It’s incredibly hard to review Legacy-style games, because the thrill of discovery is such a huge aspect of the experience of playing them. I’ve been struggling even harder than normal with Betrayal Legacy, because even talking about the feeling that the game gives at various points could spoil surprises for people. I’m going to be intentionally vague going forward, but I will say this about Betrayal Legacy: there is an event that happens during the campaign that will forever sit in my personal list of “Greatest Gaming Moments Of All Time.” Not every moment in Betrayal Legacy is epic, but that single moment alone was enough to make this game’s 13 session campaign worth my time, and even the least enjoyable missions in the campaign are fun. To top it all off, the game provides a few dozen more missions to play after you’ve finished the campaign.
Betrayal Legacy, based on Betrayal at the House on the Hill, isn’t a complex game. It’s very easy to learn and, for the most part, most games begin with a short narrative followed by the players collectively moving around from room to room triggering events and finding items. The real fun of the game comes once you’ve triggered the Haunt. At some point during each game some convergence of factors will cause that story’s Haunt to begin. Until the Haunt begins, the game is a mostly-cooperative experience, but once the Haunt begins that cooperation usually goes out the window. This is a horror game, so go into it knowing that there will be horror, violence and occult imagery. Some Haunts do an exceptionally good job at setting grim and gruesome images into your mind, which may be too much if you plan to play with younger players, but thematically it works extraordinarily well.
Usually the Haunt will designate one of the players to be a Traitor, and then the game gives the Traitor one set of objectives to complete, and everyone else gets a second set of objectives that they must complete. Usually the objectives are directly opposed, although sometimes it’s a race to the finish lines, and other times…some other things happen. I’m not even going to provide an example here, because each and every Haunt is different, and the game’s tension and suspense elements specifically rely on the players not knowing exactly what is going to happen, or who might end up being their enemy(ies). Some of the Haunts are absolutely FANTASTIC, while others can be a bit lackluster, but I’ve yet to play one that we didn’t at least have fun with, although we haven’t played every haunt that comes with the game. There may be a dud in there, but even if there is an absolute stinker, the rest of the content, and the stories they tell, more than make up for that possibility.
The game’s story throughout the campaign revolves around the house itself, and how it grows and changes over time. The structure of the campaign, and the rate at which new bits and bobs are added to the game really do make the house feel like it has history, and that history really does feel like it’s been shaped by the players and the happenings of games past. For many legacy-style games, the real fun ends once the initial campaign journey is over, once you’ve finished unlocking all of the new goodies that the game introduces, and while you can usually play many of them after you’ve finished the legacy bit, they are usually lacking. Betrayal Legacy certainly has an awesome journey through the 13 game campaign, but even once you’ve finished the campaign it still has a ton of Haunts available to play through that you didn’t see during the campaign, and you get to do so with your customized version of the game. Usually with Legacy games you feel like you’ve ‘finished’ the game once you’ve played through the legacy content, but Betrayal Legacy has so much post-campaign content that it compels you to keep playing, even after you’ve finished the campaign. The campaign is fun enough though that even if you only buy it and play the initial 13 games it is still entirely worth the price of entry.
A note on “chrome”: Betrayal Legacy has good quality components, including pre-painted character minis, and the rules are well laid out in the rulebook. The game is very simple to learn, and you can bring someone up to speed on how to play in 5 minutes, so even fully expanded with all of the rules you’ll add during the campaign the rulebook remains easy to read, and learn from. This is, of course, a Legacy game, so you will be expected to place stickers on cards, tiles and in the rules, and you’ll also be instructed to permanently remove cards from the game. If you can’t bring yourself to do those kinds of thing then this isn’t the game for you, but for those who are, know that the stickers are all very well made, and are cut in such a way that you don’t risk tearing them when peeling them off of their sheets to apply to other components.
The bottom line:
Betrayal Legacy’s campaign is a tense, satisfying and rewarding 13 game journey full of surprises and twists. The game tells an interesting story that starts off with an incredible bang and leaves you with an (almost certainly) unique copy of the game that still has over two dozen stories to tell once you’ve finished the campaign. You really get the feeling that you are part of the house’s history, and each change that you make to the components holds a memory of what caused that change, and why. Not every mission in the campaign is a stunner, but they are varied enough, and some feature twists and turns that come completely out of nowhere and leave lasting impressions, not only on the components, but on the players who experienced those changes,. Those impressions are triggered by something significant happening while playing, and the significance of many of those events gives this game a little bit more emotional impact than you normally get to experience in board games.
Get this game if:
You like legacy-style games.
You really enjoy games that tell memorable stories.
You enjoy horror themes.
You like the idea of a semi-cooperative game where you are never quite sure who will actually end up being the traitor.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike physically altering your board games.
You are especially sensitive to themes of horror, gore and the occult.
The copy of Betrayal Legacy used for this review was provided by Avalon Hill.
Betrayal Legacy is immersive, intriguing, frightening and fun. It does an excellent job of keeping players on their toes throughout the campaign, and offers a ton of new experiences for the players even after they've finished the initial 13 games.