Board games as a medium compete for our entertainment time and dollars against the whiz-bang effects of movies and video games, the melodrama and binge-worthy serials on TV, and offer up as a hazard the general adult difficulty of getting people physically together in a room to do something other than gripe about their jobs or the weather.

What most board games try to offer as compensation is the promise of organic, communal storytelling. Even with something like Poker, or Chess, being able to look across the table into the eyes of your opponent is unique to the physical space. When you win, your victim (or, if it’s a cooperative experience) is right there, in prime position for a well-earned gloat. When you lose, it’s easy to declare that so-and-so cheated, the game’s rigged, and bluster about with an audience that consists of more than a skeptical pet.

Betrayal: Legacy steps into this magical space offering a couple of additional perks:

  1. It’s a legacy game, meaning it comes with a campaign loaded with one-time experiences that literally change how the game itself works from one play to the next.
  2. Betrayal is a haunted house game where your friends might turn out to be your enemies, and spooky moments abound, which are ripe for face-to-face play.

What Betrayal lacks, though is a simple objective. It’s not about acquiring the most points, winning a bet, or conquering the board. It’s as much about role-playing your way through the creaky, mysterious corridors of a crumbling mansion as it is about rolling dice and drawing cards.

Therefore, if you’re proposing to take people on a 13+ mission tour over generations in this space, you have to do something to make commit. You have to show the players that this ride is going to be worth the time instead of another round of, say, Catan.

And Betrayal‘s prologue, which I won’t spoil, does this beautifully. It’s a short, powerful showcase of the game’s mechanisms that turns what most people expect from a tutorial into a demonstration of why you’ll want to keep playing this game.

More importantly, the prologue gets the whole group involved, weaving a story with the actions of the players, so that, like the very best role-playing games do, each person feels as though they’re telling their own separate story with their characters. You are your old man searching for a family heirloom. You are the lost daughter trying to figure out what happened to her family. Or the young upstarts just hunting down some treasure to make a name for themselves.

No matter who you want to be, you’ll find a reason to walk through these eerie doors, and Betrayal will make sure you want to explore the next chapter, even if your character didn’t survive the last one.

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