It may be odd that my first session report is with the final game in the box but I didn't know if I was even going to do reports for this game.
A little background: when I first got this game over a year ago, I played through by myself starting with Game 1. I knew I didn't need to start so low since I'm quite familiar with deck builders, but I wanted to experience the game as the designers intended. I played with the intention of not moving on to the next box until I beat each game. I managed to play 8 games, having only lost once. I played the seventh game again some time later just to refresh myself on the rules but, with my game group gone, the box went on the shelf not to be touched for quite a while.
Recently, my brother-in-law has joined me for some games. He is also a Harry Potter fan, so I decided to introduce the game to him. I explained the rules and we started with Game 5. We won easily so Bro wanted to move on to Game 6. It took us three tries before we got that one down. Now, a couple months later, we were ready to resume our play through with Game 7.
It should go without saying, but: GAMES 6-7 SPOILERS AHEAD.
Harry Potter + Flying Lessons (n107)
Ron Weasley + Arithmancy (Bro)
I wanted to always have an option to remove Control Tokens, so I took Flying Lessons. I believe I took it in the Game 6 attempts too and, maybe, only used it once. I don't think I learn from my mistakes very well.
With the importance of dice in destroying the Horcruxes with this final game, Bro took Arithmancy for Ron to help out.
Our starting Villains were Dolores Umbridge, Lucius Malfoy and Crabbe & Goyle. I'm always happy to see C&G due to their relative weakness, though they did beat the tar out of us in one of our Game 6 losses. We learned not to take them for granted thanks to that. But fortunately they are easy to pick off if they do turn out to be trouble. Lucius is annoying but not nearly as much as Dolores, so she became our first target.
The starting shop had:
Essence of Dittany
Quite a nice draw, I thought, particularly for the "Silencio!" I was happy to see it come up from such a tall stack of cards. The only disappointment was the lack of House Dice cards but that would be alleviated shortly.
We didn't have much money to start with so we were lucky that the cards were cheap. I picked up the Finite! Spell as keeping the Control Tokens off the locations was a big deal for Harry. This started a string of Dice-wielding Allies and Items rolling out from the deck, much to Ron's delight.
Within the first few turns, we had taken out Umbridge and another Villain while Ron collected George Weasley and the oh-so-spectacular Cho Chang as well as a History of Hogwarts. So it was not long before he was on a dice-rolling frenzy to smash some Horcruxes.
I picked up Hagrid and Lockhart to build up a supply of allies for the benefit of the Diary Horcrux. I also picked up Dobby when he appeared to continue my goal of managing Control Tokens.
Ron managed to get Stunned within the first few turns after a string of bad Dark Arts cards ripped his health apart. I was a little worried when that happened as I thought him dropping so quickly was a sign that we were going to have an uphill battle but it slowed down after that.
Thanks to using the benefit of the destroyed Diary, Ron's special ability and the Essence of Dittany, which Ron had purchased, and Hagrid, we were doing quite well at keeping each other alive. Dobby and Finite! were also ensuring that the first location was kept clear of Control Tokens during the times where we could not remove any by defeating Villains.
Ron gained the assistance of Cedric Diggory and, after a while of saving up Influence, Professor Snape. These, along with a second copy of Hogwarts: A History, ensured that Ron and his dice-rolling frenzy would be unstoppable.
Well... almost. Bro had an uncanny knack, mainly with the Hufflepuff die, of rolling anything but the dominant icon on the die. Even with the reroll ability of Artithmancy, it sometimes took at least four rolls before the symbol we needed came up on the die that featured that symbol on three of the six faces! It was borderline absurd how he could simply NOT get the result that should be the most common. And, many times when the die DID display the correct icon, it was when the die itself was cocked and our rule is that no die result counts unless it lands flat on the table/board. It was both frustrating and extremely entertaining.
After about half the game with two threatening Villains in the first two spots and Crabbe & Goyle keeping things quiet on the far right, we managed to encounter Professor Quirrel. The wound each turn was annoying but not nearly as bad as what else was lurking out there. So we went easy on Quirrel and the dumbnamic duo and focused our attacks on the powerful Villains who took up the center spot. This also gave Ron plenty of opportunities to spend cards and die rolls to start taking down the last of the Horcruxes in rapid succession.
With the Horcruxes gone and the Villain deck dwindling down, we charged confidently into the endgame. Now, Ron's nearly constant dice rolling was leading to not only a well-equipped Ron doing massive attacks on his turn, it was also stocking up Harry for big hits before his turn even began. In the end, there was one more Villain left before Voldemort and Harry was able to take out all three exposed Villains in one go. This released Fenrir Greyback along with Voldemort for Ron's next turn.
With a few Control Tokens jumping onto the location, Ron was still able to land some massive attacks on the wolfman and prepare Harry for his attack. Harry took over by finishing off Fenrir and casting Petrificus Totalus on Voldemort before dumping the rest of his fury on the Dark Lord. Ron jumped in with nine hits on Voldemort, bringing him just six hits away from defeat. Starting with four attacks on his board, thanks to Ron, and another four in hand, it was a landslide victory as the Boy Who Lived stopped the dreaded Voldemort once and for all.
This game was FAR easier for us than Game 6, which held us at bay for three tries. I think it was not just by having better luck with the Villain draw but also by having Bro a lot more familiar with deck-building strategy. Back when we would play Legendary Marvel, he would just buy whatever he could afford if it looked strong. Now he knows to focus on what makes his deck strong overall and not to water down the effectiveness by buying too many cards. His deck was honed to be a dice-rolling factory and that's what it became.
The end of this game was all but guaranteed by about the halfway point but it still took nearly three hours to get through the Villain deck. I think that is still the biggest downside to this game. It's very fun and challenging but the later games need a huge time commitment. Not a problem for a serious board gamer who is used to that but it does take a lot of planning to bring in the more casual side of the hobby.
And, just like the last game we played, Flying Lessons did NOTHING. It's just too darn expensive to be reliable and, at least in this session, we had multiple other means of removing Control Tokens. If I choose it again in a future game, I need someone to slap me.
Next we will be moving on to The Monster Box of Monsters. It's been sitting on my shelf but I haven't tried any of it so it will be a surprise for both of us.
Villains Defeated: 21
Horcruxes Destroyed: 6
Stuns: 3 (Ron 2, Harry 1)
Locations Lost: 0
Memorable Moment: Bro not rolling the symbol that appears on three sides of a six-sided die repeatedly.
Current Streak: 2 Victories
(This includes the unreported games of Bro and myself.)
Longest Victory Streak: 2
Longest Defeat Streak: 2
Game 5: 1 Victory
Game 6: 1 Victory, 2 Defeats
Game 7: 1 Victory