Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf
If you have never played a deck-building game before, Hogwarts Battle is one of the best options for getting into this genre of board game. Over the course of a seven game campaign – one game for each year that Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville (the four playable characters) spend in school – the game will gradually expand. Just as the films/books bring new challenges each year, so does this, with each game gradually adding villains, locations, components and even new mechanics as it builds towards the final battle against You-Know-Who.
The core gameplay introduced in game/year 1 is engaging, easy to get to grips with and never too punishing. As you work your way through the games, each of the decks expands in scope and complexity, introducing new mechanics in a smooth manner that would be able to guide anyone through the basics mechanics of a deck-building game. It says 11+ on the box as their recommended minimum age, but the game (as presented in the first couple of years) is more approachable than that, in my opinion. I would be happy introducing this game to an 8 year old. Granted, it may take a few goes at year 1 before everything sticks, but this box contains a deck-building game that will grow to match the capacity of the players around the table.
One of the biggest issues with co-operative deck-building games is how much it feels like you are truly co-operating, as opposed to four random people who happen to be trying to do the same thing at about the same time. Hogwarts Battle does an above average job at this, with multiple cards (including starting cards for Neville and Hermione) that either give everyone around the table something, or let you pick any one hero to gain the benefit. If another player makes you draw a card, you do it instantly, and if another player gives you some influence or attack power, those tokens stay on your player board until your next turn, and then you get to spend them as normal. In our play-through, we certainly found it quite easy to make a high quality support deck that was constantly handing out healing, cards and influence for the other player.
For veterans of other deck-building games, it recommends skipping straight to Game 3, and I certainly agree. Games 1 and 2 will not provide much challenge other than a chance to get to grips with the core rules, and those rules are not very different from Game 3. There is an expansion pack which adds more variety and options to the game, including some of the main-stays of the deck-building genre, like thinning the weaker cards out of your deck, and players cards with negative effects. It also adds the ability to bring Luna Lovegood as a player character and more cards for every deck. If you are an experienced player of deck-builder games, I would recommend this as a must buy expansion to get a more satisfying gaming experience with long-term replayability.
Overall, they have done a good job of capturing the theme. The screen-cap artwork works well overall, and the graphic design is clean and the iconography consistent. The component quality is okay – ideally the cards would have been of a slightly higher quality, but it doesn't detract from the overall experience. It was a lot of fun to play and evoked the tone and feeling of the films very well. Play if: you love the Harry Potter films (or books), you're looking for a good family-weight deck-builder that is accessible and fun, you're looking for a game that can scale its own complexity from “My First Deck-Builder” all the way up to “Maybe-We'll-Beat-It-This-Time Difficulty Mode”.