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     " If you have a group who likes to get together for non-TV oriented entertainment then this should be on your shelf. "

      Title: Betrayal at House on the Hill by Wizards of the Coast

      Format: Horror Board game

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters

      The Hype: Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has had a long history of skirting the "traditional" board game market by producing titles that incorporate strong roleplaying and combat elements that normally are only seen in the hobby gaming market. Typically these forays have been successful but unmemorable experiences…though their new game might be something different. It incorporates a number of elaborate and non-traditional rules, has a plot that is both corporative and adversarial, has some noteworthy roleplaying elements, and features the industry's current obsession, a variable tile board. But will it be unique enough to stay hot or just pass into time as yet another generic board game? Read on, my monkeys, and find out.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Playability: This is gonna be a little hard to explain since it is probably different than anything you've played before. The plot involves a number of adventurers trapped in what turns out to be a haunted house and chronicles their exploits as they explore the domicile and are then eventually betrayed by one of their own.
          This plays out by having each player take the role of a multi-statted character who makes their way through the mansion which is laid out by use of randomly drawn tiles. Most of these rooms feature encounters and assorted oddities that require tests using your characters stats. Failure decreases the stats and makes later tests harder while victory usually increases your stats or earns you goodies.
          Up through that point it's fun, but it's been done before. What makes the game unique, however, is the inclusion of "The Haunt," an event that occurs at a random point within the game and ups the stakes for the characters. The Haunt itself is determined at random and there are literally dozens of potential possibilities. Sometimes it involves the house making a sudden and decided attempt to kill you all, other times it's some kind of strange supernatural event that pits you collectively against some kind of monsters, but most often it is some manner of betrayal (hence the name), where one character turns on the others and creates a sort of team based adversarial game-where the turncoat, typically with gruesome allies, tries to kill the others. To live they must band together to defeat The Haunt, and often the traitor, and try to escape the house.
          This random element is unquestionably the focus of the game and is what separates it from other goal-based games in the genre. The transformation of a player from an alley to an enemy is, as often as not, wonderfully frustrating and the sudden need for the rest of the players to band together is remarkably entertaining. This is enhanced by the vast array of Haunts that can occur within any given game and really does succeed in making it unique among its competition.
          The only real downside is that, because there are so many ways the game can be played and such varying aspects in any given scenarios, there have needed to be pages and pages of errata posted on the WotC site. This means that the odds are much better than not that at some point within any given game you will have to say, "Um…that's confusing…anyone know what that means?" and check for errata or wing some kind of solution.
          Still, the variety is well worth the potential frustration, and the game is still yet to get dull after more games than I can count…and how many games can you say that about? 4.5 out of 5

      Layout and Presentation: Featuring nice, though somewhat dull map boards and generic counters the highlight of the presentation has to be in the high quality of all the materials (nice, thick card stock and quality tiles) and the full color painted miniatures it features for each of the available characters. Unfortunately, they are produced by the same folks who manufacture the DnD minis line, so they won't be anything worth putting on your mantle. Still, it's a long way from the most lackluster game I own. 4 out of 5

      Value vs. Cost: At forty bucks it's certainly not cheap, but the high production values will make you feel like you're getting something for your cash and the replayability will give you more than your money's worth. 4.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       This game is, hands down, one of the best board games I've seen in years and is a must for lovers of non-traditional games. If you have a group who likes to get together for non-TV oriented entertainment then this should be on your shelf. I'm still waiting to get tired of playing it.

      The Good: Fun, dynamic, and non-repetitive.

      The Bad: Could use nicer pieces, but that's more nitpicking than anything.

      The Overall Ugly: A truly great game.

      What it's Worth: Market

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