With almost 20 years under its (suitably gothic) belt, Betrayal at House on the Hill is as close to an institution as board games can get. Because so many of us have a copy on our shelves already, should you trade it in now that a 3rd edition upgrade is here?
To give you an idea of how they compare, I pitted both versions of Betrayal at House on the Hill against one another in a metaphorical fight to the death. What’s different? What’s the same? And is there enough new content in the 3rd edition to justify buying Betrayal again?
Artwork & design
As you’d expect, Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition has been given a fresh coat of paint to mark the occasion, and it isn’t just the cover that’s been spruced up. Every token, card, character, and tile has enjoyed a refresh.
That provides a bigger impact than you might expect. I never thought of Betrayal’s board as ‘drab’ before now, but putting new and old rooms side by side is eye-opening. The third edition is much, much more colorful than its predecessor, and it makes better use of lighting for a moodier aesthetic all-round. Seriously, the difference is night and day (well, not literally – it’s still eerie enough to fit in with other Halloween board games).
I’d say that the reworked version’s cards are also more handsome. Besides fresh illustrations and slightly larger font, card backgrounds now carry a design like the wallpaper found in Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride. ‘Decaying grandeur’ is definitely the theme this time around, and that’s a nice contrast to the grungy feel of the last edition.
The biggest change is the third edition’s revamped miniatures, though. These character models are at least a third larger than the original ones, and despite not having any paint to speak of (they’re left blank in case players want to have a go themselves), they’re so much more detailed. The bases come with color-coded rubber covers, too.
This sums up the new Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition nicely – even though it costs the same amount, it feels a lot more ‘premium’ than before.
Mechanics & gameplay
Here’s where things get really juicy. You see, this isn’t just a reskin; everything about Betrayal at House on the Hill has been reworked from top to bottom, including gameplay. The cards are a great example of that change. Although some events are the same, most are unfamiliar. The same goes for items and Omens – they’re largely unfamiliar. And that’s coming from someone who’s played 2nd edition to death.
There are fewer tokens to contend with as well. Thankfully, the countless bits of cardboard that felt like they were almost never used in 2nd edition have been replaced with bigger, more catch-all ones here. This doesn’t impact gameplay in a negative way, though. If anything, it makes for a more streamlined approach with less stress; you won’t be struggling to find the tiny tokens you need from a sea of others in 3rd edition.
Sure, the characters are broadly similar and fall into the same horror tropes – jock, creepy kid, etc – in spite of refreshed backstories. And yes, Betrayal’s rooms are mechanically the same other than some swapped icons (the coal chute has been replaced with a laundry chute, too). But things are drastically different where it matters. To start with, 3rd edition offers 50 entirely new scenarios to play through. In addition, the way these Haunts are selected is different.
Rather than turning up at the house for no reason and wandering around until something bad happens like a member of a most-haunted documentary, you’ll draw cards at the beginning of the game that gives an excuse (be it a Scooby Doo-style paranormal investigation or mysterious invite) for your group’s presence. You’ll then consult the unique table on each one whenever you get an Omen. This ties the resulting mission together thematically, and it’s a neat update that should vastly improve the narrative.
There are also a handful of more subtle addendums. Namely, it’s no longer possible to steal items unless the Haunt specifically allows that action. In much the same way, it’s now a hard and fast rule that you must stop your turn after discovering a room. Oh, and the introductory blurb for traitors and survivors? They’re read out for everyone to hear instead of being perused in secret. You still won’t know your rival’s objective or what they can do in terms of gameplay, but at least there’s a narrative context behind any heel-turns.
As a result, Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition feels as if it’s a worthy upgrade without losing what made its predecessors so special.
Should you buy Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition?
If you haven’t tried Betrayal at House on the Hill yet, the 3rd edition is the perfect opportunity to remedy that. You aren’t losing anything by skipping the last version, and I’d argue that this update has the game in better shape than it ever has been.
As for those of us with the 2nd edition, I’d say it’s more than worth picking up the new one. Along with improved artwork that blows the old version out of the water, it updates gameplay in smart enough ways to be a marked improvement. Plus, those entirely new scenarios mean that it is a new experience rather than a rehash. Even long-in-the-tooth Betrayal veterans like me will get something from it.
So, when will you be able to get hold of 3rd edition? US readers can get involved as of August 1, 2022, while UK fans are able to pick it up right now from Amazon for £39.99 (opens in new tab) – it launched early on the other side of the pond.
Where can you get it, then? Alongside the official Hasbro listing (opens in new tab), the game is available to pre-order and buy from a variety of retailers. We’ve listed a few below.
Want some recommendations to keep you busy until Betrayal’s latest edition turns up? Don’t forget to check out these board games for adults and board games for 2 players. It’s worth taking a look at the best cooperative board games, too.