I began my Harry Potter obsession in 1998 when I was 10 years old. My Mom got me the book (at the time I hated reading) and I was not interested. She finally decided to read the book to me. Once I got about halfway through the first book, I was hooked. From that moment on I went to every book opening and movie opening of Harry Potter. I have read the full series almost a dozen times now, and I now read books for fun (yay for getting a 10yr old into reading!)! Harry Potter has a special place in my heart for this.
So, when I saw this game coming out I got really excited. And then when I saw it was cooperative I just HAD to try this game! If you would like to see a playthrough of the game (Book 7 playthrough so there will be SPOILERS if you plan to play book by book!) you can check out my YouTube channel - One Stop Co-op Shop:
Please note this game is based on the movies, NOT the books. You will choose one of 4 students (Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville) to traverse through the world of Harry Potter. The game is a basic deckbuilder. If you have played games like Marvel Legendary, Shadowrift, Legendary Encounters, Legendary Firefly etc. this game’s mechanics will be old hat to you.
How you win this game is if you defeat all the villains before they take control of all the Location cards. How the villains attack you is in two ways:
1. Each villain has an innate ability that can trigger due to other cards played, or will be triggered during the villains phase.
2. Dark Arts cards – Depending upon the current location you will draw 1-3 Dark Arts cards that will negatively affect you and your teammates.
After the villains have their fun it will be your turn to fight back. You will use your starting deck (slightly different for each player which is cool) to purchase cards, and attack villains. You also have a health meter that starts at 10 and goes to stun. If you ever get stunned you must add one control token to the location, discard half of your cards (rounded down) and clear your board of any saved tokens (used for attack or purchasing power).
The game has a great ramp-up feature which I will discuss in detail below. Otherwise this is Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle in a nutshell.
To be honest my favorite component of the game is the control tokens used to keep track how much control the villains have over the active location. They are some sort of Pewter material with a skull on the front that looks so darn cool.
The Art on the cards match the movie very well, and the words on the cards are easy to read. However I dislike all the differently sized cards. This makes it difficult to sleeve IMO. I would have preferred that the Location cards, Dark Arts cards, and Villain cards were the same size as the Hogwarts cards. I know this would have meant smaller art, but maybe instead they could have spiced up the playing board a little? Comparing this board to a game such as the Big Book of Madness, I feel the Big Book of Madness had a more “Hogwarts” feel than this one.
I should say however, the backside of the board is AMAZING when you open up the box! It looks so utterly fantastic and I feel just like I am opening up a Harry’s trunk to find lots of magical items.
The player boards are great as it is heavy cardboard that will last a lifetime. Even the cardboard pieces (attack, defense, etc.) are of rock solid quality and are thicker than your average cardboard punch-outs.
I love when a game comes with an insert that can hold sleeved cards, and this one did! I actually get to keep the insert in the box for once.
When the theme is Harry Potter and you get to play cooperatively as the main three characters plus a great supporting character Neville? What more could I ask for? Oh wait there is a progression to the game as it gets harder? Just like in the books where the story gets more complicated each book? Hmmm, I am giving this a solid 10 and if I could I probably would give this a 12/10
Gameplay Mechanics: 6.75/10
As eluded to above, this game has a progression that is pretty neat. Unlike most games where you play the same game over and over again, you can play this game starting with Book 1, and going to Book 7. Each book the game becomes slightly more complicated as it will add additional villains, different mechanics and more cards for you to buy. If you play through all the books (like we did) you will look back and see just how much the game progressed from Book 1.
Plus let’s be honest, who doesn’t love having boxes you cannot open until you complete a book. It makes the game that much more exciting! When we would finish a game I would have to open the next box that contained the new material for the next book right away just so I could see what was coming next.
I really like how the villain cards abilities will stack with each other. You may think that Draco’s ability to lose 2 health each time a control token is placed on the location isn’t terrible. That is, until you combine it with other villain abilities! For the first couple books you are only fighting one villain at a time, but in the later games when there are multiple villains out, they get some crazy combo’s that can really put you in a bind!
As I do not want to spoil too much here, just know that at some point your characters will get abilities and I think they do a great job of portraying the characters in the movie.
Deckbuilders that are cooperative can be a bit difficult to design because usually only one person is playing at a time, and everyone else is just sitting there (exception: shadowrift!). In this game, there are many ways for you to provide help to your teammates. You can play cards to provide them with additional attack on their turn, heal them, or help them to buy better cards. I like cooperative games where it doesn’t feel like you are each playing a solitaire game at the same time, but instead can interact and provide assistance to each other.
