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Subject: Biggest selling point, Largest potential drawback rss

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Eric Clason
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Cedar Rapids
Iowa
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Introduction:

This post gives a short description of play and then discusses what I believe to be the biggest selling point for Betrayal at House on the Hill (BaHotH) and the largest potential drawback. Hopefully this discussion can help people decide whether they might like BaHotH.

Short Description of Play:

At the start of the game each player selects one character, each of which has a short bio and 4 attributes, Speed, Might, Knowledge, and Sanity. The game is divided into 2 halves.

During the 1st half of the game, the characters explore/build the house by drawing and placing square room tiles as they enter unexplored locations. Some tiles indicate that the character discovering the room should draw a card of an indicated type. Event cards describe an event and often have the player make a choice followed by a dice roll, to determine an outcome, good, bad, or neutral. Item cards give the character an item that he may use when applicable. Finally there are Omen cards. An Omen card is like an Item card in that it indicates an item the character keeps. In addition, after each Omen card is drawn, a dice roll is made to determine if the Haunt begins. The more Omen cards previously drawn, the higher the likelihood the Haunt begins.

The 2nd half of the game is the Haunt. The Omen card that triggered the Haunt and the room where it was found determine which of 50 Haunts is to be used and which character is the Traitor. The Traitor leaves the room and reads the instructions in the Traitor’s Tome for the Haunt. In the meantime, the rest of the players (Heroes), read and discuss the instructions in the Survival Guide for the Haunt. The instructions will give the win condition for that team’s side, but usually not for the other side. The instructions will also give rules specific for the Haunt including monsters that may be part of the Haunt. However some rules may only be given to one side and will only be revealed to the other side as situations occur using those rules. Once both side have read (and in the case of the Heroes, discussed) the Haunt’s instructions, the game continues which each side trying to achieve its win condition before the other side does. Some example win conditions: killing all the Heroes (for the Traitor) or collecting a given number of objects (with rules for how to find the objects).

Biggest selling point for BaHotH:

What makes BaHotH neat is the mystery of the Haunt. When the Haunt begins you know approximately what your side needs to do to win, but you may only have a vague idea of what the other side is up to. This is more than just not knowing what lies ahead, it is not even being sure of what the possibilities are. It’s something you’re more likely to see in an RPG than a board game.

Largest potential drawback with BaHotH:

At the point when the Haunt begins, the ease of victory varies a lot. In some games, once the Haunt begins it may be almost impossible for the Heroes to win. In other games, it may be really easy for the Heroes to win. And all shades of difficulty in between. I don’t think this is because some Haunts are inherently a lot harder or easier than others. Rather for many Haunts, what room tiles and/or what Item cards have been found during the 1st half of the game, even what characters are Heroes and which character is the Traitor, can have a large impact on how easy or hard that Haunt will be.

Some call this a balance problem, although I’m not sure that’s the right word because I’m not sure how to define balance for a coop (with traitor) game. Whatever it’s called, some people find it very un-fun when they realize that once the Haunt started, it was almost impossible for them to win. While this only happens occasionally, it can leave a sour taste in some people’s mouth.

Conclusion:

Hopefully this review of the biggest selling point and largest potential drawback of BaHotH may help in deciding whether or not to give it a try. Does the unknown element of the Haunt sound intriguing? Do the occasional near impossible to win Haunts sound off putting? How someone answers these questions may help predict whether they will like BaHotH.
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Nate Morrow
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Nice review...I like your points here.

I got BaHotH for xmas this year and we've been playing quite a bit over the last couple of weeks so I wanted to add some thoughts:

1. I'm super addicted to this game right now. The combination of coop exploring, gathering items, and inevitable betrayal really appeals to me.

2. We ran into some problems with the first few games, specifically around wording and ambiguity of rules. Eventually we learned the best way to play the game is to not nit-pick the rule book and to do what makes sense in the context of the game world and the haunt you are playing.

3. In regard to the "balance problem" with traitors and heroes in the haunt, I think it makes the game much more interesting and replayable. So far, several haunts have been dominated by the traitor (which I think is the intent), but we've also had a few where the heroes start out at an advantage just because of what characters are in what rooms. It definitely makes me feel like every haunt scenario is winnable by either side depending on the house conditions and makes the play exciting every time.

4. The biggest drawback I've seen so far is that it's not super-friendly for beginning or casual gamers. Specifically, our girlfriends are not as experienced with strategy games and have trouble keeping track of all the rules, especially when they have to play traitor. They ended up really liking it, but there were some chippy moments in the first couple of games.

Anyways, great review and really fun game!
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Jacob Black
United States
Colonie
New York
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nate_morrow wrote:

2. We ran into some problems with the first few games, specifically around wording and ambiguity of rules. Eventually we learned the best way to play the game is to not nit-pick the rule book and to do what makes sense in the context of the game world and the haunt you are playing.

...

4. The biggest drawback I've seen so far is that it's not super-friendly for beginning or casual gamers. Specifically, our girlfriends are not as experienced with strategy games and have trouble keeping track of all the rules, especially when they have to play traitor. They ended up really liking it, but there were some chippy moments in the first couple of games.


These two things really make or break any given game. I've played 20ish games. Most of my friends are casual gamers. When someone can't suss out how the haunt is supposed to work (usually due to the poorly edited or balanced rules) they thrust the book into my hands to explain it. This gives me an advantage as one of the heroes which I try to do my best not to metagame the new information. With the expansion out now, this happens far too often for this game to be enjoyable for me anymore.

This game appeals to casual gamers, as most coop games do, but if they're not able to figure out the haunt rules it just falls flat.
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Artur Biesiadowski
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Balance is obviously a problem and can vary tremedously. But BaHotH has one huge benefit - it is very short. If you have people who played it few times before, you can do entire game in less than 1 hour (and this includes reading event cards to each other aloud to increase interaction). If given haunt ends up too unbalanced due to way things were stacked before, it will finish quickly. Just enjoy the story which was given and play again. BoHotH is not really a competitive game for me, in they way other traitor games are. It is a more of interactive story with game thrown in to manage it all.

So yes, haunt might end up being unbalanced, but game is short that you can play multiple sessions in one evening and not worry about that too much - and you end up with worthy experience anyway, even if 'gamey' part was not working perfectly given time.

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