Board Game Review – Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill by Wizards of the Coast is one of the best board game purchases we have ever made.


In Betrayal, you play as a group of adventurers who are exploring a mysterious house. Players take turns moving around the house discovering rooms and drawing cards for Items, Events, and Omens. Items are useful things, such as a magical tool or a weapon.  Events may cause the player’s stats to be increased or decreased by a lucky (or unlucky) dice roll. Lastly, the Omen cards will force the player to make a haunt roll. An unlucky dice roll will trigger the second stage of the game, the Haunt.

Betrayal gameplay example

When the Haunt begins, the specific Omen that the player drew will trigger a specific horror-themed scenario. (such as a ghostly possession, vampire attack, mad scientist, etc). Based on the specific scenario, one player of the group may turn into a traitor. The traitor will actively work against the other characters. The remaining heroes must work together to survive and meet the criteria to win.  All while the traitor will attempt to kill off the heroes or prevent them from succeeding in their task.

Betrayal scenario books

There are 50 different scenarios in the original game, and +50 more with the expansion. Each time you play the game you will encounter a new horror-themed trope.

Betrayal character tokens

Our Experience:

The original game is very smooth to play, and the written rules for each scenario are easy to understand. You can tell that it was extensively play-tested to make sure everything was clearly explained. I love that each Item, Event, and Omen card has a short little story to set the scene. The creators put a lot of time, effort, and attention into thinking of all of these horror themes and spooky events.

In our experience, the Widows Walk expansion is not as smooth and did not seem as extensively play-tested. The rules for the expansion scenarios are more difficult to understand and there seem to be some minor errors and inconsistencies. However, I like the new room tiles and new Item/Event/Omen cards and love seeing them when they are drawn in the game.

One downside to this game is that the original box does a poor job of keeping the various cards/figurines/tokens/etc organized and accessible. I finally invested in two Broken Token Box organizers (one for House on the Hill, one for Baldur’s Gate). Although the box organizers were an expensive investment for this game, they are worth every penny!

Betrayal game pieces in the broken token box organizers.
Betrayal Box Organizers by Broken Token
Broken Token Box Organizers

The best part:

The best thing about this game is its replay value. With 50 different scenarios in the original, and 100 total with the expansion, you will always be able to find something new in the game. We have had the original game and the expansion for several years now. Even though we play it frequently during game nights, we still have plenty of scenarios left. The basic rules of gameplay stay constant across the scenarios. It is pretty easy to adapt to the changes for the different individual scenarios.

Players and ages:

This cooperative/hybrid game is for 3-6 players. The manufacturer recommends ages 12+. The rules of this game are slightly different for each scenario, this is a pretty accurate age recommendation. Each round of play is 60-80 minutes, depending on how much discussion your group gets into during gameplay.


Recommended Accessories:

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Board Game Review – Forbidden Desert

I’m excited to talk about another fantastic Gamewright game, Forbidden Desert. Just like Forbidden Island that I wrote about in a previous post, Forbidden Desert is a very easy to learn game. It is quick and simple to play, and we use it as a mini-break after finishing a more complex game.

Forbidden Desert Game Start


In Forbidden Desert, your goal is to find four pieces of a Leonardo Davinci style flying machine and escape from a desert sandstorm. Players must work quickly to figure out the location of the missing parts. The location tiles slowly (or quickly) get covered with layers of sand. The players must also keep an eye on their water supply, as dehydration is a killer. Sharing water with each other becomes necessary for survival.

Forbidden Desert - Gameplay Example

There are different item cards that allow you to do things like protect yourself from the sun or remove multiple layers of sand from a location tile. Each player is assigned a different character role. The different roles will help you move quicker around the board, remove sand from location tiles, or share water with teammates.

Forbidden Desert - Player Roles

Each player will begin their turn by taking actions such as moving, searching, or removing sand. Next, that player will then draw cards to move the eye of the sandstorm around and add sand to location tiles that shifted. All players win if they can find the missing parts and gather together to escape. All players lose if all of the sand tiles run out, or if a player dies of dehydration.

The best part:

Forbidden Desert is a great example of a game with easy-to-learn rules and mechanics. It is a fantastic way to teach “board game logic” to an adult or child new to gaming. I like Forbidden Desert more than Forbidden Island, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because the location tiles move around on the table. Possibly because the dehydration factor adds some complexity to the game. It could just be the adorable flying machine.


