Increasingly, board games have become an adult activity. It’s understandable, of course. Board games can be expensive, and many games have mechanics and challenges that are more suited to adults and their cognitive abilities. There are certainly kids’ games out there, but they tend to remain relegated to the simple, and the cute.
But, of course, little board-gamers have to get their start on the more difficult games somewhere. And parents are likely to want to play something with their kids that doesn’t bore them to tears. What better place to start, then, than with a kid’s version of a beloved game: Betrayal.
The Story of Betrayal at Mystery Mansion
The standard game of Betrayal at House on the Hill sees a cast of brave characters exploring a haunted house up on a lonely hill. As the night progresses, they not only reveal more of the strange goings-on therein, but they find that one of their own has turned on them! Exactly who has betrayed them, why, and how, is up to the draw of the cards and the roll of the dice.
Betrayal at Mystery Mansion (hereafter called BaMM) adapts this classic horror formula into a media that any kid will know and love: Scooby Do. And the story fits! The Scooby Gang explore a strange, haunted manor, collect evidence of the goings-on there, and try to catch the culprit behind the evident haunting. None of the group are a traitor in this case, but one of them does vanish from the house – captured by the ghost, obviously.
Betrayal at Mystery Mansion’s Gameplay
BaMM plays much like any other Betrayal title, with some concessions toward streamlined gameplay making it more suitable for children. It splits the game pretty evenly between the exploration phase and the haunt phase.
During the exploration phase, each player controls a character from the Scooby Gang, who have their own character stats in Might, Speed, Courage, and Brains. They take turns moving about the mansion, drawing and placing room tiles as they discover new rooms, and drawing Event, Item, and Clue cards as they find their respective symbols on said tiles. These cards might require a check or two, but generally make the characters more or less powerful (in this case, well-informed about the haunting) and provide them the resources to succeed during the haunt phase. Clue cars are especially useful, but the more you gather of them, the faster the haunt begins.
Then, once the haunt phase has started, one player abandons their character to take on the role of the ghost. From there on in, they play against the rest of the group, attempting to complete their haunt goal while the other players attempt to stop them. The exact objective of the Haunt is determined by the player who caused the haunt to start, the clue that triggered it, and the room that clue was found in.
If the Scooby Gang manage to fulfill their own win conditions, usually stopping the ghost or otherwise dismantling their plot, they succeed! The ghost is brought to justice, and their evil schemes successfully prevented. If the ghost fulfills theirs first, though, the gang sadly loses.
Luck vs. Strategy
The first half of BaMM is all luck. Exploring rooms will bring you random events and clues, which vary in danger and usefulness between characters. You might become super powerful in the exploration phase, or super weak.
The haunt phase, though, is all strategy. The remaining members of the Scooby Gang will want to put their heads together and come up with a viable strategy to stop the ghost, who gains a good amount of power. A weak group can stop a ghost if they plan things out well enough, but even a powerful group is bound to lose if they can’t work together!
Number of Players
Up to 5 people can play BaMM at once – the number of members of the Scoobies! You can make do with as little as 2, although I find that a minimum of 3 is better. And, like many cooperative games, the more people the better. This game is definitely best experienced with a full group of 5.
The Atmosphere of Betrayal at Mystery Mansion
BaMM is chock-full of nostalgia and lighthearted fun. While classic betrayal goes in for traditional horror tropes, this version prefers to make references to the classic Scooby Do series, cute Scooby Snack shaped tokens, Magnifying Glass clues, and a colorful board reminiscent of 1970s animation.
You won’t be getting any thrills or chills from this game, but you’ll sure have a good time.
Betrayal at Mystery Mansion’s History and Availability
BaMM was released in 2020 to middling success. Many fans of the original game found it to be less engaging for its newfound simplicity. There were also a number of errors and misprinting errors in the initial release. Various errata have been published since then to correct some of the difficulties.
You can find BaMM online, or possibly at your local game store. The release was limited, though, so it might be easier to track down online.
Our Personal Thoughts on Betrayal at Mystery Mansion
I found this game a thoroughly enjoyable version of the Betrayal formula. It’s certainly nothing groundbreaking, of course, but I have a lot of affection for the Scooby Do series, and it’s clear that the game designers did as well. There are enough little easter eggs and references to the original show to keep an old-school fan engaged and entertained through the whole gameplay.
Don’t expect a huge challenge here, or anything with lots of action and combat. Serious fans of the Betrayal series will probably find it too easy, and the lack of conflict something of a letdown. But those are the tradeoffs you have to make when creating a kids’ version of a horror game, in my opinion.
While BaMM isn’t something for a serious gaming group or tournament, it’s perfect for a family game night. I’d even recommend putting a few old episodes on in the background while you play.
Have you played Betrayal at Mystery Mansion? Did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments below!