What Game Is For You?

I have a friend. Surprising, I know, but I have a specific one in mind. The first time she came over to our house, she warned us that she hated board games.
“That’s because you don’t know of the good ones,” we said, rolling our eyes and shaking our heads.
“I do,” she assured us, “I come from a gaming family.”
And, sure enough, she recognised and had played a good few of the games that we had in our collection. But she still left our house having been converted to the joys of board gaming. I like to think that this is because we can read people pretty well and know what kind of games would suit their personalities.

There are games like Pirate’s Cove and King of Tokyo that introduce people to board games in general, but while they are fairly social, there is a good deal of combat to them. This particular friend had mentioned that part of what she hated about board games was the conflict that ensued from them, the competitive streak that tends to show its face when confronted with other players trying to pry victory from your grasp. We wrote off plans of Pirate’s Cove for the evening.

There are games like Dixit where players compete against each other, but in a far more subtle and much more social kind of way – where losing doesn’t feel as much like a disappointment, because you realise that you had fun playing anyway, even if you had chosen the drunken red bunny that was lagging behind the rest of the pack. Even when you lose, you kind of feel like you win, because people may have read your hints so perfectly, or because any one could have thought that the clue matched the card that you chose.

There are games like Pandemic and Arkham Horror where players work together to save the world, whether it’s from deadly diseases or Elder Gods with bad attitudes. These tend to be hits for those people who hate the thought of fighting against each other, since win or lose, you do so together. It also just so happens that often these are the types of games that are harder to win than to lose… go figure!

There are games like Shadows Over Camelot, The Resistance and Battlestar Gallactica, where characters work together for the most part, but with one or two treacherous fiends working behind the scenes to foil your plans. These tend to be my least favourite personally, simply because I find hiding to be stressful. But they do lead to interesting conversations and a lot of fun, especially when playing with people who either know each other well, or don’t know each other at all. Cue moments of staring deeply into each others eyes and asking, “Are you the traitor?”

And then there are games like Betrayal at House on the Hill, which takes every single one of the game types above and combines them into a fun-filled experience. You start off working together, exploring a house, then you eventually find that one of you is a traitor (you all know who it is) and you end up fighting against them. And the best part is, win or lose, you always end up having fun!

So, now that I’ve listed some of the gaming types. What kind of gamer do you think you are?

Haunted Houses Breed Betrayal

“I’ll do it if you do it.”
“I dare you.”
“What are you? A scaredy cat?”

The Whole Shebang

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the conversation that is going on between the characters of Betrayal at House on the Hill before they decide to enter the mysterious, very obviously haunted, house. I blame American television for that. There are no haunted houses in South Africa – the closest that we’ve got are tokoloshes and tsotsis. And yet, we all know that when a group of people enter an abandoned house together, they are all going to die. Or most of them will. Or there will be some kind of heroic person who dies to save everyone else. All of these scenarios and more are played out in Betrayal at House on the Hill.Characters

The Skinny

You and your friends have just walked into an abandoned house (or so you think), and the door has suddenly slammed shut behind you leaving you trapped. That or no one wants to admit that they’re scared out of their wits and leave first. Either way, once you’re in, there’s no getting out. You’ve got a foyer ahead and closed doors on all sides of you, and it’s time to go exploring. Each turn, you and your “friends” will walk around the house, opening doors and discovering rooms as the house unfurls itself before you. Every turn, you’re getting closer to the dreaded haunt when you’ll figure out exactly why the house was abandoned in the first place. Then you’ve just got to hope that you’ll survive to tell the tale.


The Good

I love that the house changes with every game that you play. There isn’t a set board, but instead the board is made up of room tiles that get placed as characters walk through doorways. This means that the house you play in is designed by the players as you play, and it leaves you feeling like you’re actually exploring a house. There’s no telling what’ll be turned over next. I also just love the replayability of the game in general – it’s not just the house that changes every time, but the story line! We’ve played the game at least a dozen times so far, and every haunt has been completely different – zombies, vampires, cannibals and cat-and-mouse games, we’ve pretty much had them all – and we’ve still barely scratched the surface of the story content that’s provided! What’s even better is that thus far we haven’t found a haunting that we haven’t thoroughly enjoyed! The ever-changing board and story-line make this game one that everyone wants to play again and again just because they want to see what happens next time! Oh, and better yet, the game plays relatively quickly which means that playing it more than once in a night is a genuine possibility. Finally, I tend to find traitor mechanics stressful at the best of times, but this game pulls off a co-op and a traitor mechanic so seamlessly that there isn’t even a hint of stress when I play it – just 100% fun.


