Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Betrayal at Toys R Us

In the post-post-post Christmas sales at Toys R Us, I wound up buying two Avalon Hill-branded games at Toys R Us at deep discounted prices. Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Vegas Showdown.

And I even had a chance to play Betrayal. And what strikes me most about the game is this: how little Hasbro cares.

Betrayal gets pretty decent scores on BGG with plenty of "buts....." And I now can see where those "buts" are coming from. Betrayal is a terribly broken game, with all sorts of questions left up to the users to be answered in regards to the Haunts. This is fine for those who peruse BGG.

But not for the Toys R Us crowd. The usual person shopping there isn't interested in searching the web for rules updates, errattas, and FAQs. They just want whatever they buy there to work. Mindlessly.

Betrayal does not fit that mold in it's current form.

What's completely irratating to me is that when you read interviews with Hasbro folk, they talk about how they won't take outside ideas; they have many in-house designers, designing and playtesting, and well, you know, "trust us, we know what we are doing."

Did ANYONE within the walls of Hasbro even bother to play this thing before it left the building? We had three people who I would consider professional game designers play in our game. We pretty quickly had to throw out the whole "the good guys secretly read their book while the traitor secretly reads his" thing as things didn't seem to jell for the traitor. Additionally, even after the over-the-table consultations, only when we got to the very end of the game did we realize that the traitor was moving the shadows too fast.

In the end, as much as I was hoping to like the game, I doubt it will ever come out again.

If you are going to be selling in a mass market chain, you better make sure your instructions are bulletproof, especially in this case: the Avalon Hill brand is so well preserved across all of the titles (in terms of the look of the boxes), that I am completely sure that any casual purchase of this game, followed by any play of it, would result in a few things. One, the casual player would NEVER EVER touch an Avalon Hill branded game again. And two, after Betrayal, I doubt that the casual player would bother trying to "move up"beyond the typical Monopoly/Clue/Scattergories fare, as Betrayal will prove to the casual player that, yes, those geeky advanced games really are too geeky and advanced, and just don't work.

And just to prove that Hasbro doesn't care, apparently the original designer of the game asked Hasbro to place on their website his fixes for the game.

For some reason, Hasbro denied that request. Well, I guess you can poke through the forums to find some answers about questions by the original designer.

Hopefully, instead of Betrayal, they might've picked up Vegas Showdown instead.

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Blogger heyrocker said...

While three professional game designers realized the game was broken, do you think a casual player would even notice? I mean, in pinball the casual player is largely just ignorant of the fact that there even are rules, being more influenced by other factors (mechanics, choreography, etc.) I'd be curious to see what a group of non-hardcore gamer's experience would be (not that I doubt you.)

7:07 AM  

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