Board Game Review — Betrayal Legacy

As we continue on through our Top 5 Games of 2018, we move on next to Betrayal Legacy! We’ve tried to keep this spoiler free, but read at your own risk!

Overview

This house. There’s something about this house that draws you near. You see the others coming closer as well. There are rumors about this house. They say it’s haunted by ghosts from the past. Ghosts of you families. But what is the truth behind this house? Playing through a campaign of Betrayal Legacy may just give you those answers!

Game Play

Like many legacy games before it, Betrayal Legacy starts off with a pretty similar ruleset to its parent game, Betrayal at House on the Hill. So if you’re familiar with that game, it’ll be pretty easy to jump into the legacy game, but if not don’t despair because the rules aren’t overly difficult.  Also like its legacy predecessors, this game’s rulebook comes with a bunch of blank spots that are filled in later with stickers containing new rules that are added over the course of the game. We won’t be covering any of those here — just the basic rules and gameplay as it is out of the box to start the first game.  Technically this could still be considered a spoiler, and if you want to play the game for yourself and be totally surprised when you open the box for the first time, feel free to skip this section — it is just here to provide context to our reviews.

To begin each game of Betrayal Legacy, each player will choose one of the five available family cards. Four of the families are particularly good at one of the four traits (might, speed, sanity, and knowledge), and the last is balanced in all traits. Generally you’ll probably want to keep the same family over the course of the campaign, but you could change for each game if so inclined. Then, you’ll give your character a name and age, choose a miniature, and receive a calling card giving a unique ability over the course of the game.

In playing the game, each player has a number of possible actions on their turn. Some actions are always available, such as move, trade, and pick up, while others, such as eat, study, or operate, are available on tiles or cards. You may use each action once per turn, so even if you’re on the Dining Room tile and have the Sandwich item (not a real item), you can only use the Eat action on one of them.  The Move action is one you’ll want to take almost every turn, as moving through an open doorway will allow you to explore and add a new tile to the house. Typically revealing and moving onto a new tile will give you an item or omen card, or trigger an event card, which usually requires a check using one of your four traits. At some point during the course of the game, usually as the result of getting an omen card, the haunt will be triggered.

When the haunt happens, typically one player will be designated to be the traitor, and is now working against the other players (though there are some other types of haunts in Betrayal Legacy, but I’ll leave those for you to discover!).  Both the traitor and the other players (heroes) will be given an entry in their respective books to read, which gives special rules for the haunt and their win conditions. At this point, the betrayer leaves the table so the heroes can read and review the information they have for the haunt and make a plan as to how to tackle it.  When all players are ready, the traitor rejoins the table and gameplay resumes with the player on the traitor’s left (so the traitor is the last to take a turn). During haunts, all of the regular actions are available, as well as the attack action which allows players to make a trait roll (typically might, unless a weapon gives a different attack) against other players or monsters, causing damage if they’re successful.  The game will continue until either the heroes or the traitor successfully completes their haunt condition, ending the game and advancing the overall legacy story!

Artwork and Components

In order to keep the mysteries of the game and to allow readers to enjoy revealing parts of the game at their own pace, we have decided to omit our normal artwork and components pictures. You’ll just have to discover them for yourselves!

From Avalon Hill’s Website

Amber’s Review

I believe that with some games, the experience you having playing it can sway your opinion of the game. When you have a bad gaming experience, your opinion of the game may be tainted and future experiences with that game may cause an automatic snear. When you have a good experience with a game, you may take an automatic loving of the game, looking past its faults and proclaiming its magnificents far and wide. It can be difficult when writing about board games, especially when you have emotional attachments to things like I do, to shake these feelings away and write about the heart of the game. But, aren’t these feelings what makes board gaming so personal? Enough editorializing, I’m sure you want to hear about the game!

We started off our Betrayal Legacy experiences in one of the best ways possible — with Rob Daviau himself! Rob Daviau made an appearance at our home con, Gamehole Con, and ran some events introducing Betrayal Legacy. With Rob, we got to play the prologue scenario and the first in game scenario, with the ability to ask questions about rules as well as getting a glimpse into the “game design diary,” if you will. This not only created a wonderful introduction to the game, but made me feel confident when taking our very own copy home

Designed to be welcoming to newcomers and beginner gamers, Betrayal Legacy starts off very simply, giving players a few actions they are able to take and encourages them to explore. When the first haunt triggers, the mechanics still stay simple, introducing themselves slowly to allow players to get used to them. For subsequent games, new mechanics are introduced one or two items at a time, but really lean on the base mechanics as a way of delivery. Fans of the original Betrayal at House on the Hill will feel very comfortable with these mechanics and may note a few improvements that improve some of the issues with original gameplay.

