Today’s review is a game that I got as an impulse purchase. My wife and I showed up at a game store for game night and were the only 2 people there, so we decided to spring for a new game. Since the purchase, it has been one of our most played games over the past 6 months or so. It’s not the greatest game ever made, but it’s quick and easy to teach, with an IP that almost everyone knows. It’s Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf
Play Time: 30-60 minutes
Player Count: 2-4 players
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative deck-building game set in the Harry Potter universe. Each player will take on the role of one of the 4 main heroes (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville) and battle the various villains from the series. Your starting deck will include 7 Alohamora spells, which provide money, as well as 1 ally card and 2 item cards, each of which are specific to the character you are playing. Each turn starts by drawing a dark arts card, which will have a negative effect, followed by applying the villain effects, which are also negative. Once those 2 steps are complete, the player turn starts in full. You will play your cards and gain money to buy new cards, gain attack power to apply to enemies, heal yourself and your teammates, and other assorted abilities that the cards provide.
A player board with attack tokens and money
The cards available for purchase are improved spells, advanced items, and different allies that will be added to your deck. Over the course of the game, the villains will be trying to take over locations from the films. Your goal is to defeat all the villains before they have taken over all the locations.
I’m going to pause here and state that I understand that a lot of the description I’ve provided thus far is vague. That’s intentional. This game has an awesome way of presenting additional content and I don’t want to spoil anything. And with that, let’s get to the next section.
Things I like:
- Campaign/Legacy Format. When you open the box, there are 7 smaller boxes that are each labelled game 1 to game 7. These are meant to represent the 7 books in the series. If you have no experience with these types of games, you start with just game 1. If you are an experienced gamer, they tell you to open the first 3 boxes. Each box has new cards, enemies, locations, and difficulties. Some of the boxes have new pieces that add new mechanisms to the game. You aren’t supposed to open the next box until you beat the game at its current difficulty. It isn’t a legacy in the sense that you destroy anything. You don’t. But you do get almost “mini-expansions” with each new game and it’s really fun to open the next box. Basically, everything you see in this review will be from the game 3 level or below, because I don’t want to spoil anything.
The 7 game boxes
- Ease of Play. I mentioned that this game has gotten a lot of table time in our house. That’s for a couple reasons. The first is the IP. Most people know Harry Potter. The other big reason is that it is very easy to teach. If someone has never played a deck-builder before, this is a great starting point. The cards are very simple, turns are easy, and due to it being cooperative, you can help each other out during play. My youngest sister loves this game and even declared it her favorite that she’s played.
- Thematic Implementation. That’s a fancy way for me to say that I like how everything in the game reminds you of the books and movies, but is able to stay simple. Different characters come into the game and their abilities remind you of the character from the stories. It’s not heavy-handed and the subtlety is a nice touch.
Some of the cards available to purchase
- Rulebook. Due to the mini campaign nature of the game, you get new rules with each new box you open. The last page of the rule book has little pockets where you can store these additional rules. It’s pretty cool.
Cool rulebook pockets
Things in the Middle:
- Component Quality. Some of the components in this game are awesome. The little tokens used to track the villain control are metal and they look great. There are other components that I won’t be discussing (spoilers), that are also really nice. The cards are a touch disappointing though. The card stock feels okay, but they don’t have a linen finish. Additionally, the cards in your starting deck don’t change, so the edges wear and you can start to recognize the cards a little. It’s a minor thing, but the cards are heavily used and I wish they held use just a touch better.
The metal location tokens
Things I don’t like:
- Difficulty/Randomness. This is one area where I think this game suffers. As you progress through the games, new enemies get added to the enemy deck. Depending on which enemies start the game on the board, it can almost be impossible to win. On the flip side, if a few easy enemies start on the board, you can just let them sit there while everyone spends a few rounds buying new cards and upgrading their deck, resulting in a very easy victory. This is my biggest frustration with the game. Some plays are spent rolling through enemies without the villains ever taking over a location, and other plays are lost before you even defeat an enemy. Additionally, there are cards that let you remove villain control tokens, but you have to buy them. If they never come up in the cards you can buy, you have no way of removing the tokens, which really speeds up the losing condition. I wish there were a way to balance this out, but there doesn’t seem to be one in my experience.
- Player Count. I’ll admit that this one may just be limited to my plays, but I’ve found that 2-player games are much more easily won when compared to 4-player games. To be fair, I haven’t tried it much with 3 players, but the difference between 2 and 4 seems pretty consistent in my experience. 4 players is a significantly more difficult game, and maybe that’s where the game was designed. That may be the intentional difficulty level, we just like to play 2-player games so maybe we’re out of the ideal set-up.
- Player Powers. Each of the 4 heroes has a different power. Neville feels almost necessary in order to win in a game with less than 4. He is the only player that provides a bonus with healing, which is crucial. Each character can heal with certain cards, but he can heal other players out of the gate. In a 4-player game, even he struggles to heal everyone. The other characters are good, but the person playing him will have their work cut out.
This game has gotten a ton of plays our way, but a lot of that is due to the ease. As I mentioned above, there are some big issues I have with this one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very fun and accessible, but that randomness curve can be frustrating. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, dive in. I think you’re really going to enjoy this one, even with the problems listed above. However, if you aren’t a big Harry Potter fan and looking for games based more on mechanics, I’d probably say try another deck builder. Specifically for cooperative deck building, I think the Legendary: Encounters system does it better.
Dave’s GLG Rating: 6.5/10
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is on BGG Here.
And it’s on the USAopoly site Here.