Review by C.J. Bunce
If you ever needed a big, fun, family game, it’s probably now, right? We’ve just previewed Avalon Hill’s forthcoming summer release Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion, arriving in stores later this month, and it’s a winner–no doubt it will go down as the season’s best tabletop game. With dozens of throwbacks to the classic animated series featuring Scooby-Doo and the Gang, it mixes elements of Clue, Monopoly-like strategy levels, and staples of the roleplay game genre including its own Monster’s Tome game book. Twenty-five impressive mysteries and dozens of possible outcomes for each will keep your family busy this summer with your favorite sleuths: Velma, Fred, Daphne, Shaggy, and, of course, Scooby-Doo.
You won’t play this game without piping in with your own ruh roh and jinkies along the way. Clues, objects, and events all point back to elements of the TV show. Colorful tokens (like Scooby snacks, pizza, flashlights, and treasure) are provided specific to each of the 25 mysteries that work together with clue cards (like a painting with eyes following you, a mysterious letter, and a locked box), layout tiles to build 28 rooms inside the haunted mansion and spooky areas outside, along with 8 dice and three guide books, all to set 3 to 5 players on their way to sleuthing out a mystery, Mystery, Inc. style. Everyone plays one of those famous “meddling kids,” then one player steps out to play the monster, ghost pirate (or is that pirate ghost?), masked neighbor, werebeast, alien, witch, henchman… you’ll have plenty of familiar baddies to take on, challenging each other in the style of previous roleplay games like Magic the Gathering with upgradable strengths and dice roll battles.
What’s going on at Mystery Mansion? Scooby-Doo and the Gang are ready to find out. Based on the Avalon Hill game Betrayal at House on the Hill, the instructions are simplified to bring in younger players (suggested for ages 8 and up), who will likely need a few rounds to get the hang of the rules. The game is divided in two, first to build the gameboard setting and pick up helpful items, and second to define the mystery, pull out one player to serve as the monster, and compete to solve–or thwart the resolution of–the mystery. If you’re familiar with tabletop roleplay games like Axis & Allies or Magic the Gathering, this will be even simpler to pick up. For those familiar with Betrayal at House on the Hill, you’ll find a page of differences in the instruction manual. You definitely don’t need to know that game to enjoy the Scooby-Doo updated version.
Our first run-through, “Go Away, Ghost Ship!” took a few hours including initial set-up and reading instructions, which includes lots of punch-out cards and tokens. Note: the game includes plastic sliders to mark ranges of power and strengths of characters. These are a little tightly designed and may rip or mar your cardboard character cards, so be careful (paper clips may make the game last longer). Also, the rulebook will likely get a minor upgrade in its online rules to work out a kink or two–our second game, “The Beast is Awake at Bottomless Lake,” left us a bit befuddled about where to leave the beast’s “secret puddles,” but the quirks we noticed were easy enough to work around.
Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is designed for 25-50 minutes play time, and we agree that every time you play it’s going to be a new game, allowing for lots of repeat play. If you’re a fan of classic Clue or the expanded versions of Clue with more rooms, you’ll love all the locations Scoob and the Gang will wander through here, places like the woods, a deserted saw mill, a riverboat, a cave, a trailer, a well, a barn, and old cabin, and inside, places like a creepy basement, attic, laboratory, and hall of mirrors.
The game box includes 1 rulebook, 1 Secrets of Survival book, 1 Monster’s Tome book, 28 map tiles (including 2 starting tiles), 5 character strength cards (Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, Fred), 5 character standees/pawns (Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, Fred), 5 plastic bases, 1 timer track, a variety of 100 item, monster, and strength-related tokens, 10 Clue cards, 14 Item cards, 25 Event cards, 8 dice, and 25 plastic clips. For everyone tired of games requiring expansion packs and purchased extras, don’t worry: everything you need to play every mystery is inside the box.
It’s all timed right to coincide with the home release of the Scoob! movie (the one intended to arrive in theaters before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived)–and it’s loads of fun. You can pre-order Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion now here at Amazon, arriving there and in game shops July 24, 2020.