Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Dr. Anthony Betrus
FCE Staff 

Betrayal at House on the Hill

 

Last updated 4/2/2016 at 5:35am | View PDF



Crack! The bolt of lightning struck the giant oak dead center, and the decades old branch that extended over the road fell with a hard slam across the hood of the church van. The four late night travelers inside were badly shaken, but physically unharmed. The driver, Father Rhinehardt, ever calm and rational, saw that the oak had caught fire, igniting the unidentified liquid that was pouring from the front of the van. He turned to his travelling companions and urged them to exit the van, and then to quickly make their way to the house at the end of the long driveway about a hundred yards down the road from their disabled vehicle. Making their way up the steps, they saw some dim lights flickering in some of the windows of the large mansion. The front door was slightly ajar, and they pushed their way into the entrance hall, out of harm’s way for the moment.

The Priest, a self-identified luddite, did not own a cell phone, so he turned to his broad shouldered graduate assistant, Ox Bellows, and asked him to call for help. Ox pulled his arms back from the protective hold he had around their two younger companions, 13 year old Peter Akimoto, and 9 year old Missy Dubourde, to reach into his pocket. After a minute of fiddling with his phone, he informed the Priest that they were out of service, and, at least for the moment, they were on their own. Before they could say another word, the impetuous girl Missy ran off through an open door to their right, only to have the ceiling collapse on top of her. Fortunately it was only plaster, but it did leave her with some bad bruises. And thus began another rousing game of Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Betrayal is a board game created by Bruce Glassco, an English Professor at Piedmont Virginia Community College with an affinity for B-horror films. The game earned a Gamer’s Choice Award in 2004 for best board game while in its first edition, and in 2010 Avalon Hill, a subsidiary of Wizards of the Coast, picked up the game and released the 2nd edition. The game plops the players down in the middle of a purposefully campy, yet decidedly suspenseful environment, where events unfold to move the narrative along. Glassco incorporates all of the classic horror tropes into the game through the rooms, events, items, and omens that players encounter and acquire throughout the game (a basement with no exit, a mystic elevator, a sacrificial dagger, a spirit board, a mysterious groundskeeper, secret stairs, dark dice, etc…). The core game mechanic involves exploring the house by revealing random floor tiles, ensuring that no two games are ever the same. And, like any good horror film, there is always a betrayal. The game starts with everyone working together, that is until the “haunt,” when one of the main characters sides with the powers of darkness against the others. This is the point in the game where, in my opinion, it gets really, really good. So good in fact that each time I’ve played the game, the events after the betrayal formed a narrative that has stuck with me, weeks or even months later. For a game to accomplish this, it has to have something special going for it. Let me do my best to tell the end of the story (post betrayal) from our most recent game.

The Priest looked down at the piece of paper he had just picked up, and saw a drawing of a dragon. He then went into a dreamlike state, looked up with wide and unblinking eyes, and beckoned the now corporeal creature to enter through the front door. He spoke coldly “Kill them… kill them all.” Ox Bellows stood alone in the foyer, looking into the eyes of the dragon that had just appeared in front of him, while Missy and Peter were exploring together in the basement. The dragon breathed fire, and Ox jumped aside, leaving him singed, but otherwise unharmed. The dragon then advanced on him and attempted a bite, which missed by the slimmest of margins. The possessed Priest, not thinking rationally, ran from the room, intent on retrieving items from the vault on the second floor that had thus far eluded the explorers. Meanwhile, in the basement, Missy had just picked up a shield, and upon hearing the commotion upstairs, yelled out in fear. Ox stormed down the secret stairs they had discovered earlier, finding Missy and Peter healthy and safe, for the moment. Seconds after he entered the basement, the dragon appeared, advancing on them. The dragon breathed fire again, this time singing Missy badly. The dragon then turned on Peter, who dodged aside, running for his life. Peter then ran to a previously undiscovered room, finding in it a suit of ancient armor. Ox and Missy ran to Peter, and the Dragon did not hesitate, breathing fire on them yet again. Missy heroically held up the shield, protecting them all from the fiery attack. Peter, in an act of self sacrifice, then ran from the room, yelling at the dragon as he did. The dragon followed, giving Missy and Ox a moment to consider their strategy, which essentially came down to giving everything to Ox so he would be at full strength when he took on the dragon. Ox donned the armor, and Missy then gave him the shield and a spear she had discovered earlier. At that moment they heard a scream from the next room, and Ox entered to see a lifeless Peter on the floor. At that moment the Priest appeared, having retrieved the contents of the vault. Missy, fearing for her life, took out a revolver she had found earlier and shot the Priest in the face, killing him instantly. During the scuffle the Dragon advanced on Missy, and picked her up in his mouth, biting down hard, and then throwing her lifeless body into the wall like a rag doll. Ox then turned on the dragon, enraged by what had just happened, and drove the spear hard and true through the its chest, killing it. Ox looked around him, his companions all dead, and knelt down in despair. The house had once again claimed its victims.

Steve Canning as Peter Akimoto

Mary Simon as Missy Dubourde

Kevin Marcinko as Father Rhinehardt

Dr. Anthony Betrus, The Game Connoisseur, as Ox Bellows

 

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