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Betrayal At House On The Hill Characters: A Closer Inspection

Halloween, dear readers, is fast approaching. Last year, this fact came and went, with little acknowledgement on this blog. This year, in light of this horrifically festive season, I thought we would actually nod in Terror’s direction. Let’s look at one of the big horror entries in the tabletop genre – Betrayal At House on the Hill.

For those who don’t know, Betrayal At House on the Hill is an exploration horror story b-movie game designed by veteran board game designers Bruce Glassco, Rob Daviau, Bill McQuillan, Mike Selinker, and Teeuwynn Woodruff. It was published by Avalon Hill, and who in turn are owned by Wizards of the Coast. It is, needless to say, a game with credentials and gravitas in the world of gaming.

Betrayal at House on the Hill (often fondly shortened to Betrayal) has become, like the genre it mimics, a cult classic. Everyone starts off on the same team, and then midway through the game it flips. Usually, at that moment, one of the players becomes the traitor, and the game is a foot.

The Traitor's Tome Title

The Traitor’s Tome Title

In Betrayal, the players all play the parts of classic b-movie characters. There is the priest, the jock, the creepy child. The list goes on and on, making the Betrayal At House on the Hill characters a cast to behold, filled with a motley roster to play as in an evening. Each character has four stats – Speed, Might, Sanity, and Knowledge. Each player starts the game with different amounts of each, a different balance, making them unique combinations to play. It is actually amazing how a bit of variety can make all the difference in the game.

In this article, I thought we would look a little bit closer at the Betrayal at House on the Hill characters (in the name of Halloween), to explore them in a bit more detail. This will include a brief list of all the characters, with a quick look at their descriptions from the Traitor’s Tome. After that we will look at the Betrayal at House on the Hill characters’ stats, and determine if they are all balanced. Are they all as speedy, mighty, knowledgeable, or sane as they should be? Let’s find out.

Exploring the Betrayal at House on the Hill Characters

Let’s dive a little deeper into the realm of horror and mystery. There are 12 characters in Betrayal at House on the Hill – six character cards – each doublesided. Three are male and three are female.

Who are the characters in Betrayal at House on the Hill?

For this section we are going to look at the key descriptions and information for each character. We won’t be looking at Height and Weight, but we will look at Age, Birthday (since it affects who goes first), Hobbies (because it is entertaining), and a very brief description of their story.

  • Missy Dubourde
    • Colour: Yellow
    • Age: 9
    • Birthday: February 14th
    • Hobbies: Swimming, Medicine
    • Brief Description: A creepy little girl, who wants to be a doctor. She cuts up dead things, for fun. Missy then has nightmares about them.
    • Fears: Dead things coming back to life to haunt her.
  • Zoe Ingstrom
    • Colour: Yellow
    • Age: 8
    • Birthday: November 5th
    • Hobbies: Dolls, Music
    • Brief Description: Zoe has an implied tragic story. Raised in an unhappy home, she uses dolls to express her emotions.
    • Fears: The Boogeyman.
  • Jenny LeClerc
    • Colour: Purple
    • Age: 21
    • Birthday: March 4th
    • Hobbies: Reading, Soccer (or Football for us Brits)
    • Brief Description: A quiet bookworm whose mother disappeared when she was younger. Jenny feels always alone.
    • Fears: Being trapped in a crowd or lost in the open air.
  • Heather Granville
    • Colour: Purple
    • Age: 18
    • Birthday: August 2nd
    • Hobbies: Television, Shopping
    • Brief Description: Seen as perfect in both her eyes and the eyes of others, when things aren’t perfect she suffers from headaches. She keeps smiling anyway.
    • Fears: Not being perfect.
  • Madame Zostra
    • Colour: Blue
    • Age: 37
    • Birthday: December 10th
    • Hobbies: Astrology, Cooking, Baseball
    • Brief Description: Also known as Belladina, Madame Zostra is a tarot card reader and tea-leaf reader with her own stay-at-home astrology business.
    • Fears: Death, especially that of her self.
  • Vivian Lopez
    • Colour: Blue
    • Age: 42
    • Birthday: January 11th
    • Hobbies: Old Movies, Horses
    • Brief Description: A small bookshop owner who, when finances become difficult, has thoughts of arson.
    • Fears: The same as one of her greatest loves – fire.
  • Darrin “Flash” Williams
    • Colour: Red
    • Age: 20
    • Birthday: June 6th
    • Hobbies: Track, Music, Shakespearean Literature
    • Brief Description: Flash is a paranoid runner, who can’t help but shake the feeling that something is chasing him.
    • Fears: Getting caught by that which is chasing him.
  • Ox Bellows
    • Colour: Red
    • Age: 20
    • Birthday: June 6th
    • Hobbies:
    • Brief Description: A big kid who once had to lash out. Ox is now haunted by his past and what he did that one time.
    • Fears: The dark.
  • Brandon Jaspers
    • Colour: Green
    • Age: 12
    • Birthday: May 12th
    • Hobbies: Computers, Camping, Hockey
    • Brief Description: A kid who never liked playing with traditional toys, Brandon could swear his old puppet was moving closer to him when he slept.
    • Fears: Puppets, especially those of the clown variety.
  • Peter Akimoto
    • Colour: Green
    • Age: 13
    • Birthday: September 3rd
    • Hobbies: Bugs, Basketball
    • Brief Description: Seriously bullied by his family, Peter liked to hide under his house and look at bugs. He wants to be an entomologist.
    • Fears: Getting caught somewhere he can’t get out.
  • Father Rhinehardt
    • Colour: White
    • Age: 62
    • Birthday: April 29th
    • Hobbies: Fencing, Gardening
    • Brief Description: A man who turned to religion to escape persecution, Father Rhinehardt is haunted by the mad whispers of the confessional booth.
    • Fears: Going mad.
  • Professor Longfellow
    • Colour: White
    • Age: 57
    • Birthday: July 27th
    • Hobbies: Gaelic Music, Drama, Fine Wines
    • Brief Description: An aristocrat by birth, Professor Longfellow now lives with his mother, broke and wondering about her life insurance policy.
    • Fears: Losing everything he has.