The Bad

It’s a small thing, tiny really, but the stat markers for the characters drive me nuts! I don’t know if we got a particularly bad batch, but the markers just do not stay in place, and it’s not just the case for one or two of them, it’s all of the markers on all of the character cards. The intention behind them is good – the stats should slide up and down as necessary – but they just do not work. (Could someone please tell me if this is the case for all of the games, or if ours is just defective??) I’d call it just a small niggle, but it goes beyond that when you look at some of the other aspects that have irritated me with this game. A lot of them have to do with the way that it’s been put together rather than actual issues with the game itself. The models, for example, while a nice touch, are not particularly well made – one of ours is practically bent over backwards and has been since we got our copy. The characters themselves seem like they should have back-stories to them, especially since the 6 character markers could refer to up to 12 characters (each card having two sides to it which represents a different character) but instead we are only provided with minimal details which don’t really have any consequence. Things like their birthdays and their hobbies rather than what brought them to the house in the first place, which I would find far more interesting.


The Bad definitely isn’t enough to outweigh the Good in my mind – to me it’s just an indication of a game that’s been well thought out, but not particularly well made. Still, the Good keeps us coming back for more, and it’s going to keep me coming back for a long while to come.


4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

Betrayal At House On The Hill has become a favourite amongst some of our friends, especially the more casual gamers in our circle.

The first half of the game is spent exploring the house, opening closed doors and discovering what rooms are behind them (hint: often it’s a scenario that requires a choice or skill check). This is all pretty much random and there is little in this stage that you can actually influence beyond superficial choices. Normally this would bug me – I like to feel like I’m having an impact on the game with my decisions – but it’s well executed, and you’ll probably be having so much fun exploring that you won’t notice all that much.

The game really comes alive when The Haunting happens. This is triggered by a failed haunt roll once an omen has been discovered. The particular artefact and the room it’s discovered in will determine a unique story line, and will most likely nominate a player as the traitor (though not always). Both the traitor and the other players will be given some details to the story and win/lose conditions, which are kept from the other side. This is where the real meat of the game is – the other players will have to work together in order to escape (or thwart the traitor in some way) while the traitor will try and accomplish their sinister goals. Without too many spoilers, these can include controlling minions, performing dark rituals and a plethora of other mechanics. Because each story is different, there is a high replay value, and we’ve yet to encounter a duplicate scenario.

This is another great game to introduce new gamers too and while it can seem a bit random at times, it scores high on the fun factor.Group Photo


Have you played Betrayal at House on the Hill? What did you think?

What Next?

The world of board games is BIG – bigger than I had ever imagined. I thought that our collection was pretty extensive – it certainly rivaled those of our friends, and even that of the biggest board game geek that we know – but it’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Game collectionWith such a selection of games to choose from, it’s pretty difficult to decide where I want to go from here, and I could do with some help from those who are looking forward to reading the blog. Here’s what I want to know… what do you want to see here next? I’ve put together a quick poll for those who would like to take part, otherwise let me know in the comments if there is a particular game that you would like to see reviewed.

[polldaddy poll=8211428]

Yo’ Ho’ and a Bottle of… Fun

Updated: Mr. Geekess has decided that he too would like to have his say on the games that I review, and I have permitted this. His summary has been added below and will be included in all game reviews going forward.

There is a soft spot for pirates in our household. We celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day on an annual basis, and Grant dresses up like a pirate at every opportunity that he gets. We own more than one eye patch, and have gone through quite a few pirate hats, guns and swords over the years. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that we own Pirate’s Cove. (If it does, you clearly don’t know us very well at all. Which wouldn’t be surprising, since this is a blog, not a house party.)

