This week our On The Tabletop report is on Knight Models’ Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game. Knight Models are best know for their Batman Miniatures Game and the incredible resin sculpts they produce for that range. From early previews of the Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game, fans were excited because of how great the preview sculpts looked.
On The Tabletop first impressions articles are preceded by an Off The Shelf preview of the product, you can read the Off The Shelf – Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game article here for full details of what’s in the Core Box and how the game plays. This article will be a walk through of our first few games, followed by feedback from the On The Tabletop team.
The On The Tabletop play-through articles catalogue our initial experiences with the game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
We recruited an extra member for On The Tabletop this week. Sam Webb is Head of RPG’s at Modiphius and as a fan of Harry Potter, requested to join us for our session. This took our numbers up to five, so we decided to split the teams into two, and give one side Harry, Ron and Hermione, and the other side would split the four Death Eaters. James and I, as the wargamers of the group, decided that we would take the Death Eaters to battle. Anna took Harry, Lizi took Ron and Sam took Hermione. Both of these forces are 24 Galleons, so we added another 6 Galleons to each force in spells and items.
For our first game, we set up the Forbidden Forest scenario. We didn’t use any of the extra cards for our first game, and opted to get used to the main mechanics first before running a full game.
Players alternate activations with their heroes, completing a basic and advanced action with each every turn. Movement is a basic action, so players can cast a spell then move, or move and then cast a spell. Characters can move 3 squares, and line of sight in the Forbidden Forest is reduced to 3 squares so the first few turns were both forces simply moving towards each other.
When we were in range, combat started in earnest. There is only one real combat spells in the Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game Core Set, there are a few physical attacks, but Stupefy is the only spell that causes damage. There are ways of restricting the effectiveness of enemies units, so that Victory Points (VPs) can be earned, but unless you’re able to do that to a guaranteed level each turn, you’re better off trying to deal straight damage to your opponents.
Casting spells against enemies is a roll off between players. The attacking player rolls three six-sided dice (D6) and earns a success for each roll of 3+ on the dice. If a 6 is rolled, one success is added and the dice is rolled again, possibly resulting in further successes. Some automatic successes are depending on the Mastery Level of the character casting the spell. Once all the successes are totaled, if they are higher than the difficulty of the spell, it is cast and the defending player needs to equal to the amount of successes on their own 3 dice, adding in automatic successes for their Defence level.
This system, while simple, usually results in players simply rolling off each action against each other to cast spells.
At the start of the round, players add the total cunning of their characters together and the player with the highest Cunning value goes first. Before a character dies, this essentially means that the side with the highest Cunning value wil go first every round. The Forbidden Forest scenario means that at the start of each turn, the player with the initiative decides to roll on the Hidden Dangers chart, essentially a 50/50 chance to gain victory points or have a negative effect. Although it is a 50/50 chance, the same player having the agency to decide each turn feels off and an alternating system would have improved the feel of this particular scenario.
As it was, the Death Eaters managed to focus on Harry Potter, taking him out of play. We ended the scenario there, wanting to try the game out with the full set of cards and rules.
For our second game, we played the Battle for Hogwarts scenario and took the points values up the 35. We replaced one of the Death Eaters with Draco Maloy from one of the expansions, as the scenario has both teams, trying to take out the oppositions leader.
As before, both sides rushed towards each other in an attempt to be the first to attack..
With using the full rules, an event card is drawn every turn. As above, the player with the highest Cunning draws and plays the cards, which gives them a much greater agency over the other player for the first few turns. A simple alternating Event draw would have alleviated this mechanic. The player who goes second picks the first Adventure Card, which gives them a choice of effects, and this system stays the same until a character is removed and the Cunning values change.
As with out first game, the two forces met in the middle and began throwing spells at each other. We discovered a game ending spell with Draco’s inbuilt Petrificus Totalus spell, which if successful, puts the Petrify effect on an enemy. In order to remove the effect, the opponent has to have characters with a magical total of 18 or more within 3 spaces. The spell itself reduces the targets characteristics to 1, which means that the two remaining students would never be able to beat the challenge, and a battle to cast it on each one in turn would ensue. It is a combat spell, so it is an opposed roll, and Hermione has the Counter Spell card built into her stat card, but this effectively locked out three of their sides power each turn to keep for Counter Spell, just in case.
