Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): Missing? Am I blind?
Play Time (Goof): 30-60mins
Designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative
I honestly believe if Charlotte’s Hogwarts letter arrived (12 years too late but maybe the owl got lost), I’d probably find myself a single man with a large board game collection.
So when I picked up Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, I thought she’d be swooning all over me for a game. Of course… It didn’t quite pan out the way I’d imagined.
I love Deckbuilders. I was once a massive Harry Potter fan (before book 5 bored me to tears and I never finished the others). I figured Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle had to be amazing.
And let me tell you, my excitement after a few games was just like Peeves the Poltergeist in the movies. Cut and left on the editing floor.
I’m only up to Game 4 so far. So we’ve got more to go before I can give you my final review. But I honestly think people might be liking this game based too much on the IP.
We’re rolling out the SPOILER FREE tag on this one. Mostly because I still haven’t seen half the bloody content for frustrating reasons which will become apparent later on.
One of the common complaints I’ve had with cooperative games (going right back to the very first review I ever did) is when there’s minimal player interaction. I want things I do on my turn to effect things you do on yours and vice versa, otherwise what’s the point of more than one of us being at the table? We’re kinda just doing our own thing until someone wins with minimal investment on each others turns. HPHB doesn’t suffer from this at all. You can heal each other, trigger abilities on each others’ turns, help each other gain influence/draw cards/deal extra damage. The conversations we have about which villain to target first, which cards people are buying to fill their deck.. This is coop the way it should be.
I’m a big fan of deckbuilding. Whether in actual deckbuilders or in constructed games. Making decks is something I just love to do. So HPHB (sounding more like a type of pencil every time I write it) wins points from me in this area. There’s different types of cards – items, spells, and allies. But not too many you can’t pick up some good combos over time. It makes me think of Hero Realms, and the bonuses you get for playing certain keywords but the limited opportunities to pick up extra copies of those keywords. Three feels like a decent number in this kind of game, any less and I’d have felt a bit cheated. Any more and you may not be able to trigger your abilities.
Normally not a fan of screen captures on artwork, but these are done with such a clear talent and love for the Potterverse I can’t really complain. It all feels very much like it belongs.
The idea of teaching you parts of the game over multiple plays by unlocking more content as you go through is clever. But as I haven’t seen it all yet, I’ll talk more about this once I get through the game.
There’s other things I’d love to talk about which are also positives, but I’ll wait for my full review because they definitely cross the line into spoiler territory.
Okay Potter fans. Get your protection spells ready because I’m about to cast the Cruciatus Curse and it’s gonna hurt.
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle is not a very good game. It’s not a bad game (might have oversold the pain in the paragraph above), it’s just… oh I’ve got some problems.
The balance is totally messed up. And I mean this in two key ways:
Firstly, we’ve gone games where it’s almost impossible to buy anything. I dont know why games are so opposed to separating the market deck into lower costs and higher costs, or some kind of starting store. I’d even settle for the ability to pass up buying things to wipe the store so your team can start buying better cards. When the deckbuilding gets stifled in a deckbuilder, you’ve got problems. Not to mention you’re gonna lose and it’s not your fault. Speaking of which.
THE GAME BALANCES AWFULLY AT FOUR! Like Neville on a broomstick bad. I dont mind losing a game. We lost Robinson Crusoe once to a bad card pull where the storm knocked out our fire so the ship didn’t see us at the last moment. But it created a story. We had such a an audible “gasp!” moment at the end. In HP-pencil we often feel so deflated. Like we did everything we could and didn’t even get close. I wanna re-emphases this same group rarely loses Yggdrasil, we can nail the first Robinson Crusoe scenario, if Pandemic was real we’d have cured the world dozens of times over.. but we can’t even get close in some games of Harry Potter? The most frustrating part is despite our over-analysis of our gameplay, we can’t identify areas to improve which would make an overall difference.
Thinking about the reason for this imbalance, I think as a deckbuilder it’s designed for you to go through your deck multiple times to counter the damage and bad things happening. Problem is, with more players means you’re not drawing as much. So your occasional janky hand hurts a lot more than it would otherwise. The damage which gets spread out helps a bit, but the villains take over the locations at the same rate. Which throws the ratio off. Extra dark arts villain cards which hurt rather than add tokens to the location, or more control over your deck would probably have balanced this out a lot better.
Despite what I said above, I will keep playing Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle (mainly because I’d like to remain engaged), but also because I want to get to the end of game 7 so I can see if anything fixes as it goes, or if my problems remain. It’s important to me to see all the content before I offer my full opinions, otherwise I’m not doing you or the game a proper service.
Having said all this, I’m halfway in… and I’m not impressed. So there better be a bloody philosophers stone waiting for me in one of these boxes.
I got my copy through Tabletop Wonderland
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