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Subject: Year Four through Six Strategy Guide. rss

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David Jones
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SPOILERS! I think everything below is in very broad terms and its probably OK to read if you are on an earlier year, but I do bring up some issues that are year three and four specific, so if you aren't up to year four enter at your own risk. I don't mention anything in years five and six, but the year four strategy flows through into those years. There is one very small year seven spoiler that is not tagged. (I name a card, but not what it does.)

So after having played this game probably 30 times now with a pretty solid win rate, I really feel like I want to start comparing notes with other people and seeing where our experience agree or differ or maybe where I have missed something. Having said this, using the methods I'm out lining below, I've yet to lose a game at years 4-6. Year Seven represents a new set of problems which is going to be discussed in a separate post. I'm going to start with some basic ideas about gameplay and then slowly drill down into more specific issue.

The game has two timers. In a very loose sense you can view Hogwarts Battle as a racing game. You need to run down the villian deck faster than they can run down the location deck. I realize this is a really obvious observation to make, but the idea of control tokens being a timer is going to be mentioned in some of the later paragraphs. So understanding that I think of the game in terms of the location timer vs the villain timer is going to help understand some of the comments I make. I also want to bring this concept up now because its going to set the groundwork for a much bigger concept that will be critical in my year seven strategy guide. Don't worry, I'm not going to spoil year seven in this post, but I just want to plant the seed for something that will matter later.

Hold control of your first location at any cost. This might sound a bit hyperbolic because, hypotheically, there could be a cost too high to pay. However, the game mechanics will never make you pay a cost that high. So basically anything you can do to stay at location one is worth it. But let’s talk about why this is important and how you can go about doing it. First, go back to the idea that you have a location timer that is constantly running down. There are only two things that push this timer forward: Dark Arts cards (DA) that specifically drop control and heroes being stunned. I don't want to discount the effect of villains, because they are key to the game, but at the end of the day the DA deck will drop control more frequently than villains will. In other words, the number of DA cards you pull is the speed of the location timer. When you move from location one to location two, you double the speed of that timer. Effects in this game snowball, so once the speed of that timer doubles, you are that much closer to hitting location three and ultimately losing the game. This isn't to say that losing control of location one means you've lost; I've been able to control the location timer while at location two, but its harder. However, unless you are near the end of the villain deck, losing location two is most likely going to spell defeat. So when I say defend location one at all costs, there have been times in my games where I have had to make the decision of sucking up a few attack in order to be able to acquire a Confundus or Patronum spell.. and its totally worth the sacrifice because I was able to accelerate my removal of control tokens. In contrast, I've had to give up some very powerful hands to Relashio because losing two health would mean forfeiting the final control token, but as painful as that was, again it was right choice.

So how do you maintain control of location one? There are three ways of doing this. First is by killing villains. In year four, seven of your ten villain rewards are to remove control from a location. It should be pretty obvious that hitting the worst villain and only the worst villain is your main strategy. But the secondary importance to this fact is that constantly knocking down villains also means you are constantly pushing that timer back. You need to hit the bad guys coming right out of the gate and hit them as hard as you can. Cards with attack are typically more valuable than cards that heal or give money. There are exceptions, but just keep in mind that beating up villains is not just a victory condition, it is also loss prevention. Second is by acquiring cards that directly remove control, like Dobby or Moody. These are your highest priority cards. As soon as you can get one, take it. After that, you need to figure out how to make sure that hero can cycle their deck as often as possible. Don't let them clog their deck with too many other things. Let them have the cards that come with card draw or find ways to give them card draw when its not their turn. If you can get access to multiple cards, its typically better to spread them across players than to concentrate them. You want to be able to constantly whittle control tokens off the location rather than removing several at time. Don't give the villains time to accumulate six control; you want a steady stream of control removal coming out of your decks if possible. The third way to maintain control is not so much by removing tokens, but by preventing them from being dropped in the first place - i.e. don't get stunned. I know this is kind of a "well duh" observation, but the important thing here is that healing management is an important aspect of the game (more on this later). Its also one of the reason why Ron & Neville are better heroes than Harry. The only time Harry pushes back the location timer is if he happens to be holding the cloak when certain DA cards flip. Ron and Neville on the other hand, are constantly pushing the control timer back.