One of my pet peeves with games is when there is player elimination (unless the game is short or it only happens right at the end of the game). If you are eliminated, who wants to sit around and watch everyone else play? No fun at all.
However, they needed to provide some sort of penalty for villains to attack players, and the stun effect is just perfect. You do not lose your turn or get eliminated from the game, but you have to discard cards and add one control to the location. Plus you lose any tokens you were given during other player’s turns as well! This is a great mechanic to hinder players but not eliminate them from the game.
If Only. . .
How come many cooperative deckbuilders do not come with many or any cards that let you burn or destroy starter cards from your deck? (examples: Legendary Encounters, Legendary Firefly, Shadowrift, Shadowrun Crossfire). When you only get to draw 5 cards a turn, I want to clean out those early alohamora cards right away so I can get better draws etc. I understand this makes the game harder which is good, but my favorite part of deckbuilders is making those amazing combo’s! (With Marvel I once was able to make 33 attack in one turn!)
As you progress through the books you find that you need specific cards to come up more often in your deck, but there is no way to destroy unwanted cards, and it frustrates me. You end up having turns that are somewhat useless and make the game take longer needlessly.
At first, the game length was perfect! 30 – 45 minutes. I would say this is the case up to about book 6. Once you get to book 6 the game takes about 90 minutes. Game 7, well if the exact cards do not show up right away, your game could go for 2 hours! 2 hours of doing the same thing over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over. . you get the point. This game is not a Galaxy Defenders game where there are a ton of tactical or strategic decisions that need to be made. Instead, you all know what you need to do but you just need the cards to show up. . . And then after you get the cards you need, you have to wait until you draw them!
If you look at our playthrough (2 player my wife and I) it took us 2+ hours to play, and for me that is too long for this type of game.
This ties into the length comments above. Each time you progress to a new book, you add new cards to the Hogwarts deck. Your Hogwarts deck becomes HUGE, and since there are only ever 6 cards to buy from, if you need specific cards to win it could take forever for them to show up.
I plan to pull a bunch of cards out of this deck in hopes it helps with this. However it could also make for an easier game which I wish was not the case (LOVE hard co-ops!)
Play Again Factor: Medium - High
Every game you will have a different order of the villain cards, different order of Dark Art cards, and you have 4 characters to choose from. Plus if you play the game book to book, you have a different game play mechanic each game. I would say high “play again factor” up to the 7th book. Then for the 7th book, I would say you have medium level of replayability. Also, if you love Harry Potter, infinite replayability!!
The strategy in this game is very light. You are essentially looking to buy the best cards available to place in your deck, and help your teammates out as much as possible. Ther are some decisions such as which villain to attack etc. but these decisions are not difficult to make. By the 7th book I would still say it is a light game, just has a lot of moving parts to it.
All types of players for sure! Harry Potter fans for sure, and then anyone who would enjoy a light deckbuilder. Nongamers will probably enjoy this game more than gamers to be honest as there are not too many difficult decisions in the game. If you want a step up, try the Big Book of Madness or the new Aeon’s End for more complexity.
Final Thoughts: 7.25/10
As a HUGE Harry Potter fan, I give this game a big thumbs up!! Although I have played many a deckbuilder in my life, if you enjoy the story, play the game from Book 1 to Book 7. I found that I enjoyed it the most that way. The mechanics are not mind boggling, but it does what it needs to do. I just wish there was a way to shorten the length of the game once you get to book 7.
edit: some type's I fixed.
- Last edited Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:26 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 4:43 pm
Kevin B. Smith
Great summary of the game, including the things you didn't like so much. We're only on game 6, but I think I agree with just about everything you said. Well, I'm not as fond of the control tokens as you are, but other than that...
Thanks Kevin! And thank you for reminding me what those tokens are called. Control tokens not influence! I will update tomorrow.
C'mon how cool are those control tokens?? They have some good weight to them too! Ha!
Kevin B. Smith
C'mon how cool are those control tokens?? They have some good weight to them too! Ha!
They're fine. They're a bit small so hard to handle. And they seem a bit out of place, with everything else being cardboard chits. I would have slightly preferred cubes or chits, myself. But they seem to be quite popular with reviewers--I'm clearly in the minority here.