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.
Players: 3 - 6
Time: 60 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 1,559 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is a domestic item.
- 2 haunt books
- 45 room tiles
- 6 plastic figures
- 6 double-sided character cards
- 80 cards
- 291 tokens
- 30 plastic chips
- 1 turn/damage track
- 8 dice
Average Rating: 3.5 in 13 reviews
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.
I admit, I bought Betrayal at House of the Hill based on some reviews I read of it (coupled with my confidence in Avalon Hill not to disappoint). It didn't live up to all the hype, but I did find myself enjoying the game in a different way than I expected.
Other reviews make it sound like the game should be rated to protect the innocent minds of children, but it really has kind of a middle-school sense of horror to it that is equally creepy and fascinating, I just wouldn't go so far as to say it is horrifying. I didn't find myself scared as much as I found myself marveling at the skill of the creators of the games to effectively create many different games in one package.
Depending on the scenario (haunt) you end up playing, you may never even get to discover what all the many pieces that come with the game are for. Some of the pieces are so unique you can find yourself playing the game ten times before you even have occasion to use them. That just makes me want to come back and play some more.
There isn't anything out there quite like Betrayal at House on the Hill and, quite frankly, there doesn't need to be. The creators have poured so many innovative ideas into the game, it will never get old.
I was also thankful to Avalon Hill for featuring an online demo of the game (and some of their others) at their website. This cut down on the long first game where everyone is trying to figure everything out and allowed us to jump into the game faster. This is a smart idea that other companies may want to consider as well. Seeing HOW the game is played is just another way of packaging the game in a much more attractive way (and, let's face it, the cover art on this game is pretty lame -- what were they thinking?!).
Betrayal at House on the Hill won't scare you out of your seat, but it may keep you glued to your chair long enough to see if you can survive. It's a keeper!
I've solo'd it twice. Very fun and clever. To give you a feel for the game, I'll tell how my scenario worked out. Four adventurers began to work their way through the house. The old professor ended up in the basement. The young guy was upstairs, and the woman and boy were on the ground level. When the boy got stuck in spider webs, the woman helped him escape. A while later, the woman was revealed to be an alien, who shifted the house into another dimension, changing the whole layout of the house. The remaining three heroes had to get to the organ room and play the right tune to get back to their own dimension. The young guy found secret stairs down to the organ room and tried to work out the tune. Soon the boy showed up to give the young guy a mask to increase his knowledge. But when alien lady reached the organ room, armed with a deadly spear, she attacked the guy, wounding him and taking the mask. The boy fled, hoping to find other useful things in the house. Meanwhile, the professor was stuck in the basement, where he had found the dog and the madman and other useful items. The alien woman finally killed the young guy and went off to hunt down the child. She cornered him in the graveyard and wounded him critically. All seemed lost...until the professor found the mystic elevator to the ground floor. He ran into the organ room, injected himself with adrenalin, and, aided by a bunch of good tools, banged out the right tune, transporting the house back to our dimension.
Very fun game play!
As others have said, there are a lot of errors in the rules. One who buys this game should immediately head to Avalon Hill's web site to pick up the FAQ.
Once you get past this, though, I have found that the game plays quite well. Basically, you don't know what you need to do until the haunt hits, then you have to adapt quickly to whatever situation presents itself.
This isn't a heavy duty game, so it would work just fine in a party atmosphere with non-gamers. Other than the fact that the proofreading department at AH is very lacking, this is quite a good game and worth the price.
Ok, there are grouses about the production quality, and the ambiguity over some of the cards, and yes, cardboard circles represent monsters etc. but, for me these aren’t serious enough to spoil the game. The character figures are pretty cool and to be honest we got so caught up in the exploration, cheesy horror of chutes to the basement and revolving walls as well as the nervous anticipation of one of us ‘turning bad’ that it doesn’t really detract from the gameplay, which is sheer fun. What's more, by the end, the heroes were using deliberate and cunning tactics to defeat the bad guy - “you distract him over there while we prepare to finish him over here”.
Sure its light and it won't hit the table every week, but for once in a while it’s a star!
If you enjoy role-playing games and managing an individual's statistics, Betrayal will appeal to you. At it's core, Betrayal is a role-playing game. You start in The Great Hallway of a mansion. The house is built by drawing house tiles that represent rooms. This makes the game unique each time you play. At first, you'll wander aimlessly from room to room. Some rooms will have symbols in them that instruct the player to draw event cards. The events are fun and creepy, but often not tied to each other and seemingly meaningless to the game. Eventually, a card will instruct the players as to the purpose, or haunt, of the game. There are many haunts and you could create your own. The rules on the haunts are open to interpretation. So, if you like games with clearly explained rules, Betrayal is not for you.
It's a lot of fun to explore the house, lay new tiles and discover new things. However, once the haunt is determined, you may find yourself sifting through all the extra pieces of the game looking for monster tokens. You may also find yourself running back and forth between the same rooms trying to avoid a trap or monster and are no longer exploring the house. For me, the game slowed down tremendously once the haunt was determined.
Basically, I enjoyed the game, but gameplay is disjointed and in some cases you may need to create your own rules in order to complete the game. There's also very little strategy, but since this is a game of horror, chance and surprise are necessary to make the game spooky.
Why a surpirse? Because when Hasbro acquired the original Avalon Hill, they did nothing impressive. Actaully they did nothing. All the Risk, Acquire, Diplomacy are legacy. I think the true spirit of AH was gone. I still remember the game AH last did before Hasbro killed them called the "Monster Ravage America," it was real fun. I believe that was the goodbye kiss.
Today, they give us Betrayal. Wow! No matter what, a surprise.
I will expect this kind of thing comes from Twilight Creations (they made the hilarious/spooky Zombies series) but never AH. Betrayal is the combination of Warhammer Quest (by Games Workshop) and Zombies (by TC). It is actaully a GM-Free RPG when ramdom cards and tile and story oriented dungeon crawling, plus Horror theme as background.
It did a great job for the horror atmostphere, artwork... Indeed, it is really spooky and make me recall the scene from movies like Blair Witch Project, Shining..etc.
No matter what, it is still a RPG for me. So, all those misprints as other critics said in the past, I agree but I think there are always misprints or bugs in those RPG without GM. That's why RPG "was" such a great concept. Conclusion: the one and only one Avalon Hill (Hasbro era) game you can buy.
Ben from HK
Playing this game is bittersweet. You can really enjoy some aspects of the game as the theme and mechanics of the game work very well together to give the player the feel of the haunted house escape genre.
Since I only played it once, I can't say whether there are many similar situations, but the problem that my group was completely due to either a lack of play testing, or a lack of care when the scenario booklet was written.
We reached the climax of the game only to find out that due to the way the scenario was written up, it made no sense at all and was unplayable. We picked another scenario as a replacement, only to find that it was not defined very well, and made it impossible for the person who played the betrayer to have any chance at victory.
It appears based on some of the other reviews posted that some other players also experienced similar types of problems.
I would recommend that if you decide to try this one, check the Avalon Hill website for rule corrections and such, before you get into a good game that ends poorly due to typographical or similar types of issues.
I love the concept for the game. Unfortunately, the game play leaves a lot to be desired. I got stuck with absolutely no choice in what I did for 8 moves until I was killed.