“I’ll do it if you do it.”
“I dare you.”
“What are you? A scaredy cat?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mr. Geekess Says
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.
Have you played Betrayal at House on the Hill? What did you think?