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Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts review

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9Expert Score
Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts review: Magical battles

Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts takes the core of Hogwarts Battle and turns it into a fun competitive battle. It’s not perfectly balanced, but the simplicity makes it easy for Potter fans of all ages to enjoy.n

Design
8.5
Gameplay
9.5
Pros
  • Simple, easy to learn gameplay
  • Every match is different
  • Great for Harry Potter fans
Cons
  • Pets aren't quite balanced
  • Can run out of tokens

Board games created around large franchises are nothing new, and Harry Potter is one of the biggest franchises there is.

So it’s no surprise that there are a number of Harry Potter themed board games on the market today.

What may be a surprise is just how fun some of them are to play.

Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts builds upon the mechanics of the cooperative Hogwarts Battle game.

But instead of working together with up to four different players to beat Voldemort, you instead cast spells, leverage allies or use items to instead win a duel against a fellow Hogwarts student.

The game is incredibly simple to play, but offers a reasonable level of depth to keep it from getting boring.

That simplicity also means that it’s easily playable by kids as young as seven or eight, making it a great gift for Harry Potter fans.

Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts board game play pieces on the board

Design

Open up the box of Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts and you see the simplicity shine through.

There’s a simple board to represent the duelling area. There are a bunch of cardboard tokens to represent influence, attack power and health. You will also find a whole heap of cards that control the gameplay.

The cards themselves look almost identical to those in Hogwarts Battle, using photographs of the actors and items from the Harry Potter films.

The cards are printed on a nice, high-quality stock, so you can shuffle them around, move them and deal them out ice and easily.

Setting up the game is easy. Firstly, each player chooses a Hogwarts House to play for.

Certain cards offer special abilities for characters in certain houses. So while this decision is somewhat arbitrary, it can help to have a specific strategy in mind.

Once houses are chosen, the relevant house character piece is placed on the board at full health. Each player then deals out their starter deck. This consists of ten cards: 7 Alohamora spell cards, a wand card, a cauldron card, and the choice of one of three pets.

Pet problems

The pets inclusion is one of the few areas that Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts doesn’t live up to Hogwarts Battle.

Each pet offers a slightly different boon to a player, but they don’t seem to balance very well.

The cat, for example, will give the player one attack power for every three spells played – which tends to happen fairly frequently.

The toad, meanwhile, offers to restore one health each round. Finally, the owl allows players to store one influence token each round, so you can save up to buy more expensive cards.

The problem is that the only pet that almost always works is the cat. Given the objective is to stun your opponent three times, the pet that gives you extra attack power typically gets more playtime.

Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts board game set up to play

Other cards

There are two other types of cards you need to pull out as part of the setup: Books and Hexes.

Books generate influence tokens, which help buy more cards. They are “borrowed” from the library, and can be returned during your turn to draw an additional card instead of gaining influence.

Hexes are a nice addition to Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts, which can be added to your opponents hand. Typically, this has a negative effect, which should help give you an advantage.

Gameplay

Each turn is incredibly simple to follow, which is really what makes the game so enjoyable.

Each player draws out five cards from their deck. They exchange the cards for the given amount of influence, attack or health. They then use influence to buy more cards from the classroom, attack their opponent or restore health.

This means that each turn is relatively quick, which makes the game engaging for young and old players.

As the game progresses, players accumulate more powerful items, spells and allies which help them deal more damage to their opponent, or heal themselves faster.

Once a player takes seven hits, they are stunned. The objective of the game is to stun your opponent three times.

Allies

One of the coolest elements of the game is building up and leveraging allies.

These allies are characters from the films, and offer additional boons when certain conditions are met.

For example, Harry Potter will give you two attack power if you manage to play three or more spells in a turn.

Allies are also parked above your hand when played, so they are in effect every round until somebody is stunned.

But be warned, some cards give your opponent extra benefits for every ally you have in play.

In one play-through, I had six allies in play, and my daughter played the Imperio spell, which game her one attack power for each ally I had. Needless to say, she stunned me.

Hexes

Hexes add a nice challenge to the mix. Certain spells or items allow you to place a hex into your opponents hand.

These hexes always have a negative effect, like stopping you from gaining health for a turn.

Fortunately, some spells and allies allow you to banish hexes from your hand or discard pile.

But tactically, making sure you build a versatile deck that can counter your opponent is the key to victory in this game.

Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts board game looking down at a game set up to play.

Verdict

Harry Potter Defence Against the Dark Arts is one of our most-loved board games at home.

Its simplicity, versatility and balance helps make it a great option for a quick game between two people.

If you have Potter-obsessed child, then it is the perfect Christmas present. And even if you don’t, the game is accessible enough for anybody to enjoy.

Buy the Harry Potter Defence Against The Dark Arts online

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Product disclosure

The product for this review was purchased by the author.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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