Betrayal at House on the Hill is an exploration-based board game released first in 2004. The game begins as the players enter a haunted house to uncover its secrets. This is the exploration phase of the game. Each player gets a character whose stats, might, speed, knowledge and sanity, affect the gameplay. The game progresses as players uncover new rooms on each floor of the house. These rooms, which are blindly selected from a pile of room tiles, can contain one of three things: an event, an item or an omen. Events can have a positive or a negative effect on the game, namely players’ stats, and the items are useful things to collect and save for later in the game. If the room contains an omen, the player who discovered this room draws an omen card and performs the actions stated in the card.
At the end of the turn the player must roll six dice and if the count is lower than the number of omen cards found, the second phase on the game, the haunt phase, begins. The player who’ll be the haunted one is determined by special rules from the game’s rulebook. There are a total of 50 different haunts and as such, the game can progress in 50 different directions. The haunted and the survivors each have their own game manuals that state what they have to do to win the game. The basic setting is that the haunted must defeat or convert the survivors in order to win and the survivors are trying to prevent this. The game ends when either of these outcomes is achieved.
I found the game exhilarating and fun. I found myself constantly hoping to find new things as I continued to explore the haunted house. The exploration phase was captivating, but the second phase of the game is where things get interesting. The number of different haunts, and as such different outcomes, is breathtaking. I got to play three or four different haunts and they were all extremely exciting and well thought. There was enough variation, so the game didn’t repeat itself and as a bonus, the haunts are narrated blood chillingly in the manuals. I found the game extremely fun with four or five players and I think that three players might make the haunt phase of the game a bit too hard for either of the teams.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and was pleasantly surprised by the number of different ways the game can go. This also adds a tremendous amount of replay value and is sure to keep players exploring the house again and again in the hopes of a different outcome. The game can feel a bit overwhelming at first, because of the multiple actions that can happen during a player’s, turn, but the best way to learn to play is to try it out with a great group of friends.
Designers: Bruce Glassco, Rob Daviau, Bill McQuillan, Mike Selinker, Teeuwynn Woodruff
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Release date: 2004 (1st edition), 5.10.2010 (2nd edition)
Number of players: 3–6
Playing time: 30min–2hrs