Betrayal Legacy marries the concept of Betrayal at House on the Hill — exploring a haunted mansion — with the permanency and multi-game storytelling exhibited by Daviau's Risk Legacy and other legacy games that followed. Betrayal Legacy consists of a prologue and a thirteen-chapter story that takes place over decades. Players represent families, with specific members of a family participating in one story, then perhaps an older version of those characters (assuming they lived) or their descendants showing up in later stories.
Why would people keep exploring a haunted mansion for decade after decade, especially when horrible things happen there? Curiosity, I suppose, or perhaps an ignorant boldness that comes from the belief that we know better than those who have come before. Look at all that we've learned, marvel at the tools we have at hand! Surely we'll all exit safely this time...
As with other Betrayal titles, the game is narratively-driven, with elements that record the history of your specific games. The tools mentioned earlier, for example, become attached to specific families. This isn't just a bucket; it's my bucket, the one my grandpappy used to feed his family's pigs when he was a boy, and while you can certainly use that bucket, I know how to wield it best from the time he spent teaching me how to slop. Yes, it's an heirloom bucket, and when kept in the family, I get a bonus for using it.
Ever had that feeling of Deja Vu? Well, for those of you who are familiar with Betrayal at House on the Hill, the release of Betrayal Legacy is one that will either bring up fond memories of the time spent with friends one relaxing and game-fuelled evening, or memories of that one time where Steve murdered everyone…
If, however, you are not familiar with the Betrayal series and you're a lover of any form of horror or role-playing games, or any legacy games for that matter, then you're in for a treat (Or trick, or both!).
Published by the Wizards of the Coast under the Avalon Hill imprint, Betrayal Legacy is by far a bigger, better version of its predecessor, with a greater focus on the overarching narrative embodied within the same house of horrors from the previous game. Like any madman with an interest in supernatural abodes, I picked up the game in the hopes of uncovering the mysteries locked within. Armed with nothing but a notebook, some snacks and a few close friends (Or scapegoats as I like to call them) I delved into the contents of the Legacy Edition of Betrayal, and this is what I found…
(Please note: This review will not cover spoiler-related content. There are a few elements of the game included in the box for later play, so while I may cover them vaguely, I will try and avoid spoilers for the narrative as much as possible)
What is Betrayal Legacy?
With the Betrayal series, you and some friends (or close enemies, your pick) somehow find yourselves inside the same abandoned house time and time again. To begin with, you are tasked with exploring the rooms within this strange, ever shifting household, completing events and picking up items and omens along the way. As the games goes on, the more omens you and your friends find, the more likely you are to start the haunt, where you will all refer to your traitor's tome to discover which event will take place, thus showing the end goal for the game.
Within Betrayal Legacy however, the game furthers this by providing the players with an ongoing narrative, as well as choices and actions that will affect them and their chosen Families in future games, as well as the tiles within the house. What this means for each player is that their actions always matter. Rooms shift, people change from ally to traitor, but after every game, the players will return once more with a new family member.
Components and Set-up
The box for Betrayal Legacy comes with an outstanding amount of components, which include tile sets for the house, both the traitor tome and secrets of survival, a standard rulebook, the Bleak journal (We will get to that in a bit), game pieces modelled after a variety of characters with a few clip-on colour tiles to represent the family they come from, a set of eight dice (Which come with two sides blank, two sides with a single dot and two sides with two dots.), enough stickers and pealable elements to give that one friend (who cannot help themselves but pick at things) a hayday, and a few decks of sealed cards.
Now, as far as the quality for the components goes, there are still a few glaring issues shown from the previous game. Some pieces or tiles may be a little janky from their initial extract from the template, as well as the involvement of the small plastic clips used for the sliders, which have a good chance to start tearing at the cardboard pieces beneath them like a rabid chipmunk. However, so long as the pieces are treated with a bit of care (And you have a small hand file with you) then these issues can be resolved fairly easily.
Unlike the original game, the set-up for Betrayal Legacy is more involved. Each player will be given a set number of things to do before the game, as well as the player's having to set-up the game based on step by step instructions issued to them by the rules for the game. While this involvement may seem on the outside to be somewhat tedious, it actually allows each of the players to create their own identities in the game, creating a unique family and heritage before the game has even really begun. However, once this is all said and done, the game still plays out like its origins, but with a far greater amount of refinement to each of the tiles and rules, as well as the narrative, which plays a great part throughout the entirety of the game.
How it Plays
As far as the base game's mechanics go, they are no different from the previous game. Each player will take it in turns to move their selected character X amount of spaces based on their speed (Or if they have entered a new room) and will complete the required event, item or omen card found within the room, as well as any other conditions found within the room itself. Once this has been done, player's will then add/subtract from their mental or physical health (Sanity, knowledge, speed and strength) before moving on to the next player's turn.
This will go on until the haunt starts, at which case the players will take a look at what exactly triggered the haunt (Based on the tile that the omen was revealed within, as well as the type of omen itself) and find this within the traitor's tome. After confirming exactly what haunt has arisen, player's will then follow instructions provided (In some cases, each player may be working as a team, or one player may be a traitor and must leave the room while the rest poor over the rules of survival book.)
Due to the way the Legacy edition's narrative system works, players will always follow a narrative based system for each game, following instructions as they go along. With all the involvement of the mysteries surrounding the house, as well as the occasional extract from the Bleak journal (Which includes fascinating stories that further grant depth to the household itself), there is enough to keep players hooked onto the gameplay loop. The best way to describe it really would be to say that you and your pals are playing an entire franchise worth of a horror film. (But with less cringeworthy clichés).
Final Thoughts on Betrayal Legacy
As far as Legacy games go, Betrayal is by far one of the best variants out there. The combination of beautifully designed narrative and player involvement combine to create an experience that even non-board gamers can enjoy should the individual share any interest in mystery, murder, the supernatural or actions of disloyalty at strange houses located at the top of hills.
While there are a few issues with some of the components within the game, such as the strange clips that tend to have a knack for tearing parts of the cardboard away should they be moved to quickly, Betrayal Legacy is still designed nicely and is compact and cleanly laid out within the box (Once you’ve gone through the process of removing the parts from their initial templates, of course).
All in all, however, Betrayal Legacy is a highly unique and very fun game to play with a few close friends or relatives, especially those that have never heard of the game before. Should they ask such a question as “Betrayal? No, never heard of it. What's it about?” you can proudly turn to them with a smile and state:
“Well, have you ever had that feeling of Deja vu?”
You Might Like
• Ongoing, in-depth narrative.
• Players' choices shift the game in many ways.
• Surprising amount of different items and endings that grant the game an abundance of playtime.
You Might Not Like
• Irreversible effects to the game.
• Fast player elimination can leave a sour taste in some player's mouths.
• Large negative variety in cards can be off-putting for some players.