Betrayal at House on the Hill
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Build a house of terror -- tile by tile.
It's never the same game twice. As one of the twelve mysterious characters, you'll explore a house filled with deadly secrets. As you play, you'll build the house. But beware! One of your fellow players will betray you. The traitor will test your sanity as you use all your skills to survive.
With fifty fiendish scenarios, Betrayal at House on the Hill puts you face to face with legendary monsters, modern nightmares, and ... your friends.
The game seems very difficult to learn at first. It has a great many components that overwhelm your senses. However, it doesn't really use but a small fraction of those components in an actual game. I probably would have played it sooner had I known that fact.
This game has great story potential. The items found in the house lead to some creepy thoughts. There is a toy monkey that claps when certain things happen. The Monkey actually attacks just about anyone, enemies, friends even yourself. However, most of the time it just claps maniacally as you are taken down by the enemy. And that is just one item.
There are also omens that are in the house that are the stepping stones to releasing some unknown horror. These omens are for the most part beneficial, but you have to ask yourself if they are beneficial to you or your soon to be opponent.
Events are just plain bad most of the time, though once in a great while you get something harmless or helpful, as one would see in a classic haunted house film.
The game plays within a set parameter of rules, but those rules are more like guides to uncovering what mysteries lay ahead.
You can divide the game into two parts. The first part is to explore the house as much as possible and get whatever benefits (bonuses, items and omens) you can in order to win the game. The tricky part is, "to win the game" part. Most likely, one of you will turn traitor to the others in the group. This traitor's goal is to thwart everyone else in the game.
After a number of omens have been discovered and a random low dice roll (under the number of omens discovered) has occurred, the Haunt within the house comes to life. A person usually becomes possessed/obsessed or realizes that they are somehow attached to the house (psychotically or telepathically) and turns against every.
This is when the second part of the game begins. It is brutal, like anything you may see in a thriller horror film. The game basically has a list of 40+ stories to unleash within the house. This has an incredible range of possibilities. Surprisingly, you could be invaded by Aliens with some strange purpose, or be chased by a blob, fight your own clone, help a mass murderer return from the grave for one more night of debutchery, even play the pipes to a swarm of rats that grows and grows.
Cliches you may say, but they are entertaining, and in the way it all comes together creates a feeling of respect for the gamemakers that put this title together. This game is a first class novelty, and the family at our house truly appreciates it.
Before I get into the actual review of the game I'd like to address the "problems" that have been abundantly mentioned in reviews on this and other websites, and I've read a lot of them.
I have played the game many times (about 12 now) and each time I have yet to run into a unplayable scenario. Granted as a group we have had to stop the game and really flesh out what the rules of a particular haunt was. Example; In almost every haunt if a player hits a monster the monster is stunned. In the haunt entitled "The Floating Eye" neither the Traitors book nor the Haunt book actually says the monsters can be stunned. This makes it really tough to get away from them, particularaly if you have a low speed rating. However the Traitors book does say that the monster "do not take any damage" and when you go back to the main rule book there is a subtle little sentence that says monsters are stunned when they take damage. We inferred then that in this scenario the monster were not able to be stunned in any manner. The reason is there are only 2 of them. Stunning one of them really hampers the Traitor's ability to do harm.
I've found that most of the problems other people have incurred with this game follow this kinds of patterns. Not that they are insurmountable but that they sometimes take careful examination. I also saw some complaints that the haunt started and required "Room X, Y or Z" in order to finish but those rooms weren't discovered yet making it impossible to finish the game. Well...not really, you can still explore the house and discover new rooms once the haunt starts, it's just a bit more difficult with monster running around.
I guess I'm just a little more forgiving than a lot of other people. See I can understand developing a game being 100% familiar with the rules and creating a bunch of scenarios and taking for granted that I didn't reiterate rules. Now I'm not saying ALL of the complaints fall into these catagories but truth be told 1 reviewer played the game once and wrote a review. I'm a dozen down and haven't found his problem yet. It might crop up one day but to rate a game low after only 1 play does seem unfair to me.
Certainly there are some things that are a bit tongue in cheek as far as continuity problems. Example; we discovered a closet in the cemetary. But given the nature of the discovery process (shuffling cards) that sort of thing can happen, and just became fun to make fun of and move on.)
Now to my take on the game itself. WOW! As I said in the title I could sit and play no other game for hours on end and I think I'd still want to play this one again after that. The nature of the haunt cropping up half way through the game really does add an element of surprise to the game as no one know who the traitor is going to be until the haunt is revealed. Same goes for the goal of the game and what-not. Being a tile game it also adds randomness to the layout but only to a certain extent. You may end up with different rooms or drawing different omens/items/events but all in all the basics do reamain the same. Roughly speaking the goal of each game for the players is to stay alive and for the traitor to kill the players. How it happens and what must be done by each side is left up the individual haunt description. This makes for a supremely unique and wonderfuly fun game. So the game rate very highly for it highly unique mechanics and the fun level is off the charts.
The artwork seems to suffer greatest on the player cards. The entire game is superbly drawn, but the player cards really left a lot to be desired in my mind, but this is very minor just a little surprising being as all the other art is so great. While I'm on it all of the components themselves are very well done too. Nice thick tiles, clean punch out tokens, sweet six-sided dice that count to 2 (0, 1, 2) and the item/omen/event cards are textured and tarot sized. The only compnent that I had a problem with was again on the player card. The little plastic sliders that you move to dictate your stats is awkward to move and has already caused scratches on most of our player cards, not to mention the needle should be a little longer just to discourage cheating. There are other ways to have handled this that would have been easy to produce and worked out just a bit better. Still this is nothing to work over the game for.
My bottom line on this game is, it's great fun. Strategy level is mid to low as there are so many options left to the randomness of the dice, card and tile draws so if you are strategy only gamer stay clear. Once the haunt starts is when you setup a strategy but what items you have is left totaly up to the cards drawn before the haunt. If you are alright with dealing with the situation that's handed you this game will (like it did me) leave you with a thrill each and every play. I completely do not suggest this game for non-gamers as others have. Granted the theme is pretty universal and the style is different enough that they might enjoy it but for those who are not use to thinking in a gaming state of mind might get frustrated by the aformentioned problems others have had. Again tend to get a good grip on rules it should not be a problem. As I'm OK with both those this game rules in my book. I can't wait to play it again.