Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Board Game Review – Cooperative Magic
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Coopertative Deck Building Card Game
Take your mantle as Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville and prepare to battle Death Eaters and Dementors to keep Hogwarts safe. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a fun and visually exciting cooperative deck building game that takes you and up to 3 other players through the 7 years of Hogwarts adventures from the Harry Potter books.
This game is a real aesthetic treat for Harry Potter fans. From the trunk design of the box to the inclusion of the main villains and locations from each year at Hogwarts this really does fulfil some fandom needs. Of course, the visuals are from the film and not the illustrated books which may cause a problem for some, but for me it truly is a stunning game that really brings its theme to the forefront. It feels like a Harry Potter game, not just a deck-building game with some film imagery.
For me and my partner this was our first dip into deck building games. Prior to this we have mostly been party game types (Cards Against Humanity, Bucket of Doom etc.) or strategic card game players (Flux Series, Exploding Kittens etc.) so this game was a perfect introduction. If you’re new to games like this then Battle of Hogwarts is a great stepping stone that is challenging enough to keep it entertaining while still giving players time to build up their skills, something I was definitely thankful for before trying any other games in this genre.
Let’s talk about the actual gameplay. (Box Content and Level Progression Spoilers)
So this is a levelled game with 7 years to work through, each getting progressively more difficult. This really kept the energy of the game up and worked in some extra excitement if you only open up the box for each level when you reach it. It also allows for controlled stopping and starting points, play until you beat a level and start the new one the next time you hit the game table.
Ron, Neville, Hermione or Harry
The first task is to pick a character, each character comes with their own basic hand of 10 cards including spells, items and one ally. Those 10 cards will be your starting deck for every round of the game. I picked Ron as my Hero and as I progressed through the levels he gained more abilities, such as gaining health if multiple attacks are used in one round. Once you have set up your Hero tile with your character card, draw pile and health indicator it’s time to set up the board and begin playing.
To set up the game you need to position different cards around the board.
These change every game and are basically like game lives, if the death eaters take all the locations in a round then you have to start again. Each location that is revealed can add extra tasks, for example if you lose location 1 then on location 2 you may have to reveal two Dark Arts Events instead of just one.
Dark Arts Cards
These have multiple events on them ranging from taking health from the Heroes to adding a villain control to the location.
Which level you are on determines how many villains are on the board at any time, it ranges from just one to three villains at once. Each villain has a specific ability, some that come into play every round and others that require trigger events. When a villain is defeated there is a reward on the card as well.
Six Hogwarts cards will be placed face up on the board and replenished at the end of every round. These can be purchased with influence (the coin tokens) and include spells, items and allies all with varying and progressing abilities to build your hand.
Now you can begin to play. The play order is as follows:
1. Check the location for how many Dark Arts event to reveal. Reveal that amount and resolve the event.
2. Resolve the villain/s ability.
3. Play Hogwarts cards and take Hero actions. Use the five cards in your hand to gain resources, this could be attacks or heaths. Use influence tokens to purchase new cards, the amount to buy each card is at the base of that card. Acquired Hogwarts cards go into your discard pile (unless you have a card in hand that says otherwise).
4. End your turn. Check if the location has been taken, reveal new villains if old ones have been defeated, refill the six Hogwarts cards, discard your hand and any remaining influence or attacks that haven’t been used and draw five new cards for your next go.
It’s now Hero 2’s turn.
Heroes begin each round with 10 health points. These deplete during the game and if you go below 1 you are stunned. This doesn’t kill the Hero or end the game it simply means that you have to discard and influence or attacks you have saved on the board, discard half of your cards (rounded down), and a Villain Control to the location and you cannot gain or lose health for the remainder of your turn. Once your turn is over you go back up to 10 health and normal play resumes. This keeps the gameplay more cooperative as you aren’t defeated and sat back watching the other Heroes complete the level without you.
Winning and Losing
A level ends with either the Heroes winning and defeating the Villains or by the Villains taking control of the locations and defeating the Heroes. If the Heroes win then you can move onto the next level. If the villains win you need to reset the current level and try again. Simple.
So, my final verdict.
Since completing this game and venturing out into a few others I can see where the flaws in the Battle of Hogwarts gameplay may come from. The lack of discard options on the low level cards can sometimes mean that even after playing it all the way through you haven’t utilised the shiny new ability cards. This also leads to a feeling that luck can sometimes outdo strategy. If the cards are shuffled in your favour, then victory is almost inevitable.
However, it is only in retrospect that I have realised this, which means that it simply may not be super satisfying for the seasoned deck-building gamers, but it’s definitely an entertaining and well-paced introduction to this type of game play. Another perk is that is cooperative, this allows for a more relaxed gameplay and is more social as there’s no secret whispers or plotting across the table. Sometimes it’s just nice to play a game and not worry that the sore loser mode will be engaged causing tables to be flipped and relationships to be damaged.
Personally, I would happily revisit it and I do think that the expansion pack, The Monster Box of Monsters, and the spin-off competitive game, Hogwarts Battle: Defence Against the Dark Arts, could be added to my shopping basket very soon. A little competition in a relationship is a good thing, right?