And we'd get away with them too, if it wasn't for those pesky licensing fees!
Zoinks! Did you hear the rumors? Word has it that strange things are going down, and Old man Betrayal is teaming up with yet another license! Yes, following a short holiday exploring the delights of Baldur’s Gate, the Betrayal franchise -- this is a franchise now, right? -- has turned its ghoulish eyes on a far loftier goal: child-friendly hijinks with the Scooby-Doo gang!
Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is an unexpected mashup to be sure but one that makes a lot of sense. It also got us thinking: If Betrayal is going to establish itself as the crossover series of the board gaming world, where else could we see it lay down its tiles of terror?
The original Betrayal at House on the Hill sees you and your companions cautiously exploring an decrepit mansion, testing your characters' traits against spooky occurrences in the hopes of gaining precious items or boosts. You’ll need them too, because before long a semi-randomized crescendo will unfold that forces you into a desperate fight for survival. More often than not, you’ll be facing off against a former friend, unexpectedly transformed into the story’s villain and toting a new suite of deadly powers.
The core design is a genius concept, and one that’s easily adaptable to a variety of different horror settings. It’s time to tear off the monstrous mask of Betrayal at House on the Hill and uncover some alternative themes that could be lurking underneath.
Alien: Betrayal in Deep Space
Betrayal is all about the grand reveal, that moment when one of the table’s compatriots is unmasked as the big bad, disappearing into another room to scour their secret rulebook and -- if they’re anything like us -- cackle with villainous glee. But what if they weren’t really bad and ust the unfortunate host of an alien parasite? Wait, what’s wrong with their chest? Oh god, there’s blood everywhere!
Ridley Scott may have done his best to facehug the Alien license to death through the cinematic trainwrecks of Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, but we can’t help but feel the original movie still has so much to give. The lurking terror of Alien, knowing that something is wrong on this ship, is perfect for Betrayal’s timid exploration.
Swap a haunted mansion for the cold, industrial steel of the USCSS Nostromo, lights turned low, computer unresponsive, and relationships frayed. Waking from stasis, the team spreads out in search of scattered equipment and supplies. Sure, the crew of the Nostromo really ought to know where they’re going aboard their own ship, but after years of cryosleep, everyone’s bound to be a bit groggy.
The source material allows for plenty of fiendish variety, too. One outcome could see everyone racing against the clock to cleanse an infested ally, another might let a player assume control of the alien itself after their character’s unfortunate demise. Maybe the friend beside you was an android all along, their only goal to protect the lethal xenomorph killer. That’s right, the one which has just crept up behind you! Ooh, our heart’s racing just thinking about it. At least we assume what this strange feeling in our chest is….
Betrayal at Arkham
No, wait! Please don’t leave. We know Cthulu has slathered his unpleasant tentacles over far, far too many board game boxes at this point, but there’s serious potential here, we promise. Sitting down again? OK, hear us out as we preach the good word of our dreaming lord and his Old One friends.
The streets of Arkham are once again blanketed by oppressive, unrelenting rain. Your team of investigators has uncovered a network of cultists -- deranged individuals praying to ancient beings -- and they seem to be preparing for something big. It’s time to head out into the streets in search of clues, but the city of Arkham is treacherous (and your companions may well be, too).
The sheer number of cosmic and ancient evils trying to exert their influence make Lovecraft’s universe well suited to Betrayal’s scattershot approach to mid-game reveals. This is also a chance to swap the cramped confines of a haunted house with the seedy streets of Arkham, Dunwich, or Innsmouth (hello expansion packs!). We’d like to see the detective side of things incorporated, with players searching for clues, interacting with unsavory locals, and sniffing out cultist meetings before it all goes to hell.
In principle, inviting an Old God to your horror board game re-theming party is about as exciting as trading ketchup for mayo with your fries; you’re not impressing anyone with your narrative bravery. But just like Europe’s unusual food union, sometimes that new combination just works, and it’s not just the R’lyeh cultists in the other room forcing us to write that. In this case, we reckon this overcooked calamari god would be a more than welcome guest at a Betrayal game night. Given his penchant for dreaming, he won’t even eat too many snacks, so give him and his mates a chance, yeah?
Betrayal in Silent Hill
Before you ask, no, we’re not talking about the movies. Pyramid Head may have made an appearance, but the only horror raised there was the mental image of a $50 million budget being dumped directly into the garbage. Instead, we’re casting our fishing net of fear back through the decades to haul in the horror of the original video games.
Perpetually shrouded in fog, the town of Silent Hill isn’t your ordinary holiday escape. It reshapes itself and its inhabitants, twisting them based on the fears, vices, and apprehensions of the people who end up trapped inside. Stepping into this neighborhood means facing an array of deadly monsters, as well as your own broken mind.
Exploration, sanity tests, and severe outcomes -- this is all sounding very Betrayal to us. Beyond just gore, there are very adult themes at play in Silent Hill. If handled correctly, this could be the opportunity for a more serious take on Betrayal’s format, with player characters hiding secrets or regrets that may come back to haunt them during the inevitable twist. Alternatively, there’s plenty of room for the board game to play around with famous baddies like Pyramid Head and the bandage-faced nurses in a silly homage to their defining games.
Before publisher Konami decided to gut and flay their video game departments in favor of Pachinko machines, Silent Hill was one of the most iconic horror names on the block. It hasn’t had a good entry since 2004, but hey, mediocrity never stifled success in this world. Rumor has it a new wave of Silent Hill video games is on the horizon. Will they finally guide the series out of the foggy mists of inadequacy? We’ve got no idea, but we certainly reckon a spin-off Betrayal board game could give them a run for their mystery money.
Those are our three picks for alternative Betrayal at House on the Hill settings we’d love to see made. Got any ideas of your own? Give us a holler (not horror) on Twitter or Facebook, and be sure to follow on Instagram, too. We promise no frights in our posts, just juicy board gaming goodness. While you’re at it, make sure to listen to the Going Analog Podcast for some lighthearted fun to warm you up after all those chilling descriptions.
When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.