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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few instances of particularly bad luck from the test game most of these photographs are from:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.(4 / 5)