Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle (USAopoly)

The Harry Potter series is the greatest epic of my generation. Not only is story, well-researched and compelling, it also is responsible for so many other series (Twilight and The Hunger Games) being published. Due to the great success of this series, both in the books and the movies, other media channels have licensed Rowling's work to try and generate some level of the same success. The board game industry has given us Potter version of Uno, Clue, and Trivial Pursuit. All three of the games are fine and what you'd expect from those types of game, but the serious gamer has always wanted more. Well, wait no more! USAopoly recently released Harry Potter: Hogwarts BattleHarry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative deck-building game for 2-4 witches and wizards, ages 11+. It retails for $50.

The game itself is divided into boxes labeled Game 1, Game 2, etc. Each game adds more cards and other surprise elements to the game, which I won't spoil. Since each game builds on the other one, I will only tell you how to set up and play Game 1.
Setup
1. Place the game board in the center of the table.
2. Sort the Villain Control tokens, Attack tokens, and  Influence tokens into three piles.
3. Have each player pick a hero (Harry, Ron, Hermione, or Neville). Give each player a Player Board, and Health Tracker (placed on the number 10), a Turn Order card, their appropriate Hero Card, and their Starting Hero Deck consisting of ten cards.
4. Create a stack of Location Cards, placing them face up on their spot on the board.
5. Shuffle the Dark Arts Cards and place them face-down on their spot on the board.
6. Shuffle the Villain Cards. Place them face-down on their spot on the board, and then reveal one.
7. Shuffle the Hogwarts Cards. Place them face-down on their spot on the board and then reveal six.
8. Have each player shuffle their Starting Deck and deal the top five cards to themselves.
Game Play - On a player's turn they will perform the following actions until all the Villains are defeated (victory) or all the Locations have been taken over (defeat).
1. Reveal and resolve the Dark Arts Card.
2. Resolve the ability of the active Villain.
3. Play the cards from your hand in the order of your choosing. These cards will gain you both Attack and Influence. Some also have special effects.
4. After playing all your cards, assign the Attack tokens to a Villain, and use the Influence tokens to buy new Hogwarts Cards.
5. Maintenance at the end of each turn requires you checking to see if a Location Card has been captured and/or a Villain defeated. (Note: The solution for both of these is to reveal the next card if so.) You also refill any empty spots in the Hogwarts Cards area and draw back up to five cards from your personal deck.
As stated earlier, the game ends when you have defeated all the Villains, or they have gained control of all the Locations. It is a cooperative game, so you all win or lose together. If you win, you can open the box for Game 2 and combine the new cards with Game 1. If you lost, try again until you defeat Game 1.

Review
Since this game is actually seven games into one, I will try to remain as spoiler-free as possible. The first thing I would like to discuss is the components and what you get in the box. The components in the box are very nice with sturdy game boards, thick cardboard, and loads of cards. The nicest components are the Villain Control tokens, which are of a nice solid metal. As for the graphics/artwork, the theme is just oozing from this game. The game box is a luggage chest, much like Harry used. The back of the game board is the Marauder's Map. The turn-order card is the Hogwarts Express and the back of that card is your ticket!

The game play is very much like your traditional deck-builder in that you start with ten cards and draw five per turn. However, that is where the similarities stop. Unlike other deck-builders, this one is not competitive, but cooperative. There is also a life-track that you must keep an eye on and not let drop to zero. You won't die, but you'll be stunned and lose cards and more control of the locations. You are also trying to defeat villains, not trying to just gain a lot of cards worth points. You will want good cards in your deck, but you'll also want to perhaps tailor your deck a little, like giving Hermione more spells and Ron more allies.

As for the negatives, there aren't many, but there seems to be a few discrepancies in terms of order of events. Hermione for examples starts with Crookshanks in her starting deck, but she didn't actually have that cat until the third book. Also, you defeat Professor Quirrell in the first game, but you have to keep defeating him every game. Since he died in the first book, he should be removed from the game. There are a few other little minor things, like in Game Two, they used young Tom Riddle from the sixth movie and not the second movie. All of these are minor complaints, that as a Potter fan you will either overlook or let drive you mad.

$50 seems like a steep-price for many families for a game. To that I offer two pieces of advice - 1. You will most likely find this game on sale. 2. This game has seven games inside of it, so even if you are amazing at the game and beat each one on the first try, that still averages out to $7 a game, which is hard to beat! Overall, I found the game very enjoyable. It is not without its flaws, but it is still a fun game, with solid components, and great theme. Best of all, my wife enjoys it, so that is an instant win in my book.

This game was provided to me by USAopoly in exchange for an honest review.