A very cool "atmospheric" game, best played at night by candlelight with one of those haunted house records spinning in the background. Replay value seems high at first glance (50 different scenarios!) but in reality the card text, while chilling the first time around, gets old with later plays. My advice: don't take it seriously (it's far too random for that) and play it as a party game. Once a year, on Halloween. In the dark.
After 11 plays: As of November 2013, all of them in darkness and firelight, with that goddamn piloerecting spooky soundtrack—"A Night in a Haunted House/A Night in a Graveyard" (1992)—whose sound effects invariably, eerily, line up with the action. Never playing it during the day or in artificial light makes the whole affair rather... mysterious. Straining to read cards with a candle in the fist really adds a lot to the proceedings. Even now, in the happy shine of morning, I feel a vague unease upon catching a glimpse of the box...
Highlights from the last couple years:
• Once the traitor was revealed, he didn't want to go into the other room to read his plot synopsis. He was too freaked out—and we're talking about a grown-ass man here.
• My little dog had worked her way under the table and into the forest of our legs without anyone noticing. The toll of a bell on the soundtrack made her bark and everyone at the table simultaneously leaped out of their skins and crapped their pants.
UPDATE OCT 2016: Picked up a copy of 2nd Ed. for component-matching with the upcoming expansion as I have no confidence that the 12-year-old OG printing will line up at all (cardstock and card sizes will, no doubt, be radically different). I've heard they've rejiggered some of the haunts, not that this was ever a problem for us as we're RPGers first and quickly adjudicated any rules weirdness with the wave of a hand. I do like the severe reduction in tokens, however, and the use of generic markers instead of having to search through a giant pile for the single "eyetooth of a penitent murderer" by candlelight while the narrative tension sags to the floor... Though it must be said that I miss the Underground Lake in the attic (an accidentally thematic misprint in the original) and the twin "Image in the Mirror" event cards where one had actual mirror-imaged text.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Parallel-universe me (the one with the evil goatee) would probably give this an unreserved 10!! (with two exclamation points) because 1) he's cool with the excitement graph having both peaks and valleys on it and 2) because he's slightly stupid when it comes to exclamation points.† Variability makes or breaks the experience—on the one hand this means no two games are alike; on the other it means sometimes the climax is more denouement. The question, always, is will *this* haunted house configuration make for a thrilling contest, or one that's impossible (or otherwise unfun) for one side? There's only one way to find out...
†One for shouting, three for comic effect; two if you're a moron, and "like a ton" if you're a tween girl.