What are my 2016 Plans?

Happy New Year, my Fellow Gamers!

Yes yes yes, I know it’s almost February. I’m SORRY! But if you’re anything like me, you are sitting here, looking at the date on your calendar thinking “how is this year already 1/12th gone?!” Better start making your Christmas wishlist, because that will be here before we all know it!

So what are my plans for 2016? Well, I’ve been growing my YouTube presence quite strong over the last few months while neglecting this blog. That is definitely not my goal, I promise! I guess I just pulled myself into a few different projects all at once and became addicted to hearing and watching myself talk instead of simply watching myself type. I want to keep growing my audience in both venues as I feel a special bond with each group of fans and subscribers. The challenge will be to leverage my time between those forms of media and, well, my family, jobs (that actually pay me), school, etc.

My goal is to release one post a month here and one video each month on my YouTube Channel. I think that, for now, the blog will focus more on general tabletop gaming while the channel will focus more on RPGs, but that is definitely subject to change at any time. One thing I DO want to do on both platforms is increase my community involvement. I want to hear from you, talk with you about games and reviews in the comments, hear your gaming stories, and so on! Putting my voice and opinion on the internet for all to see is fun, but not nearly as enjoyable as getting to have a conversation with you about our mutual hobby. If you have suggestions on how to do that, please let me know below! (See what I did there?)

One thing I will stop doing is Play Reports. Most of my content gets a decent number of hits, especially from casual readers looking into the many games I review. That said, almost nobody has read the play reports. They’re long, boring, and not nearly as exciting as watching the game or *gasp* playing in one yourself. They’re even boring for me to write. Therefore, unless a large number of you has a burning desire to continue reading my party’s mis-adventures in Faerun, there will be no Part 3 to the Hoard of the Dragon Queen play through.

This year, my plate is quite full, so I don’t expect to produce a lot of unique content. However, I want to be consistent, even if that consistency is few and far between. Please let me know what you want to read, watch, hear, or see from either of my media platforms. Honestly, this experience is not as much fun as it is when you are involved.

Kyle Blomgren is the founder of Flat Top Gaming. He loves tabletop gaming, watching others play tabletop games, singing, and spending time with his wife and daughter.

Review: Sheriff of Nottingham

Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that the path to business prosperity begins with bringing your products before the consumers. Unfortunately, that dastardly Sheriff is standing between you and Nottingham’s buying public. Huh, it looks like he’s in a good mood today… I wonder if we can convince him to look away as I hide this crossbow among the chicken coop… Here’s my review of Sheriff of Nottingham.SoN

Game: Sheriff of Nottingham
Designed: Sergio Halaban, Bryan Pope, Benjamin Pope, and Andre Zatz
Published: Arcane Wonders
Players: 3 – 5 (Best with 5)
Time: 60 minutes

Sheriff of Nottingham is a social deception game set in the medieval city of Nottingham. While Robin Hood and Little John don’t make appearances in this game, their nemesis, the Sheriff, is there to harass you and your fellow shopkeepers in the name of ensuring the sanctity and safety of the wares sold within the city walls. Of course, this “strict” policy might change a little bit if you help grease the Sheriff’s palms, if you know what I mean… No, not that. Get your head out of the gutter!

Set-Up:
Each players begins by choosing a market tile and placing it and the matching colored bag in front of them. All cards are shuffled together and placed into a single face-down pile. (Note: when playing a 3-player game, remember to remove all cards with “4+” written on them) Give each player six cards, then create two face-up discard piles with five cards in each. Finally, give each player 50 gold pieces (broken down into 1×20, 5×5’s, and 5×1’s). The player with the most actual money in their pocket begins the game as the Sheriff.SoN Player cards

Gameplay:
Play is broken into rounds with one of the players setting aside their merchant to play the role of the Sheriff. The game continues with the Sheriff moving clockwise until all players have been the Sheriff twice (three times for a three player game). Each round is broken into five phases: Market, Load Merchant Bag, Declaration, Inspection, and End of Round.

