Game Review: Betrayal at House on the Hill

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Players – 2-6

Time – 1-2 hours

Age – 14+

Game Type – Tile Flopper, Battle, Goals

Gamer Type – Causal- Serious

Complexity – 6

Every once in a while you get the chance to review a game that’s legendary. The difficulty with this is that sometimes games do not live up to the hype surrounding their legends. While some games age well, such as Settlers of Catan, other great games from a bygone era do not age well, either in mechanics or in structure. Luckily, Avalon Hill has mastered keeping their games fun, as represented by Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Story

BHH is a massive game with near-infinite replay value. The story is based on the classic horror trope of the “Hill House.” This old mansion is deeply surrounded in mysteries, and you never know which one you are going to explore on any given playthrough. Without getting into mechanics too much, there are 50 different “Haunts” which change the gameplay dramatically. Each time you play, the house will be different and the story will be different, which means the story will always be different (9.5 of 10).

Artwork

Once again, with a classic game you have classic artwork. With dual-sided character cards – which allow you to choose one of two characters – you have a lot of options, pictures and challenges. One thing I would love to see is aftermarket minis you can buy for each of the haunts, but I understand why they did not do this because of the sheer number of haunts. The box is standard box size, so it fits easily on your shelf. (8 of 10).

Mechanics

9 of 10. This game has a great card flopper feel to it; the only drawback is when you end up not being able to place a tile, you move the house around. While some have suggested this adds to the shifting rooms style of the house, it can be quite challenging on a small table. Combat is simplified dice-based, which keeps it from getting too complex. The genius of the game is the haunt system. When you trigger a haunt, you consult a chart to see which one you are playing; this changes the game every time and prevents you from over planning. 9 of 10

Strategy

All four elements of strategy are represented in this game, though not in the way we traditionally look at it. Since you start the game not knowing the goal, those who live and die for strategy will have a difficult time adapting. You can prepare, but you never know what (or when) you are preparing for. Offense and defense are part of most haunts; however, you never know if it will be mental or physical offense that you need. Most players “rush” to explore the house, but this leads to everyone being spread out. When the haunt can come at any time, this could leave you challenged.

The whole game is an engine (think 13 ghosts) where you build the house to either hope you are the traitor, or hope you can beat the traitor. Oh, did I forget to mention that one of the players becomes the bad guy – and no one knows who it will be at the beginning of the game? (8.5 of 10)

Novelty

This game is one of the first card floppers of this style to be put out on the market by a major producer. When it came out it was cutting edge. There have been many clones of this style of game, but no one really reaches the moxie of the original. This game has stood the test of time, but the style has become more common so what was a 10 out of 10 when it came out is still a very solid 8 out of 10 in the modern era.

Overall

As I said in the beginning, this game is legendary in the game communities. The non-nonchalant green box on the shelf means that if you have two hours you can have an adventure. Once you start playing, you are dropped into the reality of the house, which is crazy. The game still, after nearly 20 years, pulls in a score of 43 out of 50. This game holds its place as one of the granddaddies of the silver age of gaming. Something any serious collector should have on their shelf.

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Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer

Dr Christopher Smithmyer is the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.

NRN • New Right Network
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