Game Review: Betrayal at House on the Hill

Fri, 2017/09/15
Joshua Ferm

Avalon Hill released "Betrayal at House on the Hill" in 2004, and later that year it won awards for best board game. In "Betrayal," players begin exploring a haunted mansion using their character’s “Speed” and discover new room tiles. While exploring the rooms, players discover event cards that will reveal hidden passages, Civil War ghosts, howling winds, and much more. Along with event cards, players can find items that will help them defeat enemies and omen cards. Omen cards (appropriately represented by a raven insignia) will force a player to make a “Haunt” role. The player who draws the omen card rolls six dice that must be equal to or greater than the amount of omen cards already revealed. Should it be less than that, the “Haunt” begins. The player that started the Haunt looks in the Traitor’s Tome and finds one of the fifty scenarios that equates to which omen they got and which room they were in. The “traitor” then goes into another room where they will learn how to defeat the Heroes. Meanwhile, the Heroes remain by the game board and read their Survival Guide to figure out how to defeat the Traitor and the Traitor’s monsters. Either side can win at this point as they begin fighting to kill.

This game is extremely fun while exploring the house, and is mostly fun while the Haunt is playing out, but there are major flaws in the game’s Haunt phase. For one, the manuals are extremely vague and do not give enough detail at some points. My friends and I spent more time arguing about who was right and how we should continue the game fairly than time we spent playing the game. A second flaw is that many of the scenarios are extremely weighted to either the Traitor’s side or the Heroes side.

Despite its flaws, "Betrayal at House on the Hill" is a very exciting game and is very unpredictable. There are fifty different Haunts to find and the house layout is different in each game. With these random elements, the game almost seems brand new with each time playing it. I would give this game a seven out of ten. It is one of my favorite board games to date.