Ten points for Gryffindor! Or maybe for Ravenclaw? Hufflepuff?
Certainly not Slytherin, right?
That’s the point of the endeavor in Harry Potter: House Cup Competition, a worker placement game from The OP. Players choose one of the four houses from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, each of which is represented by three characters of the universe created by author J.K. Rowling.
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition Gameplay
Each turn, each of up to four players will place one of their three character tokens in a classroom, in a professor’s office, the library, or another location. With this placement, the player will gain resources, skill levels, lesson cards, and challenge cards. The criteria on these cards, usually based on levels attained in one or more of three skills – potions, defense against the dark arts and charms – must be met before the reward on the card is received.
Frequently, the reward on challenge cards will include points to the house cup, which are represented by small gems in a test tube that represents the hourglasses from the Potter series. Challenges are to be completed at the end of each round, once each player has placed all three of his or her character tokens. As could be expected, the winner is the player with the most points acquired after seven rounds of gameplay.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Harry Potter: House Cup Competition
As has been the case with several of the Potter-themed games from The OP, the components for this game were really fun, especially for a fan of the series. All twelve character tokens represent known characters from the books and movies and feature actual pictures of the characters as depicted by their respective actors and actresses as opposed to artist renditions. The lessons and challenges are based on occurrences from those works, as well.
There are a couple of knocks against the game in this area, though. Each player has a house common room card with trackers for all three of their characters’ three skill levels. These levels are tracked with sliders that come separate from the card and merely rest in the tracks. This makes them easy to knock out of line, and the marks for each level are difficult to see on a couple of the house colors.
There isn’t a great deal of luck (most of which comes from what order the cards appear, but there’s enough repetition in the cards to discount most of that luck) involved in Harry Potter: House Cup Competition which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing, of course, is that you can generally accomplish whatever it is that you’re trying to do relatively quickly. That especially helps this title cater to the age range of 11+ that is advertised on the box, as younger players might get frustrated if this game format didn’t allow for that.
The curse is that if someone has a good plan from the beginning, his or her opponents can’t expect a string of bad luck to derail that. So unless stopping that plan lines up with whatever an opponent is trying to do, there could be a very predictable winner here. In other words: Your strategy has only a small chance to be significantly affected by another player. At times it felt like we were each just playing our own game at the table.
But to be fair: Even though we figured who would ultimately win, the results were reasonably close. We even had one player focus on certain token pairings for victory points who nearly staged an upset. There’s at least more than one path to victory.
This has really been a strong suit of these games from The OP. The artwork looks great, and it really represents the designs particularly from the Harry Potter movies. The OP regularly does a great job leveraging their IPs, and this title is no exception!
Furthermore, the aforementioned test tube set-up for the point gems is really nice-looking. Unlike a lot of similar games, this makes the scoring live and tracked throughout the game in a very attractive format. Just as the characters in the movie could visually gauge their house’s performance, so can you!
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition is one that you’ll really want to play once or twice. It looks great, and the format is unique enough that you’ll want to test out a couple different strategies to see what works best for you.
Unfortunately, the houses are different in color and character only, and the group that played for this review felt like that took away from the game a bit. If each house had different abilities or acquired resources and skills at a different frequency, this game would have a bit more legs as far as replays go. Instead, it sort of feels like a title that you’d need a new group to play more than twice or so, but to be clear, you’d probably enjoy those plays an awful lot.
There’s merit in simplicity at times, though, so if you’re looking for a lightweight worker placement game, this could absolutely be it.
This is perhaps where the creators did the best job of reflecting the material from the series that they were attempting to replicate. The House Cup Competition is part of the lighter years of the books and films, before the Wizarding World’s darkest villains returned to power. To match that, the game is competitive without being overly aggressive in that regard. That’s good in that it creates the kind of atmosphere where you feel comfortable conversing with your opponents without worrying about missing a play on the board. Each player is sort of doing his or her own thing, so to speak.
The downside of that is that moments of true competition are somewhat rare. Occasionally a player might be blocked from a space he or she might need, but usually the same resources can be acquired elsewhere. Even that, though, might not be a negative for everyone, as this might make a good title for someone who wants an individual effort without intense competition.
Should You Take Home the House Cup?
For a fan of the Harry Potter series who also likes board games, this would be a fine addition for a light-hearted play among fellow fans. It captures the material well, and fans will get a kick out of plenty of elements of the game.
The main thing that kept me from being able to give Harry Potter: House Cup Competition two thumbs up, though, was a frustrating lack of guidance in the rule book. Seemingly in an effort to keep the rules light, a great deal of explanation was left out in a lot of areas. This left several rulings up to the discretion and assumption of the players, and one such instance led us to play a pretty major facet of the game incorrectly the first time through. Additionally, several cards that could’ve used more clarity weren’t explained further in the book, and some icons were left up to the interpretation of the group.
Our group hit all three categories: Harry Potter fan and tabletop game fan, just tabletop game fan, and just Harry Potter fan. And Harry Potter: House Cup Competition wasn’t quite a home run for any of us. We enjoyed our play, but likely won’t circle back to it readily.
Disclosure: The OP provided Nerds on Earth with a copy of Harry Potter: House Cup Competition in exchange for an honest review.