Welcome to Table Top Terrors! In this monthly series, we’ll help you recreate some of the terror, tension, and fun of scary stories by examining what the world of tabletop gaming has to offer horror fans. We’ll look at board games, card games, pen and paper RPGs, and miniature war games. We’ll offer reviews, insights, and tips on how to create an immersive and awesome game night.
We’re in the middle of a Haunting on Film Street, which means we’ve got some good and even better news. The good news is we’re throwing an epic month-long house party at Nightmare on Film Street and you’re all invited! The even better news is that our shindig is in fact a haunted house party and many of your fellow guests will be ghosts, specters, shades, and revenants. Sounds like fun, right? In fact, the only thing better would be a chance to design your own haunted house. And what if you could give that house a blood-drenched, supernatural history that spanned centuries, and populate it with the ghosts of fallen friends and family members?
If you’re intrigued by such a spooky proposition read on! Because this month we’re going to take a look at Avalon Hill’s Betrayal Legacy game. We’ll examine its basic rules, tease some of its coolest features, and offer up our usual themed food and drink suggestions to help you create a truly spook-tacular game night!
Betrayal Legacy is a new version of Betrayal at House on the Hill a 2004 semi-cooperative horror board game designed by Bruce Glassco, Rob Daviau, Bill McQuillan, Mike Selinker, and Teeuwynn Woodruff. In that game, 3-6 players take the role of a group of companions exploring a haunted house. As players move through the ground floor, upper level, and basement of the house new room tiles with a variety of effects are laid out. The most common one is drawing a card from an event deck full of creepy occurrences, an item deck of useful equipment, or an omen deck full of magical and often cursed items and happenings. Every time an Omen card is picked up dice are rolled to see if the “Haunt” starts. The more Omens you draw the more likely the Haunt will start.
Once the Haunt starts players consult a rule book and based on the type of haunt cards drawn and the room where the most recent one was drawn they determine what is actually going on in their haunted house and who the traitor doing the titular “Betrayal” is. They split into two separate teams and consult two different rule books. In the Traitor’s Tome a player learns what their sinister agenda is, how to carry it out, and what supernatural forces are available to them. In the players’ book players learn how to foil the traitor’s scheme, escape the house, or both. The game then continues until one side is victorious. Often times combat or trait checks occur where players will use one of two physical or mental traits. They can also gain and loose numbers in these traits. If a trait ever goes below a certain number you die.
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So, part of the appeal of the base Betrayal at House on the Hill game is it’s a different haunted house story every time you play. A friend in my gaming group once described it as the film The Cabin in the Woods in board game form, and at on certain level she’s right. With each game players choices influence the nature of what haunts the house and the exact type of evil they’re up against.
What if a player’s actions didn’t just effect one Haunt though? What if they echoed throughout history? What if each game of Betrayal at House on the Hill built upon the previous one that came before it? Rob Daviau was intrigued by the answers to those questions, and they’re part of the reason why he developed a new “Legacy” version of the game titled Betrayal Legacy, which was released in 2018. “Legacy” games are a new type of campaign-based board game where the results of your previous game impact your next one. The campaign in Betrayal Legacy involves one prologue and 13 chapters. Each chapter will result in changes to the tiles that make up the game board, the cards in the various decks, and even the game rules. That doesn’t mean though that once you’ve played all 14 games you can no longer play Betrayal Legacy. It just means that once you finish the campaign you have your own personalized copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill that you can play over and again.
How that works is that the players of Betrayal Legacy are members of up to five different families whose fates are entangled with a house and its history. The prologue chapter starts in 1666, and the final chapter is set in 2004. So, the game has a huge addictive scope that means a player’s death or a traitor’s victory can resonate for centuries, and survivors can return in subsequent games. It also means real-world history will impact your gameplay as well. In your first game, the home that your families have come to is just a small homestead, but over time it will grow and become something grander and infinitely more sinister.
A number of new and compelling ideas and mechanics are introduced in Betrayal Legacy. One of the most interesting is there’s an entirely new area of the house to explore; the outside! Traversing that area can lead to encounters in woods, graveyards, creeks, and even a field of blood! Another cool idea is the family heirloom. Certain cards in the item deck have a spot for a sticker and a name. Once per game, if a person draws such a card they have the option of making it an heirloom by giving it a name and putting a sticker with their family’s crest on it. And if they draw that card in future games they’ll get an extra bonus.
You start a campaign of Betrayal Legacy with a certain number of tiles and cards. When you finish a game you consult a tome called “The Bleak Journal” which will tell you which cards to remove from the game, and which cards you’ll add from the “Purgatory deck.” The “Legacy Deck” which you use to set up campaign chapters will tell you which tiles to add to the game. It will also come with brand new cards to add to your various decks. There’s even an advent calendar style sticker sheet of numbered windows. At certain points, the Legacy Deck or Bleak Journal will instruct you to open one of those windows. Inside you’ll find a sticker that you insert into the rule book that adds to and expands game mechanics. I don’t want to spoil any of those, but let’s just say one of them means that any time a player dies in a game, the room where they died is changed in a very interesting way. On top of that, there are other surprises waiting inside the actual packaging of Betrayal Legacy. You may be tempted to look ahead, but don’t! This is a game where part of the fun is letting the surprises wash over you.
There’s so much more I’d love to share with you about Betrayal Legacy, but doing so would spoil the many twists and turns. What I can say is my gaming group got to play six games before the pandemic hit. We would meet once a month and play, and we all miss those monthly get togethers dearly. Once it’s safe for us to all unite, one of the first things we’re going to do is plan a day where we can get back to our Betrayal Legacy campaign.
So, if you’re gaming group is like mine you’re in for several weeks and perhaps even months of great horror gaming nights, which means you’ll have a number of different chances to serve some fun themed cocktails and snacks, but to help you make a great first impression we suggest the following. When your guests find themselves possessed by a powerful thirst try serving this recipe for a Liquid Ghost Halloween Cocktail courtesy of Pineapple & Coconut, and these savory and sweet White Chocolate Ghosts from The Spruce Eats are an easy to make treat capable of laying any sort of snack craving to rest.
Finally, the right soundtrack can make your Betrayal Legacy game nights a truly haunting experience. Earlier, I mentioned my friend compared the original Betrayal at House on the Hill to The Cabin in the Woods and I also think David Julyan’s score for that film would be a great soundtrack for a Betrayal Legacy game. You also can’t go wrong with the band’s Midnight Syndicate and Nox Arcana. The former’s The 13th Hour (which is about a journey through a haunted Victorian mansion) and the later’s Legion of Shadows (which is about ghosts and monsters that live in the shadows and dark) are especially appropriate.
Let us know all about your own immersive game night setups, and your favorite horror-based board games. Who knows, your recommendation might become our focus for next month’s installment of Table Top Terrors. Roll the dice and spill your guts over Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!