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Betrayal at House on the Hill is a game by Bruce Glassco where 3-6 players explore a spooky old mansion until things take a darker turn and one betrays the others.

The box for Betrayal at House on the Hill
The Betrayal box

Components

The components of the game laid out on a table.
Note: Some of the tokens in the bags pictured are from the Widow’s Walk expansion

The game comes with 3 rulebooks, 1 for general game rules, 1 specifically for traitors, and 1 specifically for explorers. It also comes with 45 room tiles, 30 slider clips, 6 character cards, 6 character figures, 8 dice, 1 tracker (relevant only to certain scenarios), 22 item cards, 13 omen cards, 45 event cards, and 149 assorted tokens.

I love the tile-laying system and creating the board one piece at a time, however it does take up a lot of table space, especially since you have to manage three separate boards that keep growing.

The sliding clips that go on your character boards  are a good idea in theory. The ones that actually fit are great, but most of them are very loose and slide around way too much. The slightest movement could cause you to completely lose track of your stats. I would recommend instead using a piece of paper, your phone, or maybe some dice instead. I’ve heard that there are a few unofficial apps that work really well for this but I haven’t personally tried any of them.

A lot of the marker tokens look pretty much the same, and there are a lot of them. It makes finding any specific token a huge pain.

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A pile of assorted tokens in various shapes. Some are dark grey with white text and others are light grey with black text.
A sea of grey

The box is big. It generally fits everything pretty well, but it still takes up a lot of space. I think the space could have been used much more efficiently, especially considering that the extra components from the Widow’s Walk expansion have a hard time fitting in the box as-is but fit just fine when you use a different insert.

Gameplay

Setup for a four-player game of Betrayal.
Setup for a four-player game. Two of us chose to use dice for tracking while two others chose to use their phones.

The first part of the game is the exploration phase. All players start in the entrance hall and explore the mansion by laying tiles to go to new rooms. As players travel through the house they will collect items, experience events, and encounter omens. Each time an omen is encountered, the players make a haunt roll. If the players roll greater than or equal to the current number of omens, they continue exploring. If they roll less than, the haunt phase begins.

The layout of the board before the haunt phase began in one of our test games.
The board state before the haunt began

Players consult the chart in the traitor’s tome to figure out what scenario they’re playing and which player is the traitor. The traitor will be given the traitor’s tome and sent off somewhere else while the explorers consult the survivor’s guide. Each scenario has a unique set of rules for both the traitor and the survivor, and each side often has rules that are to be kept secret from the other until it becomes relevant.

Thoughts

This game is a ton of fun and has lots of replayability. The board is never the same twice, and with the large number of scenarios it’s highly unlikely you’ll come across the same one twice in quick succession.

The theme is on-point. It captures the vibe of moving through a spooky mansion nicely. The impossible layouts that wouldn’t make any sense in a real house help mimic the feel of a horror movie. I’m reminded of The Shining, Rose Red, and that H.H. Holmes murder hotel.

There are some issues with the rules, though. For instance, several cards affect “outside rooms” and “rooms with windows” but the rulebook doesn’t specify what rooms these are. People can miss things, or simply have different interpretations, so it always helps to have terms laid out in the rules to settle any potential conflict. Because it’s a random game with a lot of corner-case interactions, it can be difficult to find answers to specific rules questions. There are also places where the rules aren’t explained very well, so while the rules are technically there, they’re hard to understand. An FAQ with a little extra detail would have really helped.

As a small nitpick, I don’t like that the haunt table is only in one book. I think it should have either been in both side’s rulebooks or just in the basic rules manual.

As fun as the randomness of the game can be, it can cause some trouble. Players can be stuck in rooms they can’t leave, find themselves in no-win scenarios, or otherwise just have some really rotten luck that can sour the game. To be fair, this is a problem in a lot of games, but because this game is explicitly designed to be very random, luck-based mayhem is both more common and more noticeable.

