I remember back at Gen Con 2016, there was a massive amount of buzz about the Harry Potter deck-building game. The Op had a huge booth where you could schedule a time to demo it and the waitlist was quite long. Turns out, the game was actually pretty good and worked as an excellent gateway game to introduce people to deck builders.
Fast forward to 2020, and The Op released the second expansion for this game, the first being the Monster Box of Monsters. This expansion, aptly named the Charms and Potions Expansion, adds in new elements to add to your game and also another character.
Welcome to the team Ginny Weasley. This ginger-haired wizard seemed like a natural addition to the lineup and now gives players three male and three female characters to choose from. Ginny is focused on giving characters influence if she manages to attack two villains on a turn. The expansion also comes with another hero board bringing the player count of the game up to five.
The rest of the expansion is split into two parts. There are some minor spoilers here if you don’t want to know what’s in the contents of the game 4 boxes, but for the sake of thoroughness, I need to talk about what comes in box 2 as well.
The first new bit of content are the charms boards. At the start of each game, players get to select a charms focus for their player. These are boards that sit above your dashboard and convey a special ability. For example, if you choose the Healing focus, you gain 2 hearts back if you play an ally on your turn. What’s interesting is that everyone’s charm ability gets more powerful the closer you are to being stunned. That same healing focus will now heal you and your neighbors once you’ve taken 3 points of damage. When you are down to 3 or less life, it heals everyone.
The second part of the expansion, showing up in box 2, are the potion cards. These come with a sideboard and sit out in a queue to be crafted. During a player’s turn, if they hit certain assignments, such as playing 3 spell cards or healing another hero, they can move an ingredient from that assignment row down to a potion in the build queue. Once the potion has all the required ingredients, it’s brewed and can be added to a player’s deck for future use, or banished immediately for a more powerful ability.
Other than that, players can expect to see more locations, villains, encounters, dark arts, and Hogwarts cards to add variety into the mix.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
The Charms and Potions expansion was a tale of two parts for me. I found the charms abilities to be really diverse and interesting, while the potions were a fiddly mess. But let’s tackle these one at a time. First with the good.
One thing that crept up from the Monster Box of Monsters was an increased difficulty in the game. While the core game was fairly easy to win, the Monster Box definitely upped the challenge level. So the Charms expansion might be seen as a course correction for that (this game is aimed at families after all). But even if it wasn’t I found it to be a great addition to the game. There are ten different ones to choose from, allowing you to create some great combos with your character, or even just diversify their skill sets.
And since every charm gets more powerful the more injured your character is, it adds an interesting level of decision making to the game. There might now be times when you don’t want to be healed. For example, the third level of the Memory charm lets you play a value five or less card twice on your turn. That can be really powerful. It can be risky though, as a poorly timed dark arts card can take you out, but for those that like to walk the razor’s edge, you can have a lot of fun here.
But then the potions come up. For me, these just weren’t worth the headache. Players already have a decent amount of overhead on their turn, between checking villain and encounter cards, playing their own cards, using their proficiency, ability, and now charm… it’s just a lot going on. The potions now add five more things you have to track on your turn. Which in itself wouldn’t be horrible if the potions were worth it. But they are not. They are fairly weak cards, even when opting for the banish effect. For example, the Ageing potion lets you gain 1 influence or banish it to give 2 heroes an attack token. Overall their effects are fairly minor and not worth having to track so much stuff.
Fortunately, the contents in this expansion are modular so players can choose what to include and what to dump. For us, we don’t have much desire to use potions again, while charms will be a regular addition to our games.
Finally, I want to talk about the production issues in this expansion. The Hogwarts cards are not the same size as the core game ones. I’m not sure how widespread this issue is, but the ones in my copy clearly stick up in the deck. Also, the dark arts cards have a slightly different color on their backside (being a lighter shade of black), making it somewhat obvious when a new card is coming up. Overall, the quality control of this expansion was a letdown.
If you picked up the Monster Box of Monsters and have been struggling with it, the Charms and Potions expansion might be just what you need to right the ship. The new charms abilities are great and add another level to the gameplay. However, the potions, at least for us, are better left in the box unless you enjoy lots of bookkeeping on your turn.
If you haven’t picked up either expansion yet, there are pluses and minus to both. So if you are looking for something to make the game harder, go with the Monsters Box of Monsters. If you want it to easier, grab the Charms and Potions expansion.
However, between the production issues and that lackluster potions offering, this one can also be safely given a pass if you feel you’ve already got enough Harry Potter Hogwarts Battles content.
• Some serious quality control issues
• Potions are fiddly and not worth the overhead