“Betrayal at House on the Hill” is a critically acclaimed board game which came back into print by popular demand. When it first came out in 2004, the game was very well received with critics but unfortunately was not so well received with fans. The board game was undersold and under marketed which made it a prime target to be pulled from the shelves of game stores nationwide. Hasbro, reacting to the underwhelming release of the product, decided that they would stop printing copies of it and almost erase its existence. It wasn’t until the king of the nerds himself, Wil Wheaton, found himself a copy and played it on his board game showcase show “TableTop” that demand for the game shot back up. After seeing the rise in demand for the game skyrocket, Hasbro quickly released an updated version with improved art and rules to meet the rising demand for the once commercial failure, giving players everywhere a second edition.
The box says “Betrayal at House on the Hill” is “A haunting experience for three to six players.” Players take the role of explorers — all with interesting backstories and abilities — that have come to the mansion on the hill to investigate strange incidents. What the players don’t know is that one of them is a traitor in disguise that, halfway through the game, will reveal him or herself and try to act out their evil plan. These evil plans take place in the form of “haunts” that range from rampaging demons to hillbilly cannibals where the traitor must require him or her to do one of a multitude of tasks ranging from killing the survivors to setting up bombs throughout the house.
The game itself is an homage to movies from the 50s like “Frankenstein” or “The Invisible Man” that is crafted with love from creators who clearly know their source material. Looking into the backstories of the player characters you can easily see each and every horror movie trope — each is made to be more obvious than the last. As the players enter the mansion they will take turns drawing Room Tiles out of a pile to slowly layout the mansion, square by square. Because each tile is random there are thousands of different combinations of rooms that can be laid out, meaning that every time you play the game it turns out differently. The players go from room to room encountering events like ghosts or oozing walls that can either reward them with helpful items or punish with them ill omens. Each time an omen is drawn the players must determine whether the traitor is revealed through dice rolling.
When the traitor is revealed the haunt begins and the players must act out a tropey cliched horror movie plot to resolve it. In total there are 50 different haunts that completely change how you play the game. For example the traitor player may decide that it is time for a ghost wedding and be compelled to kill the other players so that they might attend the wedding in the haunted chapel, or the players may find the house is being filled with poison gas and need to fix the pipes or suffocate to death.
The game is magnificently crafted and due to massive variance in both playstyles and board layout, the game can be enjoyed many more times over than games like Risk or Monopoly. Just remember to have yourself a happy haunting.
“Betrayal at House on the Hill” is available for $50 at Rooks Comics and Games in Bozeman or online.