I played the game Betrayal at House on the Hill with other three students in the class. Overall, comprehending the rules took a lot more time than we expected, but we are satisfied with the experience of playing this game.
I think the probing part of this game is simply discovering new rooms and new rules along the way. The way of arranging the rooms are also important, especially when they show different directions and numbers of doors on the tile. We gradually realized that we cannot simply just jump from one room to another–we have to follow the doors that lead to different paths.
In the early game (before the haunt) the biggest decision making in this game is to decide whether to stay in the new room that you explored or keep going; however, I would argue that this is largely a matter of luck since you don’t know which tile or card will be drawn next, therefore the decisions that the players made are not solely based on their own logic or strategy. The late game (after the haunt) on the other hand, requires collaboration and strategy making. For example, we were playing the Haunt number 43, which requires the players to pickup candles in given rooms by doing a might roll, and bring the candle to the room where the haunt was revealed and lit it up by doing a knowledge roll. One condition was that if the Knowledge roll doesn’t reach the required number, we automatically lose the candle and have to go back to the room and pick it up again. Our strategy was to let the person who has the most Might points to pick up the candles, then drop it off for the person with the most Knowledge point to try to lit up the candle in order to maximize the chances of success–you obviously cannot expect a person with 2 knowledge to perform a roll to reach 5+. Dividing up the job and design separate paths for each explorers were essential since in our case, each explorer has their own strengths and weaknesses; also having diffused responsibilities can minimize the damage the team will take when one of the explorer is killed.
Another part of the telescoping is the usage of items. I was aware that many items increases one of your ability at the cost of another ability. When trying to decide whether you want to use the item or not, you need to focus on the winning condition, in our case, you would use the item if it increases you Might and/or Knowledge, or when you can distribute the damage to other abilities in order to save your live.
One last point that I had strong impressions when playing the game was that the traitor was seriously over-powered–well, it totally makes sense since he’s going against multiple players alone. Since the explorers and the traitor have different rule books and had to read them separately, the traitor does not know our winning condition, and we were unfamiliar with his new power as well; therefore, when the traitor “teleported” straight to the room I was in, I was deeply in shock. Later on I realized that not just the traitor, his monster is also capable of “teleporting”. Even though we won at the end, I would say that the main reason is because the traitor doesn’t know what our winning condition was, therefore he could not effectively prevent us from winning, while explorers only needs to know that the traitor’s goal is to kill all the explorer (at least in the Haunt that we played).
I definitely think that this particular board game is not linear because there is not a particular way of playing the game: different factors can trigger different Haunts, and playing different characters and different sides (explorers vs. traitors) can give you different experiences, as well as figuring out different strategies based on different conditions and collaborating with different players, so there really not an end to playing this game (that’s also why we ended up buying the game). I am super excited about the other Haunt that I haven’t get to play yet, and I will definitely try as many as possible.