(Game Night Ready)™ Review of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle (USAopoly)
I Only Sell Games I Love
My first rule for the (Game Night Ready)™ line of upgraded and protected games is that I only sell games that I love. The second is that every game needs to belong in any well-rounded collection of great games for social game nights.
For a little while, I bent the first rule for Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, because it came highly recommended by friends, and checked so many boxes to balance out the perfect game night collection: Deckbuilding, Cooperative, Campaign, a Familiar Franchise, and Family-Friendly— with bonus points for involving Wizards!
(I know what I’m about.)
The game recently came down off of my Shelf of Shame, and it was even better than I expected. (For a chance to win one of the games still on that maligned shelf, visit The Fourth Place: Shelf of Shame Giveaway!)
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
My sweetheart and I got out the game on a recent frigid, snowy weekend planning to play a game (chapter) or two into the campaign before playing something else. Instead, we ended-up playing the first six in a single day, saving the final climactic battle for the next morning!
There are simply not enough games that are great for two people, not enough games where you can play through an extended campaign, and nowhere near enough great co-op games for my liking. As promised, Harry Potter: Hogwarts battle shines in all of these areas.
I got a pretty good feel for this game before I had actually played it properly, when putting together the (Game Night Ready)™ prototype and the first few orders. At a glance, the look of the game is so on brand for Harry Potter that you might mistake it for franchise filler, but this is a real hobby game.
Everything about the package is high quality— It’s a solid box, with an all-over print and texture that feels familiar in a high-end Harry Potter product. There’s a great box insert with room to store and organize the entire game, even with the card sleeves I provide to make the (Game Night Ready)™ edition. Each player gets a mini-board to track health and organize tokens and cards, and there’s a solid board to organize the cards and tokens that make up the game. Pieces include multiple types of cardboard tokens, colorful custom dice, metal tokens, and individual tokens to track some of the rules introduced in each game— plus of course the many cards that make up the core mechanic.
The game art is clear and readable, while still fitting the aesthetic of the book and film series, and makes surprisingly good use of promotional photography from the films. One hitch is that the instructions and cards mostly use symbols for a number of concepts, so discussing the game as you play leads to some pauses thinking to call the lightning-bolt tokens “Attacks”— and a lot of reference to “Thingies”. Rules are clarified in multiple places, across the cards, board, and rulebook, so other confusion rarely arises.
The initial package is great, but the most obvious opportunity to protect the game is the hundreds of cards included, in a variety of sizes. I provide non-glare sleeves for the 142 standard cards and low-profile sleeves for the 47 smaller square cards, so shuffling won’t wreck your copy. With the many tokes included, I also include a few extra zipper baggies that come in handy. As always, I include an “Ex Libris” (“from the library of” nameplate) so you can mark your own copy so you don’t lose it when you take it to game night.
Despite the sheer amount of stuff you see when you open the box— and the promise of seven different games— the game design, instructions, and materials make this an easy game to pick up. I’m not usually a fan of deck-builders, but it made immediate sense after a quick read and a couple of turns.
The first game played alongside the instructions serve as an easy tutorial to pick up the game. If everyone playing has played it before, you can probably skip the first chapter or two, but they go quickly and are a fun way to warm up.
Each player picks a familiar hero from the books (and films) and starts with ten cards that form the base of a deck for that character. Player action centers around the heroes (players) collecting Influence tokens that allow players to draft cards, and Attack tokens to defeat the Villains, before those Villains accumulate enough Villain Control to capture all of the Locations.
Each chapter includes a progression of Locations that can add difficulty and urgency as the Villains make progress, Dark Arts events that create challenge each turn, and Villains.
The current Location determines details like how many Dark Arts events take effect at the beginning of each player’s turn. The active Villain will have either an active effect, or one that responds to events. If those result in the accumulation of enough Villain Control tokens, the Location progresses, and eventually the Villains will win the chapter (“game”). If you lose a game, you start the same chapter over, and if you win you can progress on to the next.
Once those items are resolved, the rest of each player’s turn will consist of playing all five cards in their hand. Many of these allow players to collect Influence tokens used to draft cards from the six visible on the board, or collect Attack tokens to defeat Villains. (Both must be used during your turn or they reset.)
The cards are all Allies, Items, or Spells that you will recognize if you’re familiar with the books or movies. Some only help accumulate Influence and/or Attack tokens, while others have unique effects.
Once you defeat all of the Villains in a game, the heroes win. You can remember your progress simply by knowing which game you are on. Each new game comes with a new set of Locations, additional Dark Arts event cards, additional Villains, more cards to draft (from scratch), and additional game mechanics that make the game more complex. I’ll leave those as a surprise as you progress through the campaign.
Conclusions - 4/5 (FOND FAVORITE, not franchise filler)
As someone who isn’t usually a fan of the format, this is the most fun I have ever had playing a deck-building game. Playing cooperatively with friends against build-in villains is a ton of fun, as is progressing through games that add more challenge and additional mechanics, and both are (groan) game changers. That also makes the two-player experience especially rewarding.
If you’re a big fan of Harry Potter, of deck-building games, or of co-op play, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a must-have for your collection. I’m proud to call this one (Game Night Ready)™ and provide an upgraded edition. I’m looking forward to playing again soon— and adding the Monster Deck of Monsters expansion!
Thanks to the Campaign structure, this game gives you a good chance to learn just by following the instructions, and introduces rules with each chapter (“game”).
Because each round allows you to play your entire hand (without cost) at first I overlooked that one of the strongest moves is to play cards that allow you to draw, and thus play, another.
Absolutely the most fun I have had playing a deck-builder. Playing cooperatively with friends, and progressing through the campaign are both (groan) game-changers for the format. (4/5, Fond Favorite)
— Ian Struckhoff, The Fourth Place
Gameplay: Cooperative Campaign Deckbuilding (with Expansions)
Atmosphere: Wizard School
Play Time: 30-80 minutes per “book”
Two Players: Great for pairs!
Complexity: 3/5 - Standard
Rating: 4/5 - Fond Favorite
We like to have something for everyone, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle covers a shocking number of bases— It’s a familiar property, it’s cooperative, you play through a campaign, and it’s a deck-building game. That makes it perfect for any game night, whether you’re serious players, or want to tempt in younger players or anyone else who is a fan of the books more movies. The co-op mode makes this the best deck building game for your board game night.
Check out a full (Game Night Ready)™ Review of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, over on the blog. This is great game for any novice to intermediate gamer, not just for fans of the books and movies!
Title: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Type: Cooperative Campaign Deck-Building (Base, Expansions Available)
The Fourth Place (Game Night Ready)™ edition of this game starts with the base game, and adds Arcane Tinmen premium card protectors for the 142 primary cards, hard-to-find low profile card protectors for the odd-size Dark Arts cars, extra baggies, and an ‘ex libris’ name label.
Note: To preserve our distributor relationships, we may only sell Retail Games to individuals, not businesses. We may sell (Game Night Ready)™ games to either. See our Terms & Conditions for Businesses for more information.