Board Game Review

Death by Sanity or Death by Knowledge. (Betrayal Legacy)

This is a review of Betrayal Legacy. And therefore, I must immediately say that there may be spoilers within this. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s experience of this, and hopefully I won’t go into so much detail that there will be no reason to play, but I feel it only fair to say beware.

Ok, so I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Every single chapter was beautiful within its own right, some were better than others, some held more weight in terms of memories made, but generally speaking it was entirely fantastic. Because of the way the game works, I’m unable to explain how to play entirely; the game evolves as you play (as is the nature of a Legacy game) and therefore rules change, are added and are superseded. Luckily! The rule book clearly states what to do, in what order and how to do it. Anyway, I’m going to lay the review out differently… Bear with me for this.

Setup (Possible minor spoilers)

So to kick off you have to assign yourself a family that you’ll play as throughout the entire campaign. Each has different levels of traits with varying maximums and clear strengths, but, like with the original, the game will take stats away and add them on the fly dependent on the events and actions that take place. The beauty of having a family you play as constantly is that you are sort of stuck with them and therefore become one of them; you quickly are instructed to name them and then name the family members you play as during each of the campaign’s chapters. I myself became very fond of the Stagletonson family name and even found myself defending the family’s previous actions. And of course you then are forced to choose forenames that will flow with the surname chosen. It’s not true immersion but it makes you actually care about your character and the family. Then, following common sense rules, you get out the appropriate tiles, landings, cards available (both items and events), and then you pull out the Legacy deck. The Legacy deck is almost like a secondary rule set for each chapter of the campaign. You’ll also need to keep the Secrets of Survial, Traitor’s Tome, Rulebook (for easy solutions!) and the BLEAK JOURNAL to one side. This is your key to the story; the ins, outs, discussions that take place, minor and major events. Under no circumstances should you read it unless instructed to do so.

The cards that determine your destiny or demise…

Once set up is complete you read from the top card on the Legacy deck and it will tell you how to set up for the specific chapter you are on. The first Legacy card of the chapter will often tell you the current events of the campaign and will then tell you to add in new item cards, event cards and sometimes some other extras (minimal spoilage!!). For context of the game, every chapter 1 will set up the same in every version of the game, regardless of the previous events. What does change is the haunt. What happens, who does what, and the actions chosen are what determine how the players are tested. Anyway, more about that later.

Making Haste!

Naturally you can assume why your character has come to the house from the flavour text of the Legacy card, and you do begin to act accordingly, but generally speaking you’ll be eager to explore and investigate. The game is extremely clear in what you can, cannot, should, and shouldn’t do. As you navigate around the house, you’ll discover new rooms, things will happen, you will find items and things will generally go wrong. As the title indicates, many people die on ridiculous rolls, but luckily you can’t die unless you’re in the midst of the haunt, but that’s not to say you’ll not struggle with minimal speed!

The Legacy version also introduced the mechanic of heirlooming items. This then makes not only the board unique, but certain items; should you draw an item with an heirloom spot free, you can heirloom it. This will often grant extra buffs whilst your family sticker is on it, and you then get to name it. Without spoiling too much, there’s an item callled ‘_________ bells’ which can be heirloomed, my character was an 11 year old boy called Estoban (trying to fit the era and the figure I had to play as). What would any 11 year old call their newly found family bells? Well I didn’t. Get your mind out of the gutter, they are ESTOBAN’S COOL BELLS! Although some buffs seem minimalistic, in a pinch knowing you own an heirloomed item that grants one extra might can really save your skin!

Eastoban’s heavily redacted cool bells! With heirloom sticker.

Normally, a haunt will activate on a haunt roll of 5 or more (meaning rolling dice equal to the omens in play whenever an omen is discovered), although again the Legacy deck may say otherwise, particularly during the earlier haunts. The very first chapter only involves one omen card which is added after a specific event occurs, triggering the haunt. When the haunt begins, you’ll refer to the next card in the Legacy deck which is likely to say the word PAUSE on it. It will give you an explanation as to the events that cause the haunt and it will tell you to read a specific entry from the Bleak journal! This will immediately change the scenario and atmosphere of the game; no longer are you all exploring to prepare, you now have a goal to complete.

Whether you’re a traitor or a hero, your goal needs completing. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that your goal needs completing; defecting to another side to keep it interesting by choice when you’re not supposed to can ruin the illusion of the game. It’s called Betrayal: Legacy, not Get Along: Legacy. Regardless to which haunt you do and who wins, you’ll still progress the overall campaign.

Getting Spooky With It

This is the point where it gets crazy interesting. The haunt, Legacy card drawn and objectives are one element to the change in tone. But the biggest is the realisation of how big, or small, you have made the house. No jokes about it, there’s a real sense of panic/excitement at the fact you’re 17 tiles from the traitor, or the panic of being 2 away with little scope for escape. The objective can be simple, it can have multiple steps, it can have multiple optional goals, multiple win scenarios, or can simply be ‘you win when the heroes are all dead’. There’s also that crazy tension when there is no known traitor, or the relief of knowing its you against a mechanic within the game. That being said, the designers knew you’d band together and therefore made it really, really challenging. Fair, but challenging. Just aim for a win and, regardless to whether you do or not, make it interesting!

The Legacy of this game is the Legacy you leave behind. When you die, you add flavour text to your family card for the member of that generation. If you win, you put a brief summary. My partner put song lyrics. I put the strange things my character did. Another member wrote many profanities in anger at being killed on sanity and knowledge rolls. But when looking back we realised we’d created our own history for our House on the Hill, and it means a lot more knowing they were fun memories (despite the murder and whatnot).

