17 August 2019

PinkFae Archive #44: Board Game Review: Widow's Walk for Betrayal at House on the Hill

Today's entry is another PinkFae Archive. This one is another board game review, but unlike most of the reviews I've written, this one is a review of an expansion. It is thus far still the only review I've written for an expansion. It was originally published on 3 December 2016.

A display photo of the Widow's Walk box.The cover art shows a three-storey mansion in silhouette, with a pair of tombstones nearby, as a creepy old woman, perhaps a ghost or witch, looms over the mansion, grinning wickedly, as she reaches her hands down towards the mansion.

Back in 2004, Avalon Hill released an innovative board game called Betrayal at House on the Hill. A friend had a copy, and I got to play it, and loved it so much I bought a copy. It became popular, and many of my friends loved playing it. It soon went out of print, though... but demand increased. So in 2010, they released a second edition, with improved parts and corrections. It continued to be popular. So everyone continued to wonder why such a popular game had no expansions. Earlier this year, they announced the first expansion: Widow's Walk.

This review is going to be a little different. Instead of reviewing the game itself, I'm going to review an expansion. If you're not familiar with the base game, you can read my review over on my other site.

Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, and makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.
Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Gameplay: 30 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: Low
  Conflict: Medium
  Social Manipulation: Low
  Fantasy: High

An Overview of Widow's Walk

For those who don't know how the base game works and didn't bother to read the linked review: you are one of a group exploring a haunted mansion. As you move through the upper, ground, and basement floors, you draw tiles to see which room you discover. Most rooms make the discoverer draw a card. There are event cards, item cards, and omen cards. When you draw an omen card, you roll to see if you trigger the haunt. It becomes more likely to trigger the haunt as the game progresses. When you do, the room you're in plus the specific omen card you draw determines which scenario you're playing. Scenarios range from vampires to zombies to alternate dimensions to serial killers to giant carnivorous plants.

Widow's Walk adds 50 new scenarios to the 50 from the base set. It also adds a new level: the roof. There are new room tiles, new omen, item, and event cards. There are also new tokens for the new scenarios.

Widow's Walk in More Depth

The main attraction of this expansion is the added scenarios. This, of course, makes the game harder to review, as you can't read the scenario until it's been triggered. Widow's Walk is still so new I've only been able to play one scenario from it yet. However, the authors of the new scenarios include some impressive names, including Anita Sarkeesian and Keith Baker. If you've played the base game as many times as I have, you start repeating scenarios. Having new ones to explore is a good thing in itself!

The mechanics of the game mean that sometimes, it's a little unbalanced. If you trigger a Haunt early in the game, one side or the other may have a serious advantage because so few rooms are out. If one player has taken a lot of damage and then becomes the traitor, he may find it hard to win. Alternately, if the traitor has taken little damage and found a lot of items when the Haunt begins, the other players may find it hard to win. Widow's Walk suffers this same problem.

But that's OK, because Widow's Walk, like the base game, is not about winning. It's about telling stories, exploring a mansion with a different layout every time, and the excitement of seeing which scenario you'll have this time!

Final Thoughts on Widow's Walk

This expansion adds a few new rules; some rooms have a dumbwaiter that allows you to move across the mansion in exciting new ways. The fourth level of the mansion adds some variety. But really, it's the new scenarios that are the biggest draw for this expansion. Although I have only been able to play one of the new ones yet, I'm very excited to see what other new ones there are. I, for one, am very excited to continue the newly expanded mansion to see what it offers.

And I think that's about it for this week! I'll see you here again next week. Until then, remember to

Game on!

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