In the Market Phase, all players (except the Sheriff) have the opportunity to exchange up to five of their six cards with cards in either discard pile or the face-down pile. If players want a specific card in the discard pile, they must take it and all cards on top of it. Also, players must take cards from the discard piles before they take any from the face-down pile (to ensure they don’t draw a matching card and get an unfair advantage). Once all players have completed the Market Phase (which can occur simultaneously), play moves to the Load Merchant Bag Phase.

During the LMB Phase, each player places up to five of their cards into the bag of their corresponding color. There is definitely a strategy as to what you load into the bag, but it totally depends on your play style, the style of the current Sheriff, your gaming group, etc. Let’s break down the types of cards you’ll find in the game and try and give you some strategies:SoN Goods Cards

Goods cards are broken down into two main categories: Legal Goods and Contraband. Legal Goods (denoted by the green border) include Bread, Cheese, Apples, and Chickens. Any of these cards that get through the Sheriff are placed face-up at your Market for all to see (which will be important for scoring and strategy later). Contraband has a red border and is always illegal if the Sheriff catches you with it. Of course, these goods are also worth more money if sold at Market. All contraband is placed together in a single face-down pile at the top of your Market if it gets past the Sheriff. This prevents other players from seeing exactly what value you’ve brought through while simultaneously telling them that you’re willing to lie about the contents of your bag.

One strategy for loading your bag includes only placing legal goods of a single type and acting like a completely upstanding citizen. This can be beneficial if you have a large number of that good in your hand. Another strategy I saw during my games from a certain player (*cough* Paul *cough*) was to load your bag completely with contraband and bribing the Sheriff with a reasonably high amount of gold (but still not nearly as high as the total value of the contraband within, giving you a net gain). Mix and match as you desire!

Next is the Declaration Phase. This is one of the few places in the game where you can guarantee that the player is telling the truth (partially). Players snap close their bags and then MUST declare the exact number of cards within the bag AND one legal good (regardless of whether or not it is in the bag). For example, I place four cards in the bag, snap it closed, and say “Four Chickens!”. There may be one chicken, two silk, and a crossbow inside the bag, but I only declare the Legal Good. I may have instead put one chicken, two apples, and a crossbow inside the bag, but will still declare only ONE Legal Good. After declaring the contents of the bag, players hand them to the Sheriff, who begins the Inspection phase.

This is where the real fun and strategy behind the game comes to life. During the Inspection Phase, the Sheriff has the opportunity the threaten and haggle with players over who gets inspected and who gets to pass without hassle. I suggest using one of the recommended rules of adding a timer to this phase of the game, as there is the risk of it dragging on until the sun rises in the morning. Players are able to bargain for the Sheriff to let them through by offering gold, goods from their market, or goods that *might* be in their bag. If the Sheriff accepts their offer, s/he MUST let them pass in exchange for the bribe. However, if the Sheriff chooses to inspect the bag in question, all bribes are considered null.

If the player was truthful in their Declaration, the Sheriff pays them the penalty cost for all of their goods.

“See, I told you there were only four chickens in there!”

However, if there are any contraband OR Legal Goods that were NOT declared (remember those apples I threw in with the chickens earlier?), the Merchant pays the Sheriff the penalty cost for all illegal goods and they are discarded. Luckily, they do get to keep any Legal Goods they did declare.

“Oh… um… how did THAT get in there?!”

Finally comes the End of the Round, in which all players place the goods from their bags (that they were able to keep) next to the appropriate spot on their Market, move the Sheriff token to the next player, and begin again.

At the end of the game, players tally the number of points on their goods (legal and contraband), coins, and get additional points for having the most- or second-most of any of the goods. The player with the highest total score wins.

Review:
This is one of the most fun social games I have ever played. Frequent readers of this blog will know how much I enjoy roleplaying games, but I’ve never talked about my general disdain for party games. This is one party game I can get behind! It helped bring friends who don’t roleplay (and in fact balk at the very concept of it) into the fold of taking on character voices and personas all in the name of increasing the fun and experience of the game. The rules are fairly light and stay out of the way of your enjoyment while still providing a deep, rich experience for those who enjoy heavy strategy games. One of the greatest moments of this game is when you watch the “good little shopkeeper” place all five of their cards into the Contraband pile without even a second thought. I’m not sure I’ve laughed this hard at the table in a long time.