Attacking is usually better than healing. Notice I say "usually." It really depends on the situation you are in. You do need to have some healing in your deck and there is a balance between the two you should aim for. But what I want to do for a moment is focus on one card that is in every hero's deck and get a little mathy with it. Every hero has an ally that offers you a choice of 1 attack or 2 healing. Lets not think about as attacks or health, lets thing about this in terms of the location timer. This can actually get super mathy, but I'm going to pare it down to a simple calculation. Losing ten health means dropping a control token, so +2 health is worth -0.2 location tokens. Now lets compare that to putting one attack on a death eater. The reward for killing a death eater is removing a control, and he has seven health, so that one attack token is worth -0.14 location tokens. But the other thing here is that you've shortened the game by one turn because you are going to kill that villain one turn sooner. In year four, the DA deck drops control about one in every eight turns. So buy shortening the game length, you've also prevented 0.125 control from being added. This means an attack is worth -0.267 control - 33% better than the +2 health option. So, bear in mind that this calculation varies. An attack on Crabbe & Goyle is not going have the same benefit. So there will be times when healing makes more sense than attacking (Fawkes, for example) so learning how to judge the balance is imporant. But in a more "touchy feely" sense than in mathematical sense, my play experience tends to bear this idea out. The early games when I was doing a lot of healing and not much attacking, I was losing. All I was doing was giving the villains extra turns to drop more control tokens. When I switched to using attacks more than healing, my win percentage went from zero to about 75%. This idea doesn't apply to just how you use your starting ally though. It should also guide your purchasing decision. Come out swinging. Don't stop swinging. Unless maybe you're playing Neville. That +1 to healing means that a heal action is worth 0.3 control which beats the 0.267 control calculation from an attack by 12%. That Mandrake root is more powerful than you think it is.

Being stunned is not as bad as you think it is. The important thing to keep in mind with this claim is that you do not lose your turn when you are stunned. You lose half your cards, but you get to choose which ones. Most of the time you've got an Alohomora or two you don't care about any. Unless you were actually geared up to buy a 6+ cost card, you've not really been hurt. You can ditch your money and still play your attack cards. The other thing about being stunned that is easy to forget is that you are restored to full health at the end of the turn, so you get ten hearts for free! The real penalty with being stunned is the control token, which is your game timer. But the point here is not feel discouraged about getting taken out. Its going to happen, and the loss of control that comes from being stunned is factored into the math mentioned above. Just suck it up and move on. Getting pre-occupied with not getting stunned will cost you victories. (Chocolate frogs are worthless.) The other thing to keep in mind here is that if you've managed to acquire at least two Hogwarts cards that remove control, you are probably going to be able to remove control faster than you are being stunned. This also nicely dovetails into...

Healing management. Remember that being stunned gives you free healing. At some point, it stops being worthwhile to heal severely injured heroes. For example, lets suppose you have three heroes, all with one health. Also suppose that Poison on the top of the DA deck (not that you would know) and that nobody has an ally in hand. So next turn, everybody is going to lose two health. Finally, lets suppose you can dispense three health any way you want to. If you give one health to each player, they all still get stunned, you've dropped three control, and none of your healing mattered. But if you put all three health one person, you've only dropped two control token, the third person stand to fight another round, and two of three health are still in the game. Granted, this is a very specific situation you can't control and is also marginal, but many marginal cases over the course of the game can add up to big differences. My general rule is to heal heroes with 4-7 health first, followed by heroes with 1-3 health, followed by heroes with 8+. Again, there are exceptions, but generally speaking it makes more sense to throw one hero under the knight bus to keep the other heroes going than it does to let them all go down together.

