Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – The Monster Box of Monsters Expansion
Teaching Time: 5 mins
Playing Time: 60 mins
Setup Time: 5 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Standard Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is an excellent game that drew praise, mainly for being a mainstream licensed game with gateway leanings that was actually good, along with the recent Villainous leading to a real bar raise for licensed games. Hogwarts Battle had two significant issues at the end of its campaign, a rather bloated range of cards and the possibility of a lack of support, both of which the Monster Box had a chance to fix.
Before I talk about whether or not it did, I want to say that characterful though they may be, the names that USAopoly (now The Op, presumably for international marketing reasons, though if anything only giving credence to the fact that they should never be allowed to name anything. ‘Have you had The Op?’ Not a sentence that puts me in mind of light hearted tabletop fun) persist in choosing should have them put into a sack and beaten. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – The Monster Box of Monsters Expansion is much like its sequel Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle: Defense Against the Dark Arts in having even a sub title that’s unwieldy to use, and I don’t think that the acronym HP:HB:TMBOME is likely to help matters. I’ll refer to it as Monster Box for now.
Probably what the Monster Box should have done would have been to set out some rules for marketplace construction along with some scenarios to re-create some lesser moments from the film, allowing players to work through more constructed encounters and handling the bloat present in the pre-existing set. This could have led to a range of expansions and support for sets that could have easily been molded into a versus range or Quidditch tournament. What the Monster Box did instead was dump a stack of cards into the market place along with a couple of new concepts before apparently wandering off to leave the series to its own devices. Some of the concepts come off okay, some of them don’t really work.
Firstly, there is now a break between villains and monsters which works as a keyword for some cards, which is fine, but doesn’t make a huge impact on the game. Secondly, some Monsters can be paid off rather than battered to death, which uses a mechanic where they take coins as damage but cannot be dealt more than one a turn. This could be a good idea, but its been applied apparently with little regard for the nature of long-term effects over short term ones. It also creates the slightly odd effect where a kicking player deck engine can put out enough damage to flambee poor Voldemort the moment he dares to show his baldy little head while being utterly unable to deal with a Cornish Pixie any quicker than it could on turn one of the game. Third innovation is that players now get to manifest their Petronus Charm, which is a nice idea if it weren’t for the fact that they’re really rather weak and you’ll generally choose more crafted skill set-ups, it feels like they should have been more powerful but more rarely triggered. Lastly the game adds in ‘challenges’ to most encounters. In the base set these challenges were confined to the battle with He Who Shall Not Be Named and represented burning off all the Horcruxes before slapping down ol’ robe panties in the manner that he truly deserves and they worked because players were forced to engage with them and it gave a bit of narrative to the tasks being performed. Here they just sort of turn up and players can take them or leave them, since the challenges get more damaging and harder to perform as players move down the stack and give only rather minor one off powers as a reward the smart option is pretty much always to leave them, which turns them into a bit of an irritation that breaks immersion in the game and leads to a feeling of disengagement.
All that aside, the Monster Box does give a solid lump of extra Harry Pottery goodness, allowing fans to giggle with delight at a range of creatures and challenges not often given centre stage in the films, which is certainly what it’s there for. Whether it gives more depth to hardcore players or not, it certainly offers a lot more breadth, which isn’t always far different. I would have like to have seen different things done with a promising base game, but then no doubt someone else would have liked to have seen something different again, and there are certainly some players for who this is exactly what they wanted. The biggest disappointment overall is that three years now after the release of this expansion it looks like the series and any potential has been left where it stands.
In the end, the Monster Box brings more of the same to the game, with the benefits and negatives that implies. If you enjoyed the base set and just want more of it, then it will be perfect for you. If you wanted to see the game being dug deeper into, you’ll probably be disappointed.