Board Game Review: Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate is the latest board game to come out of Wizards of the Coast, combining two of my favorite things: Randomly generated maps, and D&D. So I was very excited to see a BaBG arrive at my door courtesy of WotC.

The game is a reimagining of Betrayal at House on the Hill, rethemed for D&D. I own the first edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill, and absolutely love it. In House, you are are someone exploring a big scary house. Slowly, as you explore, placing tiles to expand the house, you find terrible omens like bleeding walls and whispering voices. Eventually, one person is revealed to be the Traitor, but no one, not even the Traitor knows they are until the twist, caused the Haunt. There’s a ton of scenarios, so it’s always different. Really great game.

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate takes that, removes a bit of the horror, and throws you into the center of the famous city. You will wander the city, between streets and buildings and down into the catacombs below the city. As you step off the tile you’re on into the void, you’ll add in a new tile to the map, which may have an icon telling you which deck to draw a new card from.

Event cards can effect the whole board or just the player drawing it, Items can give you powerful magical items such as the Eye of Vecna, and Omens are basically creepy Event cards. Each Omen drawn brings you one step closer to revealing the Traitor: Once an Omen card is drawn, you will roll a number of special dice equal to the number of Omen cards drawn over the course of the game. The dice have blank sides, one-pip sides and two-pip sides. If the tally comes up 6 or larger, then the Traitor is revealed. This means that only 3 Omens in, the game can shift. Luckily, it’s unlikely to happen, meaning you’ll be able to spend more time in the city exploring more areas and gathering more items to help you out later in the game.

Once the game shifts to the Haunt, there’s a chart which pairs up which tile revealed the Omen with what Omen card was drawn. This determines what the Haunt is, and which player is he traitor. There is a book for the Traitor to read from, giving him his victory conditions, and a separate book for the non-Traitors, giving them the same. From that point forward, either the Traitor wins, or everyone else does.

This game is a ton of fun. The mechanics themselves are very basic and straightforward. I don’t imagine I’ll need to open the rulebook at all on future plays, and it’s easy to sit down and teach to new players.

The components for the game are top-notch. The art on all the tiles is amazing, the cards are all high quality paper with great graphic design. The miniatures are all prepainted and great quality. They aren’t models I’ve seen in any other set released yet, but that could just be because I haven’t seen them. Some of your minis may be warped, so here’s how to straighten them out, filmed by my 6-year-old. You can hear her responding to me in the background:

Each player has a small pentagon which has your four basic stats, along with the character’s name, some basic biographical information, and the special ability they have. Little black, movable markers allow you to increase and decrease your abilities. If any of your abilities bottom out, your character dies.

In the scenario we played with my son, it turned out no one was the Traitor, much to my 9-year-old’s joy. He was very anxious, worried he’d be the Traitor, but he escaped unscathed. The various tokens provided in the box hint to much more terrifying foes than the creeping claws we had to battle against. I don’t want to spoil any of the scenarios we played, so they’re all a surprise for you, but there’s some really fantastic scenarios.

I highly recommend Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. It’s a fantastic game and definitely worth putting on your shelf next to Dungeon Command and Lords of Waterdeep.

Dice Monkey was sent a copy of Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate for review.

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