Pirates Cove Summary

Pirate’s Cove was one of the first board games we bought, and it’s still one that we play when introducing new (or old) friends to our game collection. It’s a game that’s quick to explain and easy to pick up on once you start playing, which makes it a great game to kick-start an evening, or a board game addiction.

Pirates Cove Pieces

The Skinny

Players control ships that are sailing the seven seas. They go from port to port upgrading their ships, picking up (or burying) money or treasure and fighting each other at every chance that they get. The goal? To win pirate of the year award by earning the most fame (infamy) after 12 months (turns) of sailing.

Pirates Cove Game Mechanics

The Good

There are a lot of good things about the game! Its simple mechanics make it easy to learn (as mentioned above) and a lot of fun to play. It’s beautifully put together and colourful, which makes it a pleasure to look at and I love the small touches that they have put into it – the art work, the captain’s wheels that each player gets and the cards themselves all work together to make it a fun-feeling game in general. It’s also great to know that there are different ways to go about winning – you can spend your game avoiding fights, or go out looking for them, and there is a chance either way that you could win if you have built your ship to suit your playing style.

Pirates Cove Player Ship

The Bad

Pirate’s Cove is simple, and while this has its benefits when teaching the game to new players, it does limit its replayability. It’s not the kind of game that you would want to play over and over again in a single night, and the novelty of it wears off quickly. In our friend group, another big downside is that the combat is dice-based, meaning that the decisions that are made throughout the game could end up being negated through unlucky rolls.

Pirates Cove Board

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

Pirate’s Cove is a great way to introduce your non-gaming friends to the wonders of board games – the rules are simple to explain and to grasp, and after a turn or two they’ll have picked it up. The simplicity of the rules coupled with the fact that fights are resolved through dice rolls may lead some to conclude that it’s simply a game of luck, however there’s more strategy to this game than first meets the eye. Pirate’s Cove is more like a poker game – the real strategy is in reading your opponents, figuring out what they need and where they might go, avoiding the strong and picking off the weak, all the while building up your ship to minimise the effect of bad dice rolls. Some may not like this meta-gaming but as a poker player and a lover of strategy, I find it most enjoyable. Overall, it’s not a game I pull out that often (I prefer something with meatier strategy elements) but all-in-all it’s good fun with a group of friends and can be a great gateway board game to get people hooked.

So that’s Pirate’s Cove for you. Have you played it? What did you think?

Welcome to my humble lair

Hi, my name is Lara, and I’m an addict.

Well, I call myself an addict in a off-hand, rap-on-the-knuckles, “You-play-too-many-board-games, Lara!” kind of way. Only, I don’t really think of myself as an addict. I guess that it depends on your definition of addiction, but part of being an addict is often admitting that you have a problem. I don’t believe that I do! I don’t see an addiction to board gaming as being problematic in the slightest!

I could say that it started way back when I was a kid, with games of Monopoly and Scrabble, but that would be a downright lie. Sure, I enjoyed board games back then, but it was something to do to pass the time rather than something to become invested in, something to anticipate or look forward to.

It really started about a year and a half ago when I walked into a comic book store in Johannesburg, and my boyfriend and I decided to buy some games. Again, we had a couple lying around at home – a dusty copy of Monopoly which hadn’t seen sunlight in, oh, maybe 6 years (at that point… it hasn’t seen sunlight since either), a copy or two of Scrabble, Cluedo, 30 Seconds. You know, the regulars. But we were a bit bored of them and we knew that there was so much more out there – so many better games that we wanted to have the option to play when friends came over rather than resorting to the standard game of 30 Seconds, which was fun (still is) but had started getting a little stale and same-ish. So we wandered the aisle at Outer Limits, picking up games and putting them down, trying to figure out which ones would be best for our group of friends.

We ended up leaving with two games, and over the past year and a half, our collection of games (not including the boring old standards that I listed before) has grown to 25, and we’ve played a good number more than that with friends. It turned out that this was an addiction waiting to be found, and boy have I found it!

So what can you expect? Now that I’ve explained how I came to find board games, I can tell you that this blog is going to feature reviews of some of the games that I’ve owned and played, instructions (and suggestions) on how to play some of them and lots and lots of photos (did I mention that I was a photographer? No? Woops.)

I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am!