Game Review: Betrayal at House on the Hill
Can you survive a night at the House on the Hill? Between secret passageways, dangerous relics, and supernatural entities that lurk in every shadow, you’ll have your work cut out for you. But the house is only the start. One of your own party will betray you before the night is through. Whether you’re attacked by a hoard of bloodsucking bats, chosen to marry the ghost of a restless bride, or searching for a companion who has been buried alive, you’ll have to drag yourself out by your fingernails by dawn.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a strategy board game for 3-6 players. It takes about one hour to play.
The best thing about playing Betrayal at House on the Hill is that the game is different every time you pull it out. There are fifty unique play scenarios (more if you get expansion packs) and each of those can be different depending on the layout of the house and the players present.
All players have a character with physical and mental stats that they track through gameplay. These affect everything from movement to dice rolls to attacks. Players work together to win, but someone in your party will turn against you.
The game is broken into two phases: exploring the house and The Haunt. In the beginning, players find new rooms and expand the layout of the house. Rooms can contain Items, Events, or Omens. Items and Events can help or harm you but find too many Omens and you’ll trigger The Haunt, the second half of the game where play becomes life or death.
When the Haunt is revealed, one player will be designated as the Traitor. From that moment on, they work against the other players, trying to raise the dead, become one with a supernatural being, kill everyone, etc. The goal is different every time. The rest of the players learn how to defeat their particular circumstances by finding specific rooms or objects, and by using character traits to discover information or attack a monster.
The game is finished when either the Traitor or the remaining players fulfill the win conditions of the specific haunt.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a beautiful, atmospheric horror game. Horror Addicts will love the hundreds of traditional, spine-tingling horror references that are slipped in everywhere. The cards are well crafted with carefully chosen stories and details that make the hair stand up on your arms.
There are A LOT of pieces. Whether this is justified or not is up to personal interpretation. I don’t think they’re all needed, but some people like to have a piece for everything in gameplay. Keeping track of character stats can be difficult since the markers aren’t very good at staying in place.
However, despite a few minor annoyances, the game is pleasing overall and well made. The art is beautiful and the writing is exquisite. Each Haunt scenario is its own horror story. Cards contain details that are wonderful teasers to stories that are never told (and so fuel your own imagination as the game goes on). These make discovering the house as much of a delight as fighting for your life during The Haunt.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is complicated. If you can play your first game with a veteran, I suggest you do so. Otherwise, allocate an additional hour for gameplay to figure out how to play. If you’re looking for a quick, fun, family game (or something to play while heavily drunk), look somewhere else. But if you want an absorbing game that can be enjoyed differently each time played, this game is for you.