Reviews

Review – Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Defence Against the Dark Arts (The OP)

Harry Potter Hogwart Battle Defence Against the Dark Arts
Harry Potter Hogwart Battle Defence Against the Dark Arts

Make Your House Proud in the Duelling Club

Card types
Card types

Inspired by the award-winning Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Deck Building Game, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts is the latest 2-player deck-building game from The OP Games.

“Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little duelling club, to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have done on countless occasions — for full details, see my published works.”

    —Gilderoy Lockhart states the purpose of the club

From designers Kami Mandell and Andrew Wolf, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts is a card-drafting, deck-building, take-that game where players build an unstoppable deck to take down their opponent. For players ages 11 and up, this is a fantastic entry-level game for Harry Potter fans.  

The Story

Harry Potter™ Hogwarts™ Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts is a competitive deck-building game for two players, inspired by Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. In this fast-paced game, players take turns playing cards, taking actions and acquiring new cards to build a more powerful deck as their defensive skills improve. Stun your opponent three times to win!

With the noticeable rise in Dark Arts activity, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore has authorized practical Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons to ensure that students are prepared to defend themselves. Under the supervision of Hogwart’s teachers, students will cast Spells and Hexes, use Items, and gain Allies to stun their opponents and protect themselves from evil forces.

Gameplay

House Identifiers
House Identifiers

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts is a two-player competitive deck-building game. If you have played Hogwarts Battle, it should be fairly easy to play this game right out of the box, as there are only a few minor differences. The objective is to stun your opponent three times to win.

On their turn, players play the cards from their hand. The main types of cards are Items, Allies, and Spells. Playing cards will generate effects that include gaining health, attack, influence, or drawing additional cards. Use Attack against your opponent, pushing them further back on their Player Mat and closer to Stun. Use Health on yourself, sliding you further up on your Player Mat and away from Stun. Influence is used to acquire new Hogwarts cards from the Classroom to build up your deck. Or, check Books out from the Library for use.

When an opponent’s marker is pushed off the Player Mat, they are stunned. That opponent takes a Stun marker and places it on their House card. The unstunned player will finish their turn, continuing to play and acquire new cards. When the turn is finished, players reset for the next round. All cards are shuffled, including played Allies, to form a fresh deck. Both players move their markers to the Start space on the Player Mat, and the stunned player decides who goes first in the next round.

Gameplay continues until one player has three Stun tokens on their House card, indicating defeat.

What’s New

Allies

One difference between this game and the original Hogwarts Battle is that an Ally will remain in front of you, generating effects that you may use on each of your turns. Ally cards are not discarded at the end of your turn, but there are cards that your opponent can play on you that will discard them. At the end of each round, Allies are shuffled back into the deck.

Hexes and Spells
Hexes and Spells

Hex cards

The Hex deck includes Hex cards that have negative effects. A player may acquire Hex cards from the effects of a Hogwarts card. The player will draw the top card from the Hex deck and place it in their hand or discard pile, according to the instructions on that card.

On their turn, a player must resolve the Hex card first, before playing any other cards. After resolving the Hex card, it will remain in play, and be placed in their discard pile at the end of their turn. But there are ways to banish Hex cards from your hand.

Book Cards

Book cards are available from the Library when acquiring cards from the Classroom at the end of a turn. Books are an Item that allow the player to either gain 2 Influence, or return the Books to the Library to draw a card.

House Identifiers

Some cards are branded with the House crest of one of the 4 Hogwarts Houses. If a player plays a card with a House Identifier that is the same as their chosen House, they trigger the additional effect at the bottom of the card. Additionally, if the player has an Ally in play that identifies with a different House, they also would trigger the additional effects associated with that House.

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Overall Impression

The Good

As far as deck-builders go, this is a standard deck-building game. Which is fine, as it has the Harry Potter branding and needs to appeal to a wider audience. The Hex cards and Books from the Library are a unique addition. They don’t overly complicate gameplay. The House Identifiers are a cool way to trigger actions on other cards played during a turn.

The theming is on point. Any fan of Harry Potter will appreciate this game. They managed to integrate the characters, their Houses, and their abilities to match what is presented in the books and movies. So this makes some of the aspects of gameplay easy to pick up.

A lot of the imagery, characters, and components are carried over from the original Hogwarts Battle game. Which is fine. It actually makes it a little easier to learn and play this game if you are familiar with the original game. As far as the components go, they are nicely made. The cards are good quality and the components are made from a heavier cardboard, so everything should hold up to multiple gameplays.

Hex deck and Hex cards
Hex deck and Hex cards

This is a two-player game, so there is no scalability. But the one opponent that you are playing against you will have high player interaction with. There is no downtime. If it is not your turn, you are engaged with the attacks against you from your opponent.

The Not As Good…

This is a very fun game that I see getting to the table a lot. Sometimes the original Hogwarts Battle game is a little too complex. This is a good, scaled-down version when the mood strikes. It is complex enough to satisfy gamers of all experience levels. If I had one complaint, it is that it can be a long, drawn-out game if the players have built their decks evenly. You may dish out a significant attack during a turn, but your opponent can dish up an equal amount of healing during their turn. I have had a couple of games that were basically a draw, or we just played best of 3 instead of best of 5.

Final Thoughts

Game components
Game components

I am very fond of this new version of the Hogwarts Battle deck-building game. The original game is one of my favorite deck-builders. There is a gradual increase in difficulty as you open and add cards from the boxes that represent each book in the series. This is a fantastic way to introduce a novice gamer to the deck-building genre. This game is also a great starter version of a deck-builder. The mechanics and gameplay are not overly difficult to learn or manage. But there is still enough strategy there to please more advanced gamers alike.

This is one of my go-to deck-building games when there are only two people and we don’t have a ton of time to play. There is minimal set-up and games can be quicker (though we have had a few head-to-head matches that have carried on for a long time because the contestants were even matches). It is a great gift idea for Harry Potter fans, as it is a fun game that is accessible to many levels of gamers.

“A haze of greenish smoke was hovering over the scene. Both Neville and Justin were lying on the floor, panting; Ron was holding up an ashen-faced Seamus, apologizing for whatever his broken wand had done; but Hermione and Millicent Bulstrode were still moving; Millicent had Hermione in a headlock and Hermione was whimpering in pain; both their wands lay forgotten on the floor.”

    —A description of the chaos following the first attempt to have the students practice duelling,
Excerpt from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”

Game Statistics

  • Release Date: 2019
  • MSRP: $24.95
  • Playing Time: 45+ minutes
  • Age Range: 11+
  • Player Count: 2


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About the author

Shanon Connelly

(a.k.a. “Super Muffin Girl”) is an avid board gamer, cosplayer, and all around nerd girl. She has been cosplaying for over 10 years, attending several conventions every year. She recently started a YouTube gaming channel, "Time to Play!", which previews and reviews board games. Follow Shanon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@supermuffingirl).

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