Betrayal at the House on the Hill

A few months ago, I visited a friend a few hours away who is an avid gamer for International Tabletop Day. All my friends know I have the most board games and I’m an eager host. But Jesse and Jodi blow me away. They have way more games than I do and I’m steadily trying to catch up. One of the games that they played was Betray at the House on the Hill. The basic premise is a bunch of characters explore the house. At some point, one of them reveals themselves as the traitor and turns on the others. This is known as the haunt. At this point, the game becomes competitive with either the traitor or the remaining explorers (collectively known as the heroes) winning. On most occasion, this involves killing the other team.

There are a total of twelve characters paired on a double sided hexagon character card. Each character has a name, a birthday and age, a list of hobbies, two physical traits (Might and Speed) and two mental traits (Knowledge and Sanity). These starting traits can be rise and fall with the game. The stats don’t necessarily increase in a linear fashion. Brandon Jespers’s Knowledge goes from 3 to 5 with a single trait increase. If any of your traits hits the skull on the tracker after the haunt, the character dies and is removed from the game.

There are eight dice used throughout the game. Each die has two blank sides, two sides with 1 dot and two sides with 2 dots. So the range of values is from 0 to 16. To begin the game, there are five revealed tiles and three floors, basement, ground and upper. The entrance, foyer and staircase which are three tiles joined together to form the ground floor, the basement landing and the upstairs landing. The staircase on the ground floor leads to the upstairs landing. There is a basement stairs room card in the shuffled deck, so you have to explore the basement to get out. The basement stairs lead to the foyer.

There are a stack of room cards that are face down and shuffled. Each explorer can move his or her speed score each turn. If they reveal a room with a symbol (raven, bull skull or spiral), they stop moving but can continue to do other actions. They draw the respective card. Spirals are event cards, they’re generally negative but if you can win the die roll, you can get a stat increase. Bull skulls are items. These are almost universally positive but there may be a drawback on occasion. Finally, the raven marked cards are omens. Omens are mostly positive (except for the bite card). They can be traded or given away just like items (except for a select few cards). After you draw an omen card, you make a haunt roll which means rolling six dice. If the total on the dice is less than the number of omens collected, the haunt begins.

There are 50 haunts described in the game. Each one plays with different rules and goals. The omen that was drawn and the room that triggered the draw are combined to determine who the traitor is and what haunted is happening. At this point, the traitor leaves the room and reads a rulebook while the heroes read their rulebook and plan how to win and escape the house. Every imaginable horror story can happen in Betrayal. Werewolves, vampires, dragons, waxmen, vampiric bats, ghost brides. It’s truly great how well this game draws on horror stories of every kind.

This game has quickly become a staple for my game nights. We’ve had to pace ourselves so we don’t run out of haunts too quickly. We’ve probably completed about 15 of them. So, now we’ll play one, maybe two each time but I’ve got plenty of other games to play. It’s been a nice change of pace compared to our recent sprees of Zombicide and Pandemic.