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A few instances of particularly bad luck from the test game most of these photographs are from:

  1. Turn 1 I discovered the collapsed room & fell into the catacombs, which require a sanity roll of 6 or higher to leave. I placed myself on the side of the room opposite the basement landing. Next turn I explored and hit a dead end. I never left the catacombs.
  2. A player found the dog omen. The rules on the card say the dog can’t use rooms that require a roll. They found it in the junk room, a room that requires a roll to leave. The dog never left the junk room.
  3. The traitor had to get a certain number of monsters out of the house in order to win. They & their monsters were trapped in the basement with all of us, with only the mystic elevator (a room that allows you to roll to go to a random floor) as a way out. Only 1 monster left the basement.

Do You Need the Widow’s Walk Expansion?

The Widow’s Walk expansion comes with a brief rules sheet, 2 new rulebooks (1 for traitors, 1 for explorers), 20 room tiles, 8 omen cards, 11 item cards, 11 event cards, and 76 assorted tokens.

An important thing the Widow’s Walk expansion includes is some much-needed rules clarifications, such as specifying which rooms are outside & which have windows.

There are 50 more haunt scenarios to play, but they’re all written by different people, so the tone can vary a bit. While they are all mechanically interesting, thematically they’re very hit-and-miss. You also get an entire extra floor to run around on, and the new dumbwaiter mechanic which makes it a lot easier to move between floors.

Overall, the expansion isn’t required to fully enjoy the game, but at the very least you’ll want to look up the rulebook and note down those rules clarifications. If you find yourself playing the game a lot and want a little extra variety I’d say it’s worth it.

Verdict

This game gets four out of five cthulhus. The game is fun and the theming is spectacular but the rules are a little too clunky in places. You can check it out, along with the expansion and the Baldur’s Gate variant, at the links below, but remember that was are an Amazon affiliate and if you buy anything through the links provided we will get some $ back.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Review: A Plague Tale series

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Asobo Studios A Plague Tale series consisting of Innocence (2019) and Requiem (2022) has been out for a while. Weirdly enough, I struggled to put my thoughts into words about these games until now. The way I see it, it’s impossible to talk about one without the other, so let’s dive in, shall we?

Plot and characters

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The story of A Plague Tale games takes loose inspiration from the Black Plague times with a touch of the Hundred Years’ War. Amicia and Hugo are siblings on the run from soldiers while also fighting off infected rats, meeting allies along the way. A huge theme of Innocence is Amicia finding a solution for Hugo’s long-term sickness. As one would suspect, it turns out to be connected to the plague itself. Amicia also goes from being a disconnected older sister to his biggest protector throughout the game. 

Promotional poster, Amicia is facing away from the camera looking at a scenery of the river.
Source: Focus Entertainment

Hugo himself is more or less an annoying kid who wants his mother. This is frankly a realistic characterization as he actually speaks and acts as a child would act. Granted, him essentially walking into the Pope’s trap is frustrating but the climax needed to be set up somehow. I also enjoyed Lucas’s character as an alchemist apprentice as he proved to be one of the more consistent helpers to the duo. 

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While Innocence ends on a hopeful note, with the characters on the verge of starting over somewhere new and the plague contained, Requiem shows this was a fake out. The sequel really puts Amicia through her paces. Her character is broken both physically and mentally to the point where she is barely recognizable. Hugo is more mature, although his insistence on this magical island that will fix the Macula issue is an immediate red flag. It’s not surprising the supposed safe haven turns into hell quite quickly. 

The generational curse where the protector and carrier story repeats itself means a tragic ending for our protagonists. This means it can feel fruitless to play the two installments as the whole point of Amecia’s journey is to protect Hugo at all costs, which proves to be impossible. Was it because of certain choices they made or just extremely unfortunate circumstances? Either way, I felt horrible for them both while playing Requiem, so at least it invoked a strong emotion in me. 

Gameplay

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The series is a third-person stealth adventure with survival horror elements. Innocence has a clear-cut mechanic that relies on Amicia sneaking past or distracting threats with a certain number of puzzles to get past the rats. She is also extremely vulnerable, dying from one enemy hit, forcing the player to start all over. This is something Requiem updates, adding the opportunity for you to recover by running away from the enemy. 

It can be frustrating to have to restart a whole section because of one mistake. However, it does make the player think methodically about what the best approach is. I found the challenges a tad repetitive which stopped me from binge-playing the game, but that’s just my opinion. 

