PLAYlist 56: Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

PLAYlist 56: Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion

Oct 09, 2020 By Brad Walton Web Exclusive
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It’s spooky season. Finally. In the year that seems to go on forever, we have made it to hot cider weather. We can set the time to pumpkin o’clock. We can dream about exploring haunted houses. It’s fall, and there are monsters and mysteries. We get to dim the lights and bust out the board games that go bump in the night.

Since 2004, Betrayal at the House on the Hill has been the go-to scratch for the haunted house game itch. As players, everyone explores a terrifying mansion that gets revealed one room at a time as each player walks into the unknown. Mysterious artifacts called “omens” are gathered, until one triggers the Haunt, when one of the players becomes a monster and the game shifts from exploration to survival. It’s a fun experience that references every major horror trope either directly or with cheeky asides. It’s a great game for serious gamers, however certain aspects turn off some people. Betrayal claims to be a 60 minute game, but can last twice as long. And the in-game betrayal is designed so the players have incomplete information whether they are the monster or not, which can lead to frustration as an hour into a game you suddenly have to learn new rules and you do not know all of them. The adult themes of the game and amount of reading required can be hard for a young audience.

The newest offering from Avalon Hill, Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion, released in July this year, is a wonderfully nostalgic version of the original that solves those problems for a younger or more casual audience. For veterans of the original, the mechanics of the Scooby-Doo! version are the same, while there are some new elements. The players get to choose the mystery they will try to solve, which narrows the available haunts. This gives more control of the end game to the players. If you want to go after a robot, you choose the “case of the manmade menace”. If a spook is your goal, choose the “case of the sinister spirit”.

Each player chooses then a character (Fred, Velma, Shaggy, Daphne, and of course Scoobs) who has a unique set of attributes and-- new in this version-- a special ability. A turn consists of moving through the inside or outside of Mystery Mansion, flipping up a tile from the pile as a new area is discovered, and stopping whenever they draw a card. Each room has a symbol that tells you what you need to draw-- an event, an item, or a clue (Scooby-Doo! style omen). Each clue moves the haunt track up one number, and after each clue is drawn, the player rolls a haunt roll. You roll 5 dice, and if you roll lower than the number of clues discovered the haunt begins! Here, instead of transforming into a werewolf or suddenly being possessed by a ghoul, the character who caused the haunt is “dropped through a trapdoor”, and the player who controlled them now gets to control the villain! (Here, too, the game gives you more choice than the original. If the player who caused the haunt does not want to be a villain, someone else can volunteer to trade characters.) The haunt, like the original, depends on what clue was drawn in which room. Scooby-Doo! definitely has a younger audience in mind; the haunt rules are not terribly complex, and the players are given the option of sharing the information from the heroes and villains haunt books with each other.

For those of us that grew up on the original Scooby-Doo! cartoon show, the Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is satisfyingly nostalgic. The artwork on each of the rooms captures the animation style perfectly. The cards and rule books humorously explain the rules in the voice of each character. The villains and haunts are instantly recognizable from plots from the show. The first time you fight a phantom who controls mechanical sharks, you may tear up a little.

Games tend to run 25-35 minutes long, although may run longer if you have a really young reader who insists on being in charge. It is very easy to play Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion multiple times in one night without the repetition bogging you down. The mansions and its grounds will change each play through based on what tiles you draw and what doors you decide to go through. There are 5 different mysteries to choose from, and 25 different villains that could be haunting the place. I would have liked if there were more room tiles and villains, but I understand the choice to limit each. As a less-serious version of the original, Scooby-Doo! is designed for those who want the Betrayal gameplay with fewer complications.

To really get you in the mood for a spooky good time with Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion, I dug through an abandoned shack’s worth of 60’s monster music and dusted off the best tracks. This haunting playlist will bring all the yikes to the yard. You’ll do the transylvania twist through the halls of Mystery Mansion, and Boogeyman boogie as you unmask whatever dastardly villain is trying to trick the townsfolk. Bone appetit!


Previous PLAYlist columns: My CityCities: Skylines, Family Game Roundup for Gamers in QuarantineDisney VillainousCrown of EmaraMini RailsTribes: Dawn of HumanityGates of DeliriumTerror BelowThe Estates, NobjectsMemoir '44 & New Flight Plan, Bubble TeaUndoGizmosImhotep, Hex Roller, The Table is Lava, Happy Salmon, The Quacks of QuedlinburgThe ClimbersNEOMCrusaders: Thy Will Be DoneReykholtPandemicEverdellKingdomino, CitrusHistory of the World, Altiplano, Pioneer Days, Crystal Clans, Jurassic Park: Danger!, PhotosynthesisIce CoolFood Truck ChampionArs Alchimia & LemuriaA Game of Thrones CatanTroyesTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionFlip ShipsNMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenparkNotre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.


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