Last weekend Lord of the Moon (LotM) hosted a boardgames session. Whenever LotM does this I spend a lot of time looking forward to it. Not only is he an authority on all things board game, not only does he have a fantastic collection of boardgames, not only are all of his friends amazing, but he bakes mean scones. Who doesn’t love scones?
On this occasion, we played Betrayal at the House on the Hill (we also played Pandemic because Pandemic is amazing but I’ve played it before).
The story behind this one is as follows: A group of friends go to take shelter at a spooky old house on a hill. They start as allies, exploring the house room by room. As they do so, several things happen – they might encounter an omen or an event, or they might find an item. Each time an omen is found a dice roll determines whether or not “the haunt” begins.
At this point, the game changes. Unless you get very unlucky or play it hundreds of time, the game reveals a different story with every play through. However, in all cases, it is revealed that one of the group is a traitor and has led you to this house, hoping to seal your doom. Whoever is playing the role of the traitor learns this at the same time as all the other players, which I think makes it interesting in contrast to games like Battlestar Galactica where everyone knows there are hidden traitors and thus everyone spends the game feeling very suspicious and doing lots of bluffing.
Anyway, the traitor leaves the room to read his new instructions and make a plan, meanwhile the good guys stay to read their new instructions and make their plan. The traitor player returns and the game continues.
At this point, the stats seem to become more important. At the earlier stage, before the “haunt,” little use seems to be made of each character’s stats (speed, might, sanity and knowledge) except that certain events make their value go up or down. I think this is a good way of teaching new players about the stats system and how it works. In the latter half of the game, you might make more use of speed to run further away, or more use of might to try to attack the traitor, for example.
I really enjoyed the game. In spite of having a good deal of complexity to it, it’s actually very easy to pick up – the complexity is really only there to allow almost endless replayability. While it does have a horror theme, it’s more playing on standard horror movie tropes than it is trying to tell an actually scary story. I’d compare it to Scooby Doo in its ability to give a person nightmares.
I still feel slightly guilty whenever I’m invited to a board games session, since I still don’t have any of my own (those things are expensive). However, once I am eventually fully employed again and start seriously putting together a list of games I want, I expect this one to be very near the top.