While I haven’t talked about it much here on Geeky Hobbies I am a pretty big fan of the Harry Potter franchise. J.K. Rowling did a great job creating an interesting world unique from your typical fantasy story. With how popular Harry Potter became it lead to a lot of different board games being created. As most of these games are your typical mass market games they usually aren’t very good. This is why for the most part I have ignored Harry Potter board games. Today’s game LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts combines the franchise with LEGOs which is another thing that I am interested in which gave me a reason to try out the game. While I knew that the game was going to be gauged towards children, after reading the rules I was intrigued because some of the mechanics seemed interesting and reminded me of another game that I really enjoyed. LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts has some interesting ideas that should appeal to children, but too many of the mechanics don’t work as intended leading to a boring experience for adults.
How to Play LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts
Note: I bought my copy of the game at a rummage sale and thus it was missing some of the pieces. Therefore some of the pictures below will look a little off.
- Assemble the castle and various other pieces. The assembly instructions can be found here.
- Build the LEGO dice by attaching the one, two, three, two rotate staircases, and one secret passage sides.
- The youngest player will get to choose their house/color first.
- The oldest player will be the first player. Play will then proceed clockwise.
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they will take two actions.
- Roll the dice and take the corresponding action.
- Move your character.
A player begins their turn by rolling the die. The side they roll determines what action they will take.
If a player rolls the one, two or three they will get to shift the staircases.
To begin the player will choose one of the staircases and lifts it off the board. A player cannot lift up one of the four classrooms. They also cannot lift up a staircase that has a character on it.
After the staircase has been removed you will get to shift the rooms. The number of times you get to shift the rooms depends on the number you rolled (you don’t have to use all of the shifts if you don’t want to). To shift the rooms choose a room or set of rooms in a straight line from the now empty space in the middle of the board. Slide this room(s) into the empty space in the board. Whether you slide one, two or three rooms this will count as one shift. If you have additional shifts left you can shift a different room(s) into the now open empty space in the board.
When you are done shifting staircases you will insert the staircase you took into the now empty space.
Rotate A Staircase
When you roll the “rotate a staircase” symbol (arrows making up a circle) you will choose one of the staircases and pick it up. You can rotate it in any direction that you want and then insert it back into the board. You can pick any staircase even one featuring players. You may not rotate a classroom.
Use a Secret Passage
If you roll the “use a secret passage” symbol (a map) you may move your character into an adjacent classroom or staircase. You can move to the next room to the right, left, up or down; but you can’t move diagonally. When moving in this way you can ignore if the room you are moving to shares a connection with your current room.
Moving Your Character
After you have taken the action of the symbol you rolled you will have the opportunity to move your character. When moving your character you can move them to an adjacent room/staircase. To move to a room/staircase your current space must be connected to it. Most of the classrooms have two entrances, but the Divination classroom only has one entrance. A player may also choose to leave their character on its current space.
When a player moves into a classroom they will take the homework item of their color and add it to one of the spaces by their starting space.
After moving play will pass to the next player clockwise.
End of Game
When a player has collected all four homework items they will head back to their common room/starting space. The first player to return to their common room with all four of their homework items wins the game.
For a shorter game you can decide to end the game when a player collects their fourth homework item. This player will win the game.
This line of LEGO board games have always striven to allow players to make the games their own by adding their own house rules. This can involve changing the gameboard, the dice, or adding additional mechanics. Here are the suggested house rules proposed by the instructions.
If players want to use Dumbledore they will replace the one side on the dice with the red tile. Place the Dumbledore piece on the stairs leading into Hogwarts.
Whenever a player rolls the red side they will get to move Dumbledore to an adjacent space (not diagonally). Dumbledore does not need a connection between two staircases/rooms to move between them. If a player moves their piece onto the room/staircase featuring Dumbledore the player will be able to immediately move their piece to an adjacent room/staircase. The two rooms/staircases don’t have to share a connection to move between them.
Replace the map tile on the dice with the brown tile. Place the Mrs. Norris piece next to the board. Whenever a player rolls the brown side they will get to place Mrs. Norris on one of the unoccupied staircases. This staircase is now closed and no players may move onto it until Mrs. Norris moves to another space.
When a player moves their piece onto a space that already has another character on it, the two characters will duel. Both players will roll the die. The player that rolls the higher number will win the duel. If both players roll the same number the player who started the duel will win it. The rotate symbol counts as a 0 while the map symbol counts as a four.
The player who wins the duel gets to move the losing player’s piece to any empty adjacent space.
My Thoughts on LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts
I have to admit that I have had kind of a wild ride as it relates to LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts. When I first saw the game at the rummage sale that I purchased it at I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was going to be just another mass market board game made to cash in on Harry Potter and LEGO. As I was a fan of both Harry Potter and LEGO I decided to pick it up anyway as worst case scenario for the price I paid I could just take the LEGO pieces out of the game. I can’t say that I had high expectations for the game though. When I got the game out to play though my feelings started to change a little. The game actually has decent ratings, and after reading the rules the premise actually sounded kind of interesting.
The basic premise of the game is that you are a student at Hogwarts who is tasked with going around collecting your homework items from various classrooms. This involves navigating the various moving staircases of Hogwarts. Normally you would think this would turn into a roll and move game as you roll the dice to move between the rooms/staircases. I initially thought you would just use a mechanic like this to pick up all of your homework items and return them to your side of the board.
