A to Z Gaming: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

We tried to save the world from Voldemort and his minions in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Players: 2-4
Time: 30-60 Minutes
Designers: Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf
Artists: Joe Van Wetering
Publisher: USAopoly

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a campaign-style cooperative deck-building game where up to four players attempt to defeat the dark forces invading the world over the course of seven years. Players work together to amp up their capabilities with spells, magical items and allies to help their fellow wizards in the fight against the death eaters. If they can defeat all of the villains before the various locations have been over-run by the dark arts, they win and can move on to the next year’s challenges.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is…not exactly a campaign game, but a game that progresses as players succeed from game-to-game. In the game box are seven small boxes representing the different years our favorite wizards spend at Hogwarts. When you win one game, your next game is played with the components and rules that come in the next box. I’m not going to show any components beyond the first year here, except to mention that Voldemort comes up as a villain eventually (I don’t think that’s a spoiler, because it wouldn’t be a Harry Potter game if he didn’t!).

The game is set up with the board in the middle, the current deck of Hogwarts cards shuffled and a market of six laid out. The current game’s location cards are put in ascending order on their location of the board, the dark arts cards shuffled and placed on their location, and the villains on theirs. A number of villains, as defined by the rules for that particular year, are dealt face-up from the villain deck. Then, the merit, attack and location damage tokens are placed close to the board. Each player chooses a character and receives a player board, character sheet, and starting deck tailored to that character.

On their turn, a player will first resolve the number of Dark Arts cards as determined by the current location, then check villains for other effects. Then they play any of the cards in their hand, collecting attack and merit tokens as appropriate. They can assign the attacks to villains and purchase new cards for their deck from the market of face-up cards using their merit. Once they’re finished, any leftover tokens are returned to the pool, the player’s cards and hand are discarded, and they draw a 5-card hand.

The Dark Arts cards are always bad – taking health from some or all players, preventing healing, preventing drawing new cards, or adding damage to the location. And as you move from one location to another (because they become overrun by damage), you have to take more cards from the Dark Arts deck each turn. If you ever end a player’s turn with full damage on the last location, the players lose the game.

The villain cards also come with bad effects, but they also list a “health” for them that represents the number of attacks that will finish off that villain. The bad effects on the villains won’t always trigger, so they often aren’t as punishing as the Dark Arts cards…except when they are.

If a player loses all of their health, they become stunned, which causes them to discard half of their hand and add a damage token to the location.

If players defeat the last villain in the stack, they win the game.

As I mentioned above, the game gets additional cards, components and rules as the players succeed at defeating the villains in a given year/box. Without giving much away, the game definitely gets harder as you add these new elements – especially when Voldemort enters the pool of villains.

We have finished all seven years, playing with just my husband and I, and moved on to the expansion, The Monster Box of Monsters. If the base game is too easy (and it might be for many advanced deck-builder players), the expansion adds additional difficulty.

We received this for Christmas a couple of years ago, and immediately dug in. I was attracted to the IP – I love Harry Potter – but also I love deck builders. The game is way too simple for advanced players in years 1-3, but we decided to play through those years for completeness. If you’ve played other deck-builders like Dominion or Clank!, I would recommend jumping in at Year 3, unless you are completists like us. The difficulty ramps up from there.

Also, for those who have played a lot of deck builders, taking the attack and merit tokens will feel a little weird at first, since you mostly earn them on your turn in the early games. However, later there are more and more ways that they can be collected on others’ turns – especially as you work through other years. So it’s good to get in the habit early on.

Overall, we really enjoyed the game. Even though its a fairly basic deck-builder, we loved the theme. Plus, digging in to a new box at the beginning of a new game session is always exciting (and a little terrifying!).

How is it as a 2-player game? Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle works well with 2-players; however, we found it might actually be easier to win at 2 players than at higher player counts. We didn’t lose a single game until Year 7…though we have now regularly lost games with the expansion.

How about the art and component quality? The component quality is quite varied for this game. The cards are cheap and the colors on the backs of cards that come out in different boxes doesn’t match that from previous boxes. This bothered us enough to sleeve the cards – and I *never* sleeve cards.

On the other hand, the cardboard chits are fine, as well as the player boards. And the damage tokens for the location (which we called “hexes” for their shape and purpose) are gorgeous chunky metal pieces.

The box is a weird shape, which is a little annoying, but it resembles a suitcase, which looks cool on the shelf. So it’s a mixed bag.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes! At least until we’ve defeated the monster box of monsters. At that point, I’m not sure we’ll play through it again (unless there’s another expansion in the works), but we have already gotten a number of good plays out of it.

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