All materials in the game are of high quality and seem like they will last for a long time. My only concern is with the velvet bags the game comes with. They feel sturdy, but the plastic snaps hold on VERY strongly, meaning that we were pulling quite hard to open them up. I just fear that one day a bag will rip around the snap, rendering it useless. I haven’t seen this happen nor have I heard of any cases where it has, so maybe my fear is unfounded.

If you enjoy games where you are encouraged to lie to your friends, or you want to bring non-roleplayers into a more interactive gaming experience, this is definitely the game for you.

Kyle Blomgren is the founder of Flat Top Gaming. He loves tabletop gaming, watching others play tabletop games, singing, and spending time with his wife and daughter.

How to use Fantasy Flight Games’s Narrative Dice

Hello Fellow Gamers,

I recently made my first of three videos describing how to use FFG’s Narrative Dice and why they are the primary reason you should go pick up your copy of the Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, or Force and Destiny core rule books today. I didn’t realize video recording and editing were so hard… anyway, below are each of my vlogs on the dice. Enjoy!

Play Report: Hoard of the Dragon Queen Session 2

This is Part 2 of my homegroup’s play through of D&D 5th Edition, Hoard of the Dragon Queen by Wizards of the Coast. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please do so.

***Warning, this play report may reveal spoilers for the Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat storylines. You have been warned.***

With the Old Tunnel secure, the party returns to the Keep in search of Governor Nighthill and their next quest. When they find him, he’s standing atop the Keep looking over the burning town of Greenest. His eyes are fixed upon a the town mill in the southwest. “The guards have spotted a new threat. Raiders are trying to set fire to the town’s mill. If it burns, we’ll lose our stockpile of flour and we won’t be able to grind more for months.” He goes on to tell the party that they need to head out now and save the mill, and that a group of town guardsmen will follow about fifteen minutes behind them.

Since the party had just cleared the Old Tunnel, they decide to use that to make the stream through town unnoticed and sneak up to the mill. When they are just outside of visual range, Kaladin and Pip decide to sneak up for a closer look. They are able to see four Cultists (one in purple robes) and a guard trying to set the fires. Suspicious of their activity, Kaladin observes them for a minute and realizes that their attempts to light the mill on fire are more for show and a ruse than a legitimate attempt at destruction. Pip relays this information to the other three adventurers behind them and rejoins Kaladin at the front. Meriele, counting on the element of surprise, readies her longbow and aims at the purple robed cultist.

“I’ll shoot him, but only to wound him so we can interrogate him and find out what’s going on.”

-Roll: Natural 20-

Her arrow flies true, striking the cultist in the back of the head, killing him instantly.

“Sorry! I didn’t think I’d actually kill him!”

The blow is enough for other cultists to catch sight of the adventurers and begin to charge. As they approach the monk, Kaladin sticks out his staff and trips up one cultist. He spins in the air with a Flurry of Blows and strikes another, who tumbles over his buddy in the chaos. Pip finishes them off with a quick Sneak Attack to the back. The guard and final cultist also rush forward in time to meet the two half-orks face to face. The battle is quick and ruthless.

With the exterior guard eliminated, the party takes stock of the mill and surrounding property. They see the front door open and a lift on the back side of the mill leading to a second floor storage level. They decide that the best course of action is for both half-orks to throw Pip, their halfling rogue, up onto the waterwheel so he can sneak inside and see if there is anyone within the mill. They throw Pip into the air… -Roll: Natural 1- and he flies far over the top of the wheel. At risk of falling almost 20 feet into the stream below (2d6 fall damage, which could kill a level 1 character),  Pip reaches out and makes an athletic attempt at the wheel, hoping to grab on and save his life. He twists his whole body like a young contortionist, and successfully grabs the wheel and pulls himself up.

Once inside, he sees an ambush waiting within the mill. Five cultists and five guards line the edge of the upper floor, waiting for an unsuspecting adventuring party to walk in the front door. Each guard has a spear drawn and is holding it up in anticipation of their surprise attack. Pip sneaks his way back outside and tries to tell his friends about the threat. With his best miming and mouthing, he tells them everything he knows. Too bad no one in the party can understand him. They recognize that things are bad, but not exact details on the awaiting strike team. The other four devise a plan to breach the top floor and strike whoever is waiting up there for them. Thokk the Cleric will create the deafening roar of an earthquake and shake the doors while the other three ride up the grain elevator and rush in to take advantage of the ruse. Poor Pip has no idea what’s coming, and simply sits in the rafters watching for the first few seconds of the engagement.

