I just spent the last two days trying to survive 7 years at Hogwarts. It was awesome.
For those unaware, I’m a pretty big geek. I got into comics and video games as a kid, and never quite outgrew it. So, of course, Harry Potter was a pretty big deal for me. I grew up alongside the book, and although I did stop reading them for a time, I eventually finished them all, and have reread the series countless times since then.
Earlier this year, I was at my local game store, 401 Games, and saw Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle on the shelf. I was immediately interested and $50 later, I was walking home with it. Unfortunately, I may be a geek, but my friends are not. No one was interested in trying it out when I brought it home and it wasn’t until just the other night that I finally got to crack it open with a friend. He’s not a huge Harry Potter fan, but he’s seen the movies so he agreed to play.
First off, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a co-operative deck building game. Which is to say that you and up to 3 friends are working together to defeat the board game, not each other. As you play, you build a deck of cards that will help you defeat all your enemies. The mechanics of deck building games are a little hard to grasp at first, but once you get the handle of things, they’re pretty easy. And that’s one of the major benefits to this game: It eases you into things.
I said earlier that I survived 7 years at Hogwarts, that’s because this game is constructed to that you start yourself off in Year 1 and, once that’s done, you move on to the next year. Each year it progressively gets harder and adds new elements to the game. For example, in year 1, you just need to defeat 3 bad guys. In year 2, you need to defeat 6. By year 7, I lost count of how many bad guys I had to defeat, but it was a lot.
Of course, each year doesn’t just as more bad guys. It also adds new cards that you can add to your deck, new events that try to stop you, and new mechanics that will help you achieve victory, such as your characters growing up, or the fact that in year 6 you get your O.W.L. and get to choose a speciality. It’s really cool, and, as a giant Harry Potter nerd, I loved it. My friend, who is not into Harry Potter, was also enthralled.
The game itself lasted about 8 hours to complete all 7 years. If you were a normal person, you could do a year, take a break, and come back to it hours or days later. However, my friends time visiting me was limited, so we blitzed it over two nights. The first night we survived year 3. The next night, we knew what we were doing and blew through years 4-7.
In the end, it all accumulated to the proper battle at Hogwarts that you read about. Everything that you’ve learnt throughout the past years is available to you. Allies from the books are at your side to help out. Tonk, Fred, Kingsley, and Dumbledore can all be added to your deck to help defeat the baddies. And there are a lot of baddies. Once you defeat them all, you have Lord Voldemort to face, and don’t forget to destroy his Horcruxes, or his soul will live on.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, this battle will feel really good. You’ll see familiar faces, items, and spells and actually get to use them to defeat people like Bellatrix and Greyback. You can find cool combos between spells and allies to help increase your chances of winning, you can drink some liquid luck to draw some extra cards, or you can swallow a bezoar to gain some health. It’s cool.
If you’re not a fan of Harry Potter, I can’t see why you’ve even bother reading this far, but even so, you won’t be disappointed. The game itself is solid. Take away all the Harry Potter paint and you still have a really great game that had my friend as interested to survive year 7 as I was.
In Summary, this game was great. Despite having work in the morning, we stayed up late to finish off Voldemort and breathed a sign of relief when we realized we were going to do it. It was fun, and the fact that it’s infinitely re-playable makes it all the more worth the money. It’s easy to get into, and the instructions are easy to follow. Novices will be given time to learn and experts will be thinking of cool combos to make the game more interesting. If you see this game, buy it.