I am a big fan of the company that makes Forbidden Desert, as they are a great publisher of family games.  I use Gamewright games frequently in my job as a speech pathologist and always snap them up if I see them at a thrift store. Another really cool thing is that many of their games use the same basic game play rules as the cooperative game Pandemic. Pandemic is insanely successful and  spawned a huge series of expansions, stand-alone games, and legacy games. So, if you learn how to play Forbidden Desert,  you can easily transfer your knowledge to other Forbidden games and the Pandemic suite of games.

Players and ages:

Forbidden Desert is a cooperative game is for 2-4 players. The manufacturer recommends ages 10+. Because the game is so simple to learn, it is very appropriate for children aged 8+. Each round of play will last about 30 minutes.


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Board Game Review – Forbidden Island

I am excited to talk about a fantastic board game called Forbidden Island by Gamewright. This is a great game for both adults and kids. It is very easy to learn and quick to play. Forbidden Island won multiple awards in the years after it was published. Gamewright also published two other similar games; Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky.

Forbidden Island - Board Setup


In Forbidden Island, you play as a group of explorers who work together to find hidden artifacts and escape to safety. The group must work quickly to locate the missing items before the island sinks.

Forbidden Island - Charater Roles

Each player selects a character role. The different roles will help you move quicker around the board, prevent the island from sinking, and help you find the artifacts. Each player has several actions to choose from on their turn. They can move, search for an artifact, or shore up a tile. To find an artifact players, must be on the appropriate tile and have 4 of a kind of the matching artifact cards.

Forbidden Island - Artifacts

At the end of the players turn they will sink the island by drawing cards to “flood” (flip over) or “sink” (remove) location tiles from game play. All players win if they can find the missing artifacts and gather together on the helicopter pad tile to escape. All players lose if the tile that holding a missing artifact or the helicopter pad tile sinks.

The best part:

I am a huge fan of games that have very simple game mechanics, and Forbidden Island is a great example. For this reason, this game is ideal for adults and children new to gaming. 

Players and ages:

This cooperative game is for 2-4 players. The manufacturer recommends ages 10+. This game is so simple to learn and is appropriate for children aged 8+. Each round of play will last about 30 minutes.


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Board Game Review – Massive Darkness

The game title isn’t kidding, this game is massive! Massive Darkness by CMON is a cooperative role-playing game (RPG) for up to 6 players. This game is dungeon master-less, and all players will be working with the same goals to defeat the dungeon’s many monsters. The game includes 75 figurines, 280 cards and a bunch of tokens. You and your friends take turns kicking down doors, fighting monsters and collecting loot, all while trying to make it out alive.

Over the weekend my friends and I learned the rules. We then worked our way through the tutorial quest and the first mission. The tutorial was relatively quick, but I think the first mission took us close to 5 hours to complete. Now the game says 90 mins, but our group is pretty slow when it comes to RPGs. We like to discuss all routes and ways to stay alive.

Massive Darkness first mission
Our late night with the first mission.

Without a dungeon master, the monsters function with a set of rules to chase, stab and murder the players.  Additionally, depending on the card draw, the monsters form a mob.  The mob will have a boss that carries and uses a piece of loot, while being protected by its minions (equal to the number of players).  With a difficult door or event card draw, players can become overwhelmed in a hurry.

Massive Darkness Miniatures
The base game includes 75 detailed miniatures.

Play passes around the table, with each hero taking up to 3 actions to open doors, pickup loot, trade gear and/or fight monsters.  Players will have to work together to defeat swarms as they progress through the quest.  As the team moves through the board the monsters get harder, but the loot gets sweeter.

Player Board
The base game includes the plastic player boards which is a great addition to an RPG game.

Overall the combat was easy to learn and looting is a lot of fun.  We saved our progress on the campaign that is included in the base game.  Additionally there are quite a few expansion packs which can mix up the monsters you run into.  I will blog again soon about our progress and the inclusion of the expansion packs.

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Board Game Review – Mysterium

Today I am going to share Mysterium by Asmodee. We first played this game at ValorCon 2016, and our friend liked it so much she bought it that very day. It has since become her favorite game, and travels with her frequently to gaming weekends. 


