Manufacturer Hasbro/Avalon Hill
Year 2004
Designer Bruce Glassco, Rob Daviau
Betrayal at House on the Hill Box

Betrayal at House on the Hill


A group of people find themselves trapped in a haunted house. One of them holds a terrible secret.

Background

Long ago, there was a game called Chill: Black Morn Manor, in which players explored a haunted house, placed down tiles that built the house, and had to deal with one player who was working for the evil master of the house. That pretty much describes this latest offering from Avalon Hill, with the exception being in Betrayal at House on the Hill, no one knows who the bad guy is until the game has been going on for a while.

Jump to my opinions

The Gameplay

The game begins with each player choosing one of 12 characters, and placing the figure representing this person in the entrance hall of the house. Each character has differing abilities, broken down into four categories: Speed, Might, Sanity and Knowledge. Speed determines how far a character can move each turn, might determines strength and fighting ability, sanity represents sanity, and knowledge represents how smart the character is. Of these, speed is the most used ability, as most characters move every turn. The others are used less often.  A tile is placed for the Upper Landing and one is placed for the Basement Landing. The former is reachable from the staircase that is visible from the entrance hall space. How one gets into the basement is unknown...

On a player's turn, the player moves their character through the house, spending one point of speed for each room entered. If the explorer goes through a door beyond which there is currently no room, a new room tile is drawn. The room tiles are kept in a large stack, and on the back of each tile there is a marking that shows what floor of the house the tile can be placed on, (Upper, Ground or Basement). The stack is gone through until a tile that matches the floor being explored on is reached, and it is revealed, and placed into position. Now many of the rooms have special rules and/or conditions that apply to them, and many contain a symbol representing either an Omen, an Event, or an Item or Items. Items are stuff you find in the house, that add to the abilities of the explorer, (Revolver, Medical Kit, Toy Monkey, etc.). Events are weird, creepy and bizarre happenings that occur. All have interesting flavor text, and generally require an explorer or explorers to make trait rolls, (Speed, Might, Sanity and Knowledge). When a character makes a trait roll, they roll a number of dice equal to the current trait value shown on their character card. The dice are special, containing either 0, 1, or 2 pips. The number rolled is then cross-referenced against the card, and good or bad things happen. Generally this involves gaining or losing a point of the trait being rolled for. These gains and losses are recorded by moving a small plastic clip up or down on the character card. Each trait has a sequence of numbers, and these are not necessarily in a perfect order, (2,3,4,4,4,5,5,5,6,6,6,7 would be a typical sequence). So gaining or losing a point might result in no change to the number of dice the character would roll, or it could make it go up or down by more than a single die value. This is kind of a nifty feature, and gives some decision making as to how to take gains and losses, (when you have a choice of traits to increase/decrease).
Finally, there are the Omen cards. These cards are what drive the game, as after each one is revealed, a "Haunt Roll" must be made.. A Haunt Roll is six dice, and if the number rolled is less than the number of omens that have been revealed so far, the haunt begins and the "Betrayal" part of the game begins. The omen card that was last revealed is cross-referenced with the room in which it was revealed, and this tells the players which of 50 included haunts is going to be occurring, as well as which of the players is the "Traitor". The traitor takes a manual off somewhere, out of hearing/sight of the players, and consults the manual for the description of the haunt, and what needs to be done to win. The other explorers, ("Heroes"), consult their manual, which describes the haunt and tells them what they need to do to win.
After both teams are ready to go, the traitor returns to the table, any monsters or other baddies that are supposed to be setup are placed into the house, and the haunt begins. While before the haunt the explorers cannot die, (their trait markers can never go down to the skull listed below the lowest number), after the haunt begins death is a definite possibility. So the monsters and the traitor chase around the heroes, while the heroes attempt to kill the monsters, or find a certain item, or perform rituals in particular rooms etc. Attacks are might rolls against the monster/traitor's might rolls, with the difference being damage taken. Physical damage can be taken as either might or speed, and if mental damage is incurred, this can be either sanity or knowledge. Play continues until one side or the other has fulfilled their victory conditions.

Why this game is so great

Theme baby! This game is <b>ALL</b> about the theme. The flavor texts are well written, and the haunts are interesting and often clever.

Why others don't agree

Well, the others in this case has to include me as well. There is a lot of things wrong with this game. The first thing that has to be mentioned is the fact that the rules, tiles, scenario booklets have been terribly proofread/edited. One of the tiles is misprinted, (the Underground Lake tile is marked as being on the Upper floor of the house).  There are a ton of  rules issues that are not adequately explained. The  scenarios have many errors, from  incorrect traitor assignments to missing monster traits. Some of the scenarios special rules are not explained well enough, to the point of making some of them nearly unplayable. The FAQ for this game is a must.

In addition to the above, there is really very little game to this game. It is very random, and despite the flavor text, most of the cards end up being "roll some dice and if you roll well, gain a point in a stat and if you roll poorly, lose a point". This can get a bit old.  This improves somewhat once the haunt begins, as generally there is some point to what you are doing at that point. The scenarios are also pretty random, in terms of whether or not they end up being at all balanced. Some end up being way too easy for one side or the other, due to rooms/items/omens that have already been discovered/not discovered. Sometimes you will end up with a really good, contested fight, and at other times it is a foregone conclusion about how it will end. Also, there are several haunts in which all of the Heroes except one really have nothing to do.

Finally, the components in the game are a bit lacking for what you have to pay for the game, as only the explorers are represented by figures, and all of the monsters and the like are just cardboard chits.

However, with all of the above being said, I still felt like the game was unique enough, and fun enough to buy, and that it filled a niche in my game library, and I have played it 10 times in the couple of months I've owned it. It has pretty much worn out its welcome, and I'm hoping to put it away for a while, but it is a game I can see playing many more times in the future.

Recap

Strategy:  2
Complexity:  5 (only because of the misprints/errata)
Fun:  7
Overall:  6

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