Updated: Sep 28, 2021
Players: 2-4* Ages: 11+ Game Time: 30-60 mins
Hey Geeks and Geekettes, Dino-Girl here. I hope you’re surviving the latest lockdown. As promised, I’ve been busy gaming and writing reviews for you. This latest one I’m super excited about! It is from one of my favourite franchises and is a game I play often. It is of course Harry Potter™: Hogwarts™ Battle.
You’re a wizard Harry . . .
The game is a co-operative deck builder. For those not familiar with the term “deck builder”, this is a game in which you start with a standard set of cards before you buy further cards throughout the game to build upon what your character has available.
Starter deck + building your deck of cards, easy!
As it’s a co-operative game, there are no sore losers or gloating winners around the table - you’re all in it together. This game is sure to put the horrors of Christmas Monopoly fights into the past (so brutal, I’m still in therapy)
What’s in the Box?
The main base game starts you off in Year 1 at Hogwarts™, you get to choose from four of the book’s main characters, and each has their own unique starter hand:
Harry Potter™ – complete with an invisibility cloak and Hedwig
Hermoine Grainger™ – including the Time Turner and Crookshanks
Ron Weasley™ – snacking on his Bertie Bots Every Flavour Beans
Neville Longbottom™ – with Trevor the Toad
Other contents include:
Game cards for the shop, these can either be Spells, Items or Allies
Villain cards – Different ones for each game, based on each year of the book
Dark Arts Event Cards – These can do serious damage to you and your team, each card has a different set of rules and consequences
Dark marks - for tracking the villains' progress
House dice – these are for Year 4 onwards and add more randomness to the game, there is a die for each house and are coloured and marked based on the strength of each house:
Gryffindor™ – more loyalty markers
Slytherin™ - more damage markers
Ravenclaw™ – more card markers (for drawing cards)
Hufflepuff™ – more health markers
The box contains seven sets of game components with each one representing one of the years at Hogwarts™. In each year you will fight to defeat villains from the franchise with new villains being added each year. To defeat the villains you will use the spells and items that you gather by buying new cards from the shop as you go, and trying to dodge dark marks along the way of course.
Dark marks are the measure of the villains' power. Each game is played over a series of locations, with their own dark mark tracker. Once filled you lose that location and move onto the next. When you reach the end of the dark marks and have no more locations left you lose and the villains win.
The number of villains and the level of complexity increases as you play each year. The villains from the previous year are added to the bad guys of the following year, and from year 3 you must fend off multiple enemies at a time!
Each opponent has a special ability, for example:
Lose one health each turn Quirrel is on the board
You cannot draw extra cards if the Basilisk is in play
And if Fenrir Greyback is loose then you won’t be able to regain your health!
In year 1 you’re up against Quirrel and the local bullies, by year 4 Voldemort is back! And he’s not happy...
The mechanics of the game are a little different from most deck builders I’ve played. In this game, you have five cards at the start of your round and you either use them or lose them; at the end of your turn, you must discard any unused cards, coins, and power markers that you haven’t assigned and pick up a whole new hand for your next turn. There’s no holding on to your favourite cards for your next round, oh no, and the order in which you play your cards can make all the the difference!
What’s worse is between each year your character “forgets” everything they learned in school that year, and the precious cards that you have collected have to go back to the shop for you to start next year with the same set of starting cards.
Personally, I think it’s a little unfair to think that Hermoine would forget everything, she is after all the greatest wizard of our age . . .
The greatest wizard of our age . . .
This mechanic does however mean that you can start at any year, though I recommend for the first few games you start at year 1. Seasoned players can pick up directly at year 3 if they want, or go all-in for a year 7 standoff with all the bad guys!
The cards which become available in the shop and the order in which the bad guys are revealed are random and so this gives the game some excellent repeatability. Also, trying to play the game with different characters adds to the challenge as not all of the players' abilities are the same.
Add Ons and Game Quality
The quality of the game is very high!
The dark marks are good quality pewter pieces, the cards have excellent print quality, and the designers have really thought about the characters from the books and how best to make them stand out as individuals.
Neville is a great healer, Hermoine has boosts to using spells, Ron’s affinity for allies can do some major damage to your opponents, and Harry’s knack for escaping the dark arts can keep your dark mark counter nice and low.
The box is also just big enough to fit all the cards and pieces from the expansions – I would love to go into the two expansions here but I’ve promised that the others can write those reviews for you.
As each year gets progressively harder the game can grow with the players, and the game designers have been as true to the books and films as they possibly could. Watch this space for the expansion reviews from Mr Chris
This game and its expansions are very popular with me and the rest of the DoaLG team, I’m giving it a six on the die scale because it’s a great game that has stuck so well to the franchise.
For me this game is great, but there is just something missing from it for me that just detracts from the overall feel, like some classic deck building mechanics such as card destruction.
I also dislike that all the villains keep repeating each year even when they would have been permanently defeated in the books. I'd have preferred a bit more time and thought to make this more of a legacy game.
George E Ohh
Until next time Stay Safe and Stay Sane xxx
Images have been taken from Waterstones.com, Solomeeple.com and theboardgamefamily.com
*The OP have also published Solo Play rules here.