Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition lets you find out how long you'd survive in a horror movie. Would you be the first to go, or could you make it right to the end?
What follows is, in a word, magnificent. Yes, it's flawed. It doesn't always get things right in terms of balance, either. But it's smart, engaging, and exciting in every other way that matters. In fact, Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition makes what was already one of the top board games even better.
What is it, and how does it work?
In this co-op adventure, up to six players find themselves exploring a creepy and not-at-all-haunted mansion. Perhaps you were drawn here by a mysterious summons. Or maybe you've taken a leaf out of the Scooby gang's book in order to solve some mystery. Either way, each room is drawn at random and laid out on the table as you go. That means you're creating a unique board - and a unique story - every time you play. Eventually, one of 50 'Haunts' (AKA scenarios) will trigger and you'll be drawn into a fight for your life.
Because that title isn't an empty threat. In Betrayal at House on the Hill, at least one of you could be a traitor in disguise. It's impossible to know who until the Haunt begins (at which point they'll be selected by the rules and given their own secret objective), but no matter what, you'll need to find a way of beating someone who knows exactly which tricks you have up your sleeve.
In essence, it's the same formula we've been playing for years: explore the house, find a Haunt, and complete any goals on the corresponding page from your Survivor or Traitor rulebook. However, that's not to say you're paying for a prettier version of the same product. Almost everything here - be it Haunts, cards, characters, or artwork - is new.
A few rough edges from 2010's Betrayal at House on the Hill 2nd edition have been sanded off too. Even though a word like 'streamlined' may cause concern, it's a positive thing here; this facelift offers a much better experience for fans and newcomers alike.
Is it any good?
If you're new to the franchise, buckle up; this might become a favorite. Although its blend of horror and strategy won't suit everyone (it's definitely not a family game, for instance), Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition excels if you're looking for compelling board games for adults. Mixing investigation with deception and a healthy dose of tactics, it's the sort of thing you can play for months… if not years.
Yes, there's a learning curve (this is a bit more involved than classic board games like Clue, after all). But if you stick with it, you won't be able to put it down. Having a collection of 50 missions to work through means you'll rarely see the same thing twice, especially because they're selected at random based on the items you've found and the rooms you've discovered. Even if you did, it wouldn't matter too much; each scenario relies on a head-to-head battle of wits rather than a one-and-done twist. Knowing your opponent's goal because you've done that Haunt before isn't a disaster either - the challenge becomes trying to outmanoeuvre each other instead.
Want to know what makes this update worth a look over the older, cheaper version? Check out our guide to Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition vs 2nd edition.
Speaking of which, you'll quickly be sucked in by Betrayal at House on the Hill's 'us vs them' gameplay. Traitor reveals can really throw you for a loop, and the scramble to form a strategy when you don't know what your rival's objectives are is thrilling. This is what the best cooperative board games are all about; pulling together as a team against the odds.
Betrayal's storylines are equally memorable. Your garden-variety serial killers, monsters, and weird cults are still accounted for, but this game also throws in amusingly bizarre ideas like ghost sharks that flood the board. While such creativity can result in confusion where some Haunts are concerned (in the case of that phantom great white, it was unclear whether characters were allowed to move through flooded spaces or not), it's usually solvable with common sense. In fact, the manual explicitly states that making a group decision based on what's fun is more important than being a stickler for the rules.
What will long-time players think, then? If you ask me, things are better than ever. I played 2nd-edition Betrayal at House on the Hill to death so was wary of an update, but I needn't have worried. The quality-of-life upgrades in 3rd edition are essential, and everything that's been done to shake things up works out for the best.
As an example, the game uses less tokens than it used to. Instead of having to pick through a mound of cardboard shapes kicking around at the bottom of the box, 3rd edition has fewer but more versatile ones that are easier to browse in the heat of the moment.
Similarly, we now have a reason for wandering around this decrepit old mansion. Instead of having to guess at why a handful of teens, adults, and kids are making their way through a clearly dodgy house, Betrayal now features cards with a simple backstory explaining your presence (be it the disappearance of a friend or a curse). The table on the back is then used to decide which Haunt you'll get, so the overall story feels much more cohesive too.
The artwork is miles better as well. Betrayal's 2nd edition wasn't ugly by any means, yet in comparison to 3rd's vibrant board tiles, it was drab and washed out. Which isn't to say its cartoonish, of course; it's still as moody and atmospheric as you'd expect from one of the best Halloween board games. Rather, it makes better use of contrast and shadow.
The miniatures players use are a vast improvement too. These ones are around a third larger than their predecessors, and in spite of not being painted like the 2nd-edition equivalents, they boast increased detail and more realistic proportions. When taken with a new batch of characters and modernized backgrounds, Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition feels fresh.
Better yet, it doesn't reboot the franchise. This is designed as a 'next generation' story not unlike Ghostbusters Afterlife, and although you don't need to have any prior knowledge of previous editions, it subtly nods to them with some returning threats.
Should you buy Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition?
For those who've never tried Betrayal at House on the Hill, there's never been a better time to jump in. The game's 3rd edition is easier to get into than previous versions and offers robust mechanics that'll keep you coming back.
As for veteran fans, all-new Haunts and streamlined gameplay mean that there's plenty of cause to upgrade… even if you already have 2nd-edition Betrayal on your shelf.
How we tested Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition
This review unit was provided by Avalon Hill, and I tested it over a period of weeks spent playing with different groups of varying sizes. I also put it side by side with the previous edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill to highlight any differences in art and gameplay.
For more information on our review procedure, check out our guide on how we test board games and tabletop RPGs at GamesRadar+.