The Portal at Hill House, a Play Through

Travis D. Hill and Lindi M. Farris-Hill bring us a game of cosmic horror, in a cute A6 booklet that comes in at 20 pages. Published by Press Pot Games give us an easy setup, a deck of cards, a d6, a pencil and paper are all that are needed to have an amazing adventure. I have tried a few journaling solo games before but usually fall short of finishing. I took the time out of my day today to play through this game. I honestly lost track of the time and found myself making things up that did not necessarily come from the book, but as a solo game, who cares! Besides I kickstarted this back in 2020 so its nice just to pull it off the shelf and finally give one of those old games some love, and I think it for sure gave me love back.

The game played quick and involved very little prep work, aside from drawing the blueprint of a house (a quick google search fixed that for me and I had a blueprint in seconds). Then I let my imagination run wild, the prompts from the cards were just enough to give me a little bit of a jump and then off I went. Now, I am not a prolific writer and I actually write this blog partially to help me grow my writing skills, so do not expect anything ground shaking here. I think it was a good exercise in what a journal game should be, cosmic horror looms ahead and you need to get your shit together to fix it or the world will be devoured.

Travis just released out a new version, The Mirror in Hill House, for two people and while I have not had a chance to look through it yet I believe that it could be something worth grabbing if you have someone who is also interested in this type of game. Plus it is made for playing on a shared google doc, now that is a game for the times!

In closing I will give you my play through in its base form, just what i wrote while playing, unedited. Each room has three cards listed, those are what the game uses to prompt you for each room. for more details get the game it’s only a few bucks on Itch, or is available for purchase in physical on Press Pot Games official site. While your there take a look at the rest of the games available there are a bunch there and for the price a few small games to play solo or with one other person can be a great way to pass a few hours of time (or so I am just now finding out.)


Hill House

The house looms ahead of me on the hilltop, the lush green forest behind and around it seems to become dull as I look on at the two story house, whose cream colored siding is showing clear signs of decay, the bright forest green shutters appear to have been recently repainted, as if that could hide what it truly hides inside. This house could be from colonial times, as old as our country, though the feeling it radiates is much older and precedes written history.

Needed:

5 Hearts – Parchment

Ace Clubs – Regulus

6 Diamonds – Flame of Fhu

I approach the front porch, the door looms in front of me slightly ajar. Something pulls at me to open the door. There is something calling to me, why would the rift want me to enter? I must find the tools necessary to close it, but if the tools are here why would it want me in to enter?

1 The Foyer

QH – 3C – AD

A deck of playing cards, burned, lay littered on the floor of the foyer, they form the outline of a human, drawing their outline like chalk at a murder scene. There is no body thought he floor below is also scorched as if the body did burn here but was removed by someone, or something. Stepping around the gruesome scene I make my way towards the living room that appears before me once I pull my eyes away.

2 Living Room

KH – AC – 8D

The item called to me, It almost had a glow to it, in the waning light of the sunset coming through the windows, the lacy drapes letting in the last few pieces of light. The rot of wood and plaster clung in my nose making me sick as I crossed the creaking floor, watching carefully for spots that might collapse on me. I had found the first piece, I took the Regulus off of the table by the window and rolled it in my hands. It was cool and smooth in many spots but lumpy and malformed in others. The piece of metal glowed with a light I could not explain. It was not simply a reflection of the dying sun’s light, it was something more. I lifted it and as the light continued to fade from the window I felt ready to leave this putrid space. I did not know that wood and plaster could give this smell.

3 Kitchen

6H – 10C – JD

Holding the Regulus up above my head I enter the kitchen and feel a cool wind blow past me. There is a smell coming from the refrigerator that I cannot place.  Incredibly the sliding glass door is busted open, the desk in the corner has papers strewn about. After looking through the papers for a clue, I found no clues to my query.  I make my way towards the fridge, thinking I should open it and see what the smell is. As I get closer I cannot bring myself to do it. I backtrack through the house into the foyer where I look up the staircase to the second floor.

4 Staircase

3H – JC – 7D

The walls of the staircase are yellow with time, the paper peeling off and showing the plaster beneath. Stains litter the walls, obviously water seeping in from outside for many years has caused this. A wet looking yellow fungus covers the ceiling from the corner of the stairwell to most of the ceiling high above, as I slowly walk upward around the stairs I see in the center of the landing is a set of stones erected to mimic some ancient calendar or perhaps a circle of summoning that has called the beast from the great beyond. It is unclear which of these explanations truly encompasses their purpose here. Careful as to not disturb them I make my way to the next doorway on the left.

5 Library

5H – KC – 10D

The ceiling seems to extend up forever here, no light comes through, a stone this one 100 feet high stands in the center, a pool of water around it, as if the stone has warped the floor and made a sunken set of boards for the water to pool into. Attached to the stone is a piece of parchment.  Upon seeing this I know I must get to it itmust have what I need to seal this rip in space and time, before the beasts front he other realm pour forth and swallow up the Earth.

