Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game with two phases. In the first phase you and the other players work together to explore the house and find all the things that is hidden inside. In the other phase one of the players will turn into a traitor, he or she might turn into a monster or maybe he or she will create a monster haunting you. Or you might all still be friends and the house turns on you and you have to work together to get out. There are a lot of different things that can happen in the second phase depending on which room he or she is standing in and what omen he or she triggered it with (I will explain this later in this blog).
In the game there are some items that you have to keep an eye on:
Character stat cards
Every player chooses one character they want to play and each character has a character stat card. On this card there are some stats – might, sanity, knowledge and speed. Each category has 8 numbers in descending order ending with a skull, not necessarily from 8-1 rather the same number appears several times in a row. Might and speed are physical stats and sanity and knowledge are mental. If you take physical damage you can choose to split this damage between the two stats and the same with the mental stats. You have one marker for each stat that points on the number you’re currently at, if you take damage this marker moves one step towards the skull in the bottom.
Room cards – At the beginning of the game the room cards are shuffled and laid upside down in a stack next to the beginning rooms (the hallway, the upper landing and the basement landing). They have different symbols on them deciding if and which card you will draw when you enter the room. They have different names and can be put on specific floors, this is shown on the back if it can be put on upper, ground or basement floor or if it can be placed on any of them.
- Item cards – The items on the item cards can help you or make the situation worse. It can add or remove stats for the player carrying it. Sometimes
- Event cards – In some rooms there is an event happening when you enter it, if you are the first person entering the room you draw an event card telling you what happens. You might fall through the floor down to the basement, taking physical damage, or you might run into a ghost telling you something. Often you need to roll a dice to see if what happens to you is good or bad, if you lose a stat or if you gain one or more.
- Omen cards – Among the omen cards there are some companions you can find, and there are some items and some events. You can be bitten and have roll to see how much damage you take. The companions might give or take away some stats or both. After you draw one of these cards you have to roll a number of dice to see if the next phase – the haunt – will begin or not. If the eyes on the dices are equal to or more than the amount of omen cards drawn the haunt will not begin yet.
A play through
The first phase – the exploring phase
In the exploring phase the players may move as many rooms as their speed shows. If you move through a doorway and there is not already a room there you draw the first room card in the pile that can be placed on the floor you are currently on. Then you place this room with one of its doorways connecting to the doorway you just went through and place your character there. If the room does not tell you to draw a card you can move on exploring new rooms or passing through already explored ones. If it tells you to draw a card you draw the type it says – item, omen or event – and do as it says.
In some rooms there are additional instructions that should be followed either when you leave the room or when the first person ending his or her turn in that room.
If two players are in the same room they can steal items from each other or trade them. When we played the first time one of our players got an omen card saying the batteries in his flashlight were out so he could only take one step each round until he found a candle or was in the same room as another player that could give him some batteries. So this is a game where you help each other but at the same time can backstab your friends by stealing their things and hurting them. This might be bad as they might die really early in the next phase so they can’t help you kill the monster/s if that is what appears in the haunting.
If someone fails the haunt roll (the roll with 6 dice after an omen card has been drawn which I described earlier) the second phase begins.
The second phase – the haunting
The haunt phase starts with the player drawing the omen card checking who the traitor is. This depends on which omen card was drawn when the haunt roll was initiated and in which room the player is standing in while drawing the card. The player that becomes the traitor gets a special manual with all the possible scenarios. Which haunt is going to happen is decided exactly like who is the traitor. The traitor then leaves the room and reads in on the haunt, what will happen and how. Meantime the heroes (the other players) read in another manual what will happen on their part, what they have to do to win.
When all know what is happening and what they have to do the traitor return to the others and prepares the haunt. In the two times we played the traitor ones became a snake with two heads and the other time she created Frankenstein’s monster. To win the heroes had to kill the two heads of the snake or to kill Frankenstein’s monster. For the traitor to win she had to kill all of the heroes or with the snakes heads have been in sixteen rooms. So this game has a lot of different and interesting endings
Core game system
We discussed this in the group and found it extremely hard to decide which the core system throughout the game was since it has two phases. But we decided that it was exploring new rooms in the house. Since you can do this in both phases and it is what basically triggers the haunting phase.
The best things in this game are the storytelling, the multiple endings, the dice and the randomness. The dice have 0, 1 and 2 eyes on its sides which make it possible to take no damage at all since the damage is based on dice roll. The storytelling, randomness and multiple endings makes it fun to play this game over and over again since it’s so different every time, you will probably never get the exact same gameplay twice. With the randomness I mean during the exploring phase – the rooms appear in different order and places, and the cards are drawn randomly.
The worst part of this game was the characters being so unbalanced, one of the characters was just dominating both of our gameplays. And the stats between the characters are not balanced, some hade very low numbers on their stat cards and others (specially one) had very high numbers. These numbers decide how many dice you get to roll in each skill check which makes it very much easier for some of the players to make these.
Both good and bad
In the exploring phase you mostly explore new rooms and most of the rooms makes you draw a card and can’t take any more steps. This is both good and bad since it makes you feel very slow, but you won’t get an advantage if you start.
Most interesting system
The most interesting system in this game is the haunt since it varies the so much. There are about 40 different haunts and in some of them the traitor isn’t a traitor but still a hero and the house is against the heroes. It’s just so many different scenarios and it makes the game interesting every time you play it.
The target audience for Betrayal at House on the Hill was over 12 years. We agree that the players should not be under 12 years since they probably don’t have as much patience and understanding as someone over 12. But we do think that the age should maybe be a bit higher than 12 since if the one who becomes the traitor is 12 years it might be hard for him or her when all the other players are against him or her, and it might be hard to keep track of everything alone for such a young person. This could be fixed by a parent or older friend or someone like that chooses to help so there are two traitors instead of one.
So this game is all about the story and exploring. It is fun because there are so many different endings and gameplays and it’s probably enjoyed by everyone who likes storytelling and probably role-players as well.