Betrayal at House on the Hill

Avalon Hill's Betrayal at House on the Hill

The box for Betrayal at House on the Hill, Second Edition

The University of Utah had a board gaming event on Saturday, which I went to with a few friends.  There were 28 total players in attendance, comprising 26 men and 2 women.  (This turnout seems typical.  Why is it that there are so few women in the hobby?)

It was a fun event and I got to play a couple of new games I hadn’t ever played before: Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Piece o Cake.  In this post, I’ll be writing about my experience playing Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is one of the best board games I’ve ever played.  Its two strongest suits are its heavy theme and the plot twist which occurs when “the haunting” begins.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a complex game, with a lot of rules.  Each player takes one of twelve predefined characters who are exploring a mysterious and spooky mansion.  Each character has four attributes, including Speed, Might, Knowledge, and Sanity.  When a player takes damage, he moves a slider on his character token down.  Likewise, if he gets a boost, he moves it up.  This mechanic reminded me of the game HeroClix, because the attributes change on a scale instead of just adding or subtracting by one each time.  Players also have items which can affect their statistics or can be used for special effects in the game.

Players can move a number of squares equal to their current speed value.  The house starts out with just five squares discovered, and players explore the house by moving into undiscovered space and drawing a tile at random from the deck.  I thought this was a great way to keep the game dynamic and replayable.  One thing that always bothered me about the game Clue is that the board was so static, so this was a refreshing change.

Some room tiles have symbols on them, which indicate that the player should draw a card.  The three kinds of cards are Events, Omens, and Items.  If you get one of these on your turn, you have to end your turn even if you have movement speed left over.  Every time you get an omen card, you have to roll 8 dice to see whether the haunting begins.  The more omen cards have been drawn, the higher the probability of triggering the haunt.

The haunt is a prewritten scenario which is picked at random based on the omen card drawn and the room it was drawn from.  Usually, when the haunting begins, one of the players becomes the traitor and he has to compete against the other players for victory.  When the haunting occurs, the game really comes alive.

I participated in two games of Betrayal at House on the Hill at Saturday’s event, the first with six players and the second with four.  In the first scenario, the house had been carried away by a giant bird and we had only three parachutes among us.  So, we had to fight to the death to see who would end up with them and escape.  (I was one of the lucky ones.)  The second scenario involved the animation of Frankenstein’s monster, who ended up killing everyone quite easily.  (I was not so lucky that time.)

The game comes with eight six-sided dice, each of which has two sides each of nothing, one pip, or two pips.  So, it’s effectively a d3 dice with a range of 0-2 and a 33% chance of any one result.  The dice are used to determine whether the haunting occurs when an omen card is drawn, and also frequently with other cards to determine what happens, and in combat or when trying to get past a trap.

It’s the perfect game for a Halloween party.  In fact, I think we will be playing it at my annual Halloween party this year.  I can’t wait to play it again.

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Game Master Dice's New Owner

Kevin Owens, the new owner of Game Master Dice

Kevin Owens, the new owner of Game Master Dice

Game Master Dice is under new ownership!  I’m Kevin Owens, the new owner, and I’d like to introduce myself.

My professional background is in software development.  I also really like making websites, and run a couple of other sites in my spare time: Draconika Dragons, Dark Middle Ages, All About Unicorns, Phonics on the Web, and Active Family Tree are some of the more popular ones.

I’m also very interested in games of all kinds.  I originally got interested in computer programming because I liked playing computer games and wanted to make my own.  I’ve worked on a number of them over the years, but the only ones I’ve finished have been a Connect Four game with an A.I. opponent and a handful of educational phonics games.  I’m working on a hexagonal tactical wargame right now in my spare time–that is, what spare time I have.  My favorite computer games of all time are the StarCraft, HaloFallout, and Civilization series.

I also enjoy playing table-top games, and my family has a long tradition of playing board and card games at family gatherings.  Risk and Castle Risk were perennial favorites.  My father used to win most of the time when we were kids, but eventually we got wise and learned to gang up on him, and the poor guy has hardly been able to win a game since.  We used to play Uno and Rook frequently, too.  My current favorite games are Diplomacy, Bang! and Settlers of Cataan.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons as a teenager, and got hooked.  I had played computer RPGs before, but when I found out you could play in an open-ended imaginitive game where you could do anything you want (including attacking the blacksmith, if you so desired), there were stars in my eyes.  I kept playing pretty faithfully until I had children of my own, and had to cut back on the marathon gaming sessions.  My first character was a rogue named Dalanthro and most of my characters since have been rogues too.  I like the finesse of the class and, plus, I like doing a lot of damage and earning a lot of loot.

