Betrayal at House on the Hill
|Players||3 to 6|
|Setup time||< 5 minutes|
|Playing time||30 min–2hrs|
|Skills required||Team play|
|Media type||Board game|
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game published by Avalon Hill in 2004, designed by Bruce Glassco and developed by Rob Daviau, Bill McQuillan, Mike Selinker, and Teeuwynn Woodruff. Players all begin as allies exploring a haunted house filled with dangers, traps, items, and omens. As players journey to new parts of the mansion, room tiles are chosen at random and placed on the game board; this means that the game is different each session. Eventually the "haunt" begins, with the nature and plot of this session's ghost story revealed; one player usually "betrays" the others and takes the side of the ghosts, monsters, or other enemies, while the remaining players collaborate to defeat them.
Betrayal consists of a deck of room tiles (upper floor, ground floor, and basement); three sets of cards for Items, Events, and Omens; six different character plates, and a number of tokens to represent the players and various monsters or items. Each character plate has two possible characters that can be played though represented by the same token on the board; the characters have 4 attributes that are used to track the character's current Might, Speed, Knowledge, and Sanity values with marked starting positions for each. These are not linear; losing a point of Might, for example, may not alter the actual value of Might but still brings the player one step closer to death. The game also includes special dice which only have 0, 1, or 2 pips on each side.
The game consists of two phases, the initial Exploration phase and the Haunt phase. At the start of the game, each player selects a character and sets the meters at the starting values. The "house" starts with a ground, upper, and basement floors placed on separate areas of the game table; the ground and upper floors are immediately connected by a staircase, whereas the basement remains unconnected until certain room tiles, event cards or other actions allow a connection. On each turn, the player can move through a number of rooms equivalent to their current Speed. If the player moves through a door where no room has been placed, they draw a room tile from the stack until they draw one that matches the current floor they are on. The tile is placed as best to match the current door layout of adjacent rooms. If there is an Event, Item, or Omen icon on the newly placed tile, the player draws the respective card and follows its instructions. Event cards often require the player to make a roll against one of their skills to avoid damage or gain benefits. Item cards provide equipment the player can use, drop, and trade with other players. Omen cards also generally provide items, but come at a price - after drawing an Omen card, the player must roll six dice, and if this roll is lower than the number of Omen cards that have been drawn, the Haunt phase starts. Unless otherwise specified, drawing a card and performing that action ends the player's turn. Otherwise, the player can continue to move through other rooms; icons for cards on existing rooms are ignored. Some room tiles have specific instructions that must be followed when moving through the room such as making a skill check to exit the room without taking damage.
Once a player has triggered the Haunt phase, special tables in the game's rulebooks are used to determine which Haunt is used based on what room and Omen triggered the Haunt, and who the "traitor" is; though often the traitor is the one who triggered the Haunt, it may be another player. At this point, the player who is the traitor leaves the room; they read through their specific Haunt goals and rules from one book, while the other players read their victory rules and conditions from a second book and discuss plans to deal with the traitor. Haunts are based on numerous horror tropes, such as zombies, cannibals, dragons, vampires, ghosts, etc. Some goals allow for the traitor to convert other players to traitors as well (such as turning players into fellow werewolves). The exact goals for both the other players and the traitor differ for each possible Haunt; neither side is forced to reveal any new abilities or victory goals, but they must explicitly state what moves they are doing in the game to the other players.
After the traitor rejoins the players, gameplay proceeds similar to the Exploration phase, except that all traitors play after the other players have moved. In addition to Exploration, players may now attack the traitor or any other creatures they might control, and vice versa. Damage here generally requires the players to move their stat meters down a number of steps depending on the combat results. Death generally occurs when any one of the player's character meters drops to the lowest position, but the Haunt may alter the rules on this. The game is over when either the players or the traitors achieve their victory goal. The game features 50 possible haunts, which provides for a great deal of replayability.
Extensive errata, to address unclear or indeterminate rules, are freely available. The first edition is no longer in print, and the second edition was released on October 5, 2010. A Dungeons & Dragons themed version of the game, entitled Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, was announced on June 3, 2017, and released on October 6, 2017.
On November 17, 2017, a "legacy" version of the game, titled Betrayal Legacy, was announced for a Q4 2018 release, featuring a prologue and a thirteen-chapter story taking place over multiple decades. It was released on November 9, 2018.
Avalon Hill released "Betrayal at Mystery Mansion", a Scooby-Doo themed version of the game, on July 24, 2020. This variant includes 25 haunts based on episodes from the show, features faster playtimes than previous versions at 25-50 minutes, and has five playable characters: Scooby-Doo, Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Norville "Shaggy" Rogers. Another notable change from previous entries in the Betrayal series is that players may volunteer to be the traitor instead of leaving it up to chance.
On April 20, 2016, it was announced that Betrayal at House on the Hill would receive its first expansion, entitled Widow's Walk, on October 14, 2016. The expansion added 20 new room tiles, creating an additional floor (the roof) for gameplay, plus 30 new cards and 50 new haunts. The expansion was designed by Mike Selinker, who was a developer on the original game, as well as Elisa Teague and Liz Spain. Several notable figures contributed to the expansion, animator and writer Pendleton Ward, and Max Temkin of Cards Against Humanity.
David M. Ewalt comments on the 2010 version: "A horror-themed board game that's different every time you play. Players explore a haunted house until one goes crazy and tries to kill their friends. Randomized, secret scenarios provide surprising story lines and different rules for the killer each game. It's lots of fun, particularly if you're the murderous traitor." Reviewing the second edition, Michael Harrison of Wired.com said he enjoyed the game but found that some of the rules could be exploited to game-breaking effect.
Betrayal at House on the Hill won a 2004 Gamers' Choice Award for Best Board Game.
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