They are actually, somewhat surprisingly (keeping in mind the b-movie theme) deep characters. Each one has his or her own relationships with other characters, meaning that Betrayal at House on the Hill can become an even more thematic experience. I have literally provided a couple of lines description, however, each one has two whole paragraphs of backstory dedicated to them in the Traitor’s Tome, and that’s pretty cool.

Descriptions aside, the above doesn’t really tell us what the characters are like to play, bar for one aspect. The first player in Betrayal is determined by the character whose birthday is closest to the real life date in chronological order. There are 12 characters, one in each month, so if you really want to go first you can choose your character based on that fact. Keep in mind, however, that it is in chronological order – meaning that if today is April 30th then the closest character isn’t Father Rhinehardt, because in chronological order, April 29th is approximately 364 days away from April 30th. Instead, it would fall to Brandon Jaspers (for May 12th) who would go first.

What are the Betrayal at House on the Hill Characters Like To Play?

Of course, not all characters are created equal, and so when looking at the characters in even more detail we need to break them down in a few core ways. The first of these is by overall ability. Next we need to look at hit points (or the number of hits a player can take in each ability before falling over). After that we can break it down into physical and mental attributes, in order to see which characters are the best balanced or stand the most chance surviving whatever the house may bring.

The ultimate way to analyse the characters would be to analyse every single individual haunt to see how they would theoretically perform in each one, see how many are physical based haunts and how many are mental based. We would then need to take items into account.

For this article, however, we are going to stick with the core character attributes. Since Betrayal is about the joy of discovery, I don’t want to destroy the enjoyment of the game by reading ahead in the haunts to discover which ones we can manipulate the system with the most. It feels counter intuitive to the game. That and it is a lot more work.

The Betrayal At House on the Hill Characters and their Statistics

Betrayal at House on the Hill Characters - Total Stats

It may come as no surprise whatsoever that all the characters in Betrayal At House on the Hill have the same number of base stats. What this means isn’t that they all have Speed, Might, Sanity and Knowledge (although they do), but instead it means that if you add all those stats together you end up with the same number. That number is fifteen [15].

If you take any of the characters into account, the results are the same. Missy Dubourde has Speed 5, Might 3, Sanity 3, and Knowledge 4 – all of which add up to fifteen. Picking another random character – Father Rhinehardt – he has Speed 3, Might 2, Sanity 6, and Knowledge 4. This is another fifteen.

That being said, it doesn’t mean they are all equal, and this becomes more evident when we take hit points into account.

What Are Hit Points In Betrayal At House On The Hill?

Although never clearly stated as hit points, there is one rule in Betrayal at House on the Hill that makes hit points a thing. Namely, if you run out of any singular stat, you will die. This gives each stat a clear value in regards to how many hits a player can take to that statistic before they keel over, and that number gives an idea of how tough the characters are. There are four statistics, and all you need is for one to run out to die, meaning we can take the total number of hits a character can take, -3 for the three statistics that don’t need to run out for you to die, as a base for a number determining how resilient the characters are.

Of course, this is flawed. I have no idea if you are just as likely to be attacked for might as you are for speed as you are for sanity as you are for knowledge. This is because I haven’t read through all the haunts. That being said, and similar to before, we need to take the characters at face value.

Betrayal at House on the Hill Characters - Total Hit Points

So, how many hit points does each character have? Well, the majority have a total of 11 once we modify them. There are, however, three characters who have more. Those characters are Professor Longfellow, Father Rhinehardt, and (somewhat randomly) Jenny LeClerc. Those three have 12 hit points each. They are, in some ways, more resilient than the others.

