Betrayal at the House on the Hill

Fun and Games at Connecticon 2019

Events Places Tabletop Games

Betrayal at the House on the Hill

I’m not a regular con-goer, but I’ve been to conventions before. I’ve attended PAX East and CaptainCon, but I’d never before been to Connecticon, which isn’t just in my home state, but is actually only about 15 minutes from my home.

My 12-year-old daughter joined me this year, and she absolutely loved it. From the get-go, her primary interest was hitting the board game area, which was entirely run by the good folks from Tabletop Gaming Center in Newington. We were only able to get to Connecticon on Sunday, so time was short—we’d have to make every minute count.

The first thing you’ll notice at Connecticon is the cosplay. PAX East in Boston has some truly impressive cosplay, but I’ve never before been to a con where such a high percentage of attendees are dressed up. Connecticon is the only convention I’ve been to where well over half of attendees seem to be cosplaying.

On the show floor, I met Jim Butcher, who’s well-known for my favorite book series, The Dresden Files. I had also recently let my daughter read The Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first book in Butcher’s steampunk series. It was a trip to have a casual conversation with a down-to-earth celebrity.

Zach Callison and Grace Rolek, two of the voice actors from Steven Universe, were in attendance this year. My daughters both love the show, and on Sunday both Zach and Grace had Q&A panels. Two hours of panels would have been too much for my daughter, so she elected to go to the Q&A panel with Grace Rolek, who voices Connie Maheswaran. My daughter is a bit of an actress herself—we had to miss Friday and Saturday at the convention because she was playing Jasmine in a children’s community theater production of Aladdin. Four performances over the two days. So Grace’s stories about being discovered in Los Angeles and juggling school with theater obligations must have seemed particularly relevant.

The main attraction of the event to my daughter was the board game room. I let her choose the games, and her first pick was a game I’ve played many times but she never had: Betrayal at the House on the Hill. You can read GeekDad Michael Harrison’s original review from nearly a decade ago, but the premise is that players play characters exploring a haunted house. They encounter ghosts and demons, they pick up mysterious relics or silver daggers, and they run into macabre chapels which may grant them blessings or drive them insane. Roughly halfway through the game, the haunt mechanic kicks in and one of the players is revealed as the betrayer. From then on, it’s many-vs-one as that player learns that he’s a werewolf, finds an amulet which raises an army of undead, or shrinks the other players to the size of mice and sets a horde of cats on them.

We met two other guys attending the convention and invited them to play with us. In our game, I bumped into an ancient sarcophagus and a mummy stumbled out. It was my charge to have the mummy retrieve his wife, find the wedding ring, and return to the sarcophagus. Meanwhile, the players needed to retrieve an ancient tome and recite a difficult incantation. To their advantage, my daughter already had the book on hand and had an overwhelmingly high knowledge score. My advantage was that I was playing an extremely fast character, and the mummy was pretty much unkillable.

The Bell, the Book, and the Candle

I quickly snatched the bride from a player and dropped her off with the mummy. The player with the gun was shooting at me, but my high speed meant I was never hit. The mummy caught up with one player, quickly doing him in, but in the meantime, my daughter read her incantation and banished the mummy, defeating me. It was a fun game, and she can’t wait to play again.

Lunch stole an hour of our afternoon (damn my frail human form!) and by the time we got back, the convention was winding down. So instead we went back home and played Mice & Mystics with my younger daughter.

It was a good time, and next year I hope to be able to spend more time there.

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