Betrayal at House on the Hill Warpgate Continues: Is the End in Sight?

This simple brown box contains so many delightful horrors.

A package arrived Wednesday evening via FedEx. The logo on the return label caught my eye: this was from Wizards of the Coast. The long-awaited replacement tiles for Betrayal at House on the Hill finally arrived!

Beneath a brief letter from Wizards of the Coast’s customer service department apologizing for the original problem and expressing thanks for their customers’ patience was the typical shrink-wrapped pack of tile sheets, very securely packed in layers of bubblewrap. Tearing off the wrap was, I have to admit, anti-climactic. I don’t know what I expected, to be honest. The whole point of the replacement tiles was they be exactly the same as the original batch, only without twisting and warping.

First printing on the left, second on the right. But you already could tell that.

So far, they seem good. The tiles came out of the package flat. As you can see by the picture comparing the first and second printings of a character tile, the cardstock is almost identical in weight. It’s simply that the one on the right is warped. So trait sliders will be loose as ever; perhaps now that character tiles can lay flat, though, those clips will be slightly less prone to moving unexpectedly.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the customer service. Wizards of the Coast was prompt in replying to customers, but the fix took months — which I can understand, as they had to arrange for a whole new print run of tiles — but it hardly satisfies a customer’s sense of entitlement to having a problem made right speedily.

I should clarify that Wizards of the Coast’s response is speedy when it comes to email or phone. Their snail mail response was miserable: a letter sent in early October wasn’t answered until December 28th. Granted, we live in a world increasingly dominated by electronic communication. However, I’ve gone by the rule of thumb that a written letter is more likely to prompt a response than an email that gets lost in the avalanche. That was not the case here.

Additionally, there is the fact to consider that this happened at all. Wizards of the Coast has a good reputation for quality physical components in their Dungeons & Dragons map tiles and the Castle Ravenloft board game. I wonder what went on in the process here that tripped them up: different development staff? Different printer? Different materials to cut down on costs?

For sure, I will strive to be more circumspect about snapping up a game from them in the future — doing double duty in resisting the acquisition imperative — even if it’s a reprint of something I know I love, like Betrayal at House on the Hill. Early adopters are mine canaries, in essence. I’ll let them take on finding out everything wrong with games.

Betrayal at House on the Hill Warpgate Continues

Quick update on the warped Betrayal at House on the Hill components: a poster on Boardgamegeek reports that Wizards of the Coast informed him “The replacement tiles we will be sending won’t have the same warping problem. Also, there may be a delay in getting the replacements mailed out to you as we are waiting for the corrected replacement tiles ourselves.”

I hope this includes the replacement set I was promised. It’s been two weeks since I received confirmation they would send me a set, which I choose in interpret as meaning that they were waiting on a second, unwarped batch.

More as it develops!

Betrayal at House on the Hill is Literally Warped

Either these tiles are warped or they each have their own individual space-time dilation effect.

I didn’t really think about it while punching the tokens, but I did notice at the time that many of the tiles in the new edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill began to warp upon tearing open the shrinkwrap, especially the character tiles, pictured right.

It wasn’t until I saw the thread on Boardgamegeek discussing the extent to which some people’s copies are warping, both cardboard tiles and some plastic figures  — the blue figure has been nicknamed “Ilene Back” by some owners. Check out this post in particular for a photo of a particularly bowed example of the starting tile.

Given this game was ultimately published by Wizards of the Coast, I’m surprised that such a widespread issue like this would slip through. It sounds like the whole print run was affected, which suggests they decided it was more cost effective not to do anything about it and deal with unhappy customers than fix the warping issue. In light of some of their recent board game products, particularly Castle Ravenloft, which seemed like a solid home run in terms of a well-made game, it’s surprising that Betrayal at House on the Hill would turn out like this.

Or is it? Betrayal had some factors working against it: the first edition sold horribly in stores; it was reportedly on clearance for a pittance in Wizards of the Coast’s retail stores for a long time before it gathered a cult following that drove up secondhand prices. Nor is it attached to a high profile intellectual property like Dungeons & Dragons as Castle Ravenloft is. I can imagine both those considerations leading to a situation where not only did this problem slip through the production process unnoticed, but the decision to handle the problem by replacing warped components as requested — with tiles from the same print run, mind, so they’re equally likely to warp.

I have elected to take this opportunity to explore the customer service process. I wrote Wizards a letter expressing my disappointment in the apparent lack of quality control, sending a copy via their email contact form, as well printing it out to send via traditional mail. Within fifteen minutes, I received a reply from a weekend customer service representative . . . seemingly didn’t read my letter very closely, as it included all the information requested in the reply. Less than two hours later, I had an email saying a replacement set of tiles would be sent out promptly.

The letter hit the mail box Saturday evening. As I wend my way through this replacement process, I’ll keep you updated as to how it goes — and how far it goes, as I’m not going to settle for a second warped set of tiles. Just you wait.