So, I’ve established that I like websites, and I like games, so you can see that it’s a natural choice for me to have a website which sells gaming supplies.  When I saw Game Master Dice for sale by the previous owner, who created it, I jumped on the opportunity.  I’ve been running it for a month so far now and I love it.

I’ve got a lot of improvements for the store in development currently.  I’ve been updating the look and feel of the website to load faster, look better, and be easier to use.  I’m also adding new dice and getting other dice back in stock all the time.  I’m looking forward to a long and successful future running the best dice store in the world.

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Gotta Love Dice Wars

I found this widget and had to put it here for all to play.

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Movie of Twilight Three Player Game

I thought this was a great way to see a whole game.

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Yssaril Tribe Race for Twilight Imperium

The Yssaril Tribe

I call these guys the frogs. This is one of my favorite races to play with because of one simple ability. The Yssaril Tribe has the ability to skip every other turn. They also draw one extra action card during the status phase and can look at one other players cards during the strategy phase. This may not sound like much but it sure does com in handy. They also start with 2 carriers so no need to worry about getting a second one first turn.

Have you ever been playing and next thing you know it is your turn and you have no idea what you want to do? If you are using the Yssaril Tribe just say skip and think about it a while. This skip ability is great. It lets you pass on a turn without passing. It also lets you see what everyone else does before you are forced to move. You can hold off doing just about anything until that strategy card you want played is played. Watching what others are doing and being able to almost always take the last turn is a major advantage.

Since you get extra action cards and can see others cards plan on having a full hand but don’t forget they are there. Many people forget that they have an action card which may help them in the current situation. You will have a lot of action cards so be sure that you know what your hand hold and when the appropriate time to use them will be.

Dice to use for this race

Green Jade Dice

Green Jade Dice

Speckled Recon Dice

Speckled Recon Dice

Transparent Green Dice

Transparent Green Dice

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Yin Brotherhood Race for Twilight Imperium

The Yin Brotherhood

I call these guys the sickos (They remind me of that race in Star Trek where they are all diseased). The Yin Brotherhood is another great race if played right. They have some strange abilities including a first strike of 5+ to steal a ground force from any planet you are attacking. They also have the ability to sacrifice a destroyer or cruiser in order to inflict damage to an opponents ship. Once per turn they can also select a planet and reverse it’s influence and resources. They do start with two carriers so this is one less thing you need to worry about first turn.

If you have a War Sun next to you and want to attack make sure you have that action card which allows you to make a kill once the War Sun is damaged. Roll your one round of combat, sacrifice a destroyer and then play that card. Pow no more War Sun. You will want to try and get as many action cards as you can so that your chances of drawing that card go up. Taking over planets can be fun too. Of course you want to roll above a 5 for that first round so that you can steal a troop but the result is worth it when it works.

If you see a high influence planet in your realm reverse the stats and use the resources. This can be very handy but don’t forget to use this ability. Many forget that they even have the skill. Go for whatever tech you want since you don’t start down a designated path.

Dice to use for this race

Silver Tetra Dice

Silver Tetra Dice

Hurricane Dice

Hurricane Dice

Transparent Orchid Dice

Transparent Orchid Dice

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Xxcha Kingdom Race for Twilight Imperium

The Xxcha Kingdom

I call these guys the turtles. The Xxcha Kingdom is an OK race they have a few abilities that if played right will help you get those goals. The first is that hey can execute the primary ability of the diplomacy card when executing the secondary. They can also spend a command counter to make a political card now happen. The best thing though is that all opponents get a -1 for that first round of combat against the Xxcha. Not great abilities but they are designed to save you if bad things arise. As with all races that start with 1 carrier move out of your home world and wait for that production card to be played. Then build a second carrier and go grab another planet the first turn.

Keep a command counter handy so that when that diplomacy card is played and you see a threat on the board you can stop it in it’s tracks. Most players forget that the Xxcha have this ability. They get ready for attack and then someone plays diplomacy and you are safe and sound. The ability to cancel a political card is also a great advantage if the card is something that would cause you grief.

