Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is a tabletop game that will take you and your kids on an adventure in and around a haunted location where the gang must solve a mystery. This game accommodates 3 to 5 players, and with a minor tweak in the rules, you can figure out a way to play with two players – more on that to come! Let’s dive into why this game earns the win for my kids and why it’s a big hit for Scooby-Doo fans.
This haunted tabletop game is a semi-cooperative game where members of Mystery Inc. must search different areas of the board in search of clues and items, in the hopes of finding enough useful items to help them when the monster appears later in the game. This happens when each player decides if they’re going to reveal an “Inside” or “Outside” tile, which then gets connected to its associated region on the table. Each inside and outside region has wonderfully designed elements, from secret passageways, doors, or pathways connecting to other locations, and additional actions that can help or hurt the player who discovered that room or location.
Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is a game that does require a learning curve, where there are multiple instructional guides to fully grasp all of the elements within. That being said, my kids have seriously enjoyed diving into this game. There hasn’t been a gaming session that lasted less than 2 hours, but one way to break that up is to divide and conquer the playtime. This game has two phases; the initial phase allows all players to search around the mansion, discovering new places and useful tools to help defeat the monster, while the second phase is “The Haunt.”
This second (Haunt) phase is where the cooperative game turns semi-cooperative, as one member of the Mystery gang gets “lost” and replaced by the monster. That’s right – one player goes from wanting to solve the mystery to the villain who wants to foil the plans of those “meddling kids.” So, if you or your kids need a break, I recommend pausing once the second phase begins, or simply have your kids share when they need a movement break away from the table. For example: We have left the game on our dinner table overnight to complete the next day.
Game Mechanics for Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion
Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion requires a bit of setup before playing, because there are a lot of components that go into this game box. There are player pieces, sets of playing cards, various tiles that construct the area in and around the mansion, dice, and many tokens, including Scooby snacks that allow players to reroll a die during their turns.
Players are each given a specific strength associated with abilities: speed, might, courage, and brains. Depending on the circumstance, the number associated with your ability determines how many dice you get to roll. This is especially important when facing the monster, because you’ll always want to roll higher than the spooky creature. More dice means a better chance at rolling a higher number!
Each player will try to move around the board, continuing to reveal new tiles to further their ability to find clues and items to help later in the game. One interesting mechanic is when facing the monster, if you lose a battle, you take damage. This means my kids have to determine which of their abilities will decrease, and this is a great way for them to try and understand what abilities might be better for that specific game, because those abilities’ usefulness might change from game to game. Also, if your character takes enough damage points, they’ll become “stunned” and lose their next turn.
Every game will present the opportunity to face different villains, so there will be a different experience each time. Rounds of play have seen the kids face off against a robot or ghost, while they had to meet certain achievements to win the game. I have generally been the player who becomes the “bad guy,” but Marshall wanted that role in our last game – and he won!
The element of rolling dice provides a lot of uncertainty with the outcomes of the game. One game session involved the entire family where I faced off against Adelaide, Marshall, and my wife Meghan. There was a specified number of rounds where they had to achieve a certain task, and it literally came down to one final roll. I faced off against my son, who rolled two dice and rolled a 1; I had four dice, and my confidence of a win was shattered when I rolled three blanks and a 1. A tie meant that I had failed in the roll and the Mystery Inc. gang were victorious.
This kind of element instantly gave us a memory to hold onto, and one I will certainly never forget. The kids (and my wife) went from feeling a certain impending doom to a roar of cheering as my dice landed in a manor that I can only describe as “falling flat on my face.” I’m pretty sure almost every single one of us uttered, “I can’t believe it,” and that moment in of itself is reason enough to grab a copy of this game.
Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion Length and House Rules
Big clarification note: I want to preface the following statement by stating I am an exceedingly tired parent who very well may have overlooked a rule that may be stated in the rulebook. If I did not see a specified rule, that’s not to say a few more hours of sleep might’ve better prepared me for each and every step listed in the game. Long story short, I may have easily missed a rule despite my best (tired) efforts.
There are two components to this game that I will reference that are important to indicate to those interested in playing. First, I am not the savviest gameplayer, so the rulebooks for Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion are a bit overwhelming. There is a lot to learn before playing, while there also seems to be some room for interpretation with some of the rules. For example: It does not appear to say at any point, roll dice to move. It does reference that each player uses their speed to move, so we assumed that we roll dice equal to the strength of that ability to determine how far they can move.
Next, the amount of time listed to play this game might not be indicative of how long it will take to play. The box states “25 – 50 minutes playtime.” Again, I’m happy to state that my inexperience is at fault here. Perhaps a more experienced player can easily achieve playtime within this time limit, but I am not at that level yet. Each game experience for us has lasted several hours. And my son has loved playing this game every single step of the way. My daughter (and I) did feel fatigued at the end of our first game, which I feel is completely normal for a first-time lengthy game. There are many components to the game, so a few more plays definitely made it easier.
After a few plays, my daughter leaned toward my son’s enthusiasm with the game. They LOVE Scooby-Doo and the gang, so it’s not surprising that they want to play this game often. We’ve played it around a half a dozen times, and we have incorporated a couple of “House Rules” to try to improve upon the length of the game, while also allowing my kids to have even more fun with all of the characters.
House Rule 1: One player may opt to join the game at the second phase of the game when the characters try to defeat the monster. This allows one player to play along, if they don’t want to spend as much time at the table.
House Rule 2: Both of my kids have the option of playing two characters, if they want. This allows them to search more areas of the board more quickly, while also giving them more players by the time the “Haunt” phase starts. Again, one of the players gets swapped out for the villain, so if there are more players on the board, they still have more to work with to defeat the monster.
For our family, these house rules have expanded the joy my kids have for this game. It allows them to have more turns, making them even more active in the game. With their being five characters to choose from – Velma, Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby, and Fred – they can mix it up and be different ones each time.
When we finished our last game yesterday afternoon, their responses to “How did you enjoy the game?” were met with simultaneous, “I love it.” So, if you are interested in grabbing hold of a game where you and your kids can get fully immersed into the wonderful world of Scooby-Doo, then this game might just be the game for your family.
Would you or your kids want to play Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion? What other games are you and your family a fan of right now? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, if you would you like to see more games covered on the Geeky Parent Guide, don’t forget to like and share this article with all of your geeky friends.
Until next time, friends, happy parenting and happy geeking.