The game finished with a draw, with both players fighting off an Acromantula swarms.
Adam – When I first heard about Knight Models taking on Harry Potter and saw the preview miniatures, I thought that the potential was incredible. This could be a game breaking product. A huge amount of potential fans could be brought to the tabletop, if it was handled correctly, something akin to X-Wing, introducing Star Wars fans to the tabletop, but also bringing in non-Star Wars fans because of the sleek game design. Harry Potter’s licence had the potential to do such a thing, to be an entry level tabletop game, but also be a great game for non-Harry Potter fans. Knight Models have an interesting system with the Batman Miniatures Game, so tabletop games aren’t new to them, yet the Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game felt flawed from the start.
I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I’ve got nothing against the franchise, I just never had the time to explore it. I think I’ve seen three of the films, one of them bizarrely being the last part, which I believe is the second part of a two-parter, so I was going into this without any preconceptions, hoping that Knight Models would pull it off, and do wonders for the industry. The miniatures are great, and of Knight Models usual high standard, but they’re not entry level and while there are probably a large amount of tabletop players who are Harry Potter fans, the Harry Potter market must contain a high-level of entry level tabletop players. I think it’s a market that needed addressing and while the miniatures are great for me, I’m not their target audience.
After the miniatures though, a quick read through the rulebook shows that it’s quite poorly laid out. Several times information is mentioned, that is then explained in the next paragraph, which could have quite easily been switched around to improve flow. One example is setting the rules for deployment, ending with Player A deploys first. The next paragraph begins with before deployment, here are the rules for deciding who is player A and B. It felt poorly structured. During the turn-phase breakdown, it lists the order in which to do everything, then right at the end of the book, three types of cards are listed in reverse order of action, that should take place before anything else in the turn and the turn phase breakdown isn’t updated, nor does it mention these cards in the preceding chapter on turn sequence. These can be forgiven, but they add to the sense that Knight Model’s heart wasn’t in the game development.
Half of the stats on the character cards aren’t really used in gameplay, and just require a basic check to see if a challenge is met and the ones that do matter don’t vary greatly between characters. The combat system becomes very samey after a few turns, and most of the spells are essentially moot as you can simply aim to do damage to characters. I’m sure with the right force build, you could make a very interesting control crew, but that’s what I do as a wargamer or card game player, I’d look for the meta and try to beat it. It’s not what I imagine Harry Potter fans doing, who just want to see their favourite spells at work.
Overall, the game just feels like it has no depth beyond that names of the spells and the great miniatures and it’s a real shame. I had such high hopes for it, and it really could have been incredible. If it had had entry-level components in the core set, a robust and simple rules-system and a great AI for solo and co-operative modes, this could have been an industry changing product. It feels like such a missed opportunity.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who’s favourite games include Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter – @StealthBuda.
Lizi – This was a team fighting game and you could be Harry and Co or the Death Eaters. Once we got playing it was an alright game, before each match you could choose your characters, spells, potions and items and each team could choose a challenge to win victory points during the game. Each turn you get new cards which might help or hinder your attacks. I think good tactics are the way of winning this one, which is good because you don’t want it to all be luck on dice or draws.
The concept and playing was fine, but there were little bits that made it feel not quite fully thought through, which took it a step down from being good. The cooldown idea on spells was a good one, but the tokens to do it were thin which made them difficult to turn. The boards didn’t quite lay flat and they didn’t fit together perfectly. The rules and the cards made everything seem complicated but it actually wasn’t so much. I think I’d play it again, but I don’t think I’d buy it myself.
Lizi is a mathematician, the closest she’s ever been to being a gamer is almost completing Lego Batman on the PS2. Her favourite games are Codenames and Zombicide.
James – I was honestly pretty disappointed with this game. I know Harry Potter and the franchise fairly well, and the potential for a fun and storytelling was high here. Something akin to Imperial Assault or Descent would have worked, or even something closer to Warmachine or Malifaux (albeit lighter versions).
But the whole game feels like it was phoned from half way through. The setup suggests that it’s for large forces, but the game looks made for skirmish scales. The movement is fixed, but you start a fair distance apart, so you spend two turns moving before anything happens (with no real tactical meaning, as you can’t effectively flank or reposition). Some very odd aesthetic decisions make the character cards hard to read and unintuitive, and the extra cards used turn to turn either add too much or very little, vacillating wildly between the two.
