Looking for something appropriately spooky to fit the theme of your Halloween game night?
Explore a cursed house with a small band of friends – then, try to survive when one of those friends turns on you in Betrayal at House on the Hill!
This game is bursting with B-movie horror flavor. And it’s best enjoyed with a group that buys all-in to the role-playing aspects of the game.
The rules and mechanics are simple once you get going, and a lot of what happens is left up to the will of the dice. That makes this the perfect game for a social evening get together!
I’m going to walk you through the basics of how to set up and play a round of Betrayal at House on the Hill for your Halloween game night.
Let’s get started!
Oh, and watch your step. Sometimes the floor has a way of falling out under you in these old houses.
What’s in the Box?
In the box for Betrayal at House on the Hill, you should find:
- 1 Rulebook
- 2 Haunt Books – the Traitor’s Tome and the Secrets of Survival. Set these aside, you won’t need them until the second half of the game.
- 1 Entrance Hall Tile. This 3-tile long hallway serves as the starting tile for the map you’ll play on.
- 44 Room Tiles. These will be used to build the house dynamically as you play.
- 6 Character Cards and Plastic Miniatures (Minis). The cards tell you each character’s starting skill levels. Each Mini corresponds to a Character Card, with a matching color scheme. These minis represent your character on the map during the game.
- 3 Decks of Cards – 13 Omens, 22 Items, and 45 Events. These cards will be drawn sometimes when you explore a new room, and may help or hinder you. If you draw an Omen you also risk triggering the Haunt.
- 8 Dice. You’ll notice that the numbers are unusual, and some sides are blank. The blank sides are considered a roll of 0 on that die.
- 30 clips. These are used to track your ability scores on your Character Card.
- Assorted tokens. In any given game you won’t use most of these – many of them are only used in specific events or Haunt scenarios.
The Basic Idea
Betrayal at House on the Hill lets you step into the world of B-movie horror.
There are two distinct phases of the game.
First, you and the other players will explore the house, placing down tiles and sometimes picking up cards from the three decks (Omens, Items, and Events).
In the second phase, the horror aspect of the game becomes more apparent as your intrepid heroes must band together to survive one of fifty Haunt scenarios.
All of you, that is, except one.
That’s right! This game is only mostly co-operative.
One lucky player will be named the traitor, receiving their own set of goals.
You don’t know who this player will be until someone triggers the Haunt scenario.
This makes it hard to trust each other too much in the early part of the game.
Any player could be the person trying to kill you after the Haunt begins!
Setting Up to Play
The first step to getting started is laying out your game area.
Divide up your 3 decks, making a pile for each – Omens, Items, and Events.
In the center, leaving plenty of room for the map to grow, place your starting tiles.
There are 3 floors to the House on the Hill – An upper level, a ground level, and a basement.
For the ground level, the starting tile is the 3-tile long hallway mentioned earlier.
You will also find an Upper Landing and a Basement Landing, which are the starting tiles for their respective floors.
Place the remaining tiles face-down in a pile.
You will draw from this pile throughout the game as you explore the house.
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Meet the Explorers
Finally, choose your characters.
There are six Character Cards, each with two explorers to choose from (the cards are two sided).
Find the mini that corresponds with your Character Card (the color should match) and place it on the Entrance Hall tile.
Notice that each character lists four primary abilities: Might, Speed, Knowledge, and Sanity.
Your character’s starting ability scores are highlighted on your Character Card.
The game provides markers you can attach to the Character Cards to track these scores as they change.
If you find the markers hard to use, and you probably will, you can also track your ability scores with paper and pencil.
Do you have everything set up and ready to go?
Then it’s time to…
Enter the House on the Hill
The character with the next birthday (it’s on the Character Card!) will go first, moving clockwise around the table from there.
On your turn, you can move your character a number of Room Tiles equal to your Speed. You can pass through doors – these are marked with yellow outlines on the Room Tiles.
When you pass through an unexplored door, draw a Room Tile and place it next to the room you are moving from.
A few important notes about drawing and placing these tiles:
- You must draw a Room Tile appropriate for the floor you are on. The backs of the tiles tell you what floors they can be used on. If the top tile is not usable for the floor you’re on, place it aside to shuffle into a new draw pile if needed later.
- You must place the tile so that the door in the Room Tile you are moving from is touching a door in your new Room Tile
There are a few special tiles, with rules printed on them describing their unique effects.
