09 December 2016
TTG ventures into the co-op horror title’s expansion
At first, Widow’s Walk, the long-requested first expansion to Betrayal at House on the Hill, appears to be exactly what you’d expect it to be.
Contained in a svelte box, the package includes new room tiles, including the roof area; extra event, omen and item cards; and 50 original haunts in two books. Also in the box are 76 tokens, which add more monster symbols, as well as small explorer tokens for each of the characters to help track which rooms have been used to gain trait boosts during the game (and that come into play during specific haunts). Lastly, there are lock and obstacle tokens, which add extra challenges and requirements for the explorers.
The haunts have been penned by an impressive list of contributors spanning board games and other mediums, from Pandemic Legacy co-designer Rob Daviau, Dead of Winter designer Jonathan Gilmour and Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Tempkin to Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward and video game developers, writers and critics such as Anita Sarkeesian, Zoë Quinn and Mikey Neumann.
The scenarios continue Betrayal’s knack for mixing up horror tropes with dark humour and surreal situations. In one example, the explorers are caught up in a game of deadly pranks, another turns the house into a horror movie film set and a third instance takes place during a party attended by famous monsters such as Dracula, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster. The haunts are inventive and fun, and by our count there are a few more fully co-op scenarios, but if you’ve played Betrayal before (likely, given that this is an expansion) it’s mostly business as usual – complete with all the pros and cons.
What is refreshingly new is the introduction of a special longer haunt that is only playable once specific scenarios from the new set have been played with all of the characters in the group.
Obviously, we don’t want to give away the surprise of the 101st mission, but we will hint that it bears some resemblance to Pandemic Legacy’s innovative 12-month structure and makes smart use of many of Betrayal’s mechanics, ultimately becoming a kind of ‘best of Betrayal’ as it progresses. It’s a clever way of rewarding multiple playthroughs, though the random nature of the way the haunts occur might mean that it will take you a while to unlock number 101 and, if you’re sticking to the letter of the rulebook, the same player group may not be with you for all five of the missions unless you make allowances. Hardly a deal breaker, but it would be nice to be able to run the necessary scenarios and the big finale in a set structure without relying on the random drawing of the right omen cards in the right room or rigging the deck.
The new room tiles help to open up the house a little more, as upper floor tiles can also be used to fill out the roof. Certain room tiles now come equipped with a dumbwaiter, which can be used to travel to the landing of any floor in exchange for a point of movement. This helps to alleviate some of the luck-based situations arising from the cat-and-mouse chases of certain haunts, such as desperately seeking the basement stairs or hoping to roll the right result in the Mystic Elevator.
Meanwhile, the additional cards include plenty of interesting events and effects to shake up Betrayal’s steady flow of exploration. Weapon-wise, there’s a bit more variation with both melee and ranged armaments – including a couple of Evil Dead references for film fans – while the items and omens introduce fresh abilities and risk-reward opportunities.
In many ways, Widow’s Walk is an unsurprising expansion. But smart gameplay tweaks, captivating haunts and the addition of a genuinely exciting campaign makes the add-on a must for anyone looking to return to the House on the Hill.
Widow’s Walk is more Betrayal, which can never really be a bad thing. The addition of an unlockable longer haunt adds an absorbing campaign-style progression for dedicated fans, while the mechanical tweaks of the new map tiles and cards mix things up while solving some of the original game’s balance issues.
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Genre: Co-op horror adventure
Time: 60 minutes
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