Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Review

Have you ever watched a movie or TV marathon, and then had dreams that night that you were in those universes? It happens to me all the time. Especially if I accidentally fall asleep while something is on – oh, those get really weird, when what you’re hearing ends up being a part of your dream. It’s weird to hear Tony Stark explaining how Ultron works while your brain is telling you that you’re in a Barnes & Noble trying to buy cat food for some unknown reason.

But there are some cases where it’s a really cool experience and you really wish you could be a part of some fictional world and have crazy awesome experiences. I know I certainly have had that with the Harry Potter universe. I mean, how freakin’ cool is Hogwarts? While as a teacher I question many of their educational tactics, and the whole having to fight for your life thing isn’t the best, it would still be amazing!

Welcome to Hogwarts

Well, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle seeks to bring those dreams to life – well, at least in cardboard form. Released by USAopoly (now The OP) in 2016, HP:HB puts you in the shoes of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville as you fight together against baddies from all seven books, working your way up to The Dark Lord himself. But you won’t be brandishing wands or conjuring potions in the literal sense – no, you’ll be fighting against all the forces of evil with the most powerful weapons in the universe: cards!

Hogwarts Battle plays like a standard deck builder – you’ll start with a hand of ten cards, and each turn you’ll draw five cards and play those five cards to buy new cards to add to your deck or to attack the bad guys. What you can buy and who you will fight can vary widely because of what I consider to be one of the greatest aspects of the game. Within the game box, you’ll see a bunch of smaller boxes that are labeled with Year 1 to Year 7.

Players are encouraged to play from the beginning to the end, experiencing new cards and adapting to new mechanics as the game progresses. The designers have also taken advantage of this system to make Year 1 an introduction to the entire idea of a deck builder, which is a great idea for a title that goes outside of your standard licensed fare.

You’re a Wizard, Harry!

So as you go through the years, you’ll have the opportunity to buy new items, allies, and spells that are relevant to that particular time period. So while the first year will be full of chocolate frogs and Wingardium Levisoas, you’ll have to wait until Year 3 to add Expecto Patronum to your deck and Year 5 to bring Luna Lovegood onto your team (unless you have the expansion, but let’s not get into that right now).

And it’s not like you’ll have to say goodbye to the old stuff – the new cards are just shuffled in with everything you’ve unlocked so far. This mechanic gives you something to look forward to each time you play the game, and you’ll be tempted to go through and look at every single card when you open a new box to see what kind of new goodies await you.

But Harry Potter didn’t just buy stuff in his books – he also took down some serious baddies. Each of the years in Hogwarts Battle takes place in certain locations that are relevant to that book/movie, and your goal is to defeat all the bad guys before they take over all three locations. Each baddie has a certain number of hit points and a negative effect that they have on you each turn. New years mean additional bad guys, so your games will get longer and more challenging as you progress. So while you’re just facing Crabb and Goyle in the first year, you’ll be staring down the Basilisk in Year Two and even He Who Must Not Be Named sooner than you’d like.

Is This Game a Horcrux?

There are a few more rules here and there that round out the experience, but basically, you’re working to build a more powerful deck as the game goes on that enables you to do more damage, buy more stuff, and heal yourself more quickly. The first few years are somewhat simple as you’re learning the game, but by Year 4, you’re in for a challenge. We’ve barely squeaked out victories in our playthroughs, and we haven’t even opened the Year 6 & 7 boxes yet. I also love how the game makes you more powerful as you progress using different mechanics that might be a little spoiler-y if I discuss them here. Let’s just say that they make you feel like you’re really becoming a more powerful wizard as you grow up.

While there are certainly changes in the way the game is played from year to year, they are never so major that they will throw more casual gamers for a loop. If you play in order from year to year, even the most novice of players will understand what’s going on. The designers have really built in one of the best tutorial systems I’ve ever seen in a board game. They even suggest in the rules that you start with Year 3 if you’re familiar with deck builders. We couldn’t do that, though – it just felt so wrong, like we’re skipping vital parts of Harry’s life story.

Better Than Butterbeer

My Potter-loving friends and family have played Hogwarts Battle a few times, and we’re big fans. We turn on the soundtrack from the movies, fight over who gets to be Hermione, and then get serious about the challenge ahead of us. Each time we flip over a new card, we have these quick little chats about its place in the story and we go off on crazy tangents for a few seconds before refocusing on the task at hand – beating the bad guys. It’s often difficult trying to keep people from sneaking a peek into the unopened boxes as they try to find out what’s coming up in future years.

So who is this game for? Well, if you love Harry Potter, I think you’ll have a great time with Hogwarts Battle. If you’re not much of a gamer, you can easily catch on to the mechanics just by reading the very well-written rules, but if you’ve got a board gaming friend that’s familiar with deck builders, that’s even better. If you happen to be a gamer AND a Harry Potter fan (and that overlap seems to be quite large), this is a no brainer. You are doing yourself a disservice each day that you don’t own this game. Go grab a copy, sit down with your other Potterheads, and prepare yourself for a night (or several) of board gaming magic.

You can find a copy of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle at your local game store or on Amazon!

Highs

  • So much fan service you’ll need a wand
  • And the game is good, too!
  • Great tutorial mode

Lows

  • Player count can have a significant impact on the difficulty