Is Betrayal At House On The Hill a Good Game?
A few months ago, I wrote an article about whether Catan can be considered a good game or not. I tried to approach the question as mathematically as possible, comparing it to two games that everyone knew. Those were Monopoly and Chess. The conclusion was simple – yes, Catan is a good game.
In the comments section, it was actually suggested (by iplayedthegame) that another review was done, this time asking the question: Is Betrayal at House on the Hill a good game? The idea being to remove all emotion from the piece and just ask the question straight up, relying on data for an answer. That was four months ago. I’m a little bit behind the ball but today we will ask that question once and for all.
Is Betrayal At House On The Hill A Good Game?
Okay, so for this we are going to take a few things into account. These are statistics that have changed ever so slightly since last time. This time we are going to compare the game to three different games –
- Concept of Game & Theme
- Complexity Rating
- Average Play Time (Mins)
- User Interactions
- Cost of Game (RRP)
- Cost of Game (Amazon)
- Scoring System
- Aggregate User Reviews
- Mode of User Reviews
- Board Game Geek Ranking
Game Concepts and Themes
This time, rather than comparing the subject game to two games, we will be comparing it to three. This time we will be using:
- Monopoly – This is a classic game that everyone knows. Monopoly is an easy to learn, easy to play game, that almost everyone knows. Mechanics wise, Monopoly has set collecting, roll and resolve mechanics; auctioning, trading, and player elimination as parts of the game. Monopoly is an economics simulator, based on making your opponents go bankrupt.
- Chess – Another game that is known by everyone on the planet as being easy to learn, but difficult to master. Chess is the game of grand strategy that uses grid movement as the main part of the game. Chess is a game that is ultimately a battle between two players. It is an abstract war simulator.
- Catan – This time we are going to include Catan as well. Not only is it becoming more mainstream, but it is now being widely recognised as one of the eurogames for new gamers looking for something a bit different. Recently there has been a wave of celebrities coming out in favour of Catan from actor Woody Harrelson, to Green Bay Packers starting tackle David Bakhtiari, to actress Kristen Bell (and her husband Dax Shepard – seriously, follow them on Instagram – it’s amazing), to billionaire and founder of Microsoft – Bill Gates. Catan is also a game most gamers can relate to – either way though, Catan has made the cut for the comparison.Catan is a game about the colonisation of an island. It includes hand management, trading, and negotiation.
So what is the concept of Betrayal at House on the Hill?
I’m not going to explain the full game here for those who don’t know, but we will go over the basics. Essentially, Betrayal at House on the Hill is a semi-cooperative, tile exploration game split in two halves. The first half of the game finds the players exploring the depths of a haunted house, revealing it one room at a time. Through doing this they reveal items, events, and omens.
The second half of the game triggers when the haunt begins. This can be one of 50 different scenarios, in which (the majority of the time) one player will turn out to be the traitor. Both the traitor and the survivors have their own objectives with which to complete the game.
Betrayal at House on the Hill has co-operative play, player elimination, role playing, variable player powers, exploration, and dice rolling, making it the most mechanically complex game on the list. The theme is original, being that where the players take part as people in a living B-Movie. It has a highly original horror themed.
Right, now we’ve covered that, let’s get onto the next category.
How Complex is Betrayal at House on the Hill?
In the Catan article, I used length of rules as an idea as to how complex the game in. Realistically, it later dawned on me that there is a far better way of scoring the game complexity, and that is using the Board Game Geek complexity rating. The complexity rating is an aggregated score of users rating how difficult the game is. The score is out of five, and the results are thus –
So, as we can see, Betrayal at House on the Hill and Catan are almost on par, with 50.2% of users rating Betrayal as “Medium Light”. Chess is the most difficult, and Monopoly (it may not surprise you) is the easiest.
An interesting fact is that most people actually play Monopoly wrong. Betrayal doesn’t actually have that issue as the rules are incredibly well written. The game comes with three books – the core rules, the Traitor’s Tome, and the Survivor’s Handbook. The latter two don’t come it play until the Haunt has begun, and each outlines the new rules that are in play until the end of the game.
These are clear to follow and understand, so although technically complex, Betrayal actually comes across as quite simple.
What is the average play time?
Games come in all shapes and sizes, and so this is not a black and white scale. Instead it is filled with greys that will need you to make your own mind up about the game. For this, we have the average playing time in accordance with the box. For Chess, I took the time from Board Game Geek as there is no one standard Chess box.
Please note that this is according to the box or BGG, it is not necessarily an accurate representation for your group. Some groups can play Catan in 45 minutes, whereas others play it in 4 hours. Take the ratings with a pinch of salt.
