Game Review: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

harrypotterhogwartsbattleHarry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
USAopoly 2016

Just in time for Christmas comes this Harry Potter Themed introductory deckbuilder. USAopoly is known for creating themed versions of games like Monopoly or Clue, but may have hit a home run with this unique stand alone game.

You will see the difference from the moment you open the box. It has a large game board and boxes labeled Game 1 through Game 7. The first thought is “Is this a legacy game?” It is not. The idea is that it is a game that teaches itself as you play. When you open the rulebook, it tells you to start with game 1 (game 1-3 if you are already familiar with deck building type games). Then the very simple, easy to understand rules walk you step by step through setup and play so you can start right in with the game. Playing as either Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville, the players cooperatively work to defeat villains before the villians take over the game locations. In game one, you have three villians and two locations. During your turn, you will use your cards to gain attacks, coins or hearts, using the attacks against the villians, the coins to purchase cards from the board to add to your deck, or hearts to heal damage you have taken. Each turn, you look at your location and do its action (usually revealing and resoving a dark arts event card), then you will see if your villian triggers something to happen. Then you play the cards in your hand, purchase cards and assign your damage to a villian. At the end of your turn, if you have defeated a villian then you resolve their reward.

This is a FANTASTIC way to teach a deckbuilder. Starting very simply to teach the basic concept, and, once you win the game, you may then open the next box, adding cards and rules, changing or adding villians and/or locations, and/or adding new components. Each new game will add more challenge as well, so that by time you have added in all seven boxes, you will be facing three villians at a time. This approach, along with the very popular Harry Potter theme, makes this game an attractive gateway game.

I took this game home for the Thanksgiving holiday to introduce it to my non-gamer nieces and nephews. They LOVED it. We played three games, adding in boxes two and three. We won each game. It was great to see siblings who don’t get along well playing cooperatively and enjoing each other as well as the game. They enjoyed the theme almost to the point of role-playing casting their spells and talking about the Harry Potter world. I was unsure if they would only play game one and be done, but they were excited to add more and keep playing. Even my Mom got in on the action!

So this holiday season, if you have some Harry Potter fans and are looking for a great game to keep everyone involved and one that will have lots of replay value, consider Hogwarts Battle. Even veteran deck builder players will enjoy this game although they may want to start with game three or more. Really veteran players may consider just starting with the full seven game set, though I feel they would be missing out on the discovery that this game offers by playing and adding as you go.

Highly recommended.

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Game Review: Colony

colonyColony
Bézier Games, 2016

A nanopocalypse has happened. Humans have been driven underground and now that the nanobots have left, the survivors must use the resources available to them to rebuild society. This 1-4 player card game has elements of dice drafting and dice pool building, Dominion style card purchasing, Machi-Koro style tableau building.

Each player starts with a warehouse, in which to store resources, a supply exchange to change resources, a construction action card and an upgrade action card. Every card in the game has two sides, a base side, and an upgraded 2.0 side which does basically the same action, only slightly better. For example, the warehouse will hold six resources on it’s 1.0 side, and holds nine on it’s 2.0 side. Each of the cards also has a resource cost, it’s power, and small orange half circles on the bottom which are their victory point total. (Usually between 1-2 on their 1.o side, 2-4 points on their 2.0 side). The object of the game is to acquire a number of victory points in front of you based on the number of players. 15 points for four players, 16 points for three players, and 20 points for two players.

Each game will have piles of resources and actions which the players may purchase during the game. The game comes with 34 different sets of cards. Five basic resources, one basic victory point card and 28  variable cards, of which only seven will be used in each game. This gives the game tons of re-playability and variety. You can choose the way you want to play the game. If you like a more aggressive game, you can add more aggressive cards, if you don’t, choose more non-confrontational cards. In this way, the setup is very like Dominion.

During your turn, you will take three stable resource dice (white), and will roll them, choosing one, and drafting the rest to the other players at the table. You will also gain dice, both stable, and unstable (grey dice, unable to be stored between turns). Their die face indicates which type of resource they are. Scrap Metal (1), Genetically Modified Organism (2), Protein (3), Polymer Fabric (4), Fiber (5) or Uranium (6) will be used to purchase the available cards, gaining you resources, actions or victory points. Sometimes you don’t get the right combinations of resources to allow you to purchase a card. In that case, you pick up a CHIPI (Cybernetic Holder of Instant Production Improvement)… yeah, CHIPI. You may turn in up to three CHIPIS during future turns in return for an equal amount of unstable resources to use on that turn.

Basically that is the entire game. It is easy to learn, yet has a lot of strategy. I have found that there are many ways to success, and not being able to purchase the cards you are looking for for your initial strategy does not put you out of the game. And should you find yourself falling behind, there is a nice catch up mechanic built in to get you more dice during a turn, allowing you to build more, giving you more victory points.

I had the great fortune of being able to work with Bezier at Gen Con this year demo-ing this game. I was concerned at first, since it was new and unknown, but I loved it right away, and have felt the same enthusiasm from almost everyone to whom I have shown it. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, and am so thrilled with the game even though I have only played the suggested starter cards. Can’t wait to build up a group that wants to play different variations! Highly recomended.

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November 2016 Minutes

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Game Review: Tally Ho!

tallyhoTally Ho!
Thames & Kosmos, 2016

The two-player game Tally Ho! began life as Jag und Schlag in 1973, but was recently brought to the United States by Thames & Kosmos. In Tally Ho!, the players take sides as either the hunters or the “hunted” wildlife. The game is played on a 7 x 7 grid filled with randomly placed tiles. Each player in turn turns over one tile, or moves a tile. Hunters can capture wildlife if they are facing with their gun in the correct direction. Captured tiles go into the players score pile. The hunters are NOT able to turn at any time, so must work to position themselves on the board carefully to take the animals. The Animals (bears and foxes) on the other hand, may capture smaller animals. The bear may capture the hunters, if they can get within one space. There are also trees, which act as blocking terrain, which can only be removed by the lumberjack tiles. Players take turns flipping tiles, moving them and capturing until all the tiles have been flipped over. At that point, four more rounds are played. Players can opt to continue hunting and moving, but now have the option of escaping the board escaped tiles are then added to their players scoring stack. Different tiles have different values, and the highest score at the end of TWO rounds is the winner.

Yes, two rounds. The first round is played, then the players switch sides, with the hunter player now controlling the animals, and the animal player now controlling the hunters. After the second round, scores are tallied, and the player with the highest score wins.

I like the idea of this game, however the play is unbalanced towards the hunters, which is why you have to play two games to determine a winner. I thought this would be good for kids, but my experience has been that the kids don’t want to play two games to determine the winner. When the game is over, it should be over. A little more playtesting and work on rules, tile play, tile distribution and movement could have made this a balanced game that could be played in one round. If this doesn’t bother you, then you may like to give Tally Ho! a try.

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