Note: This is a spoiler free review of Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
Initially published in 1979 and continuing throughout the 80s and 90s, Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books are a familiar sight to most folks today. Readers were able to choose various paths through a story and reach one of potentially dozens of conclusions.
Today we are looking at a board game implementation of the CYOA license. Based on the book House of Danger, one or more players can take on the role of the private detective protagonist as they search through a local house that is haunting their dreams.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger takes about 2-3 hours to complete. In theory it can be played by any number of people, but is best as a solo experience.
House of Danger is broken into five chapters, each which takes between 20 and 40 minutes to play. The game is very story driven—much closer to a book than a game. You will start each chapter reading a card which ends with a choice. Your decision will direct you on which card to read next, just like separate pages in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
However, the difference between the books and the board game implementation is the ability to gather items and experience challenges. Throughout the game you will track both a danger level and your psychic ability level. Each time you come across a challenge, if you choose to attempt it, you must roll a d6 equal to or greater than your current danger level.
Some parts of the story will reward you with clues and items. Sometimes they are immediately useful in various types of challenges. At other times the usefulness of the items won’t be readily apparent until many chapters later (or possibly never).
Once you complete the goal for each chapter you can move on to the next. Alternatively you are normally given an option to go back and search more areas in the chapter at the cost of increasing danger. As you approach the conclusion of the fifth and final chapter there are, just like the book, multiple endings that you may experience.
If you have a large amount of nostalgia for Choose Your Own Adventure books, you are unlikely to be disappointed in what House of Danger has to offer. The experience is almost exactly like reading a book. The addition of managing your inventory and occasionally rolling a die to attempt a challenge adds a new wrinkle to the narrative.
That said, if you are looking for some amount of mechanically rich experience, this isn’t it. The decisions are nearly entirely random. Occasionally there will be hints dropped throughout the chapter that can help you later on, but 99% of the time when choosing between the door and the ladder you really are just picking whatever sounds more appealing to you in the moment.
The die rolling challenges are a small extension of that randomness. There are items that you can use to increase your odds, but they are be used forever and are only discarded if you roll a 1 when using it. This doesn’t give the player much agency in making decisions, as you will just always use the item if it will increase your chances of success. Largely failing challenges doesn’t hurt too much either; you can often retry infinite times only at the expense of the danger level and your psychic level.
Narratively though, House of Danger is fantastic. It’s full of bizarre and interesting imagery and twists you won’t see coming. As you approach the end of the second chapter you’ll have a hard time walking away until you’ve pressed through the entire story. Once complete, you can easily reset all of the cards and pass it on to someone else in your game group or take another run through making slightly different choices.
House of Danger is worth checking out if you are looking for an interactive story. I enjoyed my experience with it and my only concern from that perspective is the $24.99 price point for what amounts to about 3 hours for a single player. Although it can be played multiple times, it’s really best experienced once. But if you have a group that can pass the game around you can certainly get your money’s worth.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger is hard to classify. It’s almost barely a board game as the decisions aren’t meaningful in any way other than which way the narrative goes. If you know what you are getting into though, and it sounds interesting to you, you’ll have a great experience.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A cool implementation of the Choose Your Own Adventure system.
• Price point is maybe a bit high for what you are getting.
• This isn’t a mechanically interesting experience—you have to be drawn into the narrative to enjoy it.