Gather around witches and wizards! It's time for your Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson, and that means a friendly duel to practice your skills.
Headmaster Dumbledore wants to make sure you're all ready to defend against whatever dark threats lie ahead. No matter your house, you must work to gain allies of all sorts, cast spells and hexes, and use items in order to protect yourselves. If you think you have what it takes, step right up!
What Is It?
A 2-player head-to-head deck building game played over a series of rounds. Players work to fill their decks with the best combinations of spells and items, as well as allies from all Hogwarts houses, which will allow you to activate bonus abilities on some of your other cards.
You want to add hexes to your opponent's deck to weaken it, and ultimately the goal is to stun your opponent to end the round. Once you have stunned your opponent 3 times you win the game!
Who Is It For?
Harry Potter fans of course! The game is pretty easy to learn, but also offers some room for strategy, so it's good for experienced and intro gamers alike and would be a good game to get a Harry Potter fan more into deck building. Additionally, it's good for duos who game together because, well, it is two player only, but it also has a fun dueling theme players can really get into, and you can change your house game to game to vary your strategy (unless of course you're too tried and true of a Slytherin, like me).
I'd say ages 10+ would be good for this game because, again, it's not super difficult, and it would be a great way to introduce younger audiences who enjoy the books and movies to board games! I would also recommend it to fans of the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle cooperative deck building game, who are looking for a competitive option that's as thematic and plays similarly.
Contents and Quality
Cards - Average quality; would benefit from sleeving since, like any deck builder, you shuffle them frequently. Symbology is clear and the art is simple, but nice for the items and spells, and there's movie art for the allies. Player House Cards are nice quality, and a handy reference when you're learning the game; they're also double-sided in a way that both players can play the same house, which is cool.
House Pawns - Simple cardboard pieces, get the job done. Fit into the plastic stands with ease and don't get caught or anything.
Practice Mat (board) - Nice quality. Clear labels for where everything should go around the board to make set up easy.
Cardboard Tokens - Average quality. I don't feel like they're super necessary in the game, personally, but they're nice to have if you have a hard time keeping track of what you've generated from your cards.
Stun Tokens - These are nice, heavy, metal tokens. Love them!
Box/Insert - Nice size for what's in it. Everything fits in the insert easily. The box also has sleeve that's nice aesthetically.
Rules - Well written, explained clearly with good examples.
As someone who played through the very long Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle co-op deck building game a lot, I thought this was a nice alternative, especially if, like me, you prefer competitive deck builders. I felt it was very similar to Star Realms in how the allies and houses work like bases and factions to activate additional abilities.
While you're bound to see a lot of randomness in any deck builder, which will contribute to constantly changing strategies, this just seemed to lean toward being a little more swingy than most because of the wide range of cards you can buy that have benefits for yourself versus negative effects on your opponent. It's usually balanced enough that it won't just be a straight victory for someone after just 3 rounds, but oftentimes it seemed that the winner was clear before actually playing the last round. But it will definitely vary a lot game to game.
Regardless, I definitely do recommend it to Harry Potter fans, especially if you already enjoyed the cooperative game and want to try something that plays similarly but pits you against a fellow student instead of actual villains. It makes good use of its' theme, and really works that into the mechanics well.
My Final Ratings:
Overall Game - 7/10
Aesthetics - 7/10
Difficulty - 4/10
Replayability - 5/10
Designers - Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf
Artist - N/A
Publisher - USAopoly (The OP)
MSRP - $24.99
*I was provided a copy of this game to do this review*
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