This last weekend at Platypus-Con, we picked up Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, a cooperative 2-to-4 player deck-building board game. We liked it for the Harry Potter-ness, for the two-player-ness, the deck-building-ness, and for the cooperativeness. So basically, every part of it sounded good to us! Since we didn’t game as much over the weekend as originally intended, we cracked this one open and jumped right in.
Opening the box even is a treat. The game has seven boxes for the seven game modes, playing out thematically the seven books in the series (with art being stills from the movies). So you read some rules, crack open box one, and get started!
You play one of four heroes, the three you would expect, and Neville Longbottom. Each have a starting deck with mostly the same cards, but a couple of unique ones which help guide some of your deck selection. Your objective is to defeat the villain cards – all of them, one at a time. Your ticking clock is that you are defending locations from the book that the villains are claiming. You’re also managing character health, and then your money and fight resources.
The common goal of course makes the game cooperative, but there are a lot of cards – and more as you go along – that help multiple people or let you choose who to help. You can give others resources to use on their turn, or especially heal people up – or just straight-up card drawing.
The game gets harder as you go because in each book, you are adding more cards to the decks – more helpful cards for your characters to buy, yes, but also more dark event cards, and especially more villains. You just add them on in, more and more each game as you go along. Game 4 was not easy!
There’s a lot of games you can sort of compare this one to. Obviously most deck building games can be compared together just on this mechanic, although of those the best comparison is probably Legendary, the Marvel superhero deck building game. In Legendary, you’re also playing against a villain deck and such. There’s differences in how it plays out, elements that fit the themes differently, but it’s one comparison. I haven’t played much Legendary, but I will say I have enjoyed this game so far a lot more.
Another comparison is to the reveal-the-game-state sorts of games like Time Stories or Pandemic Legacy. The boxes for each book, complete with rules updates as you move forward, provide for a changing experience, increased difficulty, and surprises. We may have opened the rest and peaked ahead… Unlike the Legacy type games, the changes aren’t permanent (the cards say on the front which year they belong to so you can separate them back out if you want to). And unlike a game like Time Stories where you kind of “solve” the mysteries and hidden elements, the surprises in this are more for fun than anything else.
Which means for me, I think this game more resembles something like Level 7 Escape, where you’re cooperatively fighting your way through, and you move from one challenge to the next in an evolving game. You can go back and replay the whole thing from the top, or replay whichever game experience you want from the middle. Or just play the final battle over again! The gameplay itself is different, as that was a board exploration RPG sort of game, but it’s still a good comparison for overall feel.
The overall experience of the game, the box and its contents, the board and its laid-out areas, the cards… we’ve liked it all so far. The difficulty has definitely picked up with each successive game, and the advice we heard that experience deck-building players could probably start with year 3 wasn’t wrong. Still, it was fun to play those early years, with the limited spell roster and only a few friends and items!
Oh speaking of advice, we got that from noticing a how-to-play video on Geek & Sundry! I’ll leave you with that. Let me know if you have any questions or comments on the game!