This is where I was intrigued by LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts though. While you are basically just completing a large fetch quest by picking up various objects as you move around the board, this is accomplished in a interesting way. While you can move one space at the end of your turn most of the movement in the game involves manipulating the gameboard itself. Depending on what you roll you can rotate one of the sections of the board or you can take one piece out so you can slide around the other pieces. This mechanic actually really intrigued me as I thought it could be really interesting. It actually reminded me a lot of Labyrinth. Done well this could have made for a really interesting game as players had a lot of ways of manipulating the board to their advantage and the other players disadvantage.
I had a lot of hope for this mechanic and yet LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts never capitalizes on it. The mechanics seem to be set up pretty well as sliding the pieces around in particular could have had a pretty big impact on the game. This mechanic itself is not bad as I think it could make for a good game. This was shown by Labyrinth which used a similar mechanic that worked quite well. This mechanic should have added a decent amount of strategy to the game as you can manipulate your own and the other players’ positions. Figuring out a clever way of manipulating the tiles should have given you a lot of control over the game. In action though it just doesn’t feel like it has a big impact on the game.
I think this comes down to a couple factors. First there is the fact that the game relies on quite a bit of luck. This was to be expected as the game relies on a dice to determine which special action you get to take on your turn. You could have a move that you want to make but can’t because you didn’t roll the right side. There is also the fact that all of the actions were not created equally. In particular the secret passage action is rigged and by far the best action. Why waste a bunch of time manipulating the gameboard if you can just jump into one of the adjacent classrooms to pick up one of the homework items. Due to the next issue I will discuss this power is way too powerful. If you roll this action you are basically guaranteed to get a homework item on your turn. While being able to rotate a tile or shift tiles can be useful, they don’t compare to the secret passage action.
This brings me to what I think is the biggest culprit for why the board manipulation mechanics don’t really work. The problem is that the board is too small in my opinion. The grid is a four by four grid. This might not seem that small, but it leads to problems for the game. First all of the classrooms stay next to one another to start the game. Therefore they are likely to stay mostly together for the entire game. This makes it pretty easy to move between the classrooms especially if you roll the secret passage action. Maybe we just rolled this symbol a bunch, but we were regularly able to just jump between all of the rooms picking up all of the homework items quickly. Players were able to collect all of the homework items so quickly that there wasn’t really any time available to manipulate the board before the game ended. I think if the board was larger the classrooms would get separated more and there would be more need to manipulate the board to make a path for yourself or to mess with the other players. I don’t think the board had to be huge but turning it into a 5 x 5 or a 6 x 6 would likely have improved the game.
Outside of manipulating the board to mess with the other players there wasn’t much reason to change up the board. Maybe this was a contributing factor to why the board manipulation mechanics didn’t work as well as they should have. Generally the group I played the game with aren’t the type to mess with other players just to mess with them. Instead we mostly try to help ourselves instead of purposefully hurting other players. I think this might have impacted the game since if players are actively trying to mess with each other the board manipulation mechanics could play a larger role in the game.
With the board manipulation mechanics not working as well as I would have liked you are ultimately left with a glorified roll and move game. You mostly just roll the dice and hope to roll the symbol you want. This gives you the opportunity to either manipulate the board or jump your character to an adjacent space. Then you have the opportunity to move your character to an adjacent space that is connected to your current space. It just feels like there isn’t much to the game. Most of the decisions in the game feel obvious so it feels like you don’t have much impact on your fate. This ultimately lead to a game that I found to be kind of boring. This was disappointing as I thought the game could actually be pretty good. For those that think the premise of manipulating the gameboard sounds interesting you should instead consider Labyrinth as the board manipulation mechanics actually work pretty well in that game.
While I don’t think the game is really going to be for adults, I don’t see the same applying to children. I actually think the game will work well with children. First there is the Harry Potter theme which should appeal to children and quite a few adults. The gameplay is also quite easy to pick up and play. The game is a little more complicated than your typical roll and move game, but it is still easy to pick up. In fact I think the game could be used as a good bridge between simple roll and move games and more complicated games. The game also plays pretty quickly with most games taking around 20 or so minutes. While I probably wouldn’t recommend the game for adults, I can see a lot of children really liking the game.
As for the components you get basically what you would expect from a LEGO game. Like all LEGO games you have to assemble the entire board. This will take some time as there are quite a few different pieces in the game. Once you completely assemble the game though it looks pretty good. That is if the game includes all of the pieces. Based on my experience most used copies of LEGO games are regularly missing some of the pieces. As you can see from the pictures above my copy was missing quite a few pieces even though it had enough to be able to play the game. If purchasing a used copy I would make sure it comes with all of the pieces. Outside of the time required to set it up though the components are pretty good. The pieces don’t always stay together all that well, but the gameboard pieces for the most part work pretty well.
Should You Buy LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts?
As a fan of Harry Potter and LEGO I was curious about LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts. The game initially looks like your typical mass market game, but when I looked at the instructions the premise looked interesting. The fact that most of the gameplay involved manipulating the gameboard to create a path for your character had a lot of promise. Unfortunately the game never capitalizes on it. The game relies on a lot of luck as what you roll will likely determine how successful you are. The gameboard also feels too small as you don’t really even use the board manipulation mechanics much unless you are trying to mess with the other players. This ultimately leads to the game basically becoming another roll and move game which is kind of a boring experience for adults. I think younger kids could really enjoy the game though. The components are also pretty good as long as you are willing to put the time into building the gameboard.
My recommendation for LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts is complicated. I don’t think most adults will enjoy the game so I would recommend that they avoid it. Adults who are big fans of LEGO or Harry Potter though may get some enjoyment out of the game so it may be worth picking up for a good price. For younger children that like Harry Potter though I think they could really enjoy the game and should check it out.