Evan Moses

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Betrayal at House on the Hill - very thematic fun

I watched Tabletop’s playthrough, and decided to pick it up at my local FLGS , Gamescape.  I don’t have many of this sort of heavily-thematic, strategy-light game in my collection, and it’s good to mix it up a bit.  Turns out it was a good decision.  Sus, A.C., and I  had a ton of fun, ended up playing two games in a row, and I’m looking forward to playing another haunt sometime soon.


In BaHotH, you each play one of a party of standard horror-movie archetypes:  the Jock, the Professor, the Creepy Little Girl, the Prissy Teenager, etc.  Each character has a name and a back-story for color, alhtough those don’t have much direct impact on the game.  Your party starts out at the entrance of a creepy old house, and begins exploring.

The fun comes from the exploring mechanic.  There’s no set board: instead, each room is a tile. The House on the Hill has three stories, and rooms are either on the Upper Floor, Ground Floor, or Basement.  Every time one of your intrepid explorers steps through an unopened door, you pick a tile that’s appropriate for you floor off of the  stack and place that tile onto the board.  You might stumble into the Bloody Room, or the Creaky Hallway, or the Crypt.

Most rooms have an icon on them that indicates they contain an Event, an Item or an Omen.  Items are generally beneficial, and help you on your way (weapons, armor, healing stuff, etc.).  Events are mixed, and many of them require you to roll dice based on your stats.  If you roll well, you can gain stats or powers, and if you roll poorly, you take damage or something else bad happens to you.  Sometimes you might fall through a hole into the Basement, or discover a Secret Staircase that connects two rooms.  The text on the cards is clever and thematic, and reading them aloud in a spooky voice definitely adds to the game. Omens I’ll get to in a bit.

Some rooms have special effects.  As soon as you step into the Coal Chute, which can only appear on the upper or ground floors, you fall through it to the basement landing.  You can’t immediately go back up to the rest of the house from the basement, you must explore the basement to find the Stairs to the Basement room.  Other rooms do you damage unless you roll to avoid it (the Crypt hurts your Sanity) or give you a boost (the Library gives you one knowledge).

So, I mentioned Omens earlier.  There are 13 Omens, which often are very helpful items (a Spear, “pulsing with power”, that gives you a significant attack bonus) or Companions (a Dog follows you around and gives you a stat boost, a Madman hangs around you and helps your Might [strength] but hurts your Sanity).  Each time you acquire an Omen, you must make a Haunt roll.  If your roll ends up less than the number of Omens that has already been found by the explorers, the Haunt begins.

The Haunt

The Haunt is what makes this game really fun and replayable.  Once the Haunt begins, one of your characters snaps and starts working with the evil in the house to kill/maim/eat/sacrifice/etc. the rest of the party.  Exactly which character snaps is random, and determined by which Omen was found and which room it was found in.  There are 50 different Haunt scenarios that might take place, and each one specifies which character becomes the traitor, sometimes by character name, or sometimes by stat (the highest knowledge, the lowest sanity, etc).  Some scenarios even have a hidden traitor, at which point the game starts to look more like Battlestar Galactica or another hidden-traitor game.

Each scenario has its own set of rules and goals for the Traitor and the Heroes (the rest of the party), detailed in a separate book.  The Traitor leaves the room and studies her rules, and the Heroes can read their rules and discuss strategy.  Part of the fun of the game is discovering the different scenarios and rules, so I won’t detail what happened to us, but we played two games.  They were quite different from one another, and both quite enjoyable.   A.C. ended up as the Traitor both times; in the second one in particular, he had no idea what we were doing as the Heroes, or how to go about stopping it.  He ended up winning anyway (killing us all was quite effective).


All three of us enjoyed this game, enough so that we seriously considered a 3rd playthrough, even though it was late.  We all thought it would be a little more fun with a few more people (up to 6 can play), especially once the Haunt begins and it’s down to only 2 Heroes versus the Traitor in a 3-player game.

This isn’t a particularly balanced or subtle game.  There’s some strategy once the Haunt begins, which will be different for each Haunt, but the fun here isn’t in the strategy, it’s in the entertaining themeing (I love the Creaky Walkway, and the Collapsing Floor that sends you down to the basement) and variation you get from each Haunt.

There are 50 different Haunts, and even an optional rule for picking a different Haunt if you’ve already play the one determined by the grid.  AFAIK there aren’t any official expansions, although from poking around online, there have been a number of unofficial fan Haunts.  All you really need is a page for the Traitor, a page for the Heroes, and an amendment to the grid to select new Haunts, so expansions are easy to download and play.  I think the game will be fairly replayable even if you end up with the same Haunt, though; even if the Traitor knows the game already, there’s still  fun to be had in directing the Monsters and chasing down the Heroes.

Highly recommended for pretty much any gaming group.