We also found game breaking spells combinations and gaps in the rules. While most games have elements of this if you look hard for them, these were on the surface and not even considered. The entire thing felt like something that had seemed a good idea at the time and ended up being shoved out as fast as possible to fulfil the license agreement.
The only good point was the detail of the models, however even these looked complex for beginners to build and store (multi-part high detailed resin is not for new players). Taken all in all, I wasn’t impressed.
James is a long-time tournament wargamer (but he’s not as horrible as all that), RPG and board game player. He works designing and producing games of all types, and is launching his own company Black Cats Gaming in 2019. Follow him on twitter @Guilensturn and @followblackcats and check out his company at Black Cats Gaming.
Anna – The Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game got me pretty excited at first. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter and was excited to play a Harry Potter game as I have enjoyed other games on the setting in the past.
I really liked the layout and designs of the cards as they seemed to base their look off the daily prophet designs from the movies but for those who hadn’t watched Harry Potter it appeared to be very confusing and difficult to find the information. I will admit that as the game went on and it got more complex the added decoration did seem to just clutter up the cards.
The game took a while to get going due to the rulebook being laid out strangely but once we started I got to play as Harry. Being a huge Harry Potter fan I am well aware of the main characters abilities and while Ron and Hermione seemed to be well balanced according to the books and movies. In our game Harry was rather disappointing with his fixed spell ability being a Expecto Patronum, and our game didn’t feature any Dementors and there appeared to be no Dementor minis in the starter set. I’m not entirely sure if dementors are in pack we got but if they didn’t it seems like a pointless spell to give Harry when he is known to be a powerful wizard in his own right. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case as the Death Eaters seemed to have abilities that were only available in expansion packs, making the game horribly unbalanced against the Death Eaters.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play for long due to time constraints but I don’t know if I would say I enjoyed the game, I spent most of it complaining about inconsistencies between the game and the book/movie versions of the characters.
Also why wasn’t Neville longbottom one of the starter characters but Cho Chang was?
Anna is a cosplayer and photographer. She started roleplaying a few years ago and now runs several of her own games. Her favourite games are D&D, Betrayal and the Witcher series. You can follow her gaming exploits and see her cosplay work and photography here.
Sam – I was looking forward to playing the Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game, but I can’t say I remember too much Harry Potter lore—I think the last book I read was The Goblet of Fire when I was 13. But I was looking forward to the wand waving, duelling combats the films do so well, and the game gets that right but there were a lot of other mechanics that just didn’t seem to mesh well.
Attacking each other was a simple dice off, counting successes and automatic successes we got from our skills, so its quick to resolve that echoes the pace of a witch shouting her spell and a wizard countering it with a colourful swish. The more “adventuring” parts of the game didn’t seem refined though, and almost an afterthought. Event cards came down to “roll a 4-6, get victory points; roll 1-3, have something bad happen to you.” The theming is very light, and people looking for a deep Harry Potter experience will be disappointed. I’m also concerned about the death spiral in the game, particularly as it seems Petrify just wins the game (because to recover the other characters need to be around you and make a combined skill total of like 18, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione have that combined total. If one of them goes down, the victim is just unusable for the rest of the game).
It was easy to learn, but only because Adam had figured things out beforehand—glancing through the rulebook it didn’t seem intuitively laid out on the page, or easy to follow. Big blocks of text gave explanation where we could have done with bullet points or a little diagram.
I played Hermione pretty much exclusively, and she’s kick ass. She can hold more spells and items than Harry or Ron, and she’s better at magic. I’m not sure she’s balanced but it’s certainly true to her character. What I did find funny was seeing Ron or Harry using knives or swords and being just as effective, if not more effective, than wands for damage.
I’m also still not sure why it’s packaged in a biscuit tin.
Sam Webb is a role playing game developer and twitch streamer. He has been playing games of all types for years, and is now the head of RPGs at Modiphius Entertainment. He is also the Creative Director at Black Cats Gaming. You can find him @RPGwebby on twitch and twitter, and @followblackcats.
This copy of the Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game was provided by Asmodee UK.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? What do you think of the Miniature Adventure Game miniatures? Have you played the Harry Potter Miniature Adventure Game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.