Overall thoughts

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After taking this time to digest my feelings towards A Plague Tale games, I can still vouch for the amazing experience. The historical aspects are endearing, and the graphics are beautiful, as is the score. The scriptwriters knew what kind of emotional punches would hit the players just right and the voice actors really gave it all. It’s obvious a lot of love went into this project and I am grateful to have played it. 

Amicia is holding Hugo's hand and they are walking towards a foggy village.
Source: Steam

Regardless, there were certain aspects of the story that for me personally, did not sit right. I am not a massive fan of a tragedy that ends, well, in tragedy, especially with hints history will repeat itself again. The entire concept of the ‘greater good’ and the main characters sacrificing their happiness has been done before and while I can understand why they went that way, it also left me feeling a bit empty. 

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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The Last of Us: Episode 7: Left Behind

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The Last of Us series is winding down with only three episodes left. Directed by Liza Johnson and written by Neil Druckmann, “Left Behind” adapts the video game’s DLC story of the same name. Ellie and Joel are hiding out in a basement, and Joel is suffering greatly from his stabbing. He orders Ellie to go back to Tommy and leave him behind, but she’s reluctant. The episode cuts to a flashback of the events that happened before Ellie and Joel met, thus beginning the sweet, tragic backstory of our young protagonist.

First Love

Ellie is stuck in a FEDRA boarding school in Boston. Her best friend and roommate, Riley, ran away a few weeks back and Ellie has been grieving the loss. She gets into fights with classmates and even sends one girl to the infirmary to get 15 stitches. Everything changes when Riley suddenly returns and reveals she joined the Fireflies, the organization FEDRA is training students to fight and kill.

Riley

Ellie disapproves of her friend’s choices, but there isn’t anything she can say that will change Riley’s mind. However, as a sort of apology for leaving without saying goodbye, Riley asks Ellie to sneak out for a few hours and join her on a little adventure. Ellie reluctantly agrees.

The two sneak into an abandoned mall that was once used to hoard infected. Now it is filled with wonders and surprises beyond the youths’ wildest dreams. The girls connect like they haven’t been separated for weeks, and their chemistry is sweet and wholesome. Riley gives Ellie an array of gifts, from a photo booth and carousel ride to an arcade with Mortal Kombat and a brand new pun book.

All Good Things End

The evening comes to a halt when Riley reveals the Fireflies are sending her to the Atlanta base and this is her last night in Boston. Ellie is furious and runs away, fully intended on returning back to her dorm room. But she only gets so far before caving into her feelings and running back to Riley. They reunite in a Halloween store, where they wear goofy wolf and clown masks (replicas of the game’s masks) and dance to Etta James’ “I Got You Babe.” They share a kiss and the moment is so delicate.

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The abandoned mall

Everything is perfect until it’s not.

An infected emerges into the store and attacks the girls. Riley shoots it and Ellie stabs it to death, but neither are unscathed. The clicker bit both of them. At the moment, any and all hope has been destroyed.

The Verdict

HBO’s “Left Behind” is the show’s truest adaptation of the video game thus far. The show cuts out the parts of the video game where Ellie roams through a mall and evades hunters as she searches for a first aid kit for Joel. Instead, The Last of Us focuses on Ellie’s history with her best friend and first love, Riley.

Just as Bella Ramsey is the perfect casting for Ellie, Storm Reid is perfect as Riley. The actors’ chemistry maintains the game’s charm; their portrayal of teenagers after an apocalyptic pandemic is pure and authentic. For the first time, Ellie and Riley can act like the kids they are, not the soldiers every adult is training them to be. It is endearing to see their relationship come to life.

Ellie’s backstory mirrors Joel’s in that it emphasizes their experiences of loss and grief. The pair have formed a connection they cannot lose. It is because of this that, at the end of “Left Behind,” Ellie goes against Joel’s wishes and stays with him to help him heal. She had to leave one friend behind before and she refuses to do it again.

“Left Behind” deserves five out of five Cthulhu. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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There are only just a few episodes left in The Last of Us. Episode 8 releases Sunday, March 5, where we should expect to meet the notorious cult leader, Dave. Until then, check out the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.

