Betrayal at House on the Hill (BHH) has been a cult favorite of my friends and I going back to the first edition in 2004. This was the first horror themed board game most of us ever played. We also loved and often railed on print errors of that first addition like the Underground Lake as an Upper Floor title. In 2010, BHH Second Edition was released and it was essentially was an errata edition of the first. Finally, in 2016 the much needed BHH Widow’s Walk Expansion was released and it added more tiles, haunts, and content which like many got this game back to gaming table.
This brings us to today’s review Betrayal Legacy from Avalon Hill. It’s essentially the same game mechanics of the classic BHH with some tweaks, but then add changing rules and content of a legacy game. Will Betrayal Legacy match our love of the classic horror? Read on!
Betrayal Legacy is a cooperative, exploration game for 3-5 players which plays in about 90-120 minutes and is best with 4-5 players.
I’m going to make this review as spoiler free as possible since I don’t want to ruin anyone’s Betrayal Legacy experience. If you’re familiar with BHH then you have an excellent basis and if not, the rules are easy to pick up. If you’ve never played a Betrayal game before, check out our review of Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate for an overview of the gameplay. I’m mainly going to focus what’s new and different for Betrayal Legacy and only give an overview of the rules when you first open the box.
The first big change is players will be choosing a family instead of a character to play. You have a unique family seal and, like BHH player cards, you have 4 traits and unique starting values. Betrayal Legacy will have you play 14 different time periods of chapters throughout the campaign. Depending on their character’s age and conditions at the end of the chapters, players can reuse that character and just age them, or create a new family descendant. The game begins in the year 1666 and there are a total of 14 chapters that end in 2004.
Here are other changes that stand apart from Betrayal at House on the Hill:
- All chapters are guided by the Legacy Deck. Each chapter will have cards in the Legacy Deck instructing players to pause, stop, draw, etc. before and after each chapter. This deck is a pre-sorted and should never be shuffled. This deck will also set the conditions to trigger the Haunt for each Chapter.
- An outside region of tiles have been added with the Front Steps being the “landing” tile.
- Item and Event cards are drawn for the region you’re exploring.
- Heirloom items: These can have player’s family crests placed on them when that player finds one (not all items are heirlooms) making it a family Heirloom for present and future chapters.
- The Bleak Journal contains entries to be read as instructed from the Legacy Deck and, like the Legacy Deck, will instruct players to add or remove game content.
- The Purgatory Deck and Folium Infernum will add new game content when instructed to do so from the Legacy Deck or Bleak Journal.
- Lastly, once all chapters are completed, Betrayal Legacy can be played in “free play” mode with all the revealed content like classic BHH game.
I’ve played my fair share of legacy games and for the most part, most have been pretty great experiences. I had high hopes for Betrayal Legacy and from the start it didn’t disappoint. After our first 3 chapters my group and I were all convinced that this was one of the best legacy games we ever played (yes even better than Pandemic: Legacy Season 2).
There’s plenty of good things going on with Betrayal but the Legacy deck stands out as a centerpiece because it literally controls the set-up and then the Haunt trigger for each chapter. This was a smart, easy, and fast way to get this game to the table. It tells you exactly what to do so there’s little downtime with having to reference rules. The Legacy Deck also sets up each chapter with a narrative for why all players have come together for that chapter which thematically kept this longer game interesting and fun.
Another slick element of Betrayal Legacy is the Bleak Journal. This, similar to the Legacy Deck, adds an excellent narrative but does it before and after the Haunts. Since the Haunts can be random, this book gives cool flavor text and instructions depending on which Haunt is triggered. Then after the Haunt and depending on the outcome, it provides final narrative and dictates what content is added or removed from the game.
The last piece that was a big hit were the Heirloom Items. My group loved trying to find these and the adding their family crest. I don’t want to give away too much but if a player found an Heirloom Item with their family crest, they typically granted some sort of bonus. Again, this was a cool way to keep the game fun and continue the thematic family element through out the many chapters.
As I said above when my group and I completed the first 3 chapters we thought this was the best legacy game to date. Well we changed our minds. We still liked and enjoyed Betrayal Legacy but it suffers from the same two issues that plagued the original Betrayal at House on the Hill. The first is that some of the Haunts are just lackluster and not much fun. Our first three were rather epic and maybe we were caught up in the newness or nostalgia we all had for BHH, but we came down rather quick after the next few Haunts. Overall there were more good ones then bad but the bad ones stuck out.
The second issue is like the classic BHH there’s too much left to chance. It can range from bad dice rolls and to the same tile and card repeatedly drawn. Luck can be significant to Betrayal Legacy just as much as BHH. This can affect game play and not let the Haunt live up to its potential. Being that this is a legacy game, you only have one shot at each chapter and you’d like them all to be great but they all were not.
My group and I honestly did enjoy Betrayal Legacy overall but our first three chapters were the high point of this legacy game for us. We loved the Legacy Deck how it setup each chapter and narrative text. The Bleak Journal and Heirloom items were both great thematic additions as well as excellent sources for the legacy experience.
Unfortunately, Betrayal Legacy also suffers from the same issues as the classic Betrayal at House on the Hill: lackluster Haunts and too much is left to chance. The latter seeming to effect the former more but then again, no amount of good die rolls or draws helps a poorly conceived Haunt.
Final Score: 4.0 Stars – A highly thematic horror game that’s fun and fast to the table.
• Some Haunts are lackluster
• Luck can be significant