The Cultist – <em> Betrayal At House On The Hill </em>

The Cultist – Betrayal At House On The Hill

Cult activity sighted at the residence upon the knoll!

I’ve been on a real board game kick lately, playing a few of the awesome modern board/card games every week or so. But every night that I can get four or more folks together, there’s one game that’s always on the menu: Betrayal At House On The Hill.

This is a board game that defines replayability, as during the game events spawn one of 50 unique scenarios (derived from any crazy horror movie you can imagine) that turns the cooperative game into an unpredictable setup of player vs. player.

Warning: Houses may seem crazier on the inside.

Look confusing? It really isn’t! To describe it simply, it’s an “RPG in a Box” sort of game. You choose one of 12 different characters (six different archetypes), then take their lil pentagonal card with their stats on the sides (Might, Speed, Sanity, and Knowledge, initially set at the green numbers, and modifying upward and downward when things affect them; the numbers just mean how many dice you roll when you have to test the stat) and start at the entrance of the residence. You see, the “board” to this game is made as you play. You start off with just the main hall, which sports a staircase and lil doorways to each side. Whenever you go through a doorway, you draw a tile from the stack (shown on the back if it’s for the ground floor, upper, basement, or any) and connect it. You’ve just discovered a new room! Which could have any peril or boon waiting for you inside.

From there, you’re all just exploring the house, finding items and such that might help you, and looking out for your fellow players… if you like. When does it get good then, you may ask? Well, the OMENS decide of course. Certain rooms trigger an omen, which gives you a special item, and forces you to make a haunt roll (six dice, but these dice have blank sides, 1s and 2s… no higher!) and as long as you roll higher than the amount of Omens that are on the table, nothing bad happens. But when you inevitably roll beneath the number of omens… the HAUNT occurs. This is where things get interesting. You have two lil booklets, and using “The Traitor’s Tome” you look at what Omen card you pulled and what room you were in, and from there, you determine who (if anyone) is the Traitor. Then you give the traitor the Traitor’s Tome, and shoo them off to another room to read their part of the story as the remaining survivors read their part of the story. Each side gets the basic idea of what’s going on, but there are hidden objectives and tricks that the other side is unaware of and from there, they must compete to win.

These scenarios are what change the entire game… allow me to share some tales!

Once, I was playing the especially sane Father Reinhardt, who quickly became a powerful character as he found himself a mystic ring that allowed him to use his mind as a weapon. I figured that I was set for this game, even moreso when I discovered that I would be the traitor.  Unfortunately, this particular haunt involved the good father being munched by zombies and then ascending as a zombie lord, set to lead his zombie horde against the survivors. Which was nice, except that he now forgot how to wield items. That’s fine! The survivors are all separated, and I happen to know that the only way that they can kill me is by holding the crystal ball. And the survivor with the crystal ball was off lost in the basement. Time to divide and conquer! The jock of the group had instantly scurried up to the attic and found the gym, and decided to beef up. I’m not sure if he even realized that the house had come under siege of zombies. So, lumbering up there, I decided to take him out alone and sent my zombie horde off to maul the other survivors. But to my surprise (and unlucky dice rolls), the Jock just kept swatting me off again and again.

The undead are not known for their gym etiquette.

And to make matters worse… the teenage girl had found DYNAMITE which apparently zombies are not very good at dodging. From there, things went downhill as I slowly chased after the swift little survivors until they at last met up, tossed the jock the crystal ball and a revolver, and shot my rotting noggin full of holes!

In another story, we had our first “No Traitor” haunt, which ended up being a very curious experience. You see, the house had spawned an EVIL TWIN for each survivor,  each dead-set to seek out and kill their counterpart. Much like when I was an evil Zombie Lord, they could only be killed for good by the bearer of a sacred item, and by their… less-evil counterpart. The bearer was alone up in the attic, while the rest of us were stuck in the basement, a short walk from the entrance where the Evil Twins began. We were forced to make a mad dash past the evil twins, and mostly made it out. Alas, the poor Heather Granville found herself trapped in the catacombs and met her end at the hands of her evil twin. From there, the player of Heather took control of her evil twin, and the player versus player set in. However, we had ourselves a foolproof plan: during our exploration of the house, we found a room under the effects of a Blessing (boosting any of our rolls in that room) as well as a few nice weapons. So we simply all met up in the room and passed the sacred item back and forth as each of our evil twins ran into the room for us.

Funny how things turn out when the horror “victims” play smart.

Swiftly dispatching our evil twins, we were left to wonder what happened to Heather. The credits roll, and we see her evil twin, having left the house and simply decided to live the rest of Heather’s life herself, no one ever knowing. Bum bum bummm.

Another especially bizarre story from just the other night left us with the peculiar scenario where we were all the traitor. Well, let me start from the beginning… so an enormous bird creature flew down, and lifted up the entire house (as they are known to do), and took it off to presumably feed on us at it’s nest. So we’re stuck in the house, far above the ground to await our demise, but wait! It just so happens that we had spotted parachutes in the house somewhere… but, not enough for everyone!  Thus began the scramble to find the two parachutes and leap out of the house to safety. The young Jenny LeClare found hers quickly and got out safely, leaving the remaining three survivors to fight over the last parachute. The result of that little ordeal, well…

“Soon to be three…”

Perhaps the most engaging haunts are those where the two sides are left to wonder just what the other is up to. Like for example, a particular story where the traitor was unleashing hellbats upon us, and the survivors had to get to very specific places and perform an exorcism.  The traitor had no idea what the survivors needed to do or where they needed to go, so she spread her bats out after the survivors individually. Where the survivors figured, “just a few bats, probably one for each of us that’ll spawn on the traitor.” Nope, more bats according to a roll every turn, and we can’t kill them. A fluttering fleet of inflamed fliers to swarm any survivors that got too close.

I’ll stop spoiling the stories, but worry not! There’s 50 in all, and two sides to most of them. In all the games I’ve played, I’ve yet to trigger the same haunt twice. And if you’d like to see the game played, check the Youtube; shows like Tabletop and Tableflip each have presented a game of Betrayal in detail, and with two more haunts beyond those I’ve mentioned!

So give it a roll, and have fun dispatching your friends! Good luck on being the evil one!

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And be sure to leave me some comments here!  Your brain words, while not as juicy as the gray matter itself, are quite delicious!

Next week… Think I might have to keep rolling with more games of cards, dice, and murder.

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