My Wife Always WIns - Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle
This Week’s Game: Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle
Since relocating, I’ve been quite productive. I have a number of stories floating around for consideration at various magazines, am working on a novel, and of course, still manage to lose at our weekly gaming sessions and write about it here. But every once in a while, I hit a wall; this has been the case the last few weeks.
Instead of reading or writing when I get out of work, my days have been filled with video games and TV. Sure, it’s fun, but for the most part it’s mind-numbing and kills the creative bug inside any writer. Binging shows and movies only leads to more binging. And we pretty much watch the same thing over and over.
For the last two weeks, HBO has been running Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix nonstop. Both my wife, Lyndsey, and I are all about Harry Potter, so we will watch it any time it’s on. I’ve caught bits and pieces of it here and there, as you will. But Lyndsey has watched the movie in its entirety five or six times. At some point last week, as I was in the funkiest part of my funk, we were both watching it together. I fell asleep, then woke up several hours later. Lyndsey was still watching. Except it couldn’t have been the same showing. Order of the Phoenix had come on a second time, and Lyndsey was watching it for a second time.
I had to act fast. With her so enamored in the Harry Potter universe, I knew I could use it to my advantage. I took a slug of Felix Felicis (I’m not explaining that. Read the books, watch the movies, or just Google it), and pulled out Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle. Luck was with me, and Lyndsey agreed to play it with delight. And so – thanks to my funk (and HBO) – I was able to escape another ruthless beating and, instead, join Lyndsey’s side in this cooperative deckbuilder game.
In Hogwarts Battle players control one of the main characters from the Harry Potter franchise: Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Neville. Each has a special ability and their own starting deck of spells, items, and allies. Additionally, there is the Hogwarts deck, which provides additional items, spells, and allies that players can purchase to build their repertoire and defeat the villains that are besieging Hogwarts.
In addition to the Hogwarts deck, there are the Location, Villain, and Dark Arts decks. Location cards represent specific places that the villains are attacking. Villain cards represent the Death Eaters. And Dark Arts cards present additional damaging effects. There are various Dark Arts cards and Villain abilities that would assign a Villain Control (skull) token to the active location. Each location has a threshold for control tokens; once the threshold is met, the Death Eaters overrun the location, the card is discarded and the next location becomes active. If all locations are controlled by the villains, Hogwarts has fallen and the game ends.
But the wizards won’t go down without a fight. Players can use their various cards to defeat the active Villain cards. If all Villain cards have been defeated before the Location cards are all controlled, the wizards are victorious.
Each turn first consists of resolving the Dark Arts cards. These may deal damage, assign a skull token, or otherwise harm the efforts of the wizards. Next, the villain abilities are resolved. Finally, the active wizard takes her action, playing the five spells in her hand in any order. These may serve several purposes, including collecting damage tokens, healing teammates, or granting coins. Coins and damage tokens are removed at the end of each player’s turn, so they need to spend them when they get them. Turns continue in this manner until either the heroes or villains are victorious.
Check out the how-to video here.
Time to Play
We decided to play game five, since we’ve been so stuck on watching the year five movie. The locations we would be defending were Askaban, Hall of Prophecy, and Ministry of Magic. Lyndsey chose Neville Longbottom. Neville specializes as a healer: the first time each player gains a heart during his turn, they gain an additional. I chose Harry. Harry has more of a support role: the first time a skull is removed from a location card each turn, he generates a damage bolt that can be given to any player.
We set up the board, and flipped the first three Villain cards. Barty Crouch Jr., Dolores Umbridge, and Lucius Malfoy. Game five has 13 villains, including the first appearance in the game of Lord Voldemort himself.
I went first, drew my Dark Arts events, and completely lucked out. No negative effects came from the Dark Arts event phase or villain resolution. My five cards led to me drawing five coins, so I bought the Pensieve, which allows two heroes to get a coin and draw a card. This is when I took a hit from Umbridge: she deals one damage each time a player picks up a card worth four coins or more.
Lyndsey’s first turn was a bit more eventful. She drew the “Morsmordre” Dark Arts event, and we each lost one heart because of it. In addition, the event added one skull to the location. Crouch’s ability kicked in: he prevented us from being able to remove skulls. Lyndsey’s hand provided five coins, and she bought the Quidditch Gear, which provides a bolt and a heart when played.
We decided it would be best to target Umbridge. We would rather build our decks without taking a damage every time we picked up a decent card. We added up our damage little by little, a few turns later I assigned the seventh damage that destroyed her. She was replaced by a Death Eater.
The most troublesome villain was Peter Pettigrew, which is a surprise because he’s an absolute chump in the books and movies. His ability makes each active player reveal the top card of their deck – if it has any coin value, the card is discarded and a skull is added to the location. We lost Askaban because this ability built up fast. I defeated him shortly after.
After the first five villains were eliminated, I made sure Lyndsey knew that I dealt the killing blow to each of them. She reminded me she was the healer, but I touted my feat anyway. The very next turn she defeated Lucius Malfoy, as her way of sticking it to me.
We continued easily defeating villains, and since I focused on cards that removed skulls, our second location was never in any real danger. We hit the last card in our Villain deck, and so Voldemort was revealed. Voldemort can’t be assigned damage until all other villains are defeated, so we set to work.
It didn’t take long to get down to just Voldemort. We had built up a deck of so many damage-dealing cards, and cards that allowed us to draw additional cards that Voldemort was destroyed within two turns. We had won the day!
We’ve had this game for a while, and have played through all seven years. This is the first time we’ve come back to it since beating the campaign around the end of last year. Lyndsey ranks it among her favorites; she’s partial to deckbuilders, and Harry Potter is her most beloved fantasy franchise.
I hold a different opinion. It’s certainly a fun game. The deckbuilding mechanics are unique from others in a few ways. For example, it is cool that each wizard has separate abilities that set them up for certain roles. But at a certain point the game ceases to be a challenge.
The only hiccup we had in our strategy was against Pettigrew, who managed to build up enough skulls to take Askaban. But once he was done away with (which was quickly enough), we had zero threats the rest of the way, including Lord Voldemort. For new players, the game may be a bit tougher, since first instinct might be to build the most powerful spells and do as much damage as possible. Throwing a lightning bolt on a Villain card can easily make one forget he is playing a support role and should be healing his fellows. But once you learn the timing, know to build slowly and strategically, know which villains need to be defeated and which can remain active, the game loses its luster.
But hey! Here is something we haven’t seen since I started writing this article series. A victory! I tried to brush over the fact that I didn’t win against Lyndsey. She had other plans, and reminded me that we won, and we only won because she was the healer and kept me alive. How could I forget? Lyndsey had nothing to lose here. She could have claimed a victory if the villains won as well; after all, in my life she is Lord Voldemort.