I always look forward to the holiday season. My wife and I don’t entertain much, but on the holidays our house is “ground zero” for friends and family. Copious amounts of food and adult beverages are consumed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve at the Gravy house. I probably watch more football this time of the year than any other. It’s also a time when have enough people in the house to break out the board games that have been collecting dust all year. This year I added a game – Betrayal At House on the Hill – and after playing it knew I had to share my experience.
I listen to the Dungeons & Dragons podcast “Dragon Talk” every week. Greg Tito and Shelly Mazzanoble host the weekly show dedicated to all things D&D. Every week for the last several months Shelly – Associate Brand Manager for Wizards of the Coast – has plugged a new expansion just released for a board game called Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk. Betrayal is one of those fat-box board games that catch my eye every time I venture into a gaming store. It landed a 2004 Gamer’s Choice award, but it’s the branding under Avalon Hill games that caught my attention. Add that to Shelly’s infectious enthusiasm for Betrayal at House on the Hill and I was destined to eventually have a copy on my dusty shelf. Note: I did not pick up the expansion, only the original Betrayal board game
Betrayal at House on the Hill has two chapters: a discovery chapter and a survival chapter
- Discovery Chapter – Exploring The House 3 to 6 players start the game as allies. You are exploring a haunted house. You begin with three rooms revealed on the table; one each for the basement, ground floor and upper floor. Cardboard tiles represent the rooms. You reveal rooms by moving through doorways and/or falling victim to any number of “traps”. Most rooms pose some sort of danger, usually revealed on the cards you draw, i.e. event cards, item cards and omen cards.
- Survival Chapter – Betrayal Revealed, The Haunt Is On Eventually the “haunt” begins. The trigger for the haunt is a die roll. A haunt rolls is required every time an omen card is drawn. When the die roll result is greater than the number of revealed omen cards the haunt is on. At this time a player is revealed as the traitor. One of fifty possible haunt scenario’s is triggered using a combination of the last omen card drawn and the room it is discovered in. From here forward the game takes on a whole new feel as one player “betrays” the group and tries to kill them. Only one side will win – the hero’s or the traitor.
What I liked
First, the box: unlike some games the box and insert allow plenty of room for all the pieces/parts to be stored with care. The game includes 44 cardboard room tiles punched onto multiple 10″x 10″ sheets. The room tiles and an army of cardboard monster tokens and place markers are neatly punched almost all the way through. Therefore, we didn’t rip or bend a single piece when removing them from the flashing.
I love the randomness of Betrayal. Rooms tiles are never revealed in the same order meaning the house takes shape differently every game. The haunt can be triggered on the first draw of an omen card or well after the thirteenth and final omen card is on the table. Each omen card triggers a haunt roll. Every haunt roll can trigger the haunt so the chance for the haunt to happen increases with every omen card. Because they use a random combination to generate a haunt there are 50 possible haunt scenario’s. The chance of repeating a haunt early is low.
It’s difficult for me to judge how well the rules are defined in the rulebook. We watched a video briefly explaining the rules. I already a had an understanding of the games before I opened the box. However, I did refer to the rulebook a lot during our first game. We still managed to finish in an hour. By our third game we put the rulebook away….Our last game included 6 players and lots of alcohol so it took a very long time to finish.
What I didn’t like
I will have to rely on being nitpicky because there isn’t much I didn’t like. They game includes 6 plastic miniatures to represent you on the game table. The Avalon Hill people need to talk to their D&D friends across the hall about some better mini’s.
I substituted my metal mini’s just or fun. Bruenor Battlehammer and Friar Tuck made for interesting banter.
There are a lot of small cardboard markers. Some are specific to certain haunts but it was unclear which ones to use on a couple occasions. After wasting a lot of time looking for the right ones it dawned on me it didn’t really matter. I grabbed the number I needed and got back to gaming. Pictures of which token to look for would be helpful.
If all you know is Monopoly or Life Betrayal may have a higher learning curve for you. Fortunately there are plenty of great resources online including videos of live play you can learn the game from. The game is recommended for ages 12+ and I think that is appropriate when considering complexity and content.
Board games are a great way to share time with friends and family. We make them part of every holiday season. Betrayal At House on the Hill will be the least dusty box on our gaming shelf for sure.