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The Last of Us: Episode 6: Kin

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Joel reunites with Tommy in The Last of Us‘ sixth episode, “Kin.” It was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Jasmila Žbanić, who take us to Jackson, Wyoming, a town with electricity, hot water and community. It’s a reality that feels like a dream. After worrying so long about where Tommy was, it turns out he is in better shape than Joel could have ever imagined.

Moving Forward

It’s been a few months since Henry and Sam’s deaths, and Joel and Ellie have finally reached Tommy’s rumored location. But it’s not just Tommy who’s doing well for himself; his younger brother has a new wife, Maria (Rutina Wesley). Together they help run the whole town, taking turns doing patrol and other maintenance that keeps the town running. The Last of Us‘ set design of Jackson is akin to the second video game; in the first game, Tommy and Maria were still working on the getting the town running and nowhere near as accomplished. This minor adjustment adds a new immersive experience to the show, and emphasizes Joel’s qualms about how competent he is to take care of Ellie.

The town of Jackson, Wyoming

While Joel and Tommy reconnect, Maria brings Ellie into her home and let’s her take a shower and gives her a brand new period cup as a present. It is with Maria that Ellie discovers Joel had a daughter who died at the beginning of the outbreak in 2003.

Kin

Joel and Tommy reconnect in a bar, where Joel begins to wonder if Ellie would be better off finishing the route with Tommy in his place. Joel confesses that Ellie is immune and needs to reach a medical center in Colorado. Joel recounts everything he’s done wrong, how he’s not equip to take Ellie any further and protect her. He asks Tommy to do the journey for him, but Maria is pregnant and Tommy is reluctant to take such a drastic risk. After more pleading, Joel finally convinces Tommy to take Ellie. A new plan is set for the next day.

Ellie, however, overheard this conversation between the two brothers and is disappointed with Joel. He’s the only person he trusts, and he betrayed her. Ellie argues that she “is not Sarah,” to which Joel counters, “I sure as hell ain’t your dad.” Whether she likes it or not, she’s going with Tommy.

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Tommy and Joel reunite

Changing Places

The next morning, Ellie sits in her bedroom and is greeted with disappointment when Tommy opens the door and asks if she’s ready to leave. She reluctantly says yes, and they head to the stables where Joel is prepping a horse. He tells Ellie that she should have a decision in the matter, and she immediately chooses Joel. They move forward to Colorado.

The duo eventually reaches an abandoned university in Colorado and discover the Fireflies are now located at a medical center in Utah. Suddenly, an ambush hits. Joel and Ellie are able to fight their attackers off, but one manages to stab Joel in the stomach before falling to his death. Ellie helps Joel onto the horse and they ride far enough away to safety. However, Joel can only go so far before he succumbs to the stabbing and falls off the horse. The episode ends with a horrified Ellie, trying in desperation to resuscitate him, but he cannot wake up.

The Verdict

Just like the video game, HBO’s The Last of Us is more than just a show about “zombies” or violence. It implements empathetic writing and various cinematic elements to study personhood and the human connection in dire times. Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin do a phenomenal job writing scripts for characters fans can connect to and love no matter how long they exist on screen.

Joel and Ellie reach Utah

Bill and Frank, Henry and Sam, and Tommy and Maria only exist in one or two episodes. Yet their impact is enormous, shaping the world in a way our two main protagonists could not do alone. While in theory they may just be supporting characters, The Last of Us finds a way to make them more than that. They are characters that stick with you long after they’re gone.

The filmmaking also cannot go unnoticed. From the intricate set designs to the natural outdoor world, the camera continues to bring the beloved video game to life through intimate still shots, timely cuts and a gorgeous score to support emotional scenes. The show also knows when to have fun with itself by including little Easter eggs, like when Ellie yells at a girl staring at her (a girl who looks quite similar to Dina in The Last of Us 2.) This is a rather slow part in the game (minus the various shootout sequences), and there is little to no action in episode six. This further proves The Last of Us‘ strength of a well-made series that benefits from creative liberties and changes, while still staying true to the source material. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Until next time, check out the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.

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