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Betrayal at House on the Hill

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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