Author: Cameron Art
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition
Player Count: 2 - 4 Players
Playing Time: 75 Minutes
Designers: Nate Heiss, Kami Mandell
Publisher: The OP (USAopoly)
Year Published: 2020
"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! The House Cup calls for the brightest students to compete in this worker-placement strategy game. In Harry Potter: House Cup Competition, use gained knowledge and magic to learn lessons and complete challenges. Players send iconic characters like Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory, Cho Chang, and Draco Malfoy out on the game board to enhance their skills. The player who earns the most points for their House will be named the House Cup Champion!"
- Description from the Publisher
In Harry Potter: House Cup Competition, 2 - 4 players will face-off in a super tight game of worker placement. Sort yourself into Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin and send your students out to master Potions, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Practice spells, attend lessons, and use all the knowledge you've learned to complete challenges and earn the most house points!
For fans of worker placement games, Harry Potter: House Cup Competition will feel very familiar, yet perhaps more challenging or think-y than some other worker placement games. To setup, each player selects a house board along with that house's corresponding character tokens and then place's 3 level trackers on the leftmost space of the tracks of each character. These tracks tell you each character's current level in Potions, Charms, & Defense Against The Dark Arts. The main game board is setup in the middle of the table within easy reach of all players. Randomly deal a Tier 1 location cards face-up to the corresponding space on the board, then deal two Tier 2 locations and one Tier 3 location to their respective spaces on the board face-down, returning the remainders to the box. The lesson and challenge cards are dealt to their corresponding spaces on the board, each player receives some starting magic and/or knowledge tokens based on player order, and the game begins.
The game is played over the course of seven years (rounds). Every round, each player will get three turns, one for each character they control.
A turn is broken up into two parts: a lesson phase followed by a placement phase. During the lesson phase of their turn, a player will select which character they are using this turn and then they MAY use that character to complete a lesson card in their hand. After doing so, they will then place that character on an open location on the board, paying the listed cost (if any) and gaining the benefit. Lesson cards often have a level requirement which, in exchange, gives you extra resources or improves your upcoming placement phase. For example, if I wanted to "Brew A Girding Potion), my character would need to have a level of 3 in Potions. If I played that lesson, then I would gain the benefit: Reduce the placement requirements by either 1 level, 1 knowledge or 1 magic. I would then take my placement phase, placing that character on a location on the board for a reduced cost.
The locations on the board offer a wide variety of different rewards including gaining magic and knowledge (the resources of the game), improving 1 level of your character, gaining lesson cards and gaining challenge cards.
As I mentioned, the game will end after 7 rounds, and the goal is to have the most house points, which you can get primarily in 1 of 2 ways. The first way is improving your character's levels:
At the end of the game, every level marker you have maxed out to level 7 is worth 30 points. This is crucially important, because you can only level up your characters so much. If you try to hard to spread out your level-ups, you likely wont reach 7 on any of them. If you want to get Harry Potter's potions level to 7, you'll need to really prioritize finding ways to improve his level to 7 or you won't make it.
The second major way that you can collect house points is from completing challenge cards. Challenge cards are a special kind of card that you can collect from various locations on the board (there are easy and hard challenges), and they typically have very high level requirements to complete, similar to how lesson cards work. However, unlike lesson cards, challenge cards often also have knowledge requirements, and their level requirements are MUCH higher.
You only have 1 chance to complete challenge cards each round, after you've placed all of your characters. During this final step of the round, you can combine any amount of your characters to work together to complete a challenge and earn big amounts of house points.
Play continues for 7 rounds (with a new location revealed every other round) and then whichever house has the most house points in their vial wins!
There are a LOT of worker placement games out there, and I think that Harry Potter: House Cup Competition really takes what often makes worker placement games so popular and focuses on those aspects hard. The gameplay is simple, but incredibly tight. It's a game of weighing your options and hoping that other players don't take the spaces you want before it comes around again to your next turn. Additionally, if you want to really optimize the benefits from lesson cards and being able to complete challenge cards at the end of each round, you will have to be a very meticulous planner, further adding to the "tight" tricky feeling of the game.
I think you'll enjouy this game if...
- You are a fan of Harry Potter... and board games. There are definitely a lot of references to events in the Harry Potter books and movies in this game, and the theme is on point, but if you aren't already a board game player, this may be a tricky worker placement game to have as your first, even if you really do like Harry Potter.
- You enjoy worker placement games, particularly those with tight action space competition.
- You like games that allow for and reward meticulous planning and thinking ahead. It's not required, but this game definitely allows you to stay engaged and thinking when it isn't your turn.
- If you are okay with games that encourage to plan ahead but also constantly force you to reevaluate and change your plans. There's no doubt about it: You WILL get blocked. A LOT. You won't always get to have your first choice of spaces and your plans may get ruined if you are unwilling to adapt to the changing board state.
- If you like games that have a nice production value and table presence, particularly with a unique centerpiece like the house cup vials included in this game.
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition isn't a particularly unique worker placement game, but it does take the elements that make worker placement games work so well and it executes them very cleanly. The game has simple rules but a lot of depth and strategy to satisfy fans of the genre. If you're a fan of worker placement or a fan of Harry Potter, I highly recommend checking this one out.
If you are interested in learning more about Harry Potter: House Cup Competition, you can check it out by clicking here.
Disclaimer: A free copy of Harry Potter: House Cup Competition was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest preview. All opinions written above are entirely my own.