Hey all you amazing board game fans, the name is Adam and I am here to do some reviews on my favourite games, your favourite games, and the most popular games out on the market today. The breakdown for the ratings on my game reviews will be shown in three categories. Design (Art, Graphics, Tokens, Etc), Replay Value, and of course the Fun Factor. By diving into each one of these criteria, we can dissect a game to give you a great idea if this is the game you have been looking for! So let’s jump into Betrayal At House On The Hill and see if this is the gem you have always wanted for your collection.
So let’s give a brief overview of what Betrayal is. It is a board game which is designed for 3-6 players. For the most bang for your buck, I recommend having at least 5-6 players, as it brings a larger level of difficulty for the traitor in most cases. Depending on your luck, the game itself may take between 45 to 60 minutes to play. I will say I have had the unlucky rolls to be part of a game that finished within 20 minutes, but I would plan for an hour or so. Betrayal was released in October of 2010, so it is still a relatively new game comparable to some of the selection out there, but has gained a lot of popularity over the years. The game is published by Avalon Hill (Axis and Allies, and Cosmic Encounters) and Wizards of the Coast (Dungeons and Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering), so you know it is coming from good stock. The two companies have released so many popular hits, how could you go wrong?
Betrayal is one of the very first board games I purchased last year and I had the pleasure of trying it out at one of The Comic Hunters board game days, and really enjoyed the dynamic it brought to the table. The game design is very well done, as it gives you the creepy feeling on the cards/board that you would want from a game that takes place in an abandoned house. The artwork was done by a slew of artists which include Rob Daviau, who has ties to a lot of games which include darker images. You definitely feel like you are part of the world, while you are trying to survive it. There are three styles of cards, each with a unique symbol and design. You have Items, Events, and Omens, each unique, and each can make a big swing in the game dynamic. We will go into that in a bit, what I mainly want to touch on is the text involved. Now, if you are a Magic: The Gathering fan, than you will love it even more, because you will be used to reading the fluff text on cards. If you aren’t, well trust me you will still get a laugh and the creeps, all at the same time. The writers for this game have done a really good job of making sure there is a good amount of text, so that you can enjoy reading things aloud, but also making sure that the walls of text are broken up so it does not get monotonous. Be prepared for a bit of a creep factor based on the stories though, as it can be anything from ghosts, to an image of a boy murdering another with a spinning top (Yes, that really happens in the game).
For overall Graphic I would have to say the positives are the artwork, the text, and additional fluff. The only thing I hadn’t talked about is my only negative about the design, the tokens. They are well designed, but almost feel a bit rushed, as they are not as detailed as you come to expect in modern games. This really does not take away from the game play, it just seems odd in a game which adds so much detail everywhere else to include kind of flimsy character tokens.
The other aggravating thing for anyone who owns the second addition would be the character cards. Before I even explain, I can hear the collective groan come out from the crowd. Each character has four primary attributes, and a small piece of plastic which we use almost like a dial. We can slide it on the card to go up or down according to the game. The issue is, in second edition printing the small plastic pieces are too big for the character card. They slip, slide, and shoot all over the room.I have never had one play through that did not involve replacing them over and over again. What can you do though? You can use paper, cardboard, or any other small material to cushion the cards edges, and be the go between for the piece of plastic and the card. It should give you enough room to keep the pieces in one spot, without the fear of losing any of them.
Design : 7
Now, onto the replay value, which in my opinion is a huge selling feature of this game. Betrayal is not the type of game that you jump into every time you play, and know that it will end one of two ways. There is so many ways the game can go, that even when you end up with a scenario you have played before, it can be completely different.
First, I want to start by explaining room placement. As you travel through the house, you will uncover new rooms which you place on the board. Initially the board only starts with 3 pieces. A main basement tile, an upper landing, and a main floor. You help to mold the house, by choosing to move through the “blank” spaces uncovering the new rooms. Each room can give you either an item, an omen, or an event, which we will go over soon. Some rooms such as hallways have nothing in them, which means you keep moving until you uncover a room which causes an action of some sort. So just on room placement, you can have a completely different house every time you play. There is an almost endless amount of combinations, as some rooms can be placed on more than one level. So the room placement alone makes it great for replay value.
