Which Betrayal Game is Best?
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a horror game where you and your friends enter a haunted house and slowly reveal rooms while triggering events, getting items, and flipping omens. This third edition is a great entry point for the series with some quality-of-life improvements.
The story is a pastiche of B-movie horror tropes, but the gameplay itself works well enough. It’s also pretty quick to teach new players and usually plays in around an hour.
House on the Hill
For 18 years now, Betrayal at House on the Hill has been a beloved game for fans of horror, treachery, and twisted fates. It’s a quick-playing board game that immerses players into the world of the dilapidated mansion, where they encounter spirits and terrifying omens that foretell their ultimate fates.
Third Edition features updated art and improved mechanics, but the best improvement is in the way it further immerses players into this dark mansion of terror. For example, unlike the first edition, where a player’s turn ends only when they draw a card or run out of speed, Third Edition stops their turns based on omen cards and other room tiles, as well as by enemies and event cards.
The new version also streamlines gameplay by removing theft as a mechanic, except for when specific Haunt scenarios allow it. It’s a small change that makes a big difference, and helps make the game play more smoothly.
Shadows Over Camelot
Shadows Over Camelot is a great family-friendly game that will work with any group of players. It is not hard to learn and plays surprisingly quickly, but it also has a lot of depth.
The player’s knights are trying to help Arthur defend his kingdom against the Saxons, Picts, and a traitor who is attempting to bring Camelot to ruin. During their turn each player must first suffer a progression of evil, which could cause them to lose life points, add a siege engine to those attacking Camelot, draw a black card, or accuse another knight of being the traitor.
Each knight is represented by a unique cardboard character with its own special ability. The game comes with a colorful 4-panel gameboard showing the perpetual quest boards, as well as three one-time quests (Quest for Lancelot’s Armor, Quest for the Holy Grail, and the Tournament against the Black Knight). It is designed by Serge Laget and Bruno Cathala, who are known for creating family board games Kingdomino and Jamaica. It is published by Days of Wonder.
Gloomhaven is a party-based dungeon crawler with lots of options and complexity. The game’s class system is a great addition to the genre and offers many different play styles. The digital version of the game has a nice on screen heads up display that clearly displays what goals you have for each scenario, monster health and character cards and allows players to rest a card (but lose one permanently).
The combat system is incredibly user friendly. Each character’s actions are determined by selecting a top and bottom option on two cards from their own deck; one for movement or an attack and the other for damage or status effects. This makes it less likely that the game will drag out due to unlucky dice rolls or poor action choices.
There is no GM in Gloomhaven and the monsters act independently of the players so the game can be challenging for newcomers. However, the experience is very satisfying once mastered.
Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter is a highly thematic game where players and their characters are struggling to survive a zombie filled apocalypse in the dead of winter. This semi-cooperative strategy board game puts players into a survival situation that is both challenging and satisfying to play.
The setting and character and zombie standees are all detailed and well executed, allowing players to easily immerse themselves in the world of this game. The game also features a very powerful narrative element called Crossroad cards which can dramatically alter the course of the game.
These cards give the player a chance to make tough decisions that can help or hinder the overall progress of the colony. These types of decisions are what makes this game so much fun to play. While a betrayer may try to ruin the group’s chances, it is often the case that the best way for a group to win is to work together.