Time to play: 60 mins
Set-up time: 5 mins
Avg. price: $35 / £30
We knew we were screwed when Crimson Jack walked in during our game of Betrayal at House on the Hill. You see, he was a serial killer. And although that would normally be enough cause for concern, we'd already killed him. Yet here he was, waltzing through the front door as if we hadn't shot him dead a few moments before. Worse still, one of our teammates (who was controlling 12 year-old Brandon, thus confirming our suspicion that little kids in horror stories are always the worst) had turned traitor and was helping him pick us off one by one. Our only hope? Destroying the mystical paintings that somehow kept Jack alive. In other words, it wasn't looking good. Well, figuratively speaking. We were all having a great time, and that's because this is arguably one of the best board games out there. It's also ideal for a Halloween get-together. If you want a Halloween board game to celebrate the witching hour, this is it.
The ultimate haunted house
The idea behind Betrayal at House on the Hill is simple: you're the star of your very own horror movie. A board game for adults with up to six players, each of you takes control of a silver-screen trope (the air-head jock or kookie professor, for example). You're then let loose on an old mansion, chock-full of terrifying goings on. This isn't a game about exploring, though. Something's waiting for you within the house, and it's hungry for blood.
In a cool twist, you won't ever know what that 'something' is beforehand. That's because there are 50 different scenarios on offer. The one you get is decided by the rooms and items in play at the time, and that means you won't find yourself smashing through the same mission over and over again. As well as upping the tension, this increases Betrayal's replayability no end - as does the fact that each room is revealed at random, providing you with a different game board every time.
There's plenty of variety on offer with these scenarios, too. Maybe the house begins to sink into a swamp, forcing you to race for a boat in the attic. Perhaps a monster awakens in the basement, or your foe happens to be invisible. We even had a giant bird fly off with the mansion once, leaving us to fight over the only parachute. They're spooky, frequently bizarre, and almost always memorable. As a dash of icing on the cake, all missions have narrative descriptions to set the scene and end your story.
I see dead people
I would say that you'll be working as a team to overcome those threats, but that's not entirely true. 'Betrayal at House on the Hill' isn't an empty threat. More often than not, one of you will become a traitor who gets their own set of rules and objectives to read in secret. As a result, you'll spend a lot of time on the edge of your seat as both sides try to outsmart each other. This adds an extra dimension to the game. It's one thing to battle an AI creature. It's quite another locking horns with a player who's every bit as cunning as you.
Whoever's left will need good teamwork to overcome them; success lies in coordination. That in itself makes this one of the best cooperative board games, and second only to classics like the Pandemic board game. And if you're concerned that all these layers make Betrayal complicated, don't worry. It's fairly easy to get your head around.
Accordingly, Betrayal at House on the Hill is an excellent board game for Halloween (and any other time of the year, for that matter). It's creepy, engaging, and a whole lot of fun. Better still, it'll keep you going for months to come.
Want to play something new? We'll be here each week to let you know about a tabletop gem - like the Pandemic board game or the Gloom card game - that you should definitely try. For example, we took the deliciously evil Disney Villainous for a spin before trying out the Jaws board game.