Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Review
by Maria Godfrey
Publisher: Designer: Artist: Year:
Forrest-Pruzan Creative and Andrew Wolf
Theme and What is it?
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a co-operative deck-building game,for 2-4 players aged 11+. Players take on one of the main characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville) as they embark upon their journey in their first year at Hogwarts. Each character comes equipped with seven copies of a basic Spell card, plus one Ally and two Items which may help them in their endeavours.
Basic deck-building mechanisms allow players to buy new cards to add to their decks on their turn. The game consists of seven boxes which are to be played through in order in a legacy-style campaign. Each box brings new rules, components and cards into play.
The main play board consists of areas for three decks of cards: Dark Arts Events, Villains and Hogwarts cards, as well as a Location for each new game.
Locations usually have three cards, on which markers can be placed, representing a Villain gradually taking control of the area. These markers can be placed as a result of effects from the Dark Arts Events, or the Villain cards themselves. Once a Location card has been filled with markers it is removed, and the next Location card is revealed, until no more Location cards remain.
At the beginning of each player’s turn, new Dark Arts Event cards are played (number of these depends on the game level). Each Event card will have a negative effect which will be resolved before play continues. Villain cards are resolved next, and will stay in place until they are defeated, so any effects will be repeated at the start of each turn (where appropriate) until the card is removed.
The game starts with one Villain card being in play; however this can change as players progress through the campaign. Once all effects have been resolved, players proceed to the main part of their turn – playing cards from their hand. Depending on which cards they play, they will gain health, influence tokens which can
be used to acquire more powerful cards, or lightning bolt tokens which can be used to defeat enemies.
Tokens are placed onto the individual player boards in the corresponding area, and any tokens not used during a player’s turn are discarded at the end of their turn. Play continues in this way for the remainder of the game. The game ends in player victory when all Villains have been defeated. Alternatively, when all location cards have had the maximum number of markers placed on them, the game will end and Villains are victorious.
On first glance, this looks to be a solid deck-builder which would appeal in particular to fans of Harry Potter. Whether or not it would be innovative enough to attract gamers who weren’t already invested in the theme remains to be seen. The co-operative element would suggest that families may find it more accessible, as younger players can be guided more easily.
Quality of Components and Insert
The components of the game are good quality – boards are all robust, cards withstand shuffling well, and the main board itself is clearly laid out.
The metal markers used for the Location cards are fittingly shaped like skulls – the symbol of the Death Eaters, Voldemort’s supporters – which become ever more prevalent as a Villain takes over a Location – a nice, thematic touch.
Each new game box contains a set of rules for that game, all of which can be neatly stored within the main manual.
The insert allows for neat storage – the only small complaint may be that once the
boxes have been opened, there is a lot of dead space as the cards are then stored under the player board. However, this is a minor issue which has minimal impact.
Art is taken predominantly from the film series, so is instantly recognisable. However,
nothing else about the art itself stands out – the spell and item cards look nice enough, but not much more than that. It almost feels as if the easiest option has been taken with the artistic direction, and personally I think it would have been more effective to break away from the film stills in favour of something more in keeping with the books.
The theme for this game does work well. Each of the seven game boxes represents one year at Hogwarts, so anyone who is familiar with the storylines will be able to make an educated guess at which characters, spells, items or villains will make an appearance in each game. Some of the abilities of the characters and items introduced later in the game are incredibly thematic, which is satisfying for those who are particular fans of the Potter franchise. All of the cards seem fairly well-balanced – certain cards are obviously more useful than others, but nothing seems to be completely over-powered. As the campaign progresses, new mechanisms are gradually introduced which adds more to the gameplay.
Difficulty and age range suggestion
The manual suggests that more experienced gamers begin at game three as the first two games were used essentially as a tutorial, and this makes total sense – we played from game one for the full experience, and found it to be very straightforward to begin with. As the games progress, they do become significantly more challenging, and consequently more time-consuming to play. The 11+ rating on the box is probably appropriate for the whole campaign – our 9-year-old played the earlier games with us but would have struggled in the later games.
Lots of things about this game make it a success. It is very straightforward to understand, making it accessible to younger players, and introduces new ideas and mechanics gradually so as not to overload players all at once. The game looks good, and is compelling to play – we could easily have finished the campaign off in a much shorter time. There is a lot of replayability – once game seven has been opened and completed, the game can still be played, either from the beginning (if the deck is reset, although this would be time-consuming) or with players having access to all cards.
So what would I like to see done differently? To start with, while it is possible to acquire more powerful cards, and draw extra cards on some turns, there is no capacity to thin your deck by removing/trashing lower ability cards or starting hand cards. This means that you rarely have the opportunity to regularly build up more powerful combinations in the same hand, in the same way that you can in other deck builders.
I also think the game breaks theme in a couple of places. For example, it would be more thematically appropriate to allow spells to be carried over from one game to the next – especially to satisfy the legacy element of the game. Each character starts every game with only the Alohomora spell from game one, irrespective of the fact that new spells had been learned during the previous school year. The rules state that characters ‘should have worked harder’ to be able to remember them, although this certainly doesn’t fit with at least Hermione’s character. Allowing characters access to one or more new spells at the beginning of each game would more accurately represent the fact that the four main characters are continuing their magical education, and haven’t forgotten everything at the end of each school year! Also, as players progress from one game box to the next, they are still required to battle every Villain from previous games in addition to the Villain from the current game box. Clearly this is done to make the game more challenging, but still doesn’t quite fit in terms of authenticity.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable, thematic game which has many merits. Its simplicity makes it appropriate for younger gamers, yet it still holds enough challenge in the later stages to appeal to more experienced gamers as well. While I don’t think it is necessarily a great example of a legacy game, as ultimately the face of the game doesn’t really change; rather things are added to it in a cumulative effect, the sense of enjoyment and immersion more than make up for this. A solid addition to our collection, which I’m sure will see much more play in the future.