Betrayal at Game Day
Yesterday was game day at work—at least for our team. Just one of the benefits in working for a game company: sometimes you spend your afternoon around a table, surrounded by cards, dice, and in today’s offsite, legos. (If you’ve never played Creationary, I highly recommend it. Think Pictionary, with legos. And who doesn’t need an excuse to play with those?)
This game day, we also ran through the 1978 version of Family Feud (and yes, it was awesome), followed by Betrayal at House on the Hill (appropriate for Halloween), and the very obscure Wiz War (where competing wizards throw spells at one another in an effort to steal each other’s hidden treasure). Fun times—Card Kingdom in Ballard has an excellent space for gaming events.
Playing through these, it was evident (in fact, outright stating the obvious) how most games we all play are either direct competition (you against everyone else: Wiz War), or team competition (your team against an opposing team: Family Feud).
Betrayal at House on the Hill takes a slightly different approach. Players start out cooperatively, exploring a haunted house room by room and discovering events, omens, and items as they go. Then at a certain random point, one of the players suddenly becomes “it.” Their task is now to hunt down the other players. Hence, the betrayal.
It’s a brilliant game, in part because of its replayability. The house is composed of room tiles drawn from a deck, so that the gameboard, in effect, is different every time. There are also dozens of scenarios, so when the one player becomes “it,” this might mean revealing themselves to be a vampire, werewolf, axe murderer—or in today’s game, a demonically creepy girl who wants you to stay and play with her forever. And ever.
Likewise for the players, depending on the threat, they have different conditions they need to meet in order to win. Defeat the monster, for example, or in today’s game, find a rowboat and escape the house before it sinks away into the swamp.
What strikes me about the game is also the concept of “it.” It’s not odd that players are competing against each other. But rather, that one of them is now very clearly in the role of villain (and not just competitor). I’m trying to think of other games that have a clear villain, but none come to mind. (Even games as simple as hide-and-go-seek. Is the seeker really the villain? I’d say he’s just the seeker—and usually, a terrified one at that).
So—are there any games where a players is in the role of the villain?