No matter what you do, do not forget to use that -1 on all first attacks against you. It can save your life and make your opponent reconsider their plans for conquering your empire. Other than that they don’t have any real abilities and should be played to whatever end you want as far as tech goes.

Dice to use for this race

Speckled Earth Dice

Speckled Earth Dice

Speckled Recon Dice

Speckled Recon Dice

Pearlized Emerald Dice

Pearlized Emerald Dice

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Winnu Race for Twilight Imperium

The Winnu

I call these guys the shizz. The Winnu have almost the same technology advancements as the Universities of Jol-Nar. You may always add the influence value of your home system to add to your vote. Your planets that have at least one ground force are immune to the Local Unrest Action Card. To top this off you do not need to spend a command counter to execute the secondary of the technology card. You also start with 3 technologies. As with all races that start with 1 carrier I suggest getting out right away and wait for the production card to be played before putting another carrier into play. That way you can still move and take another planet that first turn.

Spread yourself thin leaving only a single troop per planet since they are now safe from the local unrest card. Try to get the technology card the first turn if possible then let others get it and use the secondary ability. Save money because tech will still cost you but it will not cost you a command counter. When you do tap planets try to tap your home world first since the influence can still be used even while tapped.

Your starting technologies do not put you directly on a path to War Suns but they do help. If you are lucky enough to get a secret objective that involves technology you should have no problem taking over the world. As with any race try to keep the funds flowing and always have excess command counters allowing you free movement and secondary actions.

Dice to use for this race

Speckled Golden Cobalt

Speckled Golden Cobalt

Glitter Purple Dice

Glitter Purple Dice

Transparent Violet Dice

Transparent Violet Dice

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Universities of Jol-Nar Race for Twilight Imperium

The Universities of Jol-Nar

I call these guys the brains. The Universities of Jol-Nar have got to be one of the best races to choose. They have so much tech you get to a point in the game where you don’t know what else to get. They have the ability to use both the primary and secondary abilities of the technology card. They also have the ability to spend a command counter from strategy to change any die roll. They do have the disadvantage of getting -1 to all combat rolls during space and invasion combat. They also start with four technologies. Heck they even start with two carriers.

When I am lucky enough to get this race I tell everyone at the table that we may as well choose again because I win. If played right they can be that powerful. The secret is that people who get this race try to also get the technology card. But you know that the tech card will be selected by someone and you get better bonuses if you play the secondary so let someone else take the card. The first round make sure you save a strategy command counter for that tech card. When you play it, get Deep Space Cannons and you will be only one away from War Suns.

Their -1 in all combat is a pain because you are always playing from behind in combat but your tech can outweigh that easily if you get the right technology. You will need trade goods to purchase War Suns once you have the tech so start by getting high resource planets right away. You will also need a lot of command counters. Those negatives to your dice will only matter if you run out of command counters which each give you the ability to reroll a dice.

There is nothing sweeter than getting this race and find out your secret objective is something to do with technology.

Dice to use for this race

Silver Tetra Dice

Silver Tetra Dice

Pearlized Red and Gold Dice

Pearlized Red and Gold Dice

Transparent Orchid Dice

Transparent Orchid Dice

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Sardakk N'orr Race for Twilight Imperium

The Sardakk N’orr

I call these guys the bugs. The Sardakk N’orr are simple brute force and should be used as such. They have one racial ability +1 to all combat rolls, space or invasion combat. Use this ability wisely and the dice rolls will always be in your favor over your opponent. They also start with two red technologies leaving you easily on a path to War Suns. Whatever you do with the Sardakk N’orr you always have that +1 combat advantage. Other than that there isn’t much left to say. They start with one carrier so move it out fast and wait for the production card to be played to buy a second one that first turn. Since built during production it can still go grab a planet so leave some of your ground forces behind.

You have brute force on your side so any tech path which leads to better combat rolls will always keep the odds in your favor. Work toward War Suns right from the start. Doesn’t 3 rolls over 2 sound like death to any would be attacker. The +1 will also scare those adjacent to you and help keep them out of your territory.

Dice to use for this race

Stone Obsidian Dice

Stone Obsidian Dice

Speckled Fire Dice

Speckled Fire Dice

Marbleized Charcoal Dice

Marbleized Charcoal Dice

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