Avalon Hill and Hasbro's classic horror game Betrayal at House on the Hill is back with a spiffy new 3rd Edition, and if you already own one of the previous versions, the question becomes is it worth the upgrade. 3rd Edition boasts a number of changes to gameplay and a major visual upgrade, as well as 50 different Haunts to experience. While the core gameplay and loop remains, the updates to the winning formula and the superior artwork and aesthetic are more than enough for me to recommend bringing the new edition into your collection.
Betrayal at House on the Hill: 3rd Edition brings back the main tenants of the core gameplay and refines them further, so longtime fans will feel right at home with the overarching theme and flow. Players will still explore a haunted mansion that expands as you lay out tiles, and once the Haunting begins a traitor typically emerges and shakes up the game until the heroes can accomplish a given goal.
While all of that is still intact, Scenario Cards bring a new flavor to each playthrough, as you now have a bit of story context as to why you're there and what you're searching for. Those Scenario Cards are also linked directly to the Haunt, as the Omen that starts the Haunt and the person who kicks it off are connected to that card. Since you can start the game with one of several different Scenario Cards (5 in all) and each one features 9 different Omens on the back, your given games should have some welcome variety to ensure you have a fun and more importantly fresh experience, especially since some of the games can continue to be cooperative or involve a traitor, and the constant pull and pull of a traitor-centric game keeps players involved and constantly on their toes.
The various Haunts can range from involving monster dogs and a house that wants to kill you to cults and ghosts and everything in between. How you activate a Haunt has changed a bit but shouldn't be too jarring for previous players, though there will be some who take a minute to adjust to the removal (at least in most cases) of stealing items from enemies, which did help you amass more items during the Haunt phase. It is still here, but only in specific situations that the game conveys to you. Not really a game-impacting change for me, though I do see some lamenting its removal. That said, if an explorer dies someone can pick up their Omens and Items, so that is balanced somewhat.
3rd Edition's biggest draw however is the visual improvement from the previous edition. 2nd Edition's artwork simply pales in comparison to the shimmer and depth of 3rd Edition. 2nd Edition carried with it an almost vintage quality to its tiles and overall aesthetic, but 3rd Edition is simply gorgeous, with each tile featuring immaculate details and colors that absolutely pop. Once you start laying them all out and building your own location you can't help but see the vast difference between the two versions, and even the Events, Items, and Omen cards have received a similar sheen. The miniatures are pretty par for the course, but the art assets for the Character Boards have also received a glow-up, delivering a much more immersive experience overall.
There are a few things to keep note of when adding Betrayal to your regular rotation. The first is that the game is deceptively a space hog, as once you account for the varied way the mansion can expand, the character boards, the various decks, and the two tomes you need to keep track of (plus an optional counter), a standard table could still be struggling to keep up. On the challenge front, things can go badly quite quickly, and if you aren't considering all your options and running when appropriate, you very well might find yourself down for the count. It does feel like the weapons could be a bit more effective to help balance that out a bit, as even a chainsaw only bumps you up by one die, but even those hurdles didn't keep me from enjoying the experience.
Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd Edition doesn't rewrite the experience you've grown to love, but it easily presents the sleekest and most replayable version to date, and the massively upgraded visuals and unique Scenarios are what really put this newest edition over the top. It's not a must-buy if you already own the previous versions, but if you haven't jumped into Betrayal yet, this is without a question the edition you should buy. If you already own those but want a version that delivers the classic gameplay with some welcome refinements and more visual polish, then this will definitely fit that bill.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Published By: Hasbro and Avalon Hill Games
Designed By: Dave Chalker, Banana Chan, Noah Cohen, Bruce Glassco, Brian Neff, Will Sobel, and Jabari Weathers
Art By: Henning Ludvigsen0comments