Moving On

So the deeds are done. Maybe someone died. Maybe someone didn’t. It doesn’t matter for the most part, for you and your story it does, but the game itself requires progression. Regardless to who wins, you’ll be instructed to read an entry in the Bleak Journal. This will explain the repercussions of winning and may give you some instructions. You must only do what it asks of you. Seriously, you risk messing up future events if you do anything it doesn’t ask or do more than is asked. That’s not spoiler material either, just the way Legacy games work. The smallest detail might mean nothing, it might mean everything. Nonetheless, it will no doubt tell you that things are being added or changed because of what you did during the haunt; and out comes the Purgatory Deck! This is what changes the world you create and makes it reflect what you do. Certain elements may never be used, certain elements may be integral. For every campaign it will no doubt be somewhat different.

The biggest thing to remember is that you are making your own Betrayal game as an end result. The game can be played after with all the effects you added in place. Part of what you’ll do is Legacy components. Destroying them is part of the experience; it ensures your play is yours, reflects what you did and guarantees a unique experience. Don’t pick and choose what to destroy, otherwise you don’t have a Legacy, you have a box of disorganised components.

The Quality Check

So down to the nittygritty. The components in this are very similar to that of the original. The dice are hardy, the tiles solid, any stickers you may place (as you do in most Legacy games) fit their locations excellently.. The only qualm we found was those bloody clips to track traits! In the original, they were too loose, these ones are too tight! They will rip your player boards, it’s a guarantee. Normally this would really frustrate me, but with the game effectively ‘ageing’ as chapters went on, it almost became quite a charming thing to happen. Chapter 8 and the boards look as tired as you probably are from all the arduous heartbreak, tension and straight up murder. The boards also seem to be ink proof. We went through a fair few biros before we got one to write on it. Some of us resorted to carving our family members name into it. The cards are pretty firm and feel good quality, and many of the other components worked well. Everything in terms of cards that were played were good. In fact, we never found a combination that was tremendously overpowered either. A few of the omen combos were handy, but never unfair. I have to admit the balance in this game was excellent. The only time a card became overpowered was because of the things we had done; our own selfishness had caused it to become more and more unstable until it was drawn a final time, nearly killing my partner’s character. Putting it bluntly, she deserved it. She had caused most of its overpoweredness by not activating it sooner and taking the hit, but even then, once it had activated we had to destroy it as instructed by the card itself. It sits in our Legacy as a memory, a funny one at that. What else is really impressive with the game is that, once you have finished and Legacied everything you should have, the components all fit beautifully. It’s crazy I know, but it feels like Avalon Hill checked to ensure things would fit in the spaces provided. I’d highly recommend bagging up all the minor components for your own sanity, but generally speaking it’s a near perfect fit!

Three of the families.

Replayability?

Unlike other Legacy games, it can be replayed. Just not the campaign. The game itself exists as you end it; your House on the Hill. I would argue the game has high replayability, but not in the sense you’d want, but honestly, why buy a Legacy game if you’re determined to save every component in its original state just to play it again? If that’s your intention, it sounds like you never wanted a Legacy game.

Complexity

In terms of weight, it isn’t bad. The game does 90% of the recap for you and sets you up so you know what is happening when. Once you’ve nailed one setup, every other setup is identical unless you’ve added new components, but even then the game does that after steps 1-7 of setup or during the actual game itself. The haunts can sometimes be confusing, but common sense is often the best port of call; if it makes you indefinitely overpowered, you’re probably doing it wrong. The only element we found complex was our own ways of tackling the traitor or the task at hand.

Is It Fun?

Yes. Absolutely. Definitely. I have no doubts in my mind that by the end of Chapter 1 you’ll be entirely engrossed. The game lends itself excellently to the unknown. You don’t know what’s going to happen next, who will betray your group, what ominous item will cause the next haunt, what event is going to occur and drain your traits… even if this were to be your second play through, the number of variables and different haunts you may have would give you an entirely different experience. On top of that, there’s the overarching mystery surrounding the campaign. You won’t know the whole story until it’s finished, and even then your choices will ensure that what you learn is as unique to your group and play as the board you create.

Recommended?

I would outright recommend this game, but only to people who are definitely going to make use of the entirety of the game. If you’re wanting another Betrayal Game, get Baldur’s Gate or the Widow’s Walk expansion. The campaign of this game requires a strong commitment to the destroying of components, and if you’re not certain you can manage it then I’d deter away from this. There’s always the option of stickering and working around the destruction of elements, but that would defeat the point of the campaign in my opinion. Plus, with the chronology of events and specific things happening at specific times, it would be a lot of messing about before even getting to play which would break up the suspense and action. I personally am quite sentimental about things and haven’t actually destroyed the components, but they will never be added into the game again. I intend to use them for a different purpose, maybe a montage of our experiences or something? Who knows. But it will only be another demonstration of the Legacy we had, not the elements we chose.

Run Down

Hopefully this review was mostly spoiler free. Naturally I’ve omitted some key details but I’m hoping this will help you make a decision on whether Betrayal: Legacy is for you. You may get it and not be entirely convinced, or you may do as our group did and go whole hog, commit to every aspect and even create a small cult with its own chant. My advice? If you’re a survival horror, mystery game, semi-cooperative fan, or just someone who enjoys tearing up cards, go for it. I thoroughly enjoyed Betrayal: Legacy and look forward to betraying my group at our House on the Hill.

“Yea boy, yea boy, yea boy, yea boy…