Game Length: 60 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 4-6 players who want to play out a B horror movie
Confession time: Betrayal at House on the Hill was my introduction to modern boardgaming. As a result, I have a soft spot for this game, even though it may not be as tight as other games that are available. However, there are very few games that even attempt what this game sets out to achieve, and when it does work, it’s one of the most thrilling boardgaming experiences around.
The players start in the hallway of an abandoned mansion, without any real idea of what’s going on. They will start exploring the house, and as they do, they will discover strange items or unusual things will happen – then, after the house has been partly explored, the Haunt will begin!
At the start of the Haunt, one of the players is revealed to be a traitor! There are a total of 50 Haunts included in the game, each of which has completely different rules, with such B-movie-style plots as being attacked by a werewolf, being shrunk to one tenth your original size, or suddenly realising the house itself is alive and trying to eat you! The Traitor will take the Traitor’s Tome booklet, the other players will take the Secrets of Survival booklet, both teams look up the Haunt number and determine the new rules of the game. Each team will only have half the rules, however – only the traitor knows exactly what he needs to do to win, and only the other players know what they need to do to survive – whether that involves killing the traitor, or just finding a way out alive!
Betrayal at House on the Hill is more of an ‘experience’ game than a real strategy board game. It’s not terribly well balanced in modern board game terms, and now and then the Haunts you end up with are non-starters – such as when the players turn out to have all the items needed to solve the mystery and succeed first attempt – or alternatively, the only character with any physical strength is the traitor, and the others need to beat him in combat to win, which can be almost impossible. However, when a Haunt occurs that is balanced, the thrill of racing against your opponent(s) without knowing exactly what might happen next is like nothing else I’ve experienced in boardgaming.
If you want to experience something unlike anything else in boardgaming and don’t mind a play experience that can vary a lot from game to game, then I recommend Betrayal at House on the Hill. Just don’t be too let down if one of the Haunts turns out to be a dud now and then.