|Interaction||Components & Design|
When we did the nostalgia piece about Betrayal at House on the Hill last week, there was one thing we didn’t mention: there is an expansion. The 2016 release Widow’s Walk was created after years and years of fans asking for more haunts. An understandable request since playing the same haunts again and again loses its appeal as well as some of its challenge when you know the other side’s secret rules. And so a monumental nine people design team was put together to give us fresh haunts. And that’s exactly what they did.
Obviously, the the premise of the game doesn’t change. The players find themselves trapped in a haunted house, and before they’ll be able to escape one of them will turn against the rest, corrupted by the evil trapped here. If you want to know more about the base game Betrayal at House on the Hill then please check our recent Nostalgia post, we’re mostly going to talk about the new things in Widow’s Walk here.
New haunts are the one big reason to want a Betrayal expansion. Which haunt happens, what evil is trapped in the house on the hill, is decided by the Omen card that triggered the haunt and by the room where it was found. So to add new haunts, they added new Omen cards and new rooms where you draw Omen cards. And then there didn’t seem any reason to stop, so they added more rooms where you don’t draw Omen cards, and then they added more Event and Item cards as well. Because they could.
Some of the new rooms belong to an entirely new floor, the Roof. Spreading the rooms across an additional floor makes the house easier to navigate than adding more rooms to the already sprawling existing floors. It makes Betrayal even more of a table hog than it already was, but if you play on normal-sized furniture then it was never an easy game for you. There’s another innovation that helps you move through the house more quickly with the dumbwaiters. Some of the new rooms have them, and from any of them you can go to the landing of the next floor up or down for only two points of movement. That may not sound like much, but spending three rounds only to walk back from the far reaches of the ground floor was never much fun, so this is a big quality of life improvement.
Some of the new rooms are fun additions. For instance, you can find the Tree House on the ground floor – in the middle of the house, too – that becomes adjacent to one room on one of the upper floors. Those are fun, but they are not the reason why anyone would buy the expansion. What about the new haunts?
Many classic horror elements have already been used in the base game. Mummies, vampires, werewolves, a dragon… so all of those are out for the expansion. What made it in the expansion are the weird things the long list of designers came up with in their bad dreams after having too much cheese for dinner. For obvious reasons we want to avoid spoilers, but here’s a vague and incomplete list of things that happen in Widow’s Walk: regressing to infancy, working in a messed up competition for a job, turning into a merperson the rest of the players want to turn to sushi, turning into mannequins… and that barely scratches the surface of the weirdness.
As a special extra, Widow’s Walk contains a bonus haunt where you go up against the Witch, an especially powerful haunt. But to legally unlock it you’ll have to go through four other haunts first, with all the same explorers that plan to go against the Witch. And then you’ll probably die, anyway. Yay!
Okay, so let’s face it: if you were looking for a balanced game where reading the special rules for a scenario leaves no open questions you wouldn’t be playing Betrayal at House on the Hill to start with. It’s always had questionable balance and keeps you playing by virtue of the creepy, captivating story it tells. That doesn’t change with Widow’s Walk. Depending on which haunt you get and how early it starts, one side may be horribly disadvantaged, the game may drag on forever, or it may end instantly. But that never bothered us before, the reason we play Betrayal is the narrative, and Widow’s Walk delivers plenty of that. Only a bit weirder. What more do you want?