This week’s game was one that I very recently played.  It was introduced to us at a game night on Saturday by some friends of mine. It’s called Betrayal at House on the Hill by Avalon Games.

The premise of the game is very much right out of any scary movie that involves a creepy mansion.  You (and those you’re playing with) are trapped in a creepy, haunted mansion and are compelled to explore it.  Once you’ve done a bunch of exploring, things start to go wrong and it becomes a fight for your life against any number of supernatural creatures.  So it’s very much a game based on the horror movie genre.

More specifics of how this game is played after the break.

To start, each player is randomly dealt a character (up to 6 people can play).  This character has 4 attributes: Speed which determines how many rooms you can pass through in a turn; Might which determines how strong you are in combat; Knowledge which helps you in event situations that require a knowledge check; and Sanity which helps you resist the creepy happenings in the house.  To start, all the players move around the board cooperatively in an attempt to explore the mansion.  As you explore the mansion is built randomly from a stack of room tiles, so no two mansions are ever going to be the same.  Basically when you pass through a door that hasn’t been opened yet, you draw a room of the appropriate floor (there are 3 floors), turn it over, and place it on the other side of the door, oriented how you see fit.

Some rooms are empty, but in most rooms there are three things that can happen depending upon the symbol in the room.  First, there can be an item in the room.  The player picks up the item (or fulfills the requirements to pick it up) and adds it to their inventory.  Second, an event can happen in the room which can be an array of good or bad things (such as falling into the basement, or finding a skeleton that’s holding an item).  Last, there can be an Omen the room, which causes creepy things to happen and sometimes leaves a lasting effect on the player.

The omens are the important part of the first half of game.  After each omen card is drawn, the omen meter increases by 1 and the player that drew the omen card has to roll a set of dice and try to score above the Omen meter.  This is fairly easy at the start of the game where there may only be 1 or 2 omens in play, but as the omen meter increases as the players explore the house, the likelyhood of being able to roll over it decreases significantly.  When one of the players finally rolls under the omen meter, it starts The Haunting phase.

Once The Haunting begins the game changes significantly.  First, the omen card that was just drawn and what room the player is in determines the scenario for the second part of the game.  There are over 50 scenarios, so there’s a lot of variability.  First, the basic scenario of The Haunt is announced, at which point a Traitor is picked from the player group based on the scenario’s criteria.  This traitor is given a booklet containing his goal for the second half of the game and leaves the room to read up on it.  Meanwhile, the rest of the players read their scenario and can develop a strategy to defeat the traitor.

For example: In our game the traitor became an invincible minion of Hell whose goal was to sacrifice one of the players in order to open a gateway to Hell.  Meanwhile, the players had to defeat him using a magical statue.

The game ends when one of the goals is completed.

I enjoyed this game immensely.  Not only was it fun, but the fact that it’s based on a randomly generated map and a randomly selected scenario means that no two games will every really be the same.  Even the same scenario will play out much differently given the configuration of the map and what events are in play.  Unlike some board games that are much the same each time you play them, Betrayal at House on the Hill will never play out the same way twice.  That gives the game a lot of replayability for me.  So this game gets one of the highest accolades I can give any game: I look forward to playing it again.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

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