Dianna's Game of the Month (October 2017)
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a mystery themed tile placement game by Bruce Glassco. Betrayal is played both co-op and competitively in each game. You start the game as a team and in each turn uncover a room in the haunted house. At some point a haunt is triggered where one player betrays the group, and the game now becomes a competitive fight to the end. The end sequence of each game will differ depending on the theme of the haunt, but usually ends with the group killing the betrayer, or vise versa.
Gameplay begins with 3 (or 4) landings designating a level of the invisible house. At the start of each player turn, the character may reveal an unexplored room in the house, or travel to already explored areas as needed. Each room has a unique design and effect on the characters. Some room tiles have lasting effects and some are resolved immediately. Rooms may give a character an item, initiate an event, or contain an omen. An omen usually involves an item that can be used later for the end of game sequence. The omen will also initiate a haunt roll performed by the unveiling player. The player must roll a certain die result or the haunt will be revealed.
Once the haunt roll is failed, the instruction book will designate the betrayer depending on which room the event was initiated and which omen object was involved. The betrayer (the traitor) and the rest of the group (the heroes) will each have their own instruction book with end of game details corresponding to a unique theme and how to win their game. Usually the heroes will convene in a separate room to discuss strategy while keeping certain details secret from the traitor. There are certain details that will be kept secret from each party, and certain details that are known to both sides.
There are many different elements to each scenario. Some may involve a chase, or casting spells and attacks, while some may include a scavenger hunt or persuasion tactics. The game will end when either the traitor or the surviving heroes accomplish their unique end of game criteria.
Why is this my pick for game of the month?
So, just to preface this, I will divulge a little info about myself as a gamer. I feel relatively new to this gaming community and I’d like to say that my first advanced gaming experience was just about a year ago. Before then, I had always been a retro video gamer and party board game kind of girl. I’m not sure exactly what my first strategy board game was, but I know one of the first was Mansions of Madness. I was sooo into the heavy mystery theme and creepy character saturation. I’d volunteer to read all the dialog and even offer to read multiple character voices.
After playing Betrayal for the first time, I realized that there was much more opportunity for this kind of behavior.
So, easily put, Betrayal lets me act dramatic and silly while completing a fun objective and/or competing with my friends. But the primary reason why I really like this game so much is that it’s never the same board or the same game twice.
There are 12 characters to choose from, each with a variation of physical and mental traits (speed, strength, sanity, etc) that are used in game play. Although I tend to stick to the same character each game, this doesn’t always end up being the best strategy for each haunt scenario.
Betrayal has an expansion that adds rooms, another floor to the house, more game cards, and more haunt scenarios. There are about 100 different haunt scenarios total, which makes repetition scarce. It even offers the option to change the scenario if you have already played the one revealed.
Exploring the house is great because the layout of each game depends on where you choose to explore, which orientation you place the room tile, and the randomness of the room tile deck. Some rooms give you action options or change your trait levels. Some rooms may even change the already existing layout or your character position.
The haunt/betrayal is a lot of fun and is very exciting, but can also be clumsy at the same time. I find that many times there is ambiguity of the rules for either the traitor or the heroes, or even both. This can lead to confusion and possible misplay, as well as elongated game play. And sometimes the sides may be forced to let in on some secret details in order to understand what is a legal or intended move. Although I always wish there are more details in the scenario instruction book, I also understand the need for some mystery regarding the opposing side.
The game recommends at least 3 players, most likely in order to have at least 2 heroes and a traitor. Although there is no way to solo play, my husband and I routinely play with just the two of us. We each start with 2 characters, and once the betrayer is revealed, the opposite player will take on the other’s hero. So the end of game haunt scenario is played with one of us controlling the traitor and the other controlling 3 heroes.
Overall, super fun game! Easily a game for beginner or young players, although I’d recommend they not be the traitor first time around. I’ve played this game with many advanced gamers, and all seem to highly enjoy.