Betraying your friends is no longer confined to that House, over on that Hill.
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Time: ~1-3 Hours
“Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate” is a wonderful re-imaging of the classic board game, “Betrayal at House on the Hill”. Taking place in the D&D city of Baldur’s Gate, you and up to 5 other players explore the famous city and its (in)famous Catacombs, searching for items and treasures, while dodging thieves, beasts, and other manor of things that go “Bump!” in the night. But beware: one of you may have hidden agendas… agendas that could turn friend against friend!
If you are already familiar with the rules of “Betrayal at House on the Hill”, the rules in this game are very similar, except for what’s noted below. If you haven’t played the other version, then skip ahead to the “Betrayal: BG Rules” section.
Differences in Rules
There are a few differences between the “House on the Hill” and the B:BG versions. They include:
- The ‘Haunt’ roll is different. When rolling for the Haunt, you still roll dice equal to the number of Omen cards that have been revealed. However, if you now roll a 6+, the Haunt starts.
- Choosing the first player is different – that will be explained in the following section
- There are only 2 levels: Street (including Buildings) and the Catacombs
- The colors of the Doors on the Game Tiles matter: they correspond to the stack of Tiles that you draw from (explained in the following section
- Stealing. In the “House” version, you could steal an Item or Omen if you would deal 2+ points of physical damage to the target; in the BG version, you steal if you would deal 2+ points of any damage.
“Betrayal: BG” Rules
There are 12 Adventurers for the game, 2 per 6 different Adventurer Cards. Each Adventurer has 4 traits: Might and Speed (your Physical traits), and Knowledge and Sanity (your Mental traits). They also have a new feature: an Adventurer Power, an ability that can greatly help the Adventurer on times of need:
Representing the 12 Adventurers are 6 very detailed, sweet-looking Miniatures:
Players choose their Adventurer, then choose one of 6 Rules cards:
See the number on the bottom of the card? That is how you determine who starts first. The player who draws ‘1’ (or the lowest number) is the first player, with play continuing to that player’s left.
Once that is finished, lay out the long tiles with the “Elfsong Tavern” and the “Catacombs Landing”; the Tavern is the starting tile for the Adventurers:
You and the other Adventurers are in the Elfsong Tavern. There, you hear rumors of bad things happening throughout Baldur’s Gate: people disappearing, bodies being found, and some… ‘strange’ sounds coming from the dark corners. You set out to find out what the sources are of these occurrences….
Each player starts in the Elfsong Tavern. Movement is determined by your Speed stat; you start off by moving a number of tiles equal to your starting, green Speed stat. When you move to the edge of a tile, you place a new tile down on the board. The tile that you draw depends on the color of the door that you leave through:
Door colors do not have to match on placed or adjacent tiles; they just determine which stack of tiles you draw from. Those tiles are: Street tiles, Building tiles, and Catacomb tiles (blue):
As you move through the board, placing tiles, you’ll notice that most of the tiles have flavor text on them. You do whatever that text says, when you place that tile and enter that room or area: it could grant you a boost in a Stat, collapse a floor beneath you (causing Physical damage), or require you to make a dice roll to either avoid or take a particular effect. For example, you can drop from the Kitchen to the Kitchen Basement, if you stop on the tile below:
An example board:
There are 8 six-sided Dice, with ‘0’, ‘1’, and ‘2’ Pips. You will roll dice for everything from Attacks and Defense, to resolving Event cards, and determining whether or not a Haunt begins.
As Tiles are revealed, you will notice that most of them have symbols on the bottom-right corners (look at the ‘Warehouse’ tile above – it has the ‘Item’ symbol). Those symbols correspond to Item, Event, and Omen cards that you draw. Once you draw a card, your movement ends, unless that card says otherwise.
Items Cards are self-explanatory. You can get Talismans, Potions (of Health, Invisibility, Strength, etc.), or other valuable pieces of Jewelry. You can also find Weapons and Armor. These cards will come in handy; they can be traded with other players, which is not a bad move (for example, I gave another player a Potion of Healing, which brought him back from the brink of death). You can only trade if you and another Adventurer are standing on the same tile.
The spiral shape on a tile lets you draw Event Cards. Event Cards could lead to you hearing a voice behind you, rolling dice to preserve your Sanity; you could roll dice to avoid falling debris; you could get ambushed by Cranium Rats (those are a thing?!?); or you could gain a Mental trait by helping a friendly spirit (if you roll the dice right….). These cards add an extra element of anticipation to the game.
Omen Cards will drastically change the game. You can find some very power items, weapons, and armor… but they might be cursed. You may pick up a Jeweled Skull… but you might lose Sanity by doing it. Omen Cards let you find Companions, such as Familiars. They also can get you and others attacked by Otyughs (UGH!!! Hated those things in BG II!), ghostly Tentacles, or Claws. Most importantly, Omen Cards can start the Haunt.
The Changing of the Game: The Haunt
Every time that you draw an Omen Card, you have a chance to start the Haunt.