Thoughts on hero selection. There is another thread here on the geek about this already. This really requires a deeper analysis at year seven because at that point hero abilities have changed and another mechanic comes into play that helps the allies. Hermione is the best hero in the game. Other players seem to be preferring Ron/Neville over her, so I need to at least justify my case even if you don't agree with it. There are already a fair number of complaints on the forum about games getting stuck because players can afford the high cost cards in the purchase area. If you have Hermione, this problem never happens. Between her four spell bonus and Beedle, you can direct money wherever it needs to go, almost every round. For that matter, other than Arthur Weasley, there isn’t a single 6+ cost card I would ever refuse to put into my deck. Hermione is the only hero who can acquire these cards with just her starting deck and quite often will get that 6+ card into somebody’s deck within a couple of round of it appearing. You want to be choosing what cards you buy, not letting your income choose for you. Hermione is the only hero who can ensure you have those choices. Harry is probably the weakest hero. His ability doesn’t trigger often enough to be material and the same is true for his cloak. This puts Ron & Neville in the running for second place. I can’t argue against either one, but at the end of the day I prefer Neville for two reasons. First, he can trigger his ability more often than Ron. Second, Mandrake root effectively become a 3 heal card and, as I mathed out above, this is better than an attack token. Additionally, unlike the start deck allies, you can use Mandrake on anyone and it also bypasses Tom Riddle and (minor spoiler) Riddle's Diary. If you can get Fawkes or Molly cycling in his deck, your team is nearly untouchable. He can also do wonders with the relatively inexpensive Butterbeer card. Ron can’t do anything quite that cool at year four. That said, Ron’s ability allows him to have a mix of attack and healing powers, so I see the value in his character and I don’t blame anyone who prefers him to Neville.

Villain management is important. Again, this is kind of a "well duh" comment and one that is briefly mentioned further up, but bears repeating. Pick the villain that is hurting you the most and focus on it. Don't spread out your attacks unless you have a really good reason for it. But the biggest takeaway here is that when you have a really weak villain like Crabbe/Goyle in play, there is no reason to take them off the board and risk something worse taking their place. I think I'm going to cover villain evaluation in a separate post, because that can get long and I don't want to repeat things between the year four and year seven strategy guide. But for now, here is the super short version of my kill priority:

Dementor - Two attack per turn is the worst damage in the game.
Barty Crouch - He takes away control management.
Quirrell - Not so bad once you get healing running, but still a high damage villain.
Draco - Control drops from the DA deck once every eight turns, so he only damaging you 0.25 per turn. (Can go higher if someone else gets stunned on your turn though.) Still less than Quirrel.
Death Eater - With three Morsmordre cards in the deck, his drop is 0.125 damage per turn per ally.
Crabbe/Goyle - Only five DA cards force you to discard, so their damage drop is 0.21 per turn, unless Tom is in play.
Tom Riddle - The trick with Tom is that you don't have to discard the ally to avoid the damage, you can discard any card, like say, Alohoroma.
Lucius - I understand why people hate him, but at the end of the day he doesn't attack you directly and you can attack faster than he can heal. If you're building an attack deck like I told you to do above, he's really quite harmless.

Basilisk / Peter - Its hard to put these in priority order because their ability grows as you buy more stuff. In the early game, I'm happy to let them sit a few rounds while I build my deck because their triggers aren't relevant yet. In the late game, these become high priority kills.

Just like everything else I've said so far, I wouldn't set this list in stone. Certain combos can be bad, like Tom with Crabbe/Goyle or Draco with Wormtail. Every villain has a moment where they can step up and shine. Knowing when that has happens and adapting to the situation is more important than following a script.

Always buy Hogwarts: A History. I will admit that there are better cards in the game than this, so I'm not saying it has to be your highest priority. But if you have nothing better, you should never turn this card down. Where I initially underestimated their value is that I didn't grasp their versatility. Because you can choose what die to roll, 50% of the time you get to choose what this card will be. Its the most adaptable card in the game. This ability will become crucial in year seven, so get used to using this card now. Just trust me on this one.

The last thing I would add to all of this is that once I started winning at year four, I had no problems in years five and six. The strategy holds: come out fighting and don't let up. Year five is a bit more difficult than four because the third villain location opens up, but you also get better Hogwarts cards that year, so there is some balance. Year six is actually easier than five because your heroes will get some cool new toys which I will break down in the year seven strategy guide. Hoping to post that Fri or Sat.

(Edits for grammar. I know I've still missed a few.)
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Matthew Cordeiro
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Great article! I have 10 games under my belt now (8-2 record), and I agree with almost everything you say. Here are some additional thoughts.

davypi wrote:
Hold control of your first location at any cost.

