Betrayal at House on the Hill: A Review

Get thrills and chills playing through this B horror board game!

Some+of+the+characters+in+the+game+exploring+the+%22House+on+the+Hill%22.+Photo+credit+to+James+Haberstich.

Some of the characters in the game exploring the "House on the Hill". Photo credit to James Haberstich.

James Haberstich, Editor, Graphics, Staff Writer

When most people think of a low-budget horror film, one of the common images that runs through their mind might be a group of unique characters roaming an inherently scary place for no reason whatsoever. Some of the premises of this film might also include being attacked by a bloodthirsty vampire, being swallowed by a growing pile of goo, and having one person in the group betray the rest for a very specific reason. Now, what if I mentioned that it was possible to play through these different scenarios and many more in about an hour’s time? With Betrayal at House on the Hill, a board game made specifically to fit this exact purpose, you can!

An example of a player’s setup featuring a character card, item cards, and omen cards. Photo credit to James Haberstich.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a thrilling 3-6 player board game where the players take on the roles of characters that might be featured in a B horror film, such as gypsies, teenagers, etc. Each player will take turns exploring a creepy house on a hill room by room, finding helpful items, dark omens, and triggering events. As the game progresses, more and more of the three-story (or four-story if you have the Widow’s Walk expansion) house is cleared, and the higher likelihood that the next phase known as “The Haunt” is triggered. Remember how I mentioned a scenario where one person in this group of explorers might inevitably betray the others? This game rests its entire premise on that exact scenario.

After a certain number of magical (and sometimes cursed) items called omens are discovered, and a player fails at what is called a “haunt roll”, “The Haunt” occurs. This event is one of the coolest and most important pieces to this game. The game comes with two books that both say, “Do not read until the haunt scenario begins!” Once a player triggers “The Haunt”, the books are opened, and a player is selected to be the traitor of the group. The traitor takes the “Traitor’s Tome”, and the other players, or heroes, take the “Secrets of Survival” book. Based on what omen was last found and what room it was found in, the books reveal which of 50 possible ending scenarios is chosen to end the game.

The “Secrets of Survival” and “Traitor’s Tome” books in the game that present the ending scenarios for the players. Photo credit to James Haberstich.

Each of these scenarios are incredibly unique, and are exactly the kind of thing you would expect in a low-budget horror flick. How difficult it is for the heroes to win the game depends on how well the heroes prepared themselves with items and how soon “The Haunt” was triggered. I have played through around 10-15 of these haunts at this point, and while some were heavily stacked against the heroes, each of them was equally cool and sometimes hilarious to read aloud. One of my favorite haunts where I was the traitor forced me to speak in a Western accent for the rest of the game. It was great!

Overall, this game is a great buy, especially if you enjoy a great narrative experience like I do. Each game is going to be different, as rooms, items, events, and omens are all revealed in a different order each time you play. This offers a great deal of variety and replayability unlike any I have seen in a board game. To help with replayability, the base game comes with 50 possible ending scenarios (If you get the Widow’s Walk expansion, it adds another 50 endings and a fourth story to the house!). I especially enjoy the fact that this game not only offers suspense, but does so in a cool way. I have seen many similar games set a traitor up from the start, and there is often a lot of pressure to play it cool and hide from the other players for a long period of time. This game changes it up by randomly revealing the villain of the story at the halfway point of the game, really making the players wonder who is going to betray the rest of the group. 

If you are into B horror, or just want a fun, competitive role-playing style board game, Betrayal at House on the Hill is a wonderful addition to your collection. If you are looking to purchase the game, it runs for about $30-$50 depending on where you look. Locally, The Gaming Goose has copies for $35, while places like Amazon and Target have options for around $30. So, gather up some friends, turn on some spooky music, and explore the dreaded “House on the Hill” to your heart’s content!