With the release of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle a new era of Harry Potter gaming was born. Now on the shoulders of that pretty good cooperative deckbuilder comes another attempt to recreate Quidditch with cardboard and plastic. Despite the longish name that mentions the word snitch twice, Golden Snitch: Snitch Snatcher - The Quidditch Game is an interesting beast; one that deserves a closer look.
But first, the history of Quidditch board games. There was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Quidditch Card Game, Harry Potter Championship Quidditch, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire Quidditch Dice Game and a couple more. On superficial analysis they each appear to be a different game, and this game appears different from them. There is the catapult/slingshot game, the overproduced dice game and the take-that card game. By all accounts the combined suckage of these games is more than forty soul slurping dementors with Dyson vacuum cleaners in a spaceship with a hull breach. That's a lot of suck.
So the bar for Quidditch board games is set pretty low. Enter: GS: SS -TQG (see, isn't that easier to say). But is it good enough?
Opening the Box
This is a pretty cool looking game. You open the box to find a green on darker green checkered board with a snitch track around the sides and three goal spaces on each side. But the best part is the four do it yourself foldable audience towers. Once constructed (easy tab-in-slot and sticker design) they look really nice standing around the pitch, even though they're completely useless gamewise (in fact your hand can knock them over pretty easily moving your pieces).
Then there are four decks of cards: Slytherin action deck and skill deck and the same for Gryffindor. Sorry, no Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. This is true to the books and especially movies: those other two houses don't actually exist, they're just there for filler and audience. Diehard Claws and Puffers will be disappointed, but they're used to it by now. (My wife in her Ravenclaw sweatshirt would say differently but she's not here, so we can be brutally honest).
Back to those decks: they are a missed opportunity when it comes to asymmetrical play. Other than slightly different artwork and red vs. green cardbacks they are identical. No nasty Slytherin cheats, no Gryffindor heroics. Nope. Nada. Zilch. The artwork doesn't even show players you'd recognize, just shadowed generic Quidditch players on brooms wearing goggles. It's like the publisher of this game didn't know this is a Harry Potter game and thought Quidditch was a real sport. Ok, maybe it is in some geekier circles...but until it's in the Olympics I'm not buying that.
The little plastic discs that are the players are nice and serviceable: each team has 3 chasers with house emblems (lions/snakes), 2 beaters with crossed clubs, a keeper with a picture of the 3 goal hoops and a seeker with an eye.
One thing that is missing on the board is a scoring track for each team, but since you're only playing to the first to 3 or 5 goals (short or long game) it's no biggie.
But How Does It Play?
In short, this game is a cross between chess, a take-that card game with Magic: The Gathering card costs and a roll-and-move race for the snitch. Wait! Come back! Well, if that lost you completely then you're going to hate this game, but it's...well, the whole is better than its parts.
Each turn has 3 phases:
Draw a card (action or skill deck)
Play an action card (optional)
Move two players on the pitch (not the same one twice)
The first few turns you need skill cards because it takes skills to play action cards and you start with none. The three flavors of
mana skills are Offense, Defense and Wizardry. Your skill deck consists of four of each of these skills and the maximum required skill level of any action card is 4.
Your pieces each move in prescribed chess-like ways:
Chasers: up to 3 spaces diagonally on dark green squares.
Beaters: up to 2 spaces orthogonally and can take other pieces
Keeper: up to 2 spaces diagonally but limited to the goal area and can take other pieces
Seeker: not actually on the board but on a bidirectional roll-and-move track
You don't actually choose when to move your Seeker, that happens randomly because of six "spot the snitch" cards in your action deck. Then you roll a d6 and move towards the snitch. More on that later...
The quaffle (game ball for the HP-uninitiated) disc sits on top of the chaser holding it, and to score you have to move that chaser into one of the three scoring spaces at the end of the board. You can pass the quaffle as an action to any other chaser on the same side of the pitch. If a beater takes out a chaser then the chaser is removed from the board and respawns on its starting square in the middle of the board on the next turn. Also the quaffle goes to the beater player's closest chaser. If you score a goal then all players (except the seekers) return to their starting spaces and the opposing team gets the quaffle.
The game immediately ends once one side gets 3 goals or 5 goals for the longer game. Alternately it immediately ends if one seeker catches the snitch.
Roll and Move? Seriously???
Ok, calm down and accept that the snitch is just plain random. It's random in the books and it's random here. Actually this game makes it less random because you can actually win by scoring 3 (or 5) goals with the quaffle and render the snitch minigame a moot point. In real Quidditch (if it were real-- it's not, you know), catching the snitch is all that matters unless you have crazy Irish magic that lets you get a lead of more than 150 points on the other team. That makes every other player on the field USELESS!
But it is roll and move. And there is absolutely no die roll mitigation here. Just roll a d6 and move toward the snitch. Just to add some realism, each snitch card has either a Slytherin or a Gryffindor symbol on it which denotes which end of the pitch it is on. So you're moving toward the snitch on the Gryffindor side and then "Hey now!" the snitch has teleported to the other side and now you're having to go back. That combined with having to roll the exact number to land on the snitch means that there will be a lot of cheers and groans when a "spotted the snitch" card is drawn.
But totally fun for the right crowd.
Ok, what about the chess game with cards. Is it fun?
The card play can be quite fun. There are interrupt cards to cancel other cards or player moves. Some cards require a "roll off" which means you each roll a d6 and the higher number wins. There is even a Time Turner card that lets you grab a card out of your discard. My least favorite card is one that makes the opponent lose their next turn, but it can be countered by another card.
Without the cards it is really hard to block someone from scoring because of the limitations on how your pieces move and the ability to pass the ball to any chaser on the same side of the board. But there is strategy to placing your beaters and maneuvering your chasers especially once you know what card effects are out there. Since the skill cards are played face up and are open information you can see if your opponent has the potential for a dirty trick in Offense or Defense depending on how many skill cards of that type are up.
It's not a long game, but a few serious AP prone players might need to avoid overthinking the moves. "You can't stop me unless you play a card" is a common thought when someone is pondering how to defend.
A decent two player game to play with my ten year-old daughter who loves Harry Potter. About 70% skill and 30% luck. The long five point game may trend toward a little more luck since there are more snitch wins the longer it goes. My daughter can beat me, and that's not a bad thing in a Harry Potter game.
I'd love Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff to get their due and it would be nice to have a little more asymmetry and flavor, but there are classic historical Quidditch moves mentioned as action cards and the balance of expensive to cheap cards is about right.
A few minor quibbles:
The rules aren't clear on whether beaters can hop over your own players. I think they can, but maybe they can't. Chasers can't.
The rules also aren't clear on whether the Time Turner can grab a "spotting the snitch" card from your discard. My daughter thinks it can and I'm going with that. At least it adds a miniscule amount of strategy to the snitch minigame.
Those darn towers fall down. Also one bump of the board and your pieces slide all over the place. Beware of cats.
No scoring track. Just a 1 to 5 track for each team would have been nice.
I'd love to see the characters from the books/movies. What's with the generic shadow people?
7/10 for gamers who like Harry Potter
5/10 for gamers ambivalent to theme
8/10 casual/kid friendly game
9/10 for kids who love Harry Potter and Quidditch
10/10 if you like building superfluous paper towers--those are seriously cool!