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!
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
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. 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.
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.