I wade into the water, the room opening up to reveal a much larger space than could be possible in the footprint of the house. Up to my waist I approach the stone, the parchment sitting still upon the monolith.  As I take it I feel a warmth in my hand as writing appears upon it, some language I cannot parse. But I know this is needed to complete the closing. But what else is there I could possibly need? I must continue my search and I make my back across the vastness of the room. It continues to grow as I close in on the door. I struggle but make it and close the door behind me.

6 Nursery

10H – 9C – KD

The entrance to the nursery is blown wide open, I enter and see that a window here has burst open and glass from it has been strewn across the floor and some pieces even stick in the walls around the room.  What once was a nursery so full of life and color now lies in ruins, a crib tipped over, diapers scattered across the floor and swollen from water that has gathered here over what feels like centuries. The walls that once were bright and painted are peeled and bare, only the dull gray showing now. I leave with haste. This is an insignificant place and lends me no help in my cause.

7 Bathroom

8H – 8C – 3D

The bathroom doors opens with a creak and beyond I see a grand bookshelf, the true library awaits. Books of jokes and humor fill the shelf, colorful bindings that show a rainbow of color reflecting back from the light of the Regulus, the colors swirl in my eyes and draw me deeper into the room, I remain mesmerized looking at the shelves full of so many books of potty humor. I flip through a few and before I know it more time than I realized has passed. But now I must forge on, the rest of the ritual calls to me, the noises from outside, once a dull hum, have grown, now it is a constant noise that invades my ears. I leave the bathroom holding the Regulus in one hand and the parchment glowing red with unknown runes. I peek out and look to the last door in the hall, it must be in here…

8 Master Bedroom

AH – QC – 6D

As the door opens i sense a complete silence from within, the room ahead of me has none of the drone that has been growing since I found this cursed Hill House. It is as if a switch has turned all sound off here, a tension hangs in the air, stepping slowly into the room I lift the Regulus above my head trying to shed light into the dark room.  All light has faded outside, a door ahead of me is larger than any door that should be in this house, I approach it not even my footsteps on the wooden floor release noise to my ears.

I creep towards the door and place my hand on the knob, it is large, and cold to the touch, I pull my hand away before replacing it and forcing myself to turn the handle.

On the other side of the door is a large stone room, this is not part of the house it is a grand hall and the voice of a child giggles as I enter and approach the object that I need to complete the ritual. A fire blue and cold burns in a brazer in the middle of this vast room. A Large throne sits across on the far side, it sits empty, perhaps the creature who normally occupies it has been called away to pull a world into its maw. 

I dip the Regulus into the blue flame It ignites and burns with the light of a thousand suns the giggling stops and in its place is a scream that rings out through the immense hall.

The parchment previously rolled and tucked into the back pocket of my jeans slides out and a chanting explodes from the very walls of the room. As the voices chant the runes turn from red to blue. I know my time is limited and I turn and run back towards the doorway I came through, it has grown larger still and it is slowly closing. I pick up my pace and sprint at the doorway, only to have it close violently on my hand as I squeeze through the opening. 

Pain washes over me as everything turns to white then the inky black that almost appears red as I lose consciousness. 

The Hill House let me live this time and I stopped the creature from swallowing all of mankind as we know it. But I am changed, no not just the fact that I am missing my hand. I am missing much more than just my hand. I am missing some part of me that was taken that day wandering those impossible rooms of the Hill House did something to me. I do not know if I’ll ever truly be able to return to the world I knew before. I see those around me and I hear them bauble on. They get me things and read to me, put the cup to my mouth with the straw and I sip. It is an automatic response though, I will never know how they came to find me in that place. Nor will I ever be able to ask for myself. But the world will go on, at least for now…

Mechanical appendix, thanks Luka for the suggestion.

Incase your confused about the stuff that happened here is a brief breakdown of the mechanics at work here.

You draw a card from each deck (separated by suit) there are prompts for each card in the book and then put them together. If something didn’t fully fit I just made it work. Like a 100ft tall stone slab in the upstairs library room of this house, lol so I expanded the room like a good cosmic horror story should have. Each item you need to find is represented by the 1-6 of the heart, clubs and diamonds suit decks (roll a d6 at the start to decide which you are going for in each deck), when you pull those you get one of the three pieces to close the rift. 6ou are given a lot of leeway to do as you will, plus it’s solo so bend and break the rules as necessary as long as it doesn’t break the game.

The last mechanic I didn’t include in my write up was the spades deck that you draw after each turn you are trying to beat the deck, if it runs out you lose. The Face cards draw extra cards and speed up the game.