01 May 2019
Knut a lot of good
If you thought “All was well” for Harry Potter by the closing pages of Deathly Hallows, prepare to think again. The Boy Who Lived has been dragged out of his cushty early retirement selling plastic wands, theatre tickets and Warners Bros. Studio tours for a tabletop outing that’s less enchanting than a Magic Marker.
The clumsy, lifeless title of Harry Potter Miniatures Adventures Game gives you some idea of what to expect inside its biscuit tin-like metal box. It’s a grid-based miniatures skirmish game focused on the magic duels between Potter and pals – Hermione and Ron accompany him in the core set, naturally – and the various evil-doers of the Wizarding World. If you want more exciting foes than four anonymous Death Eaters and a handful of the magic-less, spiderish wand-fodder Acromantulas, though, you’ll need to cough up for some expansions. Good luck convincing anyone to play as the anti-Potter side without investing well over £100.
Even with this caveat, J.K. Rowling’s endless invention of enchanted items, magical spells and their effects – from unlocking doors and levitating objects to summoning spectral beasts and wiping memories – has the potential to conjure up a brilliantly dynamic and strategic tactics game. Imagine using the Invisibility Cloak to sneak up on an enemy before casting Petrificus Totalus to render them motionless and summoning your broomstick with Accio to escape. Sounds fun, right? Except here your characters are limited to just a handful of spells between them – even fewer if you want everyone to be able to deal minimal damage to opponents with a basic Stupefy spell, which takes up a slot rather than being a given – and they’re dull to cast, requiring bland dice rolls and the wait for a multiple-turn cooldown before they can be used again.
Depending on which side of the map boards you use, encounters take place either in the Forbidden Forest – here envisioned as a generic woodland environment – or the slightly more atmospheric and tailored surroundings of Hogwarts during the climatic battle of the last book. A selection of scenarios based on pivotal moments from the series, which can be played as a campaign, try to inject a greater sense of the story and wider universe into the back-and-forth duels with additional rules but end up falling flat. In one particularly laughable moment, an event randomly determined by dice roll saw a unicorn suddenly appear in the Forbidden Forest and give two victory points to a team, just because.
The frustration and tedium of playing is made worse by a rulebook that is both poorly worded and structured like the moving staircases in Hogwarts, leading you in one direction in search of clarification only to send you flicking back through to another page. Worse are the character reference cards, which have attempted to pay homage to the style of the magical Daily Prophet newspaper by featuring text in several different fonts and sizes running in multiple different directions. The look is effective, but trying to quickly check a skill or trait in the cluttered layout becomes a meta-exercise in suffering the Cruciatus torture curse.
Unsurprisingly, the miniatures are the stars of a box of otherwise extremely lacklustre components, with the thin, cheaply laminated tokens and map overlays simply unacceptable for the asking price of the set. Even the resin models – which need to be assembled with no shortage of fiddly arms and legs attached – disappoint. There’s a lot of flash and mould lines to be cleared up, making them far from an easy entry point for Potter fans looking for their first miniatures game, and the poses and sculpts often felt at odds with the characters we remembered from the books.
There have been good Harry Potter board games and there have been bad ones – this is one of the worst. What makes the Miniatures Adventure Game such a gutting disappointment is it leaves the promising potential for an interesting and faithful fresh take on the series in a worse state than we were at the end of Half-Blood Prince.
PLAY IT? – NO
Between its uninspiring gameplay, woeful components and a price tag that would leave Gringotts searching behind the sofa for a lost gold galleon or two, the Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game deserves to be sent to Azkaban for good.
Designer: Gustavo Adolfo Cuadrado, Mark Latham
Artist: Knight Models team
Time: 30-90 minutes
This review originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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