When everyone was set, they struck. The doors shook and the roar of an earthquake filled the mill. The ambushers were taken off guard as Denokk bull-rushed them with his shield, pushing two off of the ledge, killing one of them. The others struck forth, slaughtering the cultists and guards in a matter of 18 seconds. The guard who survived the fall was the only one left alive. When he saw his cohorts lying dead, he surrendered to the party, claiming no allegiance to the Cult, and that his relationship to them was a monetary one. He told the party that they were raiding surrounding communities for loot and that Greenest was simply the next target on the list. He had heard something about dragon’s eggs at the camp, however.

Satisfied in their answer, they tied him up and left him to the town guard who had just arrived. The party returned to the Keep. By this point, it was already midnight and the party was tired, ready to rest. Knowing a full night’s rest was out of the question, they began looking for a place to lie down for an hour or two. But just as they did, they noticed a harrowing sight: the town sanctuary was surrounded, on fire, and full of innocent civilians. Lead by his oath and former life, Denokk urged the party into one last battle before bed. Seeing that there was no time to spare, the rest agreed and rushed forth through the Old Tunnel once again.

The sight they witnessed was a grisly one. At the front of the sanctuary, one group was beating at the door with a battering ram. The rear, cultists and kobolds trying to smoke out the citizens with fire. A third group of raiders circled the sanctuary screaming and yelling, instilling fear on those inside. As the rounding party made their way away from the back of the sanctuary, the party struck, easily killing the cultists and kobolds playing with fire. They broke through the back door to find almost one hundred men, women, and children in a frenzied panic. Kaladin steps forth and says “Hey, everybody! The path is open! Come with us!” Of course, nobody listens. He looks around and spots a half-elf priest who appears calm and collected. Kaladin approaches the priest and begs for the man to help gain control of the crowd, which he easily does. The whole time, the battering ram crashes against the front doors, splintering them and allowing a small sliver of light from the fires to peak through. While the rest of the party encourages the crowd out the rear, Denokk rushes to the front door and sets up guard.

“Denokk, now is not the time! We must run!” Thokk says.

“The door will not hold. We must defend them!” he replies.

Aware that they will not change the half-ork’s mind, Thokk, Kaladin, and Meriele join Denokk’s side and prepare to make a stand against the coming foes. Pip, on the other hand, has no desire to stay in the slaughter house, and sneaks outside to get a better view of what’s going on. At this point, the circling group is almost back to the rear of the sanctuary on the opposite side of the building from him. He could also clearly see the rammers taking swing after swing against the door. He draws his bow and tries taking them out one-by-one.

As the door splinters more, the party inside can also see their attackers and begin firing through the holes in the door at their foes. They manage to kill a few kobolds, but not before the door gives way and the attackers rush inside. Their dragonclaw falls quickly to Denokk’s blade, while a cultist and kobold are pummeled by the monk. Sadly, as the attack continues, one cultist bypasses the party and begins kills a young woman fleeing for her life.

Outside, Pip hears one of the cultists yell, “they are escaping! Get them!”

And that is where this session ends. Session 3 will be played this upcoming Saturday, so expect a play report in the days to follow.

Kyle Blomgren is the founder of Flat Top Gaming. He loves tabletop gaming, watching others play tabletop games, singing, and spending time with his wife and daughter.

Play Report: Hoard of the Dragon Queen Session 1

My home group recently started the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure, officially kicking off our most recent campaign (after a lengthy summer break). This play report will double both as a story of what’s going on in the adventure as well as my thoughts on the product in play. I’m still trying to drag backstories out of my PCs, so the sections about them may change. So for now, enjoy!

WARNING: This Play Report will contain spoilers to the plot of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. If you wish to play this adventure on your own, you may ruin the plot for yourself. You have been warned.

Player Characters:

Kaladin- Human (variant) Monk.
Kaladin is a wandering monk who follows the Way of the Road. Wherever the road takes him, he follows. (More to come, hopefully).

