Published on October 11th, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
Every Modern Horror Trope In One Game
Gregg Explains: Betrayal at House on The Hill
Betrayal at House on The Hill is a game about being stuck in a haunted mansion. First, the players will select a character from a roster of horror movie trope characters including the older man who’s either a priest of scientist, the little girl who’s either evil or crazy, and the high-school boy who is the dumb jock or the young hero. Once characters are selected, all players begin trying to explore this haunted house that they’re now locked into by escaping ghosts, finding secret passages, disturbing crypts and chapels, and much more.
Each room is made with a square tile and you build the layout of the house as you go. When rooms are revealed, a player’s turn can be interrupted or ended by having to draw a Event, Item, or Omen card. Events build a lot of the traits and random aspects of the house and these can be good, bad, ineffectual, or crippling. Items are generally good. Certain characters are better with certain items, but all of the items are a benefit, and having an item is much better than not having one. Omens are generally considered Items as well, with a special quality that makes them more resilient. Events that discard Items will state they won’t discard Omens.
Whenever an Omen is drawn, a Haunt Roll is made in the end. The game comes with a set of six-sided dice that have two 2’s, two 1’s, and two blank faces. If a player rolls on six dice less than the total number of revealed Omens (there are 13 total, and you’re rolling six dice on a Haunt Roll), then the second half of the game begins: the Haunt.
The person who triggers The Haunt consults a separate book. Looking at a grid that lists the thirteen Omens and the thirteen rooms that have the Omen symbol, the player will announce which Haunt is taking place, and who (if anyone) is now the Traitor. From here, the players will separate, consulting the new rules that override the normal rules, as well as adding additional conditions and actions. Now the Heroes and Traitor can fight each other, the Heroes can now die, sometimes the Traitor can die and sometimes the Traitor gains Monsters to aid in winning.
When the Haunt is revealed, secrecy on achieving your victory condition is key. The Heroes know how they win, and get a vague idea of what the Traitor is trying to do. The same is relayed to the Traitor, making the first time playing a haunt a bit of a guessing game of trying to win, without exposing yourself and allowing the other side to win. If you’ve been playing the game with a regular set of friends, it now turns into remembering which of the forty-plus Haunts are in effect, and trying to meta-game recall what both sides are trying to do, in order to strategically block the opposite side from winning.
This is a rather fantastic game. I’ve got two friends who own this, Dave “The Guy” and Matt “The Favorite”, and we generally end up playing with varying groups. Generally at the start of games where Matt is hosting, everyone makes it a point to accuse me of being “The Cylon” before the first turn starts, since I tend to be a vicious and cackling Traitor if I land that role. When Dave hosts, Tom “Tam” and I pray that we don’t end up having the Bride of Dracula Haunt happen again. There is a side rule in the rule book to help avoid constant repeated Haunts, since certain Omens have only 4 different Haunts in their list.