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Betrayal at House on the Hill» Forums » Rules

Subject: Can the idol be used defensively? rss

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David Crater
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Just finished one of the best games of Betrayal I've ever played. During the haunt, however, a question came up that we were unable to answer definitively: Can the Idol be used defensively?

Quick rundown of all the factors we were considering:

- Text on the Idol card - "Idol: Once per turn, you can rub the idol before making any trait, combat or event roll to add 2 dice to the roll (to a maximum of 8 dice) Each time you do, lose 1 Sanity"

- Text from manual re: weapons - "The Axe, Blood Dagger, Revolver, Spear and Sacrificial Dagger are weapons. Weapons can be used only while making an attack, not while defending."

- Text from Crystal Ball Omen Card - "Once during your turn after the haunt is revealed you can blah blah blah..."

So basically, the quote about weapons made us lean in the direction of the idol not being usable defensively, but it wasn't a definitive answer because it isn't mentioned and isn't technically a weapon.

Next, we thought that because the Idol card says "Once per turn," you are only able to use it during YOUR turn. The person trying to use the card quickly countered that the Crystal Ball wording "Once during YOUR turn" establishes a difference between this and "Once per turn," which prompted us to wonder what "once per turn" meant in the context of the Idol. Once per anyone's turn? This seems silly, but the language implies that there is a difference between how the Idol and Crystal Ball are used.

It was also pointed out that the fact that the Idol mentions making a "combat roll" as opposed to saying "when attacking" implies that it can be used in combat situations besides just attacks.

I'm aware we're probably overthinking this, but I was wondering if anyone had a ruling on this. For what it's worth, we just avoided a bigger argument by saying, "fine, you can use your Idol defensively when I'm attacking you on my turn and also offensively on your turn." We managed to win despite the ruling, but I'd still love a more definite explanation of how we should have played it.
 
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Dan
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I don't have a definitive ruling, but I would say that yes, it can be used defensively because of the wording you mentioned, and once per turn world be from the beginning of their turn, to the beginning of their next turn.
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David Crater
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I like your take on it, because being able to rub the Idol during each player's turn seems a little gamebreaking for me. Still, I wish I could find something in the manual to support this reading a little more substantially. I went to the glossary of terms in the back and looked up "turn." I won't type out the entry here, but it just describes individual turns (who goes first, in what order, how the haunt changes this...) without ever defining a larger, overarching turn that encompasses an entire cycle around the table.
 
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hench critter
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The idol is not a weapon. So the weapon restrictions on defense, do not apply.'Once per turn', differs indeed from 'once on your turn'. I don't see any ground to judge the idol can't be used defensively. Of multiple monsters would attack you in a turn, you can only use it once.

I don't think the Idol gets game breaking if it is used defensively. Two dice would, on average prevent or deal one damage extra. But you pay one sanity. So if, with those extra dice, you get less or equal pips to your opponent, you transferred one damage to your sanity on average. If you win, you sacrificed on average one sanity to deal one damage. The latter may be a bad deal of you deal more then one damage to a monster. One average you would have burnt sanity for no benefit, the monster would get stunned anyway.
 
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David Crater
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Thanks for the response. This is how we played it, so I guess we unwittingly shared your interpretation. It makes sense. You are also right that it isn't game breaking. When I wrote that, I was fresh off a game in which the villain had managed to max out every one of their stats and could afford to consistently use the idol without worry. At the time it felt like it was breaking our game because we were all completely helpless against her, but this was a very specific set of circumstances, not a general rule.

If you're interested, the villain actually got cocky and decided not to finish one of us off when they could so they could do some extra ritual stuff. Ended up being their undoing.
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