Balance of Characters

Of course, having a lot of hit points does not necessarily make for a balanced character. One of the biggest problems and joys of Betrayal at House on the Hill is that, as you explore, you have no idea what the horror you are going to face is. You have no idea if you will need more sanity or if you will need more might. You have no idea if you will battle something physically or mentally. This, where fun, does mean we can’t take the characters at face value. Father Rhinehardt may have lots of hit points, but his physical statistics only add up to 5 where his mental attributes add up to 10.

When it comes to passing attribute tests, there are a few characters that stand out. Both Ox and Flash have physical attributes adding up to 9. Vivian Lopez and Father Rhinehardt are the strongest mentally, having 9 and 10 as respective totals.

There are five characters in the game who are perfectly balanced from a defence perspective – Missy Dubourde, Madam Zostra, Vivian Lopez, Peter Akimoto and Brandon Jaspers. Each of their physical skills equal 7 and their mental skills equal 7 (14-3 for total hit points, as only one attribute needs to run out). Father Rhinehardt is the least balanced. He has defences of 6 and 9. This makes him the most likely to survive mental torment, but one of the weakest when it comes to taking physical damage.

So, Which Character is the Best in Betrayal At House On The Hill?

So, looking at the above tables, which is the best Betrayal at House on the Hill character to play? Well, like all good games, that depends entirely on the kind of game you want to play. If you want to explore and move around a lot then a fast character works best like Darrin “Flash” Williams or Missy Dubourde. If you want to play a balanced character then Vivian Lopez is a good choice. Either her or one of the few who haven’t had attention drawn to them in this article (like Zoe Ingstrom). If you want a character who will take a lot of damage and be a mental challenge for the traitor to overcome then Father Rhinehardt or Professor Longfellow are good options.

The best advice when choosing your character can be summed up thusly though – keep in mind what it will be like running from the traitor and defeating them; however, also keep in mind what it may be like being the traitor with your character. For that, and from a personal choice perspective, I would always avoid slow characters, and would focus on speed and high stats – so characters like Darrin “Flash” Williams or Father Rhinehardt. That way, if you are a survivor you can use the high stat to your advantage and if you are the traitor you can use that speed/longevity to your benefit.

That is just personal choice though.

So, with that in mind, what would you recommend? Do you recommend players specialise or become generalists? Who is your favourite character? Let me know in the comments below.

7 Comments »

  1. A majority of the damage in the game doesn’t focus on a specific stat, but will rather say “physical damage” or “mental damage.”
    Certain stats are also tied to specific types of things. In general, it seems the fewest events involve performing a Speed Roll. Which makes sense, given that its the only stat with universal utility, i.e. it’s always in effect.
    In the base game, this arguably makes speed the most useful stat, with knowledge being second. The reason being that many items are locked behind knowledge rolls, which makes it easy to grab weapons and items.
    But the expansion (for better or worse) vastly increases the mobility in the house, which may make speed less useful.
    My favorite character to play is Ox. If only because he ends up severely underplayed due to everyone always picking his flip-side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed – hence looking for that balance and synergy between mental and physical. I can see the attraction to playing Ox, especially because you’re right – everyone chooses Flash.

      I haven’t actually played the expansion – but I have heard good things. Would you recommend it?

      Like

      • Honestly, I don’t think Widow’s Walk is good. Since all the haunts were written by guests from the sci-fi/fantasy community, they’re severely lacking in balance. Some are laughably easy. And while I’ve only played about 15 or so of them, all but one so far are too focused on flavor rather than being mechanically engaging.
        That plus, as I said, the increase in vertical mobility between floors of the house really removes a LOT of the tension and counterplay aspects of the haunt.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That sounds like a real shame. I had heard the haunts were designed to be more reliable, kind of fixing the less good haunts from the original. I guess that isn’t the case though. That’s a shame, but I appreciate the honest opinion!

          Like

  2. I, along with a group of my friends from college, used to play this game pretty frequently, and we all had different favorites that we found effective. One of them was always Flash, so that lines up pretty well with what you’ve put down here. Another one that seemed to always work out was my friend who played Zoe (or Missy… I’m blanking on which now) consistently, as her physical stats always seemed to become necessary in the endgame.
    I’m honestly not entirely sure why, but I got used to using Heather. While she seems wholly unremarkable in the stats breakdown (which is unsurprising but really interesting to read!), I think the balance was what usually got me along as the game progressed.
    This is an awesome read, though, and a great reminder of a really fun game to play with friends- especially if you can get into the mindset for a ‘spooky’ game.

    Like

  3. So I’d suggest trying something outside the geek comfort zone. Pick a character and play.

    Play it like you’re all starting in a horror movie. I’ll let you in on a little secret with this game: It’s not about the numbers.

    What do I mean?

    Play a game or two with a full table (4-5 PCs), lights off, candles guttering, and wind howling outside. Stats don’t matter so much…

    Like

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