Let’s start things off by saying horror isn’t my genre. I was never into watching films such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre or IT or anything of that ilk. Not because I found them scary but because I didn’t. Horror films that don’t scare me are like comedy films that don’t make me laugh. Just not really worth it. That said, horror inspired games are really interesting because to a certain degree, theme doesn’t matter.
I’m not going to be scared of the mini’s in Fury of Dracula. Mostly because I'm usually the titular character but I'm there to play a great game.
And that’s what I’m here to talk about, a great game that happens to be in the horror genre. It borrows a lot of tropes from various media and throws them into a creepy house that is ever expanding as the characters march their way through, possibly to their demise. You may have been here before, once or twice. If you’ve come back for a third time, then welcome back and be prepared for a Betrayal at the House on the Hill, 3rd edition.
Betrayal At House On The Hill 3rd Edition plays much the same as the predecessors and the Dungeons and Dragons spin-off, Betrayal at Baldurs Gate. In it, 3-6 players are exploring around a house, flipping over room tiles, gathering items, having events and getting ready for the next phase, known as the Haunt. Players choose from one of six-character colours, with new, rather fantastic minis, and then decides which of the two characters on the board they want to go for.
There are differences in the stats between the characters, which is always good to see. Everyone is different after all! You’ll also choose a scenario card, which leads you towards particular Haunts, so you can avoid playing the same one consecutively and gives a little back story as to why you’re there.
Characters can move up to their speed through the rooms and pass through an unexplored doorway to find a new room based on the floor you are on. In that room, something may happen which causes the player to draw a card of some kind, either an event, an item or an omen. There may also be something that happens in the room, but in a key change to the previous game, revealing a new room ends your turn, regardless of if you have to do anything when the tile is flipped.
And there’s a change to how the Haunt is triggered, for those who are returning to the new edition. Instead of rolling a fixed number of dice and getting below the number of omens which have been revealed, you’re now rolling one die per omen revealed and wanting to avoid getting a total of 5 or higher. Get that five, the Haunt will trigger. Consult the scenario card and see which Haunt you’re getting into and who the traitor is, if there is one at all…
Now the game changes. Now the players each have a goal that will trigger the end of the game and in most cases, the game is now one v many. However, there are some haunts which are a free for all or no traitor, which is another nice addition for more aggressive and friendlier groups as applicable. Whomsoever reaches their win condition first… well, they win. Obviously.
Musings On The Porch
I enjoyed my plays of the second edition of Betrayal and it’s a game that has always lingered on the peripheral of my wish list. The Widows Walk expansion made it very attractive too, giving another 50 haunts to play with. It’s certainly better (in my view) than the Baldurs Gate edition, even though I’m more a fan of D&D in general. But someone came into my gaming group who had the second edition, so I figured I’d play it more with them.
When the 3rd edition was announced and I pounced onto Zatu to order it. There are some excellent quality of life upgrades, including updated artwork, lovely minis and adjusted attribute tracks. From what I’ve read, the Haunts take the best of the 2nd edition and the Widows Walk expansion and updated them, making things simpler and a bit more balanced.
That said, there are still some balance issues. In the most recent playthrough, I became the traitor. During the pre-haunt phase, I had become loaded up with a couple of very powerful items (the familiar Angels Feather and Gun), which meant I could stay away from my opponents, move slightly to get a line of sight and deal damage at a distance. Since my goal was to kill them all, it meant I had to be very aggressive and take them down before they could set things up to make my day harder. It turned out I had such an effective set up, I eliminated two of the four opponents very quickly and barely took any damage.
It ended up that half the Haunt effects didn’t show up because I got very lucky in my items. Now, had the group gathered around me and proceeded to beat the living daylights out of my character, things may have been different. I’ve spoken before about my dislike of player elimination but it fits within the theme of the game. The players who were eliminated early weren’t that bothered by it, they knew what they were getting into.
I also like the guided starts – the little backstory to what is going on just adds a nice element but it also means you can prevent your game group from heading down the same Haunt each time. That being said, there’s a whole host of replayability in this game, even if you play the same Haunt. You may not have the same traitor, you may have different items and omens, and you’ll almost certainly have a different room layout.
I love Betrayal and the 3rd edition is my favourite of the bunch. There’s just enough familiarity to remind you of the previous games (some cards are a straight reprint) but there’s enough difference to make it feel fresh. If you have the 2nd edition, it’s ok, you probably don’t need to get the 3rd edition unless you have played every single Haunt and want to try something new.
I can’t see it being too long until the equivalent of the Widows Walk comes out, giving even more to this bright and shiny edition… sorry, I mean dark and spooky edition.