House of Danger takes the idea of the choose your own adventure book and translates it to a tabletop game. How well does the idea translate across mediums?
You and your group step into the shoes of a psychic detective assigned to investigate the mysterious Marsden mansion. Things go sideways very quickly as the secrets of this house are uncovered. Will you make it out alive?
The story is told in five chapters through five decks of story cards. A set of corresponding clue cards are used to reveal items and other major consequences to your actions. As the story progresses, you’ll make choices that drive the story forward, unlock side activities, or meet an untimely demise. Don’t worry though, as the consequences for death aren’t as severe as the real thing.
At the centre of the table is a board with two meters. The psychic meter represents your ability to see or predict certain events before they happen. You’ll increase your psychic meter by making good decisions, which in turn unlock challenge boosters or premonitions that warn you of situations that could prove fatal later. As vague as the premonition cards can be, they can prove incredibly helpful once you understand what the premonition is trying to say. Needless to say, you want to continually raise your psychic meter throughout the campaign.
In the middle is the board is the ominous danger meter. Containing values ranging from three-to-six, this meter acts as your skill check for all challenges you encounter. Rolling a D6 die, you’ll determine whether you succeed or fail at a task. Singular rolls can be brutal, but you will find items that can improve your chances. Even so, rolling a one at any times is an instant loss and you’ll lose whatever item you using for help. Pick your spots wisely!
Failed challenges will raise the danger meter, making future skill checks even harder to complete. In a worst case scenario, you’ll reach the top of the danger meter, which resets the danger meter to three but lowers your psychic meter by two points. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but the consequences of that meter dropping can be profound depending on when it occurs and if it causes you to drop to a lower psychic level. Whether you decide to push ahead or play it conservatively, I hope you make the right decisions when these tough decisions come! Even though the mechanic is fairly simplistic, it’s a great way of adding some gameplay and variability to the mix without going full Dungeons & Dragons.
The story it tells is…rather fantastical. From one moment to the next, the stakes keep rising and reach an insane crescendo by the end. It essentially reads like a middle school choose your own adventure book, which makes sense considering the board game is an adaptation of an actual middle school level choose your own adventure book. Even if you’re above that reading level, it mostly works fine within the context of a board game. At the very least, it always kept us on our seats.
Thanks to the implementation of skill checks, the psychic meter, and a running inventory, your path through the game isn’t nearly as binary as a traditional choose your own adventure book. There are times when you’ll have the option to unlock new paths through successful skill checks. Being the appropriate psychic level can unlock new premonitions that warn you of dangerous situations or lead you to all new paths. Items you collect along the way have massive consequences on the story beyond their immediate benefits as challenge boosters. All of these systems together add a great deal of immersion and branching paths to an otherwise rudimentary storytelling system.
Another neat aspect of this adventure is that at the end of almost every chapter, you have the opportunity to go back to areas you might have missed along the way. Do you go back to certain rooms you missed in hopes of gaining more items, building your psyching meter, or unraveling more of the mystery? Doing so will raise your danger meter and put you at risk of dying. Or do you count your blessings and forge ahead? At the very least, it’s a great way for completionists to circle back to areas in case they luck out and take the most direct path.
It’s worth noting here that the replay value of this game is inherently limited. Completing the campaign can be done in roughly three-to-five hours. After that, you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer. You can circle back to explore paths you missed the first time around, but even that has a finite shelf life once you’ve experienced it all. At the very least, you don’t have to destroy any of the game’s components unlike certain other games of this style, allowing you to share the experience with others or for you to play it again in hopes of getting better rolls next time.
By the end of the first chapter, Steff and I were smitten. We made the decision to power through the whole game in one sitting. By the end of the game, I was checking on Amazon to see if there were any more games in this series. Yes, there’s at least one more after this. Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger is an exciting and accessible blend of storytelling and light roleplaying. You can play this a group of any size and any skill level and have a great time experiencing the story and making decisions together.
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