Betrayal at House on the Hill Review: Haunted Mayhem

Haunted Mayhem

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a cooperative board game with a traitor set in an abandoned house. Players spend the first half of the game exploring the house and collecting useful items, events and omens. However once the Haunt takes place, one player becomes the traitor and they are pitted against the survivors in a fight for survival. The details of the Haunt are determined by the rooms, items and omens revealed throughout the game. Different combinations relate to the different scenarios in the Traitors Tome. This allows the game to have 50 completely different stories, mechanics and endings. So if you’re feeling brave enough then grab a torch and join us for our Betrayal at House on the Hill Review.

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What do you get?

In the box there are 6 player miniatures that come pre-painted, double sided character cards, 8 dice, room tiles, event cards, item cards, omen cards, a huge variety of tokens and the traitor and survivor scenario books.

There are a serious number of cardboard pieces for this game. Given the huge number of scenarios, it makes sense that different scenarios will require different tokens.  But there are a lot of tokens that won’t get used each game.  I haven’t come across a scenario that requires all the tokens in the box.  Therefore there could have been more reuse of tokens to save some card and space.

Betrayal at House on the Hill Review Box

Betrayal at House on the Hill Box and Tomes

Component Quality

Overall the quality of the components is what I would class as good enough. The miniatures are of an ok quality but the paint job just looks sloppy. It’s probably possible to remove the paint and have a go yourself but I’m not someone who has the time to paint miniatures.

The cards are slightly strange and are very long. At first glance the cards seemed to be pretty well made but I have found that mine have started to bend in a little from just being in the box. Easily fixed with a quick bend in the opposite direction but something I’d rather not have to do. The tokens are fairly standard as cardboard tokens go.

The character cards are of a good quality but in order to track stats small plastic markers must be used. These markers grip to the cardboard and slide up and down. Over time this leaves dents and grooves in the cardboard. This not only looks bad but can make moving the markers difficult.

The survivor and traitor scenario books are very well made. They are printed on glossy paper but have no protective cover.  However they are bound properly and have held up extremely well.

Box Organisation and Storage

I probably place more importance on storage and organisation than most people. However I do have some issues with this game that I think will affect more than just the storage fiends.
The biggest problem is the tokens. There are an awful lot of them, which in itself is not an issue. The issue is that in the box there is only a small but deep square area to store them in. This means they are all mixed up together and finding anything is an absolute nightmare.

On our first few plays we ended up taking all the tokens out of the box and sorting them before the game began. It is a problem that can be fixed easily with a few small plastic bags that I thankfully keep a supply of. But it would cost next to nothing to include these in the box and make people like me much happier.

My other big issue with box storage is character cards. I like to leave the stat markers on the cards so as to not damage the cardboard by constantly sliding the markers on and off. But the cards don’t stack particularly nicely in the box. Leaving the markers attached makes the problem even worse. With the markers attached they have a tendency to slide around and dislodge other pieces like the room tiles. This makes unpacking the game a slightly more painful process.  The problem is especially bad when the game is stored vertically.

Betrayal at House on the Hill Review Box Contents

Betrayal at House on the Hill Box Contents

How to play

The game begins with players all working together to explore the different rooms of the house. The room tiles are drawn from a shuffled stack so that the house is different every time. The house is made up of 3 floors, ground, upper and basement.

While exploring players will encounter a variety of items, events and omens. Items are different objects that can be useful for exploration, or may become useful later in the game.  Events are equipped with a snippet of story and a choice or a stat roll that a player must complete. The events can provide some great bonuses or have detrimental effects such as stat loss or falling through to the basement! Omens are similar to items and events but they are often dangerous. Additionally every time an omen is found, the player that discovered it must perform a haunt roll.

To perform a haunt roll, a player must roll 6 dice. If the value on the dice is less than the number of omens that have already been revealed then the haunt begins. Once the haunt begins players must consult the survivors and traitors books determine what happens next.  At this point the aim of the game changes to survival based on the included tomes.

The haunt scenarios are all extremely different so giving an example would be rather pointless. Additionally I wouldn’t want to put any spoilers here as some of the scenarios are weird and wonderful and the survivors and traitors often get different information.

The win conditions for each game are given in the information for each haunt as every game can be completely different.

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Stuff I like

The theme of Betrayal at House on the Hill is truly fantastic. The idea of grouping up with your friends to go and explore an abandoned house, only to watch the situation crumble around you really draws people in. People find it easy to invest in the theme and a story based game with a variety of different endings.

I also feel that the artwork for the game is pretty unique. Putting the miniatures aside the room tiles are exceptionally illustrated with each being unique. The artwork is from a top down perspective which can be difficult to do correctly. The style isn’t particularly cartoony but it’s creepy without being too cheesy. The artwork provides enough of a blank canvas for players to create their own stories with their own themes.

The best aspect of this game is the replayability. The house is built from randomly drawn tiles leading to weird and wonderful creations.  The items and events drawn are different every game and the haunt is chosen based on the cards revealed each game. This really makes each game incredibly unique.

However all of this randomness can have its downsides.

Stuff I don’t like

Although one of the main strengths of Betrayal at House on the Hill is the randomness and very unique gameplay, this can sometimes cause issues. For example, sometimes to win the game players are required to reach a certain room with a certain item. It is entirely possible in many of these circumstances for the survivors to already have exactly what they need in order to win.  This can mean that they will be just 1 turn away from winning. This obviously isn’t much fun for either team and is ultimately anti-climactic.

There is little to be done in this case. Often in other scenarios the traitor could be considered somewhat overpowered. This can help to balance out the luck factor but can also be unfair if the survivors have a ‘normal’ start. Most of the time my game group just accepts that it is part of the theme and just set up for another game. But it can really suck. Especially if it’s an exciting haunt scenario that has everybody raring to go.

Another big problem that I have come across time and again is ambiguity in the haunt scenarios. The traitor and survivor books are meant to be kept separate so that the opposing side doesn’t find out the secrets of the other side. This makes sense for gameplay. However often there are a number of things which are simply not clear for either side.

On more than one occasion my gaming group has had to share the rules for both sides to make the game clearer and to be sure that the traitor understands their powers and goal. When this happens we normally end up filling in the gaps with our own rules and restrictions based upon both common sense and what we feel is necessary.

Betrayal at House on the Hill Review

Despite the problems and occasional ambiguity, I flipping love this game. My friends and I have spent entire days playing just this game. It’s led to some of our most memorable gaming moments as a group. However I must admit that I have started to tire of the rule issues and other games have begun to take up more of my time.

This game will forever have a special place in my heart and I really do think it’s a fantastic game. It is an absolute must have if you are into heavily themed games with twists and turns. Or if you’re a fan of traitor games then clearly this game will bring much enjoyment. It plays best when everybody in the group is invested in the theme. When that does happen you are sure to have a great time.

So if you liked this Betrayal at House on the Hill Review then we highly recommend picking up Betrayal at House on the Hill at Amazon here or by clicking on one of the other links in this post.  Let us know what other games you’d like us to review in the comments below!

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