As of last year, there are human beings of U.S. drinking age who have never existed in a world without Harry Potter. My six-year-old nephew hasn’t even lived in a world where all the Harry Potter movies have been released. J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World is part of the pop-culture furniture, a newish with only a couple of small stains sitting next to the faceted Star Wars table lamps and the overstuffed Lord of the Rings sectional.
It’s only fitting that Harry Potter board games continue to pile up on the rec room closet. With friends and family, I recently tried a couple of new family offerings from Pressman: Harry Potter Magical Beasts and the Harry Potter Tri-Wizard Maze Game.
Magical Beasts, recommended for ages eight and up, is the more novel of the two. Your favorite Gryffindors (Harry, Hermione, Ron, and a somber-looking Ginny) are on the hunt for a mysterious beast, prowling the Hogwarts castle and grounds. They don’t have Newt Scamander to help them, but they do have key cards that help them discern when their clues add up to an actual magical beast.
As you roll a die and move your piece across the board collecting clues, you’re always at risk of the unique three-panel board flipping from interior to exterior or vice versa. If you’re not positioned on a portal that will transport you safely from one milieu to another, you get nailed and have to surrender a clue to a competitor.
I thought the design was clever, and I appreciated that it’s kind of like Clue but without pencils (only clues you actually have in hand count towards a solution, so there’s no need to keep notes). The two adults I played it with, though, were more than ready to be done playing after a single session. As serious Potter fans, they were disappointed that the board’s various locations (house common rooms and the like) functioned largely as window dressing. Save this one for the kids.
That’s what I did with Tri-Wizard Maze, which is basically Trouble with a twist. The twist is a deck of cards that each player draws when they land on designated spaces; each card references an aspect of the tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, imposing consequences alternately positive or negative. (“Blind a dragon with the conjunctivitis curse: move forward two spaces.”)
I played with the aforementioned nephew and my nine-year-old niece, both of whom were excited by the Wizarding World references they caught. All three of us found the game fast-paced and engaging…I’m going to go ahead and say, way better than regular old Trouble. “That was really fun,” said my nephew after he prevailed as Harry Potter in our first game.
Despite being edged out by me, as Fleur Delacour, my niece agreed after our second game. “That’s a good game.” There you have it, muggles.