Your turn ends either when you run out of moves or you discover a room with a symbol on the tile.
The symbols correspond with one of the three draw piles – the bull’s skull for Items, the spiral for Events, or the raven for Omens.
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Drawing a room tile with a symbol means you will draw a card from the matching pile.
No matter what you draw, read the card text out loud to the table.
Items might be one-time use cards that give you some bonus or advantage the turn you use them. They could also be equipment such as armor or weapons to improve your fighting abilities. Keep your item cards in front of you to keep track of what you’ve found.
Events are cards that make something happen right away. This might require some rolls on your part to avoid a bad outcome. Once you do what the card says, you discard it unless it says otherwise.
Omens could be a good or a bad thing for your character, but no matter what you draw it will bring you one step closer to the Haunt. Every time you draw an Omen card, at the end of the turn you make a roll to determine if the Haunt occurs. If the result of the roll is less than the number of Haunt cards drawn throughout the game so far, the second phase will begin!
This is where it gets interesting.
Triggering the Haunt
It wouldn’t be Betrayal at House on the Hill if there wasn’t going to be, well, a betrayal.
Once the Haunt roll is failed, consult the chart provided in the forbidden Traitor’s Tome. This will reveal the scenario you will play, as well as the identity of the traitor!
Check the Room Tile you are in and the Omen card you drew to trigger the Haunt. Line them up on the table for your scenario number. This scenario will tell you how to determine who the traitor is.
If there is a tie, the person who triggered the Haunt is the traitor. If neither of the players who tie are the one who triggered the Haunt, it goes to the player closest to their right.
Kill Your Friends!
Let’s be honest, this is what you’re here for. This is why you wanted to play a game called Betrayal at House on the Hill.
The traitor takes the Traitor’s Tome and leaves the room to plot the downfall of their “friends”. If this is you, you’ll turn to the Haunt scenario number in your Tome and read up on your new objectives.
As the traitor, you will be gaining some special benefits in the second phase of the game, allowing you to:
- Ignore negative effects of rooms
- Ignore event cards. If you choose to take an event card, you have to take the consequences – good or bad!
- Control monsters generated by the Haunt scenario
Congratulations, if you’re one of the remaining players, you’re the heroes now!
The heroes get their own set of objectives to complete in order to escape the house on the hill. Take some time to read through the scenario in your Secrets of Survival book and come up with a game plan!
Once the Haunt begins, the turn order resets – starting with the player to the traitor’s left and moving clockwise.
Running the Monsters
A few special rules to note for the traitor when controlling the monsters:
Instead of moving their maximum speed, you must roll a number of dice equal to their speed. The result is how many tiles they can move that turn.
Most monsters can’t be killed, instead becoming stunned if they are damaged in combat. Flip their token over until their next turn, then skip that turn when it comes and turn the token back.
Monsters also slow heroes that attempt to move past them. To leave a room with a monster in it, a hero must spend one extra movement.
Try Not to Die!
The remainder of the game is the real action, with the heroes and the traitor both vying to complete their objectives first. The heroes want to escape. The traitor wants them dead.
Hopefully, you gathered some good items earlier in the game; you’re going to need them here.
This may also be a good time to warn the heroes that the traitor might not know your objectives. Be careful what you say around them.
At this point in the game, you can also Attack enemies on your turn.
Combat is resolved by rolling a number of dice equal to your Might score and adding up the results.
Your target also rolls, and the difference between those two results is how much physical damage the loser takes.
This means combat can be risky – if you choose to attack, you might take damage if you lose!
When you take physical damage, reduce your physical ability scores (Might or Speed, split how you choose) by that amount. Yes, this means that as you start getting beat up, you get easier to beat up.
If you are reduced to a score of zero in any ability, your character dies. All your items are dropped on the ground if anyone is brave or foolish enough to try to retrieve them.
It’s important to note that killing the traitor isn’t a win for the heroes. If the monsters can still complete the Haunt objectives, the traitor’s player continues to run them.
The game ends when either the traitor or the heroes complete the goals set out in their scenario guides.
So if you’re looking a game in the Halloween spirit, look no further!
Betrayal at House on the Hill is exactly the dose of campy horror your next game night needs.
- Fifty unique scenarios makes this game easy to play over and over
- Campy horror flavor is fantastic
- It’s fun to betray your friends (in the game)
- Not much depth to the game mechanics
- Bad rolls can ruin a game