Please Note: This is a Spoiler-Free Review of Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle. Only Game 1 will be covered to prevent any spoilers from Games 2-7.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a deck-building game that serves as a great introduction to the game type. The theme is popular enough to gain a new audience and the pacing of the game is fantastic to introduce non-hobbyists to the world of tabletop gaming.
I was in the opposite group, I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, but I am a crazed fanatic of tabletop gaming, and this game actually piqued my interest to the Harry Potter franchise. Since my wife is a big Harry Potter fan, I decided to give this game a shot and I’m glad I did.
There are 7 games inside the box, which correspond with each book. Games 1 & 2 are an introduction to the game as well as deck-building in general. The rules are simple enough where a non-hobbyist can quickly understand them, but interesting enough to also hold everyone’s interest. If you’re an experienced deck-builder player, you can skip to Game 3, or just increase the difficulty of Games 1 & 2 by placing 1 or 2 Villain Control tokens on a Location card as a detriment. If Villain Control tokens overtake your Location cards (e.g. Diagon Alley, Mirror of Erised, etc.), you lose the game, so it’s advised that new players start without any Villain Control tokens on the Location cards. Some Dark Arts cards require that you place Villain Control tokens on the Locations, but some player cards also allow you to remove those tokens.
Each player (up to 4) selects a hero of their choice. The heroes are Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Neville, each of whom come with their own starting deck of cards, turn order card, hero card, player board, and health tracker token. If a player should ever run out of health, they are not out of the game, but instead just “stunned.” Being stunned means that that player cannot lose or gain any additional health on that turn, they must discard any saved Influence and Attack tokens, discard half of the cards in their hand (rounded down), add a Villain Control token to the Location card, and then after that players turn, they return back to full health.
To begin, each player draws 5 cards from their starting deck, and then on the starting player’s turn, they reveal a Dark Arts card and the first villain card. They must first resolve the Dark Arts actions (e.g. Active Hero Loses 2 Health Points), then resolve the villain card (e.g. Each time a Villain Control token is added to a Location, Active Hero loses 2 Health Points), play the cards in their hand, apply Attack tokens to villain (if acquired via cards played), resolve villain bonus (if villain was defeated), spend Influence tokens on new Hogwarts cards (if acquired via cards played), replenish Hogwarts cards, draw a new villain (if current villain was defeated), and draw back up to 5 cards from their deck. Play then moves onto the next player who repeats the same actions and so forth.
As with any deck-builder game, spending your currency (Influence tokens) to obtain new cards is vital to victory. These can range from new spells, items, or allies that can help you defeat the villain, draw additional cards, remove Villain Control tokens, provide more influence tokens, or help heal your characters. You’ll be trying to balance fighting the villain while also trying to heal yourself from the onslaught of losing health from Dark Arts cards.
The quality of the game is really nice. You might be worried that a game that’s catering to a mass-market audience may be sub-par in component quality, but USAopoly did a great job with this. The cardboard is a nice thickness, the game box is heavy and sturdy, the metal tokens add a nice touch, and the rules were well thought out. I know there were some complaints about the use of movie images as the artwork, but I personally don’t feel like this detracts from gameplay. Since the demographic is for Harry Potter fans, it only makes sense to use actual imagery from the movies.
Overall, if you’re a big Harry Potter fan, you’ll probably love this game, especially if you’re wanting to get into tabletop gaming on a hobbyist level. Also, If you’re new to deck-building games and want to try out a game that takes you from an introductory level to challenging level, this is worth trying. If you’re an experienced deck-builder player and don’t have much interest in the Harry Potter franchise, this probably isn’t for you. It doesn’t add anything too new or exciting for alpha deck-builders, but for other hobbyists, it definitely is worth checking out.