So, while I was at PAX East this past weekend, plenty of games related news was breaking – most notably the announcement of a new expansion for the classic Betrayal at House on the Hill, some twelve years after the base game’s release. Widow’s Walk was on show at the venue for a select few, and our own Chris O’Regan was one of the lucky ones to try it out. Here’s what he has to say…
“I can’t kill him!’; “why can’t you?”; “I can’t get to him, let alone hit him!”; “I WIN!”
The exchange described here is a common one that occurs towards the end of a typical session of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. A game that was first released in 2004 and reprinted in 2010, it created a 2 phased approach with players creating the world or house their characters inhabited before going onto phase 2 where a ‘haunting’ occurs. This is where Betrayal at the House on the Hill typically, but not always, turns into an adversarial one-versus-everyone else game, based on the revealed scenario that is triggered. In order to win, the other players who were not chosen by the game to be the traitor had to take out the aggressor or simply make a run for it. Sadly, movement is somewhat restricted in Betrayal, which leads to the exasperated discussions about working your way around the house above all else. Long been regarded as a flaw in the game,the new Widow’s Walk expansion does much to address it.
The original game came with fifty scenarios that provided a significant amount of replayability, but after a certain amount of plays it was inevitable that scenarios would repeat. Fans of the game have implored the creators for more scenarios to be made and here we are, twelve years later, with an answer to their calls.
Widows Walk contains a further fifty scenarios, all of which have been authored by various luminaries across the tabletop gaming fraternity. Designers of the original game are present in this roster as well as those who are simply fans of the original and were approached to help make Widows Walk just that extra bit more special. These scenario authors include:
- Rob Daviau, one of the co-designers of the original and creator of the much lauded Legacy games
- Christopher Badell, co-creator of Sentinels of the Multiverse
- Chris Dupuis, designer for Dungeons and Dragons, who has also worked on board games made by Wizards of the Coast including Lords of Waterdeep and Dungeon Command
- Justin Gary, creator of the Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer deck building game
- Gaby Weildling, developer for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
It’s an impressive list of people and they have created scenarios that work within the confines of the game, while adding some much needed nuance to it. In addition to new scenarios there are new locations to the point where an entire floor has been added in the form of a roof space. This can be access via upper floor or roof tiles and expand the already large haunted house. There is also a ‘dumb waiter’ symbol that appears on some of the new locations that improve the mobility of characters that were previously hindered by their own ‘speed’ stat. This icon allows players to quickly traverse the various floors of the house, jumping between any locations that show this new symbol.
There are also eleven items, eleven omens and nine event cards included in Widow’s Walk that work with the new locations (and in some cases scenarios, both old and new) to add another layer of enhancement to the original’s gameplay experience, which is generally regarded as quite substantial in the first place.
I played through a sample scenario during PAX East 2016 and experienced first hand how Widow’s Walk is to be incorporated into the original game. While the deck was loaded in the expansion’s favour, there are mechanics in Widow’s Walk that encourage the new content to selected more often than the original’s. This is encouraging as the form of Widow’s Walk could have led it to be swamped by the base game’s content, seeing it surface every once in a while. This would likely lead to resentment as people realise they have paid out for content they are not likely to see.
After playing through for one hour I discovered very quickly how enhanced the movement of characters had been implemented in Widow’s Walk. Characters were given items to teleport to other’s locations and the dumb waiter icon was extremely prevalent. The extra floor increased the play area substantially and encouraged players to explore further than in the original game. This expansiveness of the environment increases the sense of doom in many ways as the further players explored, the further away they were from safety.
From what I played of Widow’s Walk I got the impression that it was deeply respectful to the original material. Wizards of the Coast could have quite easily thrown in a new set of characters and replaced all of the base cards with new ones but this would have diluted the original considerably, to the point where it would have felt like two separate games rather than an expansion to the original.
Once the one hour session was over I found my personal affection towards the original renewed and with it remaining in my collection, it’s likely I shall be placing it onto my game table very soon. Whether or not Widow’s Walk is worthy of anyone’s time is probably still too early to say. The version I played was very much a work in progress, although the scenarios appeared to have been pretty much complete with the authors of all fifty cited in the text, so it is already a very developed product. However, there is time to iron out the kinks before it goes on full release on October 14th this year.