It’s almost no surprise that Monopoly takes so long. I read somewhere that Monopoly actually takes an unofficial average of 4 hours per play. That would be horrific if that is the case.
The official time for Betrayal at House on the Hill is 60 minutes, however, we usually play it in around 80 minutes. Either way it is shorter than both Catan and Monopoly. Those can take a really long time.
How much does the game cost?
It’s becoming clearer that one of the reasons Monopoly has always been popular is because it is economical and available. It’s not too expensive to buy, and because it is so well known it has kind of fallen into a self-perpetuating sales cycle.
Well, for this comparison we will look at two costs – the first is what the RRPs are of each game. For this we have to remove Chess because there are so many iterations. For Monopoly we are going with the basic game. We are also using standard Catan and Betrayal at House on the Hill, not Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. Looking at costs won’t tell us if the game is good or not, but it will simplify how affordable it is.
So, Betrayal at House on the Hill is more expensive. That being said, it is the most complex game from a components perspective. It literally has hundreds of individual parts once the counters have been popped out. Next is how much it can be purchased for on Amazon UK. For this, I have found a good version of Chess that isn’t too cheap but isn’t massively ornate.
Everything is slightly cheaper. Betrayal, at the time of writing, is the only game without a Prime option. I actually got my copy for £35 on Amazon, so be wary that these costs could change daily.
Now, obviously, RRP doesn’t explain whether the game is good or not – but it does give an ideas, and with all the additional data it may help swing your opinion on whether to buy it.
How is the game scored?
Now, this is the bit that goes off piste as this is the bit that can’t be explored with graphs – how are the games scored?
Monopoly is a “last man standing” style of game. You make your opponents go bankrupt. Chess is a PvP combat. The winner takes the opponent’s king. Catan is the first player to reach 10 points through settlements, roads, cards, and towns. That much is simple.
Betrayal at House on the Hill, on the other hand, uses a different system. Due to one player becoming the traitor (usually one player, I should have said, sometimes it can be none or more than one) the victory conditions can be one of 50 different alternatives. This adds a lot of flavour to the game, with a lot of replay-ability.
Ultimately, it usually comes down to one condition though – the survivors win, or they lose. If they lose the traitor tends to win, assuming there is a traitor that is.
What are the User Reviews like? Is Betrayal at House on the Hill a good game?
We are now drawing close to the final few categories, and this is where the real money lies. Is Betrayal at House on the Hill a good game according to players? What do the players think of it as a whole, and what do the majority vote? For this we will look at two separate categories – what are the average reviews like and what are the modal reviews like? This is according to Board Game Geek.
As it can be seen, leaving aside Monopoly (which is so badly rated, it’s not even funny), Betrayal, Catan, and Chess are all pretty close to one another. There is the smallest difference between them, and the only real difference comes when we look at the mode of the reviews. This is not the average of what was voted, but instead the score most people gave it.
If you are a fan of Catan then it may be easy to think of Betrayal being similar in regards to how respected it is by the board gaming community. As such, they are really quite close together in terms of score.
For readers who like to think of it in a different way, Board Game Geek has a global ranking of boardgames, where the games rank like thus – remember, the lower the score with this one, the better the game is considered to be.
As you can see, Betrayal and Chess are literally four games apart. Catan is higher up the rankings by 137 games. That may sounds like a lot, but out of around 96,270 games, it’s really not that big a difference. As you can see, Betrayal is still a highly thought of game.
But This Doesn’t Really Explain It: Is Betrayal At House On The Hill A Good Game?
You’re right, none of the above fully explains whether Betrayal at House on the Hill is a good game or not. Instead, it’s a load of data and a few graphs. The real secret comes in the interpretation of that data, and whether what you see is passable by your standards as a good game.
Of course, there is also opinion. Is Betrayal a good game?
What Betrayal is – it is incredibly difficult to say or compare. Betrayal is an original game. It has its flaws like all games do, but it is also a unique game that allows for narrative to be a key part in the progression of the game. It sits at a place where exploration and role playing cross to create something no-one has really seen before. This makes Betrayal original, if nothing else.
So is Betrayal a good game? Well, let’s look at the facts –
- It has an original theme.
- It’s not too complex to learn.
- It takes around an hour to an hour and a half to play.
- It’s around £40.
- It is very highly thought of.
- It is ranked well in the top games list.
So is it a good game? Those do not make for a good game in themselves, but if you add the fact it is really fun, varied, and highly replayable then we start to see a full picture.
Finally, all I can do is add my own opinion –
Is Betrayal at House on the Hill a good game? Well, for me, yes, it is.