I couldn't agree more with this statement. Going from location 1 to 2 can take a while, but going from location 2 to 3 can happen quickly. And once you hit location 3, you're on borrowed time. In other deck building or deck construction games, tempo is something that you need to pay attention to. On location 1, you control the tempo of the game. Location 2 is a struggle between you and the villians to control the tempo, and on location 3, the villians control the tempo.

davypi wrote:
Attacking is usually better than healing.

I'll take it a step further and say "almost always". This is how I look at it. Attacking gets you closer to winning the game, while healing just delays bad stuff from happening. It doesn't stop bad stuff from happening. It just delays it. Delaying just adds more turns to the game, and more turns means more events and more villain stuff. You don't win by healing. You win by attacking.

davypi wrote:
Harry is probably the weakest hero. His ability doesn’t trigger often enough to be material and the same is true for his cloak.

I'm not disagreeing with this statement, but I can't confirm it either. I've had a lost of success with Harry, and he works well with a reward/ability card that shows up in Game 7.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
the horcrux that lets you discard 2 cards to remove a control token
 
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Annie Tipton
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davypi wrote:

Villain management is important. Again, this is kind of a "well duh" comment and one that is briefly mentioned further up, but bears repeating. Pick the villain that is hurting you the most and focus on it. Don't spread out your attacks unless you have a really good reason for it. But the biggest takeaway here is that when you have a really weak villain like Crabbe/Goyle in play, there is no reason to take them off the board and risk something worse taking their place.


Yes, this is good stuff, especially once you're in game 5 and have 3 villains showing at once. Spreading attacks IS a good strategy when you have 3 relatively toothless bad guys though. I had 2 death eaters and Crabbe and Goyle at one point, and keeping all three of them active for several hands allowed my heroes to build up their decks with a lot of great tools to really go at the later, more difficult villains.

Both strategies (attack 1 vs. spread the damage) are worthwhile depending on the situation. One of our problems during our long losing streak in game 4 was that we didn't adapt this particular strategy well.

Thanks for your thoughts, David!
 
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Matthew Cordeiro
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annietipton wrote:
Spreading attacks IS a good strategy when you have 3 relatively toothless bad guys though. I had 2 death eaters and Crabbe and Goyle at one point, and keeping all three of them active for several hands allowed my heroes to build up their decks with a lot of great tools to really go at the later, more difficult villains.

Great point. Another similar situation is towards the end of the game when revealing the next to last villain means Voldemort shows up too, and you have 4 villains at once. If you can manage the 3 in front of you, you can spread out the attacks, defeat 2 or 3 at once, and then only face 2 or 3 at the end of the game instead of 4.
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David Jones
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cordeiro wrote:
davypi wrote:
Attacking is usually better than healing.

I'll take it a step further and say "almost always". This is how I look at it. Attacking gets you closer to winning the game, while healing just delays bad stuff from happening. It doesn't stop bad stuff from happening. It just delays it. Delaying just adds more turns to the game, and more turns means more events and more villain stuff. You don't win by healing. You win by attacking.


The only caution I kind of have with this is that when you get into year seven, there are points in the game where delaying the game is more valuable that attacking. I'm in the middle of writing that article and I'm realizing that I've not talked about the idea of delaying the game for purposes of building up your deck, which is what healing does for you. In years 3-6 this really isn't critical, but in year seven it can be. So I think within the context of this post, aimed specifically at years 4-6, I'm not going to disagree with you, but I would warn that it actually is possible to become too aggressive in year seven.

Year Seven super spoilerific!
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Quote:
the horcrux that lets you discard 2 cards to remove a control token
I still don't think this is a good enough reason to bring Harry along. Any hero can use the ability of the ring, so the only advantage with Harry is that it triggers his ability. Year seven builds aren't just about heroes, also about proficiencies. Neville + Herbology is just so much better than anything that Harry can do. That said, the other three heroes are designed for specific deck builds where Harry is more general purpose. If I can choose to give the ring to any hero, Harry is the best person to give it to because he's typically not trying to connect specific cards to trigger his power. By the same logic, when I do bring Harry I'm usually giving him Charms. Where I will admit that Harry is great ally to have is if you bring Ron along. Since Harry can give his attack to anyone, not just himself, you can use Harry to charge up Ron on the odd chance he only has two attack in his hand. You can setup some really crazy combos like Harry uses charms to give Hermione card draw; this allows Hermione to cycle Confundus/Patronus through her deck; this give Harry and attack which he gives to Ron; Ron uses this trigger healing, which then helps Hermione because there really aren't that many healing spells she can put in her deck. Eh, I think I'm waaay off topic now though.


