Monday, October 7, 2013

Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill

Saturday night game night! Cleared off my table and everything.

The Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill
The Publisher: Avalon Hill, by way of Wizards of the Coast
Time: 1 hour, give or take
Players: Me, +Michelle Lyons-McFarland+Sarah Dyer, and +Cheyenne Rae Grimes


Bottle of red wine optional.

Game Play: The set-up is this: You're explorers making your way through a haunted house. On your turn, you decide where you're going (each explorer has four stats: Speed, Might, Sanity, and Knowledge; your Speed determines how far you can move). You start with just the Foyer, but as you go through doors, you draw cards off a stack and build the house. Different rooms have different challenges; some require a roll to get through, others have Events, Items, or Omens waiting for you.

Events might do damage, give you allies, or require a roll to conquer. Items are generally helpful thingies that increase your stats. Omens are often helpful, but sometimes not, always supernatural, and after every omen you make the Haunt roll. When the Haunt roll comes up less than the total number of Omens that have been found, the Haunt begins.

Digression - rolling dice. The game uses custom six-sided dice with 0, 1, or 2 dots on them. So if you roll 4 dice, you can come up with an number between 0 and 8.

Anyway, once the Haunt begins, you use a handy chart in the rulebook to find which room you were in when the Haunt was revealed, and which Omen did it. So for instance, I revealed the Haunt in our game (after the house had been built up for a good long while, actually), and I did so after I drew the Dog Omen card. That cross-references on the chart to Haunt #19, so we look that up, and discover our traitor.

Our traitor. She can't wait to kill us.

See, Betrayal starts off co-op, and then gets competitive. One player becomes the traitor (in this case Michelle, who, as the picture above shows, was way too gleeful about it). The traitor has a win condition, and the other players ("heroes") have a win condition. In our case, Michelle's character was a kind of Dorian Grey creature, and we were trying to find paint cans and alter the painting so she'd age and wither. She was trying to destroy the paint cans, at which point she kills or enslaves us or something. We had some setbacks - I had by far the best Speed, so I was figuring I could zip around and find the paint, but then I drew a bad Event card and lost my flashlight and wound up only moving one space per turn. But it all worked out; we got the paint cans to the Gallery, and Michelle got to do her best Wicked Witch impression.

See? Dramatic tension.

Opinions: I really enjoy this game. I love that it's not purely co-op or competitive, and that the players are more or less autonomous until the Haunt starts. I love that it's different every time, and that it's just involved enough that you can't play it back-to-back, but it's simple enough to get new players into it quickly. Oh, and it's not as interminably long as Arkham Horror.

Now, the bad news. The rules have been errata'd pretty heavily, which if you have an Internet connection while you play isn't a huge deal. Also, the little sliders that fit on the sides of the character cards to indicate where your stats are is fucking useless, but because the characters don't progress linearly (a card might give you +1 to your Speed, but your Speed might progress 4, 4, 5, 6, 6) it's not easy to just use dice or something instead. Also, there are a lot of little fiddly bits that you don't always use, which can be annoying.

Overall, though, it's an awesome little game.

Keep It? Yes.