New Board Game Pairs Horror and Hijinks
The floorboards creak under your feet as you creep down a dusty corridor. Moments ago, you were traipsing through a cobweb-choked library, when you thought you saw something scurry past. Now you're in a room lit only by the headlights of the Mystery Machine pouring through the window. As you scramble in the dark searching for clues, something slobbers on your hand! You shriek in terror, and turn to see your old pal Scooby-Doo, in search of another Scooby Snack. Late last week I got the opportunity to check out the newest game in Avalon Hill's Betrayal at House on the Hill line of games: Betrayal at Mystery Mansion.
In the original Betrayal game, players take on the role of people investigating a haunted mansion, where they uncover a randomly generated house full of strange rooms and scary encounters through the placement of "floor tiles." As they stumble along, they'll get hurt and find useful items, but the big feature of the game is the innovative "Haunt" system. At a certain point three quarters of the way through the game, the "Haunt" will trigger, turning the game on its head. What was once a collaborative exploration game becomes a quest for survival, as one player (or more) turns traitor and attempts to thwart the rest of the group by referencing a specific new ruleset. With 50 different possible haunts that could happen during the game, the replay value of the original Betrayal is through the (haunted) roof. Since then, we've seen an expansion to the original game, a D&D-branded version of the game, and a Legacy version.
Now, in Mystery Mansion, these familiar trappings of the Betrayal line of games are given the family-friendly treatment by way of Scoob and the gang. Designed for ages 8+, players take control of Scooby-Doo, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy, and Fred as they explore a spooky mansion. To learn more about the game, I traveled to the downtown Manhattan offices of 360pr (Avalon Hill and Dungeons & Dragons' PR firm) to check it out and speak with the game's designer Brian Neff.
With bright colors and familiar faces, Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is definitely aimed at a younger audience. Neff described how, originally, the game was targeting a 10+ age range, but as they play tested it they began to realize that with a few small tweaks, it could go even younger. And honestly, from what I saw (I didn't get to playtest the game itself, we'll review it as it gets closer to street date), these changes will likely be welcomed by all ages. The rulebooks all purposefully repeat themselves where necessary, to reduce flipping through to find a specific rule. There are smaller haunt matrices (how you figure out which haunt will take place), and "mysteries" replace "haunts." The game also has a new asset, called (naturally) a Scooby Snack, which players can trade in to re-roll bad dice rolls. The mansion itself is now pared down to two areas — inside and outside — instead of three. And the person who becomes the Betrayer of the game doesn't have to be the betrayer if they don't want to, it's now decided by the group.
Regardless of age range, I feel like these changes add a lightness and an ease of play to the original game's rather strict mechanics.
And this game will absolutely not disappoint fans of Scooby-Doo, as each mystery in the game is based on an actual Scooby-Doo episode from the first three seasons of the original show, or from one of the animated feature films. I'll get a better sense of the game once I can run through some play-throughs, but from what I've seen so far this has all the trappings of a very thoughtful adaptation, and a careful and considered use of a family-friendly cartoon IP.
Betrayal at Mystery Mansion will be available everywhere on May 15 (to coincide with the release of the new animated feature Scoob!), and will retail for $35.
What do you think? Would you go hunting around the Mystery Mansion with your family? Let us know in the comments below!