Harry Potter: House Cup Competition – Twenty Points to The OP!
Diffindo! Stupefy! Lumos!
Whether dueling or simply wandering about in the dark, the spells learned at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry make up the foundation of a lifetime of wizarding. Young wizards and witches must spend many years honing their crafts in school. In Harry Potter: House Cup Competition, you play as a house of Hogwarts, sending students to class, to meetings (or detention) with the Professor, and various other places to learn lessons and complete challenges.
Are you a brave and noble leader of house Gryffindor? Or do you have the wit and wisdom of Rowena Ravenclaw? Perhaps the determination and loyalty of Hufflepuff is more your speed.
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition is a worker placement game for 2-4 witches or wizards age 11+. A house competition takes a little over an hour to play.
Set the Common board in the center of the table and put the decks of basic and advanced lessons and easy and hard challenges on their shadowed locations on the board. Flip three face up for each deck, again, in the correct locations.
Shuffle the location cards with one fleur de lis and put one face-up on its shadowed location on the board, next to the classrooms. Place two “level two” locations and one level three location face-down near the bottom of the board.
Set up the House Cup Hourglass display with empty tubes for each house that is playing.
Give each player a player board for their desired house, along with the level matching tokens and the student tokens. Player powers are entirely symmetrical and there are no cards that affect different houses differently, so this is purely a preference.
Give each player two basic lesson cards and two knowledge tokens. The third and fourth players get extra resources if they’re playing.
There are seven rounds in Harry Potter House Cup Competition, correlating with the seven years a student studies at Hogwarts.
On your turn you must place a student, and you may complete a lesson. Lessons require skill thresholds in Potions, Charms, and/or Defense against the Dark Arts and provide a reward when completed. You can complete a lesson before or after placing a student (and getting the reward for placement).
Take turns placing your students, paying whatever the location requires and gaining whatever rewards that location gives.
Once you all place all three Students, proceed to Phase Two.
During Phase Two you complete challenges, usually for house points. Challenges, like lessons, require levels in various classes. Unlike lessons, however, students can work together.
Each round you are able to complete up to two challenges, but they cannot both be Hard challenges (e.g. two Easy, or an Easy and a Hard are acceptable).
If you have two (or three!) students complete a challenge, simply add their levels together to achieve the threshold. Some challenges also require knowledge (book tokens) or magic (hat tokens). For every ten points earned, put one crystal in your house’s “hourglass”. Make sure to declare your winnings loudly:
FORTY POINTS TO SLYTHERIN!
Once each player has completed their challenges, the round ends. After rounds two, four, and six, reveal another location from the face-down cards.
Once the seventh round ends, tally up your points! You get ten points per gem in your House Hourglass, ten points for every level tracker at rank seven, and ten points for every set of magic and knowledge tokens. Whoever has the most points wins!
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition immediately drew me in when I first saw it at New York Toy Fair. The idea of playing a real worker placement game in the Harry Potter universe was super exciting to me. And that’s exactly what House Cup is. But that’s also all it is. There isn’t much that rewards the Harry Potter super fan here. The theme isn’t pasted on, but its definitely not woven into the fabric of the mechanics. House Cup is a straightforward worker placement game. At its core, you place workers (students) to gain resources (magic and knowledge) and abilities (wizarding levels), and you complete tasks (lessons and challenges). These tasks give you victory points (House points) and whoever has the most points wins.
Artistically, easily the most visually captivating part of the game is the hourglass set piece. Filled with glittering, colorful gems, the quartet of tubes in its cardboard holder offers an immediate (if imprecise) glimpse at the leading house. It will immediately draw your eye.
But the rest of the art is muted. Some location cards feature shots from the films, and the player tokens have headshots of the actors, but otherwise everything else is generic.
There’s a lot of iconography in the game as well, between the varied lessons, challenges, combination icons, and terminology. In fact, there are even a couple examples where the terminology is inconsistent – a sign there’s maybe a little bit too much. The icons are sometimes too abstract – is a trophy a Hard Challenge or any challenge? What kind of lesson does a rolled up scroll represent?
We also would have liked to see some variance in the characters regarding how they play. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are completely indistinguishable from Colin Creevey, Dean Thomas, and Lavender Brown. Some asymmetric character abilities (different starting levels or resources, perhaps?) would have been welcome.
To be clear, House Cup is still fun. It’s a mechanically solid game, and living in the Harry Potter universe gives players entré to create fun little narratives while they play the students (Ron is going to the library because Hermione is mad he failed another test!) It’s also lots of fun to put crystals in your tube and yell “TWENTY POINTS TO RAVENCLAW!!!” while your family rolls their eyes at you.
Last week, we reviewed Codenames: Harry Potter and wrote at length at how it was perfect for the Harry Potter superfan. House Cup is the complete opposite. This game is fantastic for people who love the world of Harry Potter but may not remember minute details. If the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has a special allure to you, but you can’t be bothered to remember what Dobby gave Harry to help with the second challenge of the Tri-Wizard Cup (it was Gillyweed), House Cup may just be perfect for you.
The Op provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Harry Potter: House Cup Competition for this review.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition
Age Range: 11+
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 75 minutes