This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Number of Players: 2-5 (solo playable, too)
Time: 30-60 mins
Age: 10+ (reading required)
Game Type: Port, Deck Builder, Card Flopper
Gamer Type: Casual or Harry Potter Fans
One of the most popular movie franchises in history is Harry Potter. With eight movies (one two-part) and several prequels, you can lose days watching the wizarding world. USAopoly took on a challenge of making a port of the franchise in the complex world of gaming. They took on this challenge and succeeded not once but several times. This week’s review and next week’s review look at two Harry Potter games, the first being Hogwart’s Battle and its sequels.
In HPHB you are battling to save your peers at Hogwarts. Playing either Harry, Hermione, Ron, or Neville, you take on one of the masters of the dark arts to ensure one more year of safety for the students at Hogwarts. The story pulls themes from the movies, which gives the players that Harry Potter feel. While it is a port, it does stay true to the story. The interesting part is that it can mix up the story a little from the books or movies. Sometimes you will see villains use advantages they did not have in the movies, other times your characters maybe a little more developed than when they first encountered the villains. Either way, it is a fun mix and earns 7 (of 10) points for house HPHB.
The artwork for this game is mostly movie stills. While they are well-rendered, there is not a lot of change during the game. If you are a fan of the series, then you have the ability to look through the art and try to place it – but sometimes this makes it easy to point out flaws in the plot (why is young Harry facing teen Malfoy?). The card art is consistent throughout the game. The box is a standard medium-sized box, and as an added bonus the two expansions together are the same size as the box, making them look very sharp on your shelf. 5 of 10 points for HPHB.
The mechanics of this game are standard deckbuilding mechanics, with the added element of locations being placed in the game. The goal of the game is to ensure that the bad guys do not take over all the locations. As such, you need to build your deck to defeat the bad guys. Each player starts with a character (above) and the tale starts with a villain. As you do things to acquire influence (needed in any school) you acquire more cards to give you the advantage in the battle. This is a hybrid battle deck builder, where you will likely take damage early on while you are getting better at what you do. Since it is cooperative, you do need to help your friends. The challenge of taking on the baddies solo is only recommended for experienced gamers. As with all deck builders, the randomizer is the cards. A decent spread of different cards allows for varied gameplay. 6 of 10 points for HPHB.
How you build is how you play. The game is semi-scenario-driven, so each challenge may call for a different strategy. The big four are all present: offense, defense, rush, and engine building, with a strong tendency for engine building to win out in the end. The key element of strategy in this game is how you play with your teammates, so make sure that you are all on the same page, or you may end up like the early movies where everyone wonders off in their own direction. 7 of 10 points for HPHB.
For a port/deck builder, USAopoly built the game so that it was fun. Many of the features you will have seen in other games, however, they are mixed together in this game in a way that makes it still fun and exciting. Each time you play, you will play a new game, which is nice. The best part is that the different skills your friends bring to the game make it different each time, too. Cooperative deck builders are few and far between, and that is because games like this do set the standard for high-quality games. 7 of 10 points for HPHB.
So does HPHB win the house cup? I think they have a good shot this year. However, do not discount next week’s game “Harry Potter: House Cup Competition” from the ranks (or the other Harry Potter games that Usaopoly has). With a score of 32, the game is magical and a great introduction to bring Harry Potter fans into the wizarding world of gaming. It is not overly complex and is a fun game to play with your friends.
The Monster Box of Monsters
With new encounters, a new hero, and new monsters, this expansion livens up the base game with more challenges to face the team. You will need even more teamwork to move past the challenges, which this expansion gives you. With the addition of Luna, you can bring more players to the table (though it does make the game easier). This expansion makes an already rich card mix even better. Great for HP fans who want a little more challenge.
The Charms and Potions Expansion
Four more scenarios, one new player. Now players can jump in the fray with Ginny Weasley as the players take on new challenges. This expands the game with new skill sets for players, which could turn the tide of battle for the young wizards. A great addition to an already great game.