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Turn down the lights. Turn up the music… you know the one. Yes. The sound track from your favourite psychological thriller. And prepare yourself as you step into a haunted mansion….
“Betrayal at House on the Hill” is a favourite in our house, and I found the replay value well worth the investment. It runs for about 1 hour and has up to 6 players. We played it successfully with my nephew, who was about 10 and he LOVED it. (Side story: I was pregnant at the time and ended up going into labor DURING the game, so we didn’t get to finish it as I had to go to the hospital. My nephew was winning at the time and he’s still bitter, 4 years on.) The entire premise is that you play a character exploring a haunted mansion and part way through someone is revealed as the Betrayer, simultaneously turning it into a group co-op & player-vs-player game. Crazy, right?
Now, before we really get into it, I do want to let you know that I’m not going to teach you how to play the game. I’m going to give an overview of gameplay and our experiences of it. There are others online who will teach you the game, and the game itself comes with a manual. I’ll also not be sharing any story spoilers. So with that out of the way….
The game is run in two acts.
You select one of six horror-trope-characters with their own unique stats, and then go galavanting through a creepy AF house that no one in the group owns. (I mean, why are you even there? No one cares, Sarah. Keep your shower thoughts in the shower.) As you explore rooms, you pull a tile (labeled for what floor you’re on) from the stack and place where your game piece lands. This builds up the map of the house. Just a tip, we enjoy arranging them in such a way that their configuration doesn’t make sense (when the game allows). This really irritates Katie, who enjoys semetry. This game mechanic means that the game map is different every time you play. Cool.
In rooms, you’ll find items, have spooky encounters, and eventually – through the cards drawn and dice rolling mechanics – the HAUNT happens. This triggers the second act of the game.
You are still able to reveal more rooms and explore the house. However, at this point you also get to find out the story(TM). Through the combination of who rolled the dice to reveal the haunt, what OMEN card was drawn, and what room the player was in, you’re guided to a specific HAUNT number in your game book. The Betrayer is revealed and that player takes their super-secret-Betrayer-manual to another room (probably the bathroom with a fan so they can’t listen to the main group) to read about how to be the bad guy. The rest of the group find out what they are supposed to do and discuss tactics to DEFEAT THE BETRAYER and win the day.
After spending about 5+ minutes in the bathroom, reading their secret manual, the Betrayer is allowed back into the main room and the game resumes according to the rules of which HAUNT you’re playing.
When it comes to the HAUNTS, we have played a fair number of them – but with 50 possible HAUNTS available, we certainly haven’t done all of them. We’ve had games that took FOREVER and we’ve had ones that were really quick. There are really silly haunts and ones that were disturbing. It’s not genuinely creepy, but very B-movie and tropey. Which, honestly, I love. We like to randomly pick characters, so you don’t know if you’re going to be the jock or small girl or weird old man. We always have background music to add to the effect (highly recommend). And don’t take it too seriously. Some of the HAUNTS aren’t very balanced, but that also can come down to which character is the betrayer, with what stats, and how much of the house is explored at the time (FIND THE BASEMENT AND HOW TO GET OUT OF IT ASAP!)
In the end, I really do recommend this game and I can’t wait to be able to play another round of it.
(PS – There was one time it was 100% creepy. There is an event card that I pulled. I was in a room with a mirror, and in the reflection of the mirror I saw myself. It wrote on the mirror “This will help” and handed me an item. Two/Three rounds later, I drew another event card. There was a mirror and the same thing happened, except I was giving the item to my reflection. Super creepy.)