Who wouldn’t trust psychic premonitions?
I have spoken before about growing up with the Fighting Fantasy, Pick-a-Path and Choose Your Own Adventure books.
Back in the 80s, these books were a goldmine for solo gaming. Dungeons and Dragons was a thing, but without a group, I was a bit stuck. I had Hero Quest and Space Hulk, but younger siblings made adventuring a bit difficult.
Already an avid reader from a young age, these books let me not just follow an authors tale but let me play my own story. And I had every single one I could get my hands on back in the day.
So when I heard that one of the best early Choose Your Own Adventure games was being turned into a board game, eyebrows were raised.
What eventually arrived was a retro look and feel game that was both familiar and true to the books, but with a definite ‘game’ structure.
So what is the House of Danger?
Well – that’s the question. You don’t know, and the point of the game is to find out.
Now at this point, I will remind everyone that House of Danger was an early young readers story, so don’t expect an epic storyline!
You play a psychic investigator and aspiring detective that is awoken one night from a nightmare by a phone call asking for help. The number is unlisted, but after asking friends in the police force you find about the Marsden House.
Your psychic senses telling you this is the source of your nightmares, you go to investigate and solve the mystery of the house.
Playing the Game
I’m not really going to go into a lot of detail on how to play House of Danger. This is partly because the system is fairly intuitive, but mainly it will be impossible to show the game mechanics without spoilers.
If you have read any of these books, or played games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, then the basics are familiar to you.
You progress through the story by reading numbered cards. Depending on the decisions you make, you will be directed to read a different numbered card. This continues until you reach your objective, clearly marked at the start of each of the five chapters.
To stop players ‘accidentally’ reading ahead, the pile of chapter cards is topped by a book cover – a nice touch I thought.
On top of this ‘game’ wise there is a psychic meter and the danger meter. Both are very simple implementations for common systems.
Your psychic level is a kind of experience level. You start at Level 1, and during the game, you will get different premonitions or bonuses if you are at a minimum level. There isn’t a guaranteed way of gaining psychic points in the game, but there are ways to lose points!
The Danger Meter is used for the various challenges in the game, broken up in different categories like Fighting, Dexterity and Strength.
The concept is pretty simple – you will read a challenge (e.g. Can you see a secret door? Try a perception check) and if you decide to take it, roll the six-sided die. If you roll the number shown on the danger meter or higher, you pass the test!
To help you, before you roll you can use an item add one to the die roll.
But. There is always a but. If you roll a 1, that is an automatic failure. Think of it as a critical failure if you play a lot of roll playing games. Oh and if you were using an item? That card is now removed from the game!
So why am I playing this again?
This is going to be the reaction of a lot of people. Without getting right into the nitty gritty of House of Danger it’s hard to justify why someone should buy it.
If solving an interactive story sounds good to you though, then House of Danger is more designed for you.
For older players or buyers due to nostalgia, House of Danger may be a game better suited to solo play. I played solo, with another player and with two others and I enjoyed each experience, but each experience was very different.
Playing by myself and with Alpal, we both kind of went the ‘one straight run’ approach. Playing with Alpal and Rabbit, the chapters took a lot longer but we explored most if not all options available to us.
My best advice would be to play with people that would play similarly to you. Playing with strangers, this won’t be easy, but it would be easier playing with friends. If you have someone that doesn’t want to do optional challenges or loop back and explore different areas, this could dampen the experience for everyone.
An older player or two with some younger players though would be a different story. Now by younger players, I don’t mean six-year-olds. While the older players could do the reading and explain some concepts, House of Danger has a supernatural horror element that could still be considered too much for some. But I think the recommended age of 10+ is a good guide if you wanted a game with your kids.
House of Danger is a great idea and in a lot of ways the Board Game equivalent of the NES Mini and similar consoles. Changing the format of the original book does open up possibilities for other players, and was a novel experience.
Playing as a group, it’s a fun shared story experience and a better gateway than the Consulting Detective series, and as such remember that this won’t be a challenge for a lot of people, just a bit of fun.
I don’t regret buying House of Danger, but I might recommend the Fighting Fantasy books for better bang for your buck, especially solo.
Until next time,
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