Pip- Lightfoot Halfling Rogue.
Pip is a 19 year old halfling with a rather odd ambition. He wants to be the world’s most infamous thief. After years of burglarizing in the city, he is ready to take his craft to the next level by plundering caves, catacombs, and dungeons. To do that he has banded himself with an eclectic group of adventurers who now seem to have been caught up in a struggle against the evil Cult of the Dragon. Pip may be a burglar but he is not without a conscious and has reluctantly postponed his ambitions of plunder in order to defend the innocent under siege.

Denokk- Half-Ork Paladin of Bahamut.
Denokk wasn’t always good. Upon reaching the age of accountability, he found himself called to the sea and joined a pirate band. During a coastal raid, Denokk’s crew came across a temple to Bahamut. Inside, Dragonborn women and children hid for safety while their men were slaughtered in the streets. Feeling the call from a previous life (and well guarded secret), Denokk turned against his crew and defended the temple. Denokk swore his life to Bahamut’s service and has been wrestling with his new and old lives ever since. To complicate matters worse, Denokk is not what he appears. He hides a draconic secret within him. Maybe his service to Bahamut will repay the sins of his past, and his true form can be restored.

Thokk- Half-Ork War Cleric.
Thokk comes from a troubled background. -More to come-

Finnallen- Wood Elf Druid:
Rachel’s character grew up in the forests surrounding Greenest. From her earliest memories, she was always drawn to the wild and the natural world surrounding her forest home. While out exploring the nearby mountains with her mentor, an avalanche overtook them and separated them. Lost and separated from him, she began wandering aimlessly until she stumbled across our party of heroes and joined them on the road to Greenest.

Chapter One- Greenest in Flames

Dusk is approaching as the party nears the town of Greenest. Having completed a delivery of some lost treasure inland, the group is eager to hit the coast and return out to sea where they belong. But first, they must stop in Greenest for some unfinished business. As they crested the hill overlooking Greenest, the town was obscured by thick smoke, flames, and the form of an adult dragon making attack runs on the city. Thokk looks at the rest of the group and says, “Why don’t we go around?”

Pre-reading the adventure, I knew this would happen. “You all are level one. Here’s a dragon attacking a city… der der der!”

As Kaladin looked on, he noticed that the dragon wasn’t giving its full effort in the attack. (Yay Perception checks and trying to get the party back onto the railroad) The party decided to sneak their way to the edge of the town to get a closer look at what was going on. Everyone took to the tree-line and moved under the slowly increasing cover of darkness- except for Denokk, who was clanging along in his chainmail like it was nobody’s business- until the events of the city came into view. As they looked on, they could see groups of kobolds and cultists in black and purple robes running back and forth causing general mayhem.

Kaladin and Pip, the two stealthiest of the group, decided to venture forth together for a closer look at what exactly was happening in this town. They kept to the shadows for the first block or two until they spotted a group of kobolds and cultists terrorizing a young human family. The dad and three children ran on as mom stopped, unsheathed a sword, and decided to sacrifice herself and protect her family. Not wanting to watch this happen, Kaladin and Pip jumped forth to protect the woman from her pursuers. The rest of the party noticed their friends joining the melee, and decided that they had to take part two. Denokk and Thokk rushed forward toward the frey while Finnallen fired her longbow from the woods.

Once the heroes had dispatched the attackers, the woman informed the party that they had to make the Keep for safety. As they made their way toward the Keep, they came across another band of Kobolds, this time attempting to drag a large chest down the road to obtain the loot inside. In a foolhardy attempt at bravery, Denokk rushed forward, shield down, and pinned one of the kobolds against the chest. In the process, he left himself open to the other five kobolds in the group to surround him and begin pounding him into dust with their daggers. The mission of the rest of the party quickly turned to that of rescuing their companion rather than saving the town, which they managed to do before he met an early demise. The group decided to spare the life of one of the kobolds for later interrogation, binding him with rope and putting him upon Denokk’s wounded shoulders.