You roll dice equal to the number of Omen Cards that have been drawn. If you roll a 6+, the Haunt starts. Side note: the Haunt cannot start before the 3rd Omen Card is drawn. The game now changes from “Exploration” to “Survival”!
The Haunt is where a Traitor is revealed, their motives are revealed, and any other causes of troubles are revealed. The person who revealed the Haunt now looks in the “Traitor’s Tome”, matches up what area they are in with what Omen Card was drawn, and finds the page that the Tome sends them to; that page will tell them what they now have to do to win the game. The Traitor then leaves the room, while the rest of the Adventurers look in the “Secrets of Survival” book for their rules and keys to winning the game. Once both the Traitor and Adventurers are ready, the Traitor comes back into the room, makes any necessary adjustments to the board (and adjustment will happen), and the new phase of the game begins. In general, the Adventurers have to stop or kill the Traitor, OR escape from Baldur’s Gate, to win. The Traitor usually has to kill everyone or set something in motion to win.
There are Haunts where there are NO Traitors. In those cases, the Adventurers are cooperating to stop something from happening, trying to kill some Big Baddie, or escape the city, before they can win.
Here are some more rules that happen during a Haunt:
Pros, Cons, and Thoughts (a few SPOILERS below)
4 of us played Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate last night: myself, J.R., Evan, and Scotty.
Game 1: I was the Wizard (‘Magic Missiles’ Adventurer Power let me attack anyone in my Line Of Sight (LOS), with my target not being able to roll defense dice), Scotty was the Druid (who has an awesome ‘Wild Shape’ Adventurer Power), Evan was the Warlock, and J.R. was the Bard. Yeah, we didn’t have a Basher… or even a small-blade Stabber. That role had to be played by J.R.’s Bard. 😉
We actually built up a pretty good collection of Items and Artifacts – some, not cursed – before the Haunt was revealed by Evan. It turns out that Evan had been putting on a charade for months, until a group of Paladins of Tyr got too close and were dealt with. he then dropped his disguise to reveal his true form: a Lich!
A Drow Warlock Lich. With Skeletons.
And a Balor.
I tried to keep my distance and use my Magic Missile power but the dice were not kind to me. There were kind to Evan, however, as I met my demise via a Fireball To The Face (might trademark that). Scotty and J.R. followed suit soon after.
Game #2’s characters:
J.R. – Warrior
Scotty – Paladin
Me – Ranger
Evan – Warlock
A better balanced party this time.
Evan revealed the Haunt again, but it was revealed sooner than Game #1. He was the “Traitor” (in quotations because… well, you’ll have to play to find out). This time, he was stopped; we found and opened what we were looking for. However, this Haunt had 2 twists: Evan went back to our side, and a second goal was revealed. We now had to survive a fight with an angry Medusa! Without revealing her motives and strategies, we survived and won.
Cons, because I like to get any ‘bad news’ out of the way, first:
- One of the complaints that I’ve heard about the “House” version is that it was too hard to get items. The “BG” version corrects that, but there are very few “blank” tiles now; there aren’t many spaces were you don’t draw a card. As a result, Speed isn’t a factor in the early parts of the game. I’m not sure that’s a “con”, as much as it’s a “I Would Tweak this” feature.
- I’d add a few more Street and Catacomb cards.
- No small bags came for the 100+ tokens in the game
- The Minis are outstanding! I really like their detail
- I like some of the “tributes”, such as the signed fountain tile that says “Minsc and Boo were here!”
- The Haunts have been pretty fun! One of them had a twist (explained below)
- Only 2 levels (Street/Buildings and Catacombs), compared to 3 (basement/Ground/Upper). It keeps confusion down, as well as streamlining the space that the game board could potentially take up
- The amount of Items and Events feel more balanced; you probably won’t go into a Haunt completely unprepared
- The new Adventurer Powers were a wonderful addition! It not only adds to the Fantasy feel, it adds valuable skills, not just underpowered traits that add little
- The clips on the Adventurer Cards stay in place much better than the “House” version
I only have 2 games as a sample size but I am very impressed with this game! I like how the game tiles now give you visual clues for new tile drawing. Both Haunts were enjoyable, even with us blowing through part 1 of Haunt 2. That part of Haunt 2 ended quickly because: 1) we were basically 3 or 4 tiles away from the goal, with all of us having enough Speed to get there in 1 turn, and 2) the “Obstacles” couldn’t stop us. In addition to fun Haunts, the Baldur’s Gate setting added a new layer of intrigue to the game: you now felt equipped to deal with any kind of monster or creature that might come your way… until the game cranks up the power of said monsters and creatures to 11. The characters all have interesting and useful Adventurer Powers; just remember that you have them and can use use them. There were only a few grumbles, all of which are above in the ‘Cons’.
If you enjoyed “Betrayal at House on the Hill”, I think you’ll love “Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate.” If you didn’t like “Betrayal: House”, give “Betrayal: BG” a try, especially if you are a fan of D&D.