Betrayal at the House on the Hill: PAX East 2016

While video games were the main dish served up to hungry patrons at this year’s PAX East, board games acted as a delicious retreat for those of us who needed a break from hour-long lines and flashing lights. Dozens of companies were represented this year, from the newest up and comers to the industry giants. I was fortunate enough to visit one of the titans of American board and card games, Wizards of the Coast, and take a test-run of their new expansion for the classic H.P. Lovecraft inspired, ‘Betrayal at the House on the Hill.’

Betrayal is a solid gaming experience in its own right and has been praised by the suspense and horror loving crowds as well as passionate board game aficionados. In the base Betrayal game, you and up to 5 other friends take on the roles of explorers called to a haunted mansion. The theme and sensation of the adventure is one of 1920’s pulp-terror with dark overtones of madness and insanity.

As your heroes explore the house they encounter terrifying creatures, maddening sounds and sensations, feelings of paranoia, and much much worse. To protect themselves, players find trinkets, artifacts, tools, and weapons that they can use to their advantage. Betrayal is never played the same way twice as the house is built anew during every game. Players explore new areas of the house by opening doors and laying down room tiles at random from a pile. With every new room you and your team encounter, a brand new tile is chosen at random and played, helping to ensure that each game feels brand new. But exploring the house becomes risky business as you continue to play and you and your team will feel your mind slowly begin to buckle under the stress and the terror of what you encounter.

Eventually one amongst you in your party will be driven insane and then turns on all the other players. The game is then won by either the remaining players who must band together to slay their insane comrade or by the traitor who must mercilessly stalk and eliminate every remaining soul within the house.

The Wizard of the Coast team was looking to change up some of the mechanics with their expansion set by including new rules, characters, items as well as some brand new win/lose scenarios. One of the biggest changes to the game will come in the form of ‘dumb-waiter tiles,’ which allow players to move instantly from one room to another or one floor to another so long as the corresponding room tiles each bare a dumb waiter symbol.

I was already a big fan of Betrayal going into the test and I can safely say that each expansion aspect I encountered in the demo only enhanced my appreciation for the base game. Nothing seemed out of place or unnecessary. As a matter of fact, some of the changes for the game were brilliant and added a whole new dynamic to the end game scenarios. Without giving too much away, if you thought running for your life through a haunted mansion was terrifying enough, imagine if not one but two of your party wound up going insane? How will you survive the betrayal then?

The new Betrayal expansion will be available on October 14th of 2016.