Betrayal At House On The Hill | A not so favourable review.
A few of my friends who I game with regularly have started using the phrase ‘the TableTop Effect’. You may be able to guess what it means but allow me to expand a little. ‘TableTop’ is an INCREDIBLE youtube channel hosted by Lord-of-the-Geeks Wil Wheaton. He, alongside 3-4 niche celebrity friends play a different board game. This channel was responsible for increasing not only my interest for the hobby but also my wife’s. The beautiful thing about the host of gamers Mr. Wheaton assembles is that often they are trained and professional entertainers. Actors, voice-over artists, youtube channel creators etc. ‘The TableTop Effect’ is what my friends and I use to describe the desire to purchase a game based on the experience watched on our favourite board gaming channel. However, unless you host a group at RADA, the likelihood is most of your friends are not necessarily trained/professional entertainers.
Why does this matter?
In Betrayal at House on the Hill you will take one B-Horror movie stereotype and guide them through an ever expanding house over three floors, at some point your group will activate ‘The Haunt’. ‘The Haunt’ begins the second phase of the game where 1 (or potentially more) will become the foe – determined by a separate book – who must fulfil an independent objective (i.e. eat the others) whilst the rest attempt their own objective (i.e. don’t get eaten).
The episode of this game on TableTop is a great one. Very funny, good rules explanation and seriously entertain to watch. Whilst your first play may be slightly entertaining I can promise that entertainment will wane with each play through. Partly because you don’t play with actors, partly because the game is fun to watch, but to play it’s not really a game at all.
Sounds harsh? For the first half of the game, you could choose not to do anything whatsoever and stand a good chance of winning (you will be closer to the exit and you are unlikely to trigger ‘the Haunt’). Although this would be a hugely boring play, your alternative is to explore the house in any random way, probably get hurt quite a lot, probably find nothing that will actually help in ‘the Haunt’ and then laugh out loud as you accidentally trigger the same haunt you triggered in your last play through (there are a potential 50 governed by who triggers the haunt, where they are and what is in their possession at the time). The second half is often clunky as the betrayer tries to figure out the new weird rules, the rest wait for them to continue looking in their rulebook and it often ends in an unsatisfying dice rolling match.
I do like the miniatures, the player cards and the idea of exploring a building using tiles. After that, I’m afraid you just have a game that whilst the second half may change for the majority of re-runs, the first half is the same ol’ move, explore a new tile, apply the negative effects and repeat.
Whilst I can see why some people may have this in their collection I would warn against buying it. On a base level that at the price point of this, it will not get the replays you’d expect for a game of that price. I would spend that little bit more and go for Plaid Hat Games ‘Dead Of Winter’ if you fancy a story-driven, betrayer-laden, exploration game! (or T.I.M.E Stories – ed.)