Dice and Betrayals: A Halloween Board Game Review

By J.L. Mayne

The dice roll.

I hold my breath as time slows. I can feel the tiny cubes dance, their steps reverberating through the table, up my arms and into my skull. The dots of black against white sing to me, their song sweet and horrible. I want it to begin, but fear claws behind my eyes.

I can hear my heart knocking against my chest as though trying to break free. My lungs burn, thirsty for oxygen. In the back of my mind I vaguely comprehend that I hold my breath.  

The Last die spins on one corner, a pirouette. It slows, teeters on an edge before finally falling to rest with its sisters.
I count the dots, and realize that my dreams and nightmares stare at me from their depths. A faint tickling in my ear tells me that I have been chosen.

Finally, after so long waiting, after so many failed attempts, I will have my chance.
He presents me with the tome and calls me a traitor. The others are not so kind. I leave the room, a murderous smile scalpeled into my face as I begin reading the sacred text.

They will all die.

This story is based on my favorite horror board game: Betrayal at House on the Hill. In it, a group of explorers venture into an old house, searching the rooms for clues and trinkets by flipping over tiles and laying out the game board based on what they draw and where they want to go.

Through their investigation, they discover that the house is haunted, that it holds incomprehensible horrors waiting to flail and eat them. The horrors can be anything from the house being carried off by a giant bird, to werewolves, to vines tearing through the floors and walls in search of human flesh to consume.  

One of my favorite aspects of this game is that you never know what the haunt is going to be. You start out working together, searching and enjoying the creepy death mansion. Maybe someone is bitten by something or gets stuck in a room full of junk. You laugh about how silly it all is, but know that soon the nightmare will begin for your little plastic figures. That one of them will more than likely betray the others, and many of the characters will probably die.

When the nightmare begins is determined by dice roll. The ‘Haunt’ is initiated and a traitor is chosen. The traitor leaves the room and reads what their goal is, while the rest of the group reads a bit about how they are supposed to stop their friend’s hideous plans. Or it is discovered that he was actually murdered before everyone else and now that player gets to control a horde of hideous monsters hell-bent on destroying the world, starting with this house. Really, the house is just a good old-fashioned portal to Hell.

Often times, the rules are a bit unbalanced, one of the main complaints from critics of the game. This, to me, is perfect. If you were actually stuck in a haunted house with a psychopathic killer, you may not have any chance at defeating them. Likewise, they may be a complete imbecile and fall into a hole and die. Or maybe they simply wander around aimlessly as you suffocate in their alien atmosphere. When I play a game like this, I enjoy a bit of realism.

I love Betrayal at House on the Hill. My siblings and I have stayed up multiple nights playing until we can’t see straight. It’s exciting to discover the house and be a part of that tiny plastic person you’re moving around. I can recall one game in which a character died when he tried to leave the attic of the house. There weren’t any enemies around, so we pretended that he stubbed his toe and it was just too much for his frail little body. On another occasion, my sister’s character got stuck in the bathroom for a few turns while a werewolf ran around the house killing the rest of us for his werewolf pleasure.

I highly recommend this game if you aren’t squeamish about human sacrifices, murders, or people getting eaten alive. Check it out.

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