Critical Play: Betrayal at House on the Hill

Our team’s game, Three Night Alibi, went through some medium changes from a card game to a board game with randomizable board elements that reminded me of another board game with a social deception element called Betrayal at House on the Hill. The themes of Betrayal are horror, a haunted house, and cooperation turning into betrayal. The characters and map are highly stylized as horror and occult, and everything is well illustrated, even if it’s just the reference booklet. Thus, you are incentivized to role play as your character goes through a realistic haunted house. It’s a rogue-like game, meaning it uses random map generation, map exploration, permadeath, turn-based play, limited resources/required use of items to survive; additionally, there’s dice rolling and random traitor mechanics. However, unlike other rogue-like games, Betrayal is unique because it is a rogue-like mixed with a mid-game randomly decided traitor mechanic. People typically go for this game if they enjoy roleplaying, storytelling, cooperation, and chance-based battles. The types of fun that align with these are narrative, fantasy, challenge, fellowship/competition, and discovery.

One problem I found with Betrayal is that it’s so heavily luck-based and suffers from a large power imbalance as the number of players increases. In our game, the traitor and their forces were outnumbered. It’s generally much harder for the traitor to win if the number of players is high, so I would design further handicaps on the non-traitor team to make it easier on the traitor. Potentially one could try revising some of the haunts as well to reduce specs. Also, I’ve played this game with 3 people which lasted about 45 minutes, but with even more players (we had 5) it can go for hours (I think almost 3…). It would be nice to control playtime with modified haunt rolls and handicaps mentioned above. I don’t think there are many ways one might abuse the game because it’s quite laid out and you have limited actions, such as not being able to get another item again when you retrace your path. My favorite aspect is I really liked how this game is extremely replayable, because of the discovery mode laying down different tiles to make the map as you go, as well as the 50 different haunts.

Kind of forgot to take photos while playing…. but this was my hand at one point!

I also really liked how people got into their roles, which were tied in very well to their health stats necessary for winning the game.

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