Pip, the ever-curious thief, wanted to claim the contents of the chest for himself. He picked the lock and looked inside to find… a doll and a scroll with the picture of a young human family and the words “Just the three of us, forever” written on the back. Disappointed in the lack of gold, Pip left the chest in the middle of the road. Finnallen picked the scroll out of the box, and joined the rest of the party on their journey toward the Keep.

As they approached the Keep, a voice called out, saying “Hurry! The gates are closing!” The heroes looked behind them in time to see a large hoard of kobolds, mercenaries, and robed cultists rushing toward them. As the last member of the party entered the Keep, the large main gate closed behind them with a crash. Safely inside, they decided to search for the town leader- Governor Nighthill. Nighthill was standing atop the Keep overlooking the burning city with bandages around his arms and head, clearly caring more for his town than his own personal well-being. He excitedly greeted the party, asking for their assistance in defending the town from the onslaught. The first task was to open a long-unused tunnel that lead from the Keep to the town river as a secret entrance and exit from the Keep for the party and any stragglers in need of rescue out in the town.

Once down in the old, abandoned tunnel, the party began losing interest in carrying their prize around and decided that now was the time to ask questions of the poor kobold. They woke him up and asked what was happening.

“The dragon-lady told us to attack the town!”
“Which dragon lady?”
“You know, THE dragon lady!”
“Oh, right, that’s helpful. What do you want?”
“We are here to destroy the town and gather loot!”
“And you think that you’ll be successful?”
“Hey, didn’t you see that giant dragon flying around overhead? With him, how can we lose? He’s going to fly down and burn… wait, he’s blue, they breath ice… FREEZE you all, and we’ll come along and crush you, and then he’ll eat us kobolds, and it will be glorious!”

(One of my players began laughing so hard he couldn’t breath, then said that if he could give the DM inspiration for utilizing kobold lore, he would. Should have taken him up on that…)

None too impressed with the little kobold’s answers, the two orks decided to take matters into their own hands. Denokk looked at Thokk, smiled, and held the poor kobold upside-down by the feet.

“Hey hey hey! What are you doing?!”

Thokk drew his warhammer and began to swing…

“Uh oh… this is going to hurt…”

…and crushed the creature into the wall.

Kaladin, monk of the road, was none-too-happy about the heartless execution he just witnessed, and began ripping into his teammates about the sanctity of life and respect for those who are prisoners. The two orks seemed shaken by the human’s passion, and vowed to never repeat the stunt again.

The tense moment of intra-party conflict was interrupted by two rat swarms who were awakened from the crash of flesh and warhammer against the wall. The party was bitten many more times than they expected and almost fell to the tiny attackers before scaring the survives away.

With all of their distractions taken care of, they arrived at an old, rusty gate at the end of the tunnel, overlooking the riverbank and the night sky beyond. Using an old key provided by Escobert the Red, leader of the Keep, they managed to open the door quietly just as another raiding party approached the gate. The raiders seemed intent on finding stragglers hiding in the reeds, giving the party a few moments to hide and come up with an ambush plan. The raiders approached the tunnel entrance, passing by one-by-one without noticing the tunnel or party, until a tiefling cultist (rolled a crit and) looked straight into Thokk’s face. “There they are!”

The half-orks both rushed forward and met the foes in the reeds, crushing a kobold and wounding several others along the way. Kaladin went tumbling out, kicking and punching at the tiefling until she fell. But this battle was not without bloodshed, as the remaining kobolds managed to take down Thokk. The party finished off the remaining enemy combatants and awoke Thokk with a healing touch from Denokk. They licked their wounds and returned inside the keep for their next mission.

And this is where the first session ends. Session two should be posted in the coming days (hopefully). The first episode has lasted two, almost three sessions so far, making me think that too much information and too many fights were crammed into the episode. I mean, if the point of the book was to be played at gaming stores as part of the D&D Adventure League, then this first episode is WAY too long. Who’s going to sit in a gaming store for 8 hours if they are trying to learn or decide to play a new game? I almost feel like each episode should be about four hours, not the 6 or 7 that we’ve already put into it. Maybe that’s just me. See you next time.

Kyle Blomgren is the founder of Flat Top Gaming. He loves tabletop gaming, watching others play tabletop games, singing, and spending time with his wife and daughter.

Liveplay: Lasers & Feelings!

