“You’re a wizard, Harry!”
It all started with that simple revelation.
Now, over twenty years later, Harry Potter is everywhere, from iterations and continuations of the original tale, to expansions of the mythos through The Wizarding World and Newt Scamander’s adventures. And then there’s always that long rumored, but never materializing Aurors television show (let’s hope it never happens- trust me, it just won’t be as good as you want it to be). Harry has been active in the board game world as well, but this has primarily been limited to reimplementations of vintage games like Monopoly and Clue. But Hogwarts Battle changed that trend, bringing Harry Potter firmly into the hobby gaming world.
To begin with, there are some legacy-ish elements in the game, essentially causing Hogwart’s Battle to expand and deepen with each additional play-through. This effectively mirrors Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts, but more importantly it reflects the experience of reading the books (or watching the films). The results are incredibly thematic, pulling you into the title. This is by far the best implementation of theme that I have ever seen in a board game. Ever. As a result, it’s extremely important to me that I don’t spoil these developments for you. Therefore I will be vague with some of the descriptions in this review, and photos will only feature some components from year one.
Hogwarts Battle is a standard deck building game, albeit a cooperative one- a step outside the norm. The crux of the game revolves around location cards. These cards each possess a number of spaces, which through the course of the game are filled with Deatheaters. These will come into play in a variety of ways, but primarily via Villains and Dark Arts cards. When a location is filled, players have until the end of that turn to remove at least one Deatheater- otherwise the location is lost. You will work together with your fellow players to defeat all villains before your last location is lost to Lord Voldemort’s forces. During each turn your remaining cards will allow you to gain and use three effective resources: Health; Attack, which is assigned to villains in order to defeat them; and Influence, which acts as a currency for purchasing new cards to add to your deck. In addition to this, cards will often possess special abilities that will help in your battle with the Deatheaters considerably.
Hogwarts Battle is the picture perfect example of ‘learn as you play.’ Each year of the game introduces new rules, mechanisms, and components. This game is fantastic. It’s simple enough to work as a gateway title, but has enough meat on the bones to keep more experienced players interested. Looking for synergies becomes progressively more complicated as the game evolves in each additional play.
Despite my praise, I do have some bad news: year seven gets tough. Really tough. As in, the game introduces a new mechanic that will likely render the game unbeatable on most plays. You can find the general frustration with this mechanism plastered all over the internet. And this sort of serves as a segue into the greater issue within Hogwarts Battle- your experience at large will be highly dependent on luck. If the wrong group of villains comes out at the beginning of a game (or at the same time), it may simply be impossible to beat them. There are various house rules out there to fix this issue, but it was an unfortunate design oversight. Hogwarts Battle is hardly the first cooperative game to face this criticism, but this level of chance difficulty definitely burns on an entry title like this.
This title has very quickly become one of my favorite deck building games, eclipsing other titles due to it’s accessibility and cooperative nature. The Harry Potter theming is also an incredible draw for most players. I cannot recommend Harry Potter: Hogwart’s Battle enough, both for new tabletop gamers, and seasoned players!