Disclaimer: I know many people like to keep the contents of the boxes a secret until they open them, so I’ll keep my review spoiler-free. I won’t mention any specific cards or discussion on how to beat the boxes, but I will review the contents and mechanics, in general terms, to inform those people who are deciding whether or not this expansion is right for them. This review assumes you have played through the 7 games of the base Hogwarts Battle game.
The Monster Box of Monsters Has, Obviously, Lots of Monsters
More accurately, it has lots of creatures. These guys are very similar to villains. There are also new dark arts cards and Hogwarts cards related to creatures.
Encounters are the New Horcruxes
Remember those horcruxes from Game 7? They were fun, right? Well, now we have encounters, which essentially work like horcruxes.
Just when you thought your deck was kicking butt, here come the detentions. They clog up your deck with mostly useless cards, making it more difficult to have productive turns. (If you’ve played Dominion, they’re like curses/ruins.) Luckily, there are ways to get them, as well as other less desirable cards, out of your deck.
MBoM includes a new creature-specific proficiency, plus some new cards that work like proficiencies.
New, Old Heroes and a New, New Hero
Our four Gryffindor friends from the base game get a makeover in this expansion with new character abilities. For the record, you can play with either the old abilities or the new ones, whichever you prefer. Also, you can play as Luna! She comes with her own deck of 7 Alohomoras and 3 character-specific cards, just like the other heroes. However, she only comes with 1 character card, which brings me to my next point…
This Expansion Is NOT Just More Cards for the Original 7 Games.
Instead, it’s a series of 4 new boxes, each containing new villains/creatures, locations, encounters, Hogwarts cards, and dark arts cards to be used for that specific game. You don’t start over at Game 1 with new cards. It’s more like an enhanced Game 7. In fact, to play all 4 boxes of the expansion, you’ll need cards from the 7 games included in the base game. So, there’s an assumption that you’ve already played through the base game before starting Box 1 of the expansion. This is probably the most surprising aspect of the game for most people. Each of the 4 boxes is loosely based on a book in the series, but the correlation isn't as strong as the base game.
Lots of Customization
If you were bummed out by that last paragraph, here’s some good news. Once you’ve opened up all 4 boxes, you now have lots of cards to customize your play experience. In fact, the rules offer a couple of suggestions on how to put together games using all the stuff from the base game and expansion. At this point in your adventure, you’re free to build the game however you want, and this is my favorite aspect of the expansion. You can build your villain deck however you want, play with whatever encounters or horcruxes you want, and customize your hero with different abilities and proficiencies. You can go with a theme specific to your favorite book, and you can tailor the game length and difficulty to your group. Technically, you could already do these things with just the base game, but now you have many more options, with greater flexibility and replayability.
Component Quality and Storage
There has been some airing of grievances over the different color shading of the base game cards vs. the expansion cards. I get that. Personally, I don’t pay attention to the differences. The game has enough randomization that I never felt like I was gaining any useful information from knowing the next card up was from the base game or the expansion. This shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place, so the criticism is warranted, but it did not have a negative impact on my play experience.
One little cool thing about the components is that you can store everything in the base game box. Yes, you have to ditch the empty boxes to do it, but MBoM comes with handy game/box dividers in the event you want to hit the reset button and sort out everything into their original games/boxes.
One of the biggest gripes people have about the base game is that it can be either really easy or unwinnable, depending on what cards you draw from the Hogwarts deck and the order in which the villains appear. The expansion mostly fixes this problem by giving you an optional rule for handling the pool of available Hogwarts cards and by increasing the overall difficulty of the game. Sure, the luck of the draw is still an element of the game. But you’ll no longer be stuck with 6 cards you can’t afford, and you’re most likely not going to finish the game on the first location.
I opened the expansion with the preconceived notion that this was going to be more cool stuff for Games 1-7. Once I got over that initial disappointment, I enjoyed the expansion for what it was designed to be – an upgraded version of Game 7, with lots of new stuff to try out. The replay value is increased exponentially, and I feel like I have a lot more control over my play experience (while at the same time, those villains and creatures exert more control over my locations).