Quote:
Spreading attacks IS a good strategy when you have 3 relatively toothless bad guys though.


The only real peril I have run into with this strategy is that if you have a lot of Confundus spells running (remove control if you apply one attack to every enemy), you can end up in situations where you have to make an ugly decision like, do I want remove that control token even though it means killing two villains on the same turn? If Ron gets hit with Tarantallegra you have the same problem - is it worth killing a pussycat just get healing this turn? I tend to dislike having more than three attacks stored on any one villain for this reason. This will make more sense when I get to the year seven strategy guide, but as I mentioned above, you can get into situations where too much aggression can hurt you. Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to throw attacks away rather than risk opening the floodgate for the villain deck. That said, when you do get to the end game, the idea knocking every villian down to one health just before the Voldemort reveal is actually a very good strategy. Voldemort is much easier to deal with if he only has one person standing beside him.
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Joseph Calungsod
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Great guide. My group and I use fairly similar strategies for the most part on all the things you touch on. One thing I do notice though, is that you dont mention two villains that I believe that can be rough to handle, especially in early turns. Whether this was due to spoilers (the guide was Years 4 through 6 so I assume they were supposed to be included), or you merely just forgot, I wanted to know your take on:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback


They have pretty straight forward effects that make them easily the primary target to focus first but can be a difficult decision when paired with other villains especially in the early game when you are trying to hold the first location as long as possible. So as the first reveals, when you have either of them, particularly the first one I mentioned, what would be your take on who to focus or would you spread damage out, and especially in a 4 player game where more dark arts cards are pulled inbetween your character's turn? Say for instance the first 3 villains were:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Bellatrix Lestrange
Draco Malfoy
Dementor


We had conflicting strategies amongst our group and as it turns out, neither one was any better than the other. At this point, no matter who we focused first, we seemed to always lose the first location in a matter of a few rounds. The argument of ignoring healing to focus damage as fast as possible vs healing and slowly putting down damage to 'supposedly' slow location control by not dying was a hot debate. Even with Finite and Confundus bought early on, was not enough to maintain location control with the cascading dark arts effects that constantly were killing players, or adding skulls to the location, or both, no matter how much was done to prevent this from happening. It would take too many turns to get these location control spells into our hands to even play them, and the majority of the time, because of deaths, everyone's hands were cut short so buying better hogwarts cards were extremely difficult even with hermoine, who also had half her hand majority of the time.

I'm not sure your experience with 4 player games but wanted to know what you think the best approach to dealing with this situation is. As for 2 player games where similar situations came about, which obviously character/[spoiler] (you know which one) choice matters more, I found it a lot easier to manage since as Ron I would just focus on damage and trigger his ability to support Neville who was solely focus on keeping the two of us alive. Usually we walk away from this initial villain set barely holding on to location 1, but sometimes with horrible dark arts luck, it's just inevitable to lose it.
 
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David Jones
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I have in mind doing two more articles, one for Heroes/Proficiencies and one for Villains. Unfortunately I have a lot going on with school right now and I may not get around to it for a few more weeks. The reason I list it as a year 4-6 strategy guide is that the strategy given here works for all three years, but I've still tried to avoid spoilers because year 4 seems to be the place were a lot of people are getting stuck. That said, I do post a new kill order list in my year seven strategy guide and I do talk about Bellatrix and Fenrir in that post.

Regarding Bellatrix, Draco, Dementor: Draco is easily at the bottom of this list. Not that he's a softie, but Bellatrix and the Dementor are going to be causing control to drop, so I'd rather address the cause of the problem than just the problem. If you take out Bellatrix, Draco is going to cool down, but the opposite isn't true. Again referring to the year seven strategy guide, I do a bit of math and show that, in year seven, Bellatrix is going to deal more than 2 damage per round which makes her worse than a Dementor. This might not be true in year six because the year seven Dark Arts cards sharply increase the average damage per card. Still, I would still probably hit Bellatrix simply because she can drop control tokens directly whereas the Dementor needs five attacks to drop control and you can push that back via healing.
 
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