Hogwarts Castle is an iconic location, filled with shifting staircases, hidden rooms, and ever more hidden dangers. What better place to center a series of adventures involving four of the most important children in the Wizarding World? Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a deck building cooperative tabletop game where you and a few friends take on the roles of Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Neville as they fight to defend their school from the adversaries found in the Harry Potter series. Don your wizard robes and ready the wand that chose you, it’s time for battle.
Hogwarts Battle takes you through seven decks of devious enemies and threats, based on the sequence of events in the films, with the final deck featuring a thrilling standoff against you-know-who himself. Yes, this is more in line with the movies than the books, though hopefully that detail won’t change the importance of your duty to protect your school from Death Eaters. Foes have properties which allow them to combo off each other a bit, so tactical choices are key. Adversaries work to fight you for control over key locations on the castle grounds, making the game a race against time.
Each playable character has their own specializations played out through their cards, with Harry as the damage dealer, Ron working best with allies, Hermione casting useful spells, and Neville providing healing (foreshadowing his later role as Hogwarts’ herbologist). As with any deck builder, the unwieldy nature of the growing deck is a key part of the strategy, but this game has very few cards simply serving as “clutter” in your draw pile and hand.
Characters simply buy useful cards as they go, creating a stronger character as you progress through the events. And since decks reset back to the beginning each time you play, even when progressing through the scenarios, there’s no need to fear that you bought a wrong card.
Game sessions take about 45 minutes for players who know the basics, though the seventh scenario takes a bit longer and will require a few tries before most groups will be able to best it. Voldemort won’t go down without a serious fight and — well, you’ll just need to play to game to find out what happens.
Overall, the game is fascinating in that you get to pick a character as a child and potentially play them through all of the events of the series, growing them up as you go. While the characters essentially reset to their base decks with each scenario, your skill at the game and aptitude with each character should develop. There’s a lot of room for connection with the characters and pure joy of reliving these important stories from a more first-person perspective.
The fact that the game is cooperative is truly fitting the message of the books and movies. Friendship is key and allies make you stronger. Everyone has a role and a specialty. It’s a fun take on the setting with a strong connection to the source material. I mean, only someone familiar with the intricacies of the final battle and the prophesies of the setting would know that including Neville as a fourth playable hero makes sense.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle has been sold to a select few at GenCon 2016, where we saw it, and should hit stores in September.
So accio that box once it comes to your local game store and get playing. And tell us in the comments which character you’re planning on becoming first.