Next is the characters, which are extremely fun to choose from. There are six character tiles, but each one has two separate characters on it. For instance you can choose to either be a mad scientist, or flip the card and be a priest. Character selection will really play a role in the game, as your four attributes will help decide how the game will progress. Do you want a high might, but low knowledge Jock? Or will you choose to pick the highly intelligent, but fairly weak Scientist? Each character brings a good mixture of strengths and weaknesses, and can change the way you specifically approach the game.
Finally for Replay Value, we have the scenarios. Now these are the backbone of the game. As the game progresses, you will travel through the rooms and find Omens, and every time you do, you will need to make what is known as a Haunt Roll. This means you will roll 6 of the custom dice, and hope your roll is equal to or greater than the number of Omens in play. In the early game it is statistically probable to do this, but as you find more rooms, the roll will become harder. You are starting the game working as a team and discovering the house, until that roll is failed and all hell breaks loose in the house!
Now with the haunt there are fifty different scenarios, which means fifty different ways to win and lose the game. The haunt that you take part in is decided by two factors. The room in which the omen was gained, and the omen that you drew from the deck will decide which of the haunts you will be facing. There are a select few scenarios in which the group may still work together towards a common goal, but for the most part there will be one person singled out as the Traitor. This persons target could be to wipe out everyone else, or they may just need to escape the house alive. Either way it will take a lot of strategy and guile to win.
The replay value in this game is just insane, as the game is ever changing. Each time you play you will run into new obstacles, and there will be new designs for the house to throw you off. Traversing these obstacles defines a player, and helps to decide whether you are worthy enough to survive.
Replay Value : 10
Now from all of the description I have provided, you must be thinking there is so much to learn that it would take forever to get into a game. Maybe I don’t have enough time to learn a new game, or maybe this isn’t the game for me. WHOA NELLY, let’s back that up and talk about the most important part, which is the Fun Factor! This game is definitely a must have for all board game collectors. I am not just saying that so you will run down to The Comic Hunter to pick up your copy (Although that is of course what I am thinking!), I am saying it because I have never seen a person walk away from the table not wanting to play it again. Whether you get stuck in a frustrating no win scenario, or you decimate the traitor within three turns, you will want to keep playing. This game is satisfying, and is so much more than just another game on the shelf. I played this game once before I purchased it, and now it is a staple at every board game night I have. It is almost tradition that we fire this game up and play through. In the end I would say I have played at least thirty times now, and have yet to run into the same game. I mean sure maybe the same scenario, but one time I was the traitor and another I wasn’t, so I actually had the chance to enjoy both sides of the coin.
The group dynamic game is one that most people enjoy, and it has great elements for those who enjoy working together, for those who enjoy elimination games (slightly), and for those who enjoy turn based strategy games. What makes it so interesting though is how the evolves with the players. By the choices you make in the house, the game will quickly eat you up and spit you out, or you could trap the house in a never ending loop of death. Both lead into some amazing playtime with friends.
This game is a fun game to pull out when thinking of how to finish the night of gaming. It gives you everything most of your favourite games do, only it wraps them neatly in a tight little box, and releases them into the world when summoned. Whether you win, lose, or have to hunt down every person in the room you call a friend, this game will be one of the better games you have played in recent years.
The only negative I have about the fun factor is the luck of the dice. I am sure we have all played a game in our lives where the dice messed up any chance we had of winning. Critical misses, rolling eighteen in Gurps (most times), or Betrayal giving you a Haunt on your first few chances. This will be the worst thing to happen in the game. Essentially depending on the Haunt, if you start it too soon than the house will not be big enough to hide or move from the incoming disaster. Sometimes it still works out, so you will very rarely run into an issue with it, but every so often it may end up sucking the life out of the game. In the end though, I would not let this one in a thousand game stop you from taking a chance on Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Fun Factor – 8
OVERALL SCORE – 8.33
I hope I have made your choice a little bit easier to make. This game is fun, it is exciting, and it is worth the money for sure. Come on down to The Comic Hunter where anyone of the staff will be more than happy to ring you in, and if it is not in stock they can always order you a copy. Also remember to stop by on the weekly board game nights, where you can try out all sorts of new games with people who love table topping as much as you do!
Thanks for reading this edition of A Roll of The Dice. Tune in next time when I will be reviewing the ever popular Pandemic. Always remember to comment directly on this review, or Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to ask for a specific review!