Betrayal at House on the Hill: Review

Betrayal at house on the hill

OVERVIEW

Our Rating:

Betrayal At House On The Hill (by Avalon Hill) is a semi co-operative game set in a haunted house. Characters are locked into the house and thus must explore and reveal the house together on their turns, trying to find their way out. In many of the mysterious and scary rooms you enter, you will find something to face (omens, events) or find stuff to help you along the way (items). The house does not like living creatures so it will be trying to kill you the longer you stay in it… eventually it will cause one of you to turn to the dark side and become a traitor. The traitor must defeat the remaining survivors as they frantically try to figure out a way to escape or defeat the traitor before perishing and becoming another victim of The House on the Hill!!

If you are looking to understand the rules of Betrayal, you should check out
How to Play Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill did earn an Honourable Mention in our
Best Cooperative Board Games List

KAITLYN'S REVIEW

My Rating:

Likes

  • Twist on typical coop game
  • Experienced players don’t have an advantage

Dislikes

  • Trait clips don’t stay on
  • Low quality character pieces
  • Figuring out the haunts can take awhile

Intro/First Impressions

First off, I love co-op games! I have played about 5 very different ones now and they are one of my favorite types of games to play. One of the reasons I like them is that everyone discusses and you can see different strategies to try. Sometimes you find yourself using one of these strategies in another game. Its also nice that after being enemies and yelling at everyone you are on the same team…. for a little while at least.

Betrayal at House on the Hill’s twist on your standard co-op game had me intrigued from the start and I couldn’t wait to play it. The game itself is pretty simple to play but it can take a long time to go through all the rules. Ryan had read through the rules in advance and then he was able to explain it to the rest of us pretty quickly. I highly recommend one person does this for your group too.

Thoughts

We have played Betrayal 3 times now and all 3 haunts (there are 50 total) have been extremely different. The house is never built the same way and you never know when, where, or who will start the haunt. You also can’t predict who will be the betrayer. I love that, for the first half of the game (the initial exploration phase) you are all working together and trying to get stronger, but one of you is about to become the traitor (the haunt phase) and you will have to fight against them. Just hope its not the strongest player, unless you’re the traitor that is!

Once the haunt is triggered, the traitor leaves the room to read their traitors tome, and the others read the secrets of survival. This portion of the game can take awhile, which can be quite boring for the traitor who normally gets through theirs quicker. It would help if they included a section in each book telling you what is okay to share with the other side. Since sometimes you need to know a bit more to make it make sense.

That being said, I really like that there is no advantage of being an experienced Betrayal player over someone playing for the first time. We don’t really own many games that you could play with someone new and not have an edge over them. Since the haunt is always different your strategies need to change more than a typical board game.

The amount of time Betrayal at the house on the Hill takes to play varies immensely. The first time we played it took us about 2 hours, but the second time the haunt portion was a lot quicker and it took us about an hour to play. I suggest you play this game early in your board game night so that you don’t run out of time or energy for what could be a long game!

There are a couple of things that I am not a huge fan of for this game. The first one being that for a board that is so well done, the character pieces are very cheap and muddy for lack of a better word. They also have skimped when it comes to the trait clips on your character card which is a very integral part of play. The pieces are supposed to be able to slide smoothly so that you can easily change your characters 4 levels, but they are so loose they are impossible to keep on making it extremely hard to keep track. While this is annoying we have found a couple solutions to try since this game is worth the extra effort.

One option is to write your levels down on paper, this can be confusing since some players trait levels may repeat a number or skip a number (The picture below shows what I mean) so you do need to pay close attention.

Another option is to download the app, the downside to this is that if your phone looks like mine you don’t need another app taking up space, but i would say the pros of easily being able to keep track outweighs the cons of having another app. Plus its free so save yourself the effort of paper and pen, tape, sticky tack, or any other option.

Finally, one of the scenarios we played seems like it would be impossible for the good guys to win. There are so many haunts that this is to be expected, but this game is so well done that even with its flaws I would still highly recommend it to others.

Conclusion

Betrayal has quickly become one of my favorites. You never know what will happen, except if you trigger a haunt you have played before. Even if you do end up replaying one of the 50 haunts at some point, your house will be different, you might be a different character, your trait levels could be higher or lower, essentially there are so many variables that it will still be at least a little bit different than the time before.