While I want to put on my emotional joy blinders, I do realize that while I had a ton of fun playing this game, there are some downfalls to this game. If you are not a fan of the original game, this game may not change your mind about how you feel about the game. While the mechanics have made improvements, the spirit of the game is still light in play and traitor-focused, so the key elements still exist. Players who are not fond of traitor mechanics may become easily frustrated when they’re put into that role, especially if your games end up unbalanced because of choices made pre-haunt. Unpredictable haunts can also make it difficult for the teams to strategize, sometimes turning the game on its head and throwing everyone for a loop. These elements can frustrate gamers of all types, so when choosing a group for your adventure, you may want to make sure they’re up to the task.

Pros:

  • Easy enough for new gamers to get into, especially for their first legacy game!
  • Improved mechanics help solve some of the issues of the main game

Cons:

  • All player must be ok with traitor mechanics and being the traitor or it can get frustrating
  • Unpredictable traitor mechanics can make the game difficult to strategize

Ethan’s Review

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Betrayal at House on the Hill, but I still do enjoy playing it on occasion.  And since I love legacy games, trying this campaign out was a no-brainer for us! I’ll try to keep my review as spoiler-free as possible so that if you haven’t played through this campaign yet you can give it a try for yourself sometime!

One thing that surprisingly works well in this game is the legacy story itself.  In each chapter there are two or three different haunts you could encounter, and having played the first couple of chapters twice with different haunts each time, they can be quite different from each other.  However, the overarching story of the titular house and the families who find themselves returning to it is present no matter what haunts you play, but it still works in spite of that fact. Again I don’t want to spoil too much, but even though we kind of figured out where the story was headed partway through the game, the climax and conclusion of the story still took us by surprise.  It should be no surprise that after experience with Pandemic Legacy, Seafall, and Werewolf Legacy (among others) Rob Daviau knows how to write a great legacy story, and Betrayal Legacy is no exception.

The other main plus point for the game in my mind is the tightening up of mechanics from the base game.  Betrayal has always been viewed as sort of a “rules-light” game where the story is the main element and the gameplay is secondary.  That may work for one isolated game session, but when you’re playing 13 games in a row as part of a campaign, you want to be able to have a solid grasp of the rules.  So, as detailed above in the Game Play section, Betrayal Legacy has a detailed rule book that unambiguously lays out all the game’s rules. And as a rules-oriented gamer, I certainly appreciate that!

Unfortunately, the luck factor and occasional unbalancedness of the original couldn’t be fully mitigated.  One of the biggest complaints of Betrayal used to always be that there were situations where it seemed impossible for the heroes (or conversely, the traitor) to win.  That is still sometimes the case with Legacy — oh, the player who picked up a half dozen weapons and other useful items and boosted all their stats became the traitor?  This will be a quick haunt. Or by the same token if the player with no items and damage to all their abilities becomes traitor (and doesn’t get monsters to control posthumously), you’ll soon find yourself setting up for the same game.  During our campaign, there was one game where I became the traitor, and I was able to win the game in one turn, based on what I had, what I needed to do, and where the other players were. This is really just part of the nature of the game though, and something to be aware of going into the campaign.  You’ll likely have at least one game where it seems like the odds are stacked against you, but ultimately the goal isn’t to win every game, it’s to have fun and create interesting stories and lasting memories. Likewise, you will likely be a traitor at least once over the course of the game, so going into the game make sure everyone’s ok with having to take on that mantle when the time comes.

Pros:

  • Good, compelling overarching story, exactly what you would want in a legacy game
  • Solid codifying of game mechanics; an improvement over the original game

Cons:

  • Doesn’t really solve the “unfair”/”unbalanced” problem some haunts have where it seems like one side or the other has a big advantage
  • Everyone has to be ok with being randomly selected as a traitor in some of the games over the course of the campaign


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