As the dice were rolled I did a quick count of the Omen cards out on the table; 5. As the dice hit the table I held my breath, it was not impossible, but the likelihood was that the haunt was ready to begin. 3 pips, time for the haunt.
Betrayal at House on the Hill has been a favourite game of mine for a while now. People talk about the possibility of a bad game, but I am yet to experience it. I am also yet to get the same haunt twice. Another mark of quality in the game's favour. We looked through the graph to determine the scenario and betrayer. Out of the many times I have played the game one of the humorous and unlikely situations to occur is that I have always been the betrayer, all but once. I have also lost every game EXCEPT the one time I was not the betrayer.
When we checked the haunt rules I was relieved to hear it was the person who rolled the dice that was to betray the group. Except the person had to be a female character and the person who rolled the dice wasn’t a female character. It turned out it would then be the first female character to the left of the player who rolled the dice. That, of course, was me. I begrudgingly grabbed my book and laughed at my misfortune as I walked into another room to discover the nature of my demise. I was a ghost and will leave it at that, but I had a few things to achieve before my soul could be satisfied.
When I returned and looked at the board I realised the group had fortuitously uncovered the majority of rooms and items they needed to win during the first half of the game. The writing was on the wall. I was trapped in the basement with no way to reach the floor above. I got searching while the group hatched their plans to finish me off. I found the stairs within a couple of turns and was able to access the landing. Brilliant. I could at least make a go of it up there. The group took my movements towards them as a threat and hatched a plan to keep the person I needed to attack for my win condition in the farthest room from me as possible. So far, I had only followed the normal conventions of movement. I had not revealed my ghostly ability. As they took their turns and set themselves up I sniggered to myself. On my turn, I walked through each wall and in one movement was standing next to my victim. The group stopped me and told me to take my piece back. They complained that I had not gone through the doors. The look on their faces when I revealed that I could walk through walls was priceless. They watched in horror as I killed their precious doctor and set up my win condition. With what was astounding rolls I managed to take down two characters, block off the others and bring about victory! My second win in the game, my first as a betrayer.
What followed was a slew of laughter and chatting as people recounted parts of the game that amused them most. It is a truly satisfying game experience when the players stand around chatting, laughing, and remembering parts of the game they enjoyed. Yes, it is also great that I won but that is not what made the game great. The best games share this common element of people who want to relive the game after the playing is done, this is true be it football, tennis, online campaigns, RPG’s, miniatures battles, or board games.
Today there is a push in design to focus on storytelling and world building for players. Yet this is not a guarantee of a great game. Storytelling games and games that leave you with a great story are not the same thing. It is simply not enough to throw in a bunch of characters and settings if you want people to identify and love your board game. Instead, having moments of tension, gripping decision making, and just the right amount of luck will transform a game into a great experience. If you want more proof go and watch high ranked Scrabble players tell stories about their favourite moments playing Scrabble. Scrabble, a word game. No characters, no setting, just words on a board, and yet still able to produce some fun and interesting stories. If you have a great gaming story to share why not jump onto our Facebook page and share it with us?