In Mysterium, you play either as the spirit of a ghost, or as the psychics that are trying to solve the ghost’s murder. The ghost can only communicate with the players by giving them vision cards with strange, surrealistic drawings. The vision cards suggest clues to the identity of the murderer, the location it took place, and the weapon.  The psychics can discuss their interpretation of the different cards with each other. To win the game, all psychics must guess their individual suspect, location, and weapon (original) or motive (expansions) within the first 7 rounds. They must then determine  which psychic has found the truth  of the ghost’s murder in the last, final round.

The ghost:

The ghost is never allowed to speak with the other players. He or she can only give clues to their murder through the vision cards, or by giving a yes/no signal to tell players if their guesses were correct or incorrect. He or she cannot do anything that might accidentally give a cue to the psychics.  However, the player characters can speak freely to each other, including friendly trash-talking about the poor quality of the ghost’s visions. Since the ghost is unable to use any rude gestures to respond to friendly trash-talking, he or she will have to be satisfied with a reproachful glare in response.

4 Player Ghost Setup With first Hand
4 Player Ghost Setup with First Hand

 What I like the most:

What I like the most about this game being part of the cooperative debate  several other players. And the more players, the better! The most fun time we played this game was during a New Years Eve party with a full set of 7 players.

Our friend loves this game so much she invested in a box insert to keep things better organized. The artwork is lovely and there are several expansions that add more vision cards and different clues.

Players and Ages:

Mysterium is a cooperative game for 2-7 players, and is great for larger groups. It will take about 40-50 minutes to play one round. It is recommended for ages 10+, but older elementary-age children should be able to play without difficulty. 

Games and Expansions:

Recommended Accessories:

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Board Game Review – Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters

Ever wanted to find treasure in an abandoned mansion? So did we. The ghosts were not into that idea at all. Apparently, neither were the dice as our rolls were really bad.  Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters by Mattel is easy to learn but tough to win. We first watched the game played at GenCon 2017 at the Mattel booth and bought it on the spot.

Ghost Fighting Board

This game is for 2-4 players and takes about 20 mins to play.  Play goes around the table.  Each player rolls the movement dice, places ghosts, collects jewels, and battles any nearby ghosts.  Players need to plan ahead as the furthest jewels can be the hardest to get to, especially when you are not rolling well.

As the game progresses, the rooms fill up with cute little ghosts.  If you are not managing them, the smaller ghosts will combine to form a Haunting.  If you are in the room with a Haunting, any players carrying a jewel are trapped in the room until a friend comes to help you defeat the Haunting.  The game ends if there are 6 Hauntings within the mansion. We played 3 games in a row, and the jewels are still protected in the house by many scary ghosts.

Ghost Fighting Ghosts

We learned a few tricks along the way, and I hope they work better for you than they did for us.  If we got a good roll of 5 or 6 movement spaces, we would take shortcuts through rooms to bypass the hallways.  For our bad rolls, we would intentionally stop short so that we could fight ghosts already on the board.  Lastly, we tried to collect the furthest jewels first and then work our way back.

Overall we really enjoyed this game.  We will be back soon, hopefully with better luck, in hopes of taking the mansion’s treasure from those pesky ghosts.


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Board Game Review – Azul

My friends and I recently picked up a new game called Azul.  This tile drafting game by Plan B Games entices players to create a beautiful wall design, while competing to earn the most points.


Play passes around the table, with players selecting tiles with the intent of completing their wall. Players place these tiles in one of five rows on their player board. The rows require up to five matching tiles to complete.  Once all the tiles have been drafted from the center, players score points.

For each complete row of tiles from the first phase, one of the tiles moves into the wall design.  Each tile moved into the wall design will earn extra points if it touches adjacent tiles horizontally or vertically. The final scoring round is triggered when one player completes a horizontal line in their row.  Bonus points are added for any horizontal and vertical or same color sets. The player with the most points win.

On the surface, this game is quick to pick up and easy to play. The more games you play, the more strategy you will employ. Do you select the tile to prevent your opponents from taking advantage of it? Or do you skip a tile you need, in hopes of selecting more of the same later? It’s up to you to learn.

Azul Board Game - Tiles & Bag

The best part:

The best part of the game is the strategy behind selecting the tiles and completing the design.  By watching other players’ boards and selections, you can plan ahead to what will be available and prevent them from completing their strategy.

Players and ages:

Azul is a competitive game for 2-4 players.  The game includes small partsand is recommended for ages 8+. This game moves quickly and can be completed in 20-30 mins depending on your group. The random nature of the tiles provides hours of replay ability.


  • Azul (Original, Published 2017)
  • Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (New, Coming Soon)

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