Hello Fellow Gamers,

We will be playing Lasers & Feelings LIVE on October 21st at 8:00pm PDT (-7:00 GMT). We are still looking for players to join us right here (and on YouTube) for a fun, Star Trek-style adventure through space. If you are interested, go join the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group and find the game under the Events tab. Then, on or after October 21st, you can come back here and watch the game live or on demand. This should be fun!

For more information on Lasers & Feelings, go check out my preview of the game.

Kyle Blomgren is the founder of Flat Top Gaming. He loves tabletop gaming, watching others play tabletop games, singing, and spending time with his wife and daughter.

Review: Betrayal at House on the Hill (2nd Edition)

All Hallows’ Eve is just a few short weeks away, so what could be better than exploring that creepy, old, abandoned mansion down the street with a few friends? Sure, one of them seems more insistent than the others that “nothing’s gonna happen inside that creepy old house”, but she’s always been a little strange… After exploring for an hour or so, an unexpected gust of wind shakes the house. In the stillness, you hear the moaning of inner turmoil and canine rage. Hey, that girl’s acting kinda weird. I didn’t know she had hair on her back… or her face… Oh my, what big TEETH you have!

Here is my review of Betrayal at House on the Hill.BaHotH

Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill
Designed: Bruce Glassco
Published: Avalon Hill (Wizards of the Coast)
Players: 3-6 (Best with 4+)
Time: 60 minutes

Overview:
Betrayal is a horror-themed exploration game with a random and hidden traitor element by Bruce Glassco. Players begin the game as allies searching rooms, finding weapons and strange items, encountering strange (and nauseating) ghosts and ghouls, and unleashing almost every horror trope imaginable upon themselves and their party. The game is separated into two distinct phases: the exploration phase, and the Haunt.

During the exploration phase of the game, players take turns exploring the house, revealing new rooms, releasing their terrible secrets, collecting items and treasures, and hoping that they can be lucky enough to have discovered the keys to surviving the second phase of the game. Many new players to this game have compared this first phase to the game Clue with the ordered play, room exploration, and the general feeling that no one is quite sure what the heck is going on. This is actually one of the key features of the exploration phase: no one is able to die, and there is no actual way to win the game (which won’t occur until the Haunt phase). Certain rooms require players to draw Omen cards, which contain almost every creepy-crawly that the late ’90s horror movies could produce (creepy girls, rings, lone dogs, etc). Whenever an Omen card is drawn, a Haunt roll is made. If the total value is lower than the number of Omen cards in play, the Haunt phase of the game begins.

The Haunt is what makes Betrayal unique. There are more than fifty unique stories and endings that all play out with totally different win conditions for the survivors and traitors. There is a table on the first page of the Traitor’s Tome that players use to determine the exact story based on the Omen card drawn and room card that caused it to be revealed. The table also reveals the Traitor (Haunt initiator, person to their left, highest wisdom, etc). The Traitor takes the Tome and goes to another room to learn their fate while the Survivors read what they have to do to win. Betrayal ends when either the Survivors or Traitor attain their goal.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you more information on exactly how the Haunt plays out, because each story is really that unique. I was going to start describing some of them, but that might just ruin the fun of the game. They really are all unique, so enjoy discovering them on your own.BaHotH pieces Review:
I think this is one of the best, most unique horror games I’ve ever played. Because of the wide number of endings, you can enjoy a different game each and every time. There are also supplements available online to add fifty MORE stories and endings you can play if you make it through the ones that come with the box. The production is fairly good, with cards and rooms being made on strong card stock. The art is very appropriate for the theme and has a raw, creepy feel to it.

The only complaint about the box game is that the plastic rank indicators don’t actually fit on the player cards. Luckily there are apps available online for iOS and Android that will keep track of all of the important information for you.

If you are looking for a fun, unique, creepy game for your Halloween festivities, go pick this up now.

Do it.

Kyle Blomgren is the founder of Flat Top Gaming. He loves tabletop gaming, watching others play tabletop games, singing, and spending time with his wife and daughter.

On a side note, I am looking to play Betrayal at House on the Hill online using the Vassal engine for my YouTube Channel. If you are interested in playing, let me know in the comments below. Once it’s recorded, the video will also be embedded on this page.