you to Jigglypuff92 & NotYourSenpai for the photos!
What is your favorite haunt? Your favorite character to play? Do you have an idea for our gaming group’s name? Drop a comment below and let us know!