GTM #203 - Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle Deckbuilding Game
by Kami Mandell

Hi, I’m Kami Mandell and I started working at USAopoly way back in 1998 as a graphic designer. Since then, I got married — 16 years this year — gave birth to two bouncing baby girls — now 13 and 10 — and played more games and had more fun than anyone has the right to do (at work). I now spend most of my time developing games. With Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, I had the opportunity to work on both design and development.

From the moment I learned we were able to create a new Harry Potter game, I was beyond excited. The game would marry one my biggest fandoms with the games I love to create. Having read each of the books numerous times and watched the movies over and over again, I knew the game had to be as true to the original story as possible. I wasn’t going to be happy with anything less, and I didn’t want any other Harry Potter fans to be disappointed either.

Now that the game is in stores and fans have had a chance to play, I’d like to unlock some of the secrets of the game design and development.

First, the game wasn’t originally designed to be a seven-part game: When we originally tried to explain the full Game 7 rules to Harry Potter fans (who weren’t game players) and received blank stares, we realized it was easier to share little bits of information at a time to speed up the learning curve. When we got to the point where the content was broken out into four boxes, we knew we had to introduce three more to be true to the story.

You may notice that the cards age: Just as the first movie was a sweet story about a boy discovering who he was, the first game cards have that same perfect quality. By the time you open Game 7, the cards are grittier. The background on the four Hero cards changes to a castle on fire. The Hogwarts crest on the Location card back is fully engulfed in flames, and those cards are designed to look singed on the edges.

The colors chosen for the cards are loosely based on the four Houses: As you might expect, the Villains are green (Slytherin), Spells are red (Gryffindor), Allies are blue (Ravenclaw), and Items are yellow (Hufflepuff). It would have been truer to the nature of the Houses to swap the colors of the Items and Allies, but when we looked at the characters on the yellow background we found there wasn’t enough distinction.

All the Hogwarts cards are great for deck-building: However, once you get to Game 3 it will become more important to focus on the types of cards you are acquiring. For example, Hermione is strongest when she has mostly spells in her deck. If given the choice between the Item Quidditch Gear or the Spell Reparo!, she will benefit most from acquiring the Spell. And although he might be terrible on a broom, Neville would do better with the Quidditch Gear.

Try to stay on the first Location: Each game starts with a Location that states to reveal one Dark Arts event. If you lose that Location early, it will be exponentially harder to win the game. Before deciding where to assign your attack, look at the rewards on the Villain cards. If one of them states to “Remove 1 Control from the Location”, it could work in your favor to attack that Villain first.

I can’t stress enough the need to work together: It may seem like a strange thing to remind you of in a cooperative deck-building game, but many of the cards allow you to help other Heroes. Do it! Get in the habit of playing as a team in the early games, because in order to win in the later games you will need to. That extra Influence might give another player enough to acquire Molly Weasley (6 Influence) or Albus Dumbledore (8 Influence). Both of which will help ALL the Heroes.

Would you believe that Gilderoy Lockhart was originally a Villain? In a world of good versus evil, it is should be easy to place each of the characters into the category of Ally or Villain, but sometimes it’s not. Lockhart is one such example. When play testing the game a few of our testers were extremely adamant that Lockhart wasn’t a Villain, despite trying to cast the Obliviate curse on Harry and Ron. After enough feedback, we moved him into the Hogwarts deck as an Ally. Which deck would you have voted to put Lockhart in?

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning some of the insider secrets in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle and I look forward to hearing about your own adventures with the game. Share your adventures on @USAopoly #HogwartsBattle!   

Kami Mandell is a wife and mother of two girls ages 11 and 13. She began working at USAopoly in 1998 in the graphics department and now spends most of her time designing and developing board games. Her favorite games include Telestrations, CLUE: Firefly Collector’s Edition, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle.