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Harry Potter: House Cup Competition review⏤Ten points to theme and mechanics!

When I was a kid, I blew through the first three Harry Potter books in a week. Then I had to wait for the other books to be written and I was one of those crazy people who got it the day it was out and fell asleep reading. The world, the characters, and the escape were exactly what I needed. After growing older and seeing Harry Potter plastered on every lunch box, candy bar, and lego play-set, I drifted away from the magical world and moved on. As my love for tabletop games evolved and grew, I loved it when companies could take an intellectual property (IP) that was well known and build a game with strong mechanics and gameplay rather than just re-theming Monopoly or Clue for the thousandth time. In Harry Potter: House Cup Competition (HCC), I got to see the magical world of my childhood blended into some of my favorite board game mechanics. 

House point tracker

Harry Potter: House Cup Competition is an entry-level worker placement and resource management game for 2-4 players published by The Op. In HCC, players control one of the four major houses of Hogwarts and three of the prominent student witches and wizards from the books. Players take turns sending their students to different locations on the board to collect knowledge, magic, lessons, and challenges. Students also increase their knowledge in Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Charms to raise their personal attributes. All of these actions combine in different ways to earn points for their house and the player with the most points after seven rounds wins!

Main game board

The main board is where most of the action takes place. Players alternate to send students to different classrooms and special locations on the board. In the Professor’s Office, students can gain magic, the Library is used to pick up knowledge, and the classrooms allow the students to advance on their attribute tracks. The board also houses a special starter location with more advanced locations revealed throughout the course of the game, giving players more options. The sides of the board house basic and advanced lessons and challenges. At any point during a player turn, players can use lessons to advance attributes and gain resources needed to take another action on the board. After each player has placed their students, the challenge phase begins. Players can assign their students and their attributes to basic and advanced challenges, combining their talents to earn points.

Basic and hard challenge cards.

The components of the game are a mixed bag. The cards are made of flimsy paper and are easily bent. Some of the iconography is difficult to distinguish from others. More than once did the players at the table confuse Defense Against the Dark Arts shield symbols with the Potion cauldron symbols. Also the markers for each student are small cardboard discs with images of actors from the movies. The dual layered player boards are well made and use plastic sliders to mark the student attributes. The knowledge and magic resource tokens are also made of a quality cardboard and feel good in the hand. The best components are the point trackers and the display. Each house is marked by gems of the house color. When you score ten points in the game, you place a gem in the display tube and watch your fortunes rise. Overall, the game looks great on the table and really captures the essence of Hogwarts castle. The colors are vibrant and the different places to send students are clearly marked.

Player board featuring attribute sliders.

The gameplay was surprisingly fun for an IP game like this. The worker placement was easy to explain for newer board gamers and the combinations of resources and student attributes needed to complete lessons and challenges provided some depth to the game. The variety of special locations and cards allow for variability and lend to the replayability of the game allowing players to see new combinations to keep gameplay fresh. The game board provides special spaces to help scale to the player count and the biggest difference with more players was trying to get special spaces and locations before someone else. 

Special locations and round tracker

As someone who loves deep and chunky euro games, I was looking for big combos and ways to get my resource tracks optimized and found myself wanting more after the first game play. I found myself asking for asymmetric house abilities and more complex offerings on the boards. However, after playing with some less seasoned players and watching them come alive at the table, I was able to sit back, enjoy, and appreciate the complex simplicity of what this game offers: a gateway into a world of deeper game mechanics through a thematic experience that captures the hearts of many. Each card was designed around moments from the books and made the players at the table reminisce and sparked conversations from their individual Harry Potter journeys. While being a fan of Harry Potter helps, this game will solidly sit into one of my go to gateway games to teach to the next generation of board gamers.

75

Good

Harry Potter: House Cup Competition

Review Guidelines

A gateway worker placement and resource management game framed in the world of Harry Potter. Control one of the four Hogwarts houses and their students competing for the most points and glory for your house.

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