I became a board gamer because of Betrayal at House on the Hill. That is not hyperbole either, I stumbled upon Will Wheaton’s Tabletop series on YouTube and the first video I found was his playthrough of betrayal at house on the hill. I immediately purchased the game and nearly every Friday night for the next few months became Betrayal night at my first-ever gaming group. We played this game to death. It was my first real taste of just how thematic board games could be, the emergent narrative of the game was capable of satisfying a craving for storytelling, that I didn’t know board games were even capable of. Sure the game was plagued with balance issues, and sure the rules could be a little clunky and it did not take long for us to see nearly all the cards and items in the game. This was our first game, and we loved it, warts and all. Alas, years pass and this game eventually fades away from our game nights, seldom spoken of and all but forgotten. Then one day browsing the internet I stumbled upon it; Betrayal Legacy. I was a more experienced board gamer now at this point, I knew what a legacy game was and all I knew was I needed it.
Betraying Your Friends, But Its For Fun
If you have never played Betrayal at The house before, the premise is relatively simple to understand. You and your friends have entered a spooky mansion for vague reasons, together you explore this creepy house by laying tiles and using your stats (might, speed, knowledge and sanity) to survive the perils of the mansion.
As you explore your characters may get stronger or weaker depending on how lucky you are, but don’t worry you are not allowed to die in this half of the game. At some point in the game “the haunt” will be revealed and at this point, the game changes massively. Typically, one of you will be revealed as a traitor, and now the traitors’ job is to defeat the non-betrayer players! The non-traitor players are tasked with foiling traitors’ dastardly plans.
Each haunt is unique and each comes with a bit of story and new rules for how the game will be played. These haunts vary wildly, there could be a mummy now wandering the halls of the mansion determined to destroy the players. There could be aliens preparing to invade Earth using the mansion as a base of operations. Or you could all be turned into tiny mouse size people being chased by cats.
All manner of horror movie tropes is utilized here to vary each game you play. Not all haunts are created equally, some shine and others… Well, it can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. This brings us to the legacy version now.
The core gameplay loop of Betrayal Legacy mostly remains the same. You are still exploring the house and the game will always lead to a haunt being revealed. The way the game differs now is that the game has a 13-chapter overarching story to tell by playing through. Decisions you make will fundamentally change the experience the next time you play. Room tiles could be permanently destroyed, or altered, new rules are introduced, and new items, event cards and omen cards all get added as the campaign progresses. There’s also a whole new area to explore; the garden as well as the ground floor, the first floor and the spooky basement.
There have been a few rules tweaks to the game, such as how haunts are revealed among others. Old-time players will feel right at home and newcomers won’t find any of the changes too complex to follow. You still have the same stats and dice checks are unchanged.
Spoiler-free Story Talk
Reviewing any legacy game is tough. The main selling point of the game is the story, which you and your friends get to experience, and of course, I do not want to spoil this for you. So I am going to keep this part as vague as I can. There is a house at the top of the hill that you and the other players all visit, to hopefully become the owners of this lovely not haunted at all mansion.
If you do claim the victory, you become the proud new owner. At the beginning of the game, you select a name for your family and a name for your character, this is cosmetic only but it is a nice touch. Then using a handy deck of cards, you are told how the story begins and how to proceed. The game then begins and at some point, certain conditions are met. Then you refer to the deck of cards again which will give you the next story beat and what that means for the game going forward.
Eventually, the game will come to a close and depending on what happened, the deck of cards will provide you with instructions on what to do next. This could be reading from a story journal, adding new tiles or cards and even adding completely new rules to the game. Ultimately someone will be declared the victor and they will be the owner of the mansion for the next chapter. I just want to add here the first scenario of this game is fantastic it blew me and my gaming group away and left us ravenous for more, that’s as close to a spoiler as I want to get.
The story is where this game shines here for me, I have very much cooled on Betrayals gameplay. Being able to create my own story and affect how the mansion was created is what allowed me to keep playing this campaign to completion. The story wavers slightly at the midpoint of the campaign and sometimes feels a little tacked on as if you are just playing betrayal with a few extra steps. This for sure changes in the second half of the campaign which I frustratingly can say no more about you will just have to take my word for it.
What Does Betrayal Legacy Do For The Betrayal Series Legacy?
Earlier on in this review, I said this game can sometimes feel like Betrayal at House on the Hill with extra steps and this will already let you know whether this game is for you. Betrayal Legacy is nothing new to the Betrayal formula, this being its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Betrayal in my experience is like Marmite, you will love it or hate it and Betrayal Legacy does not do enough to buck that trend.
If you hate Betrayal at House on the Hill for its balance issues and corny haunts, seriously give this one a wide berth it is not for you in the slightest. The flaws in the game all remain and the component quality somehow got worse. That being said, despite these many flaws Betrayal Legacy still can tell a great story. This takes commitment from the players involved though, a lot of commitment. You need to forgive this game a lot to be able to enjoy it, and if you can’t do that well Betrayal Legacy just is not for you and I do not blame you.
In my opinion, however, you are missing out on some of the wonderful storytelling this game is capable of. If like me you are a huge Betrayal series fan, this is a must purchase in my opinion. It’s more betrayal and at the end of the campaign, you still have a playable game with a mansion that is unique to you and your gaming group. Have fun telling spooky stories.