The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games. Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Originally published in 2004, this tile-laying board game for three to six players delights and frights with its dynamic structure and fun, spooky feel. Players take the role of explorers of House on the Hill, a big, creaking, spooky mansion. Taking its cues from classic horror films like The House on Haunted Hill, the players must explore the mansion and survive the night. But this game isn't your typical romp through a scary mansion. This game has an awesome twist.
As you explore, you flip tiles from a face-down pile and place them on the table, connected to other tiles. In this way you are literally "exploring" a new haunted mansion every time you play the game. The construction of the mansion is randomized, and you never know which tile will flip next. Your characters, who all have different statistics to help and hinder them throughout the night, move throughout the explored areas of the mansion gaining items and triggering events. And then, sooner or later, things take a turn for the worse…
At various points throughout the game, players must draw an "Omen" card. These cards are effectively haunted items: a magic spear, a crystal ball, a raving madman companion. After an "Omen" card is drawn, the player makes a haunt roll. If he or she fails the role the betrayal begins.
Now here's where the game gets interesting. Once the haunt begins the game makes a 180 degree turn. Though it starts out cooperative, the game is now one player versus the rest of the group. That one player is given the "Traitor's Tome" booklet, which details how he or she must betray the others in order to win. The other players are given the "Secrets of Survival" booklet which details how they have to win. Once the haunt begins… all bets are off.
This game is not only randomized in it's construction of the house, but the end game has 50 different haunts that could randomly get triggered. It's wild; you never know who to help and who to hinder, and it really lends itself to repeated play. I've played the game at least ten times, and I've never had the same haunt twice. This level of detailed variance keeps my friends and I coming back to the House on the Hill again and again.
This is a beautifully detailed game with a lot to offer a gaming group. If you like classic haunted house stories, this game is a must-have. Just be careful, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the "Traitor's Tome."
*Game photos by Lauren Bilanko.