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FANTASTIC BEASTS PERILOUS PURSUIT Is A Tense, But Accessible Game For Fans

FANTASTIC BEASTS PERILOUS PURSUIT Is A Tense, But Accessible Game For Fans

Licensed games sure aren’t what they used to be when I was a kid: growing up with various licensed versions of mass-market board games (the likes of Monopoly, Risk, and Clue), the integration of the license was mostly superficial and made little impact to the source game’s mechanics meant that small twists offered moments of delight, but never provided the immersive in-universe experience fans craved.

USAopoly made a name for themselves (quite literally) by offering a multitude of licensed versions of classic board games. More recently, however, they’ve been publishing some new game experiences for fans and fandoms that uniquely capture game experiences that feel truly built around the bedrock of the fictional world in which they are set.

Potterheads may already be familiar with Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle – a game played cooperatively that includes a structure that allows players to progress through the academic years of the titular character as a cooperative deckbuilding game. It mimics the experience of Harry and his friends and puts players in their roles with the same tension, excitement, and sometimes frustration the characters themselves felt. It is exemplary of how USAopoly is creating engrossing experiences that provide in-universe driven gaming experiences in original designs built upon the foundation of the universe, while still being novel and engrossing experiences for fans.

Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuit is set in the prequel Potterverse of protagonist Newt Scamander and captures the experience of the movie Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Focusing on grounding the game in-universe, incorporating game design mechanics that are familiar but compiled in a bespoke manner, and finding the elements that delight fans within a game well-rooted in the fandom has become a winning approach for the publisher, and in this game, USAopoly executed that formula to a tee.

The core of the game is a cooperative dice-drafting game that has elements of resource allocation. Six dice ultimately determine the fate of the game and its players. Players roll dice (with rerolls available to them), allocate their dice to ready, set, and activate abilities as they try to capture creatures. After each round, the creatures have a roll where they may take actions, eluding capture or impacting the players by unsetting actions or damaging them. Becca shows us how those core mechanics play and the exact impacts of them in a recent episode of How to Play:

Make no mistake: distilling the single movie into a board game means the game itself is a focused and accessible experience. The mechanics are easy and straightforward to learn, and the game leans on the lighter side of weight and playtime – a reasonable amount of time to wrap up (and possibly set up to try again) is about 45 minutes. Part of what makes it so easy to learn and play, as well as imagine ourselves in that world is how the game effectively encapsulates its source material.

So what exactly about the game roots it so well in the world of Newt and his companions? For one, translating beloved characters and creatures and getting it right is a key to pleasing fans. As each player takes on the role of Newt, Tina, Jacob or Queenie, they’re presented with that character’s tableau on which they ready their actions, and the unique structure for each tableau perfectly captures exactly how those characters play out on screen, and why they’re essential to the team.  That characterization is both a source of initial delight for fans, but also mechanically important as it affects the dynamic of the team.

Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuit FI (4)

For example, Newt is good at capturing creatures, but because they’re as familiar with him as he is with them he struggles to distract them, Tina is the ultimate protector,  Jacob is distracting to the creatures (especially when covered in Erumpent pheromone), and Queenie is a skilled Legilimens, reading the minds of those around her, which gives her incredible insight with people. The set up of the tableaus and the ease (or difficulty) of any one character’s ability to set and ready their actions captures their individuality well.

Perhaps even better than the characterization of the main characters of the movie is the distillation of the creatures as in-game challenges. How does one translate a creature capable of invisibility and the ability to see the most probable future into the tabletop in a dice rolling game? Simply make it outrageously easy for it to elude capture – 4 sides of 5 of the dice facilitate escape and 1 side of the special teal dice that activates the creatures’ special abilities multiplies this escape tendency. Capturing a Demiguise, as  Newt put it, is done “with immense difficulty.”

Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuit FI (2)

Every creature is delightfully translated – the Erumpent can do significant damage to the team, unsurprisingly, Niffler remains a brat as likely to escape as he is to attack, and Bowtruckle can talk his way out of being captured, by invoking his special ability and unsetting the capture action of players.

Supporting that characterization is beautiful components and art. The character tableaus (and graphic design of the game as a whole) are era-appropriate, the depiction of the creatures beautifully makes them center-stage, and component quality is so perfect that even the box takes the pain out of setup with an insert that holds everything perfectly. Half the battle is getting the game on the table and cleaning it up afterward, and being able to quickly set up the game in 60 seconds is remarkable.

Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuit FI (3)

While the game can be distilled as a translation of the first Fantastic Beasts movie (relatively spoiler-free, mind you), there definitely is room for this game to grow as well. With the upcoming movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, pursuit is still a theme of the story as hinted in the movie’s marketing. The gang is back together pursuing both Credence and possibly Grindelwald himself, and as such the potential for expansions on this game are also there, though that’s pure speculation on my part.

As a play experience, there are moments of definite tension within the game – balancing the demands for defending yourself and your teammates while trying to capture the creatures and playing to your own character’s strength is an interesting balancing act. But as a whole, it’s more of a delightful and light group experience, perfect for families with younger fans (the box recommends ages of 8+, and the game is suitable for that age group), or for groups with players who are fans of the franchise but not necessarily into board games. It walks a fine line but in the end, the game offers fun for any fan. You can see it all come together in this episode of Game the Game:

Learn more about the game on USAopoly’s site and pick it up where quality games are sold.  Which creature from Fantastic Beasts is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!

More Harry Potter Gaming Goodness!

This post is sponsored by USAopoly.

Teri Litorco is a Ravenclaw who plays games with her Hufflepuff daughter and Slytherin partner, authored the Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming, and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, posting photos of miniatures she’s painting and games she’s playing.

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