House of Danger Card Game Review (Z-Man Games)

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When was the last time you read a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure? House of Danger is a cooperative, narrative card game based on a 1982 Choose-Your-Own-Adventure by R.A. Montgomery. In House of Danger, players control a psychic detective, with the goal of navigating through the five chapters that comprise the entire story. But House of Danger isn't just a collection of CYOA passages; it's a system that's designed to make exploration fun, rewarding, and dangerous. House of Danger uses some clever and well-balanced danger mechanic to keep the game lively and dynamic.

House of Danger Card Game Details

Players: 1+

Game Time: 4 Hours (45 Minutes Per Chapter, 5 Chapters)

Age: 10+

Genre: CYOA / Cooperative

How Do You Play House of Danger?

House of Danger can be played by one player or "more." That's because to play House of Danger, all you do is read off a card -- and from there, you decide which action to take. Each action may lead to other story cards, clues, challenges, or even instant death. At the beginning of each chapter, you receive a chapter goal -- the first chapter tells you to "get into the house." If you do die, your danger level increases, which makes it more difficult for you to succeed on rolls. However, you can also take good actions throughout the game, which will lower your danger level.

House of Danger is split into 5 chapters, each with their own goals. 

In addition to danger, you're also tracking your psychic level. After all, you are a psychic detective (you know that's right). As your psychic level grows, you begin to get premonitions that can help you throughout the game. As you can see, House of Danger is sort of a cooperative single-player game, but it definitely does gain something when played by more than one player. 

At one point, we found ourselves with a choice. We could go into:

  • A quiet break room
  • A room filled with machines
  • A room filled with loud, screaming beasts

Predictably, we ended up in a three way tie regarding this decision. We asked another group of people. Unfortunately, there were three of them, and we ended up in another three way tie.

Is House of Danger Just a CYOA Book?

At first glance, House of Danger looks like it's just a choose-your-own-adventure converted into cards. That's not an outlandish idea; after all, text adventures are just CYOA books converted to computers. However, House of Danger actually did an impressive amount of work to make sure that it wasn't just a CYOA.

It may look like a game from the 80s, but it plays like a modern game. 

Not only are there danger levels and psychic levels, but there are also helpful inventory items that you can find along the way. The game is balanced quite nicely, so that you're often coming up against challenges that are genuinely difficult to complete. You might need to fight someone, or you might need to engage in a psychic battle of wills. These challenges are quite hard and come with very real consequences; it's not a matter of turning back to the last page (cheater!) because you will lose psychic levels or gain danger levels. 

Of course, as far as the text goes, House of Danger is very much a CYOA book: it's absurd and random and doesn't really make a lot of sense. It's easy to die from something completely unpredictable (though, at least, the death isn't permanent), and if you try to use logic, you're probably going to end up lost. And you definitely can't take death too seriously in the game; it's very easy to make the decision that looks to have been "correct" and end up plummeting your way to your death. 

Can You Play House of Danger Multiple Times?

Perhaps the only failing of House of Danger -- if you can call a core concept a failing -- is that it can only be played once. House of Danger is approximately a 4 hour experience, and after that, well, you might as well throw it away; it's not playable anymore, because you've already done everything in the game, and know all of the right answers. 

Of course, with a price tag of $24, House of Danger still delivers three times as much content as a movie ticket. (As an aside, at some point video gamers started using 'movie tickets' as a metric for how much a Thing of Entertainment should cost, which is a little strange given that the entire movie industry is dying because we don't want to pay for those tickets -- but that's a discussion for another day.) Playing the game with friends is highly recommended, as everyone can take turns reading the cards and making decisions.

Everything about House of Danger screams "1980's children's novel," which also brings with it a great deal of nostalgia. But House of Danger did go a step further and made a truly playable game out of the traditional CYOA experience, and that gives it some extra value. Though there may be those who point out (perhaps not wrongly) that there isn't a lot of game there (it's no Arkham Horror), it perfectly does what it set out to do.

House of Danger Card Game Review
  • PRO: A surprisingly enjoyable experience that takes you through old school, 1980's-style Choose Your Own Adventure books. 
  • CON: House of Danger is a game that you can only play once, and if you hate nonsense and absurdity, it may just leave you frustrated.