WHITNEY'S REVIEW

My Rating:

Likes

  • The concept of working together against the house only for one of you to turn traitor is novel and so neat.
  • The number of haunts, the expansion and the way you build the house makes each board unique and the game incredibly re-playable.
  • The tiles are high quality and detailed, making the game visually appealing.
  • There's an app to track your character traits.

Dislikes

  • The character boards aren't designed well, so it's frustrating tracking character traits if you don't have the app.
  • The character pieces look like a kid's first foray into model painting.
  • The scenarios are incredibly slanted, usually in favour of the monster, so it's almost impossible to win--and not just impossible to win, not enjoyable to play as you see clearly, early into the haunt, the outcome.

Intro/First Impressions

I was apprehensive about this game. I’m a HUGE wuss and I hate anything remotely scary. Scary music, scary stories, scary movies—I don’t even have to be watching it. If Wes is watching a scary trailer, I tune it out. If I’m at a movie and there’s a scary trailer, I avert my eyes. My brother used to torment me when I was a kid by humming the X-Files theme song. So, playing a game about haunted houses (we can talk about my experience with haunted houses another day…) with creepy themes and cards and monsters and ghosts wasn’t my ideal. The game is a bit creepy, but the idea of building a game as you go only for it to change halfway through intrigued me, so I sucked it up.

Thoughts

If you've never played Betrayal, it's easy to learn and in fact a very cool concept (you can read through the simplified play here). You and your friends take turns exploring the house by flipping tiles (basement, ground and upper floor) and taking any action noted on the tiles--collecting items or working through an omen or event, usually through dice rolling. Some of these things hurt you, and some help you. At some point, sometimes early and sometimes late in the game, the haunt is triggered and one of you turns traitor. This is decided in a very meticulously-planned map in the rule book, then the traitor and the heroes split off, read their rule books, and figure out how to win. (Or, you know, figure out how long you can hang on while you get killed off one by one.)

In all my years of playing games, there have been maybe four incidents where I wanted to flip the entire board in spectacular fit of rage. (Settlers of Catan lays claim to the first.) Betrayal lays claim to the other three. It’s not that I hate this game.** I actually really, really want to like it. It’s just that this game is so frustrating and so infuriating that I feel that I’ve wasted the past two hours playing a game that is impossible to enjoy.

Quite frankly, I feel like I’m in a bad relationship with Betrayal. I keep thinking next time will better, next time will be different, and then I give it another chance, and I’m living Groundhog Day over again. Any time I have a bit of time and distance away from the game, I want to try again, and I have to remind myself it's not going to be different. There are a lot of people who love this game. If you’re one, we can’t be friends. (Just kidding. Sort of…) I can see the lure, but I don’t agree. I want to. I want to so bad, but I don’t.

We've played this game as a group several times, and our house exploration has varied from several tiles to almost every single tile. It's kind of neat and rewarding to explore such a huge portion of the house, and every dice roll is nerve-wracking. Every single time we've played, however, at least two of us (out of four or six) walk away completely irritated or infuriated. If you can let go of the idea that you'll ever win this game, or that it gives you an equal footing, you may enjoy it more. Really, you need to view the game fatalistically--you'll probably die, so accept that early, but create as much damage and chaos as possible on your way out. This style of play just isn't me, though. I simply can't fathom creating a game that stacks the odds so heavily in favour of one side (usually the traitor). WHY. WHY is this an enjoyable concept?! I want the opportunity to fight my way to a win, and the fact that this will likely never happen is asinine.

Another major complaint is rules interpretation. Traitor and heroes have to read their rule books separately, and they don't get all the same information, so if they interpret something differently, it can skew the game. 

Conclusion

My review of Betrayal is actually months old. I started writing it after a bad game, then left the review alone in hopes another play would change my outlook. Spoiler alert: it didn't. In fact, the last time we played, Wes died literally his first turn, and he was second player of the game. WTF. We started over. And then the haunt happened and our rules interpretation I think was a little off, and my tiny little window of hope for winning was shattered.

I have to tip my hat to the creators. The concept is amazing. The detail and the information is fantastic. Seriously, kudos for creating something so imaginative! I'm just sorry I can't play this game anymore, because this is the end of us, Betrayal. We're over.

**At the time of publishing, my opinion has changed. I hate this game.

About the author

HexaGamers

We are the HexaGamers. Six good friends that love all things game related that gets us together to enjoy each other's company.

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