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Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising

Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising is part of The Op’s (USAopoly) Rising line of games that began with Thanos Rising. Does it do its theme justice?

This is a two-to-four player cooperative game in which you attempt to recruit a team of wizards and witches to defeat Voldemort and stop his spread of power and corruption.

Gameplay

The circular board is placed in the center of the table and the Voldemort figurine is placed in the center of the board, facing one of the board’s three locations. Each location consists of the base location and two location cards. Each player chooses one of three affiliations (each affiliation has a different set of four starting dice and two special abilities) and chooses a starting player. This represents your personal team. During the game you will recruit more characters to your team. Different characters will have different abilities or may add to the dice you roll on your turn. While you have your own personal team of wizards in the game, Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising is a purely cooperative game, and all players are working together.

The character cards are then shuffled and three are dealt to each of the three locations. Cards in the character deck are either wizard (the good guys) or Death Eaters (the enemies). The Voldemort character card is then placed halfway through the character deck and the game begins.

On your turn you choose one of the three locations to travel to. You then roll the Voldemort die. This determines if he moves to the location left or right of him, or stays where he is. A damage token is then placed on each wizard character at his location, and a corruption token on its location card. If he is on the location that the active player traveled to, then each wizard in the active player’s team receives a damage token as well. Any Death Eaters present at Voldemort’s location activate and perform their ability (this often involves adding extra damage to wizards). If Voldemort did not move but remained at his current location, the Death Eaters at all other locations will also trigger. You then check the top location card at each location. If all the corruption spaces on a location card are filled you remove the card and apply its negative ability for the turn.

Next you roll all your dice. You may assign dice to any character card at your current location or to either of your affiliation’s abilities or to any wizard on your team with a special ability that needs a specific dice result to activate. You must assign at least one die or discard one die, you may then reroll all unassigned or not discarded dice. You keep doing this until all dice have been used.

If you match all the symbols on a wizard card, you remove all damage tokens from that card and add the wizard to your team. If you match all the symbols on a Death Eater card, you place one damage token on it and draw a spell token (spell tokens can be spent on any player’s turn and provide helpful bonuses, such as giving you a specific result or removing damage). If you match the results for an ability at any point during your turn, you may perform that ability at once. You may only perform each ability once on your turn and may only inflict one damage on each Death Eater (unless an ability changes this fact).

At the end of your turn, any wizard whose damage tracker is full is then discarded, as is any Death Eater whose damage tracker is full. Next, character cards are drawn to replace any discarded cards or wizards who you recruited to your team. Any dice still assigned to cards are taken back. You cannot leave a die on a card for your next turn.

Players win once the Voldemort character card is drawn and they have defeated him; there are, however, special rules for fighting Voldemort. Your team must travel to his location in order to attack him. If he moves away from your location on your turn, you may discard one die from your dice pool in order to move to him. You can also not inflict more damage than the number of Death Eaters that have been defeated. Since he has five points of health, this means you must defeat five Death Eaters before you can defeat him and win the game.

Players lose the game if any player ever loses all the wizards on their team, if a certain number of wizards are discarded, four location cards are corrupted, or if any one location is completely corrupted (both of its cards and the base location itself).

Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising Components

Review

Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising offers the perfect level of challenge: dice rolls and card draws can make the game quite difficult and throw off your plans, and you will probably lose slightly more times than you win, but the game never feels impossible. It requires planning and a bit of luck, and it’s satisfying when you do pull off a victory.

The game has a great table presence with its Voldemort figurine. The other components are also of great quality, particularly the dice that are quite attractive and fun to roll. It’s a lovely game to look at and does a great job of attractively presenting its theme.

Harry Potter is, of course, hugely popular, which makes for an accessible theme that can attract more players to the game, and interest people in giving it a try who might otherwise not be. Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising also does a good job of capturing the theme in its gameplay. You really want to defeat Voldemort and he does feel like a threat, while his imposing game piece helps to make him feel menacing.

The gameplay itself is in general pretty easy to grasp: you’re rolling dice, matching symbols, and applying abilities from the cards you collect. There are a lot of little things to track each turn, however, as you collect your dice, reference your team's abilities, move Voldemort, and apply damage and corruption tokens. You are also doing a lot of reading of card abilities, particularly at the start of the game, checking the text on all the drawn character cards. This can also slow down game time.

Building your team is quite satisfying, however, and gives a good sense of escalation to the game as you slowly become more powerful and effective. The cards you recruit also ensure that each player’s team has its own strengths and weaknesses, which makes planning your moves even more interesting and can often lead to certain push-your-luck situations. "This location is in danger now, but my odds of rolling what we need at this other place are better. Do we hope Voldemort doesn’t move there this turn or should I go there and hope I get lucky?" The game may often hinge on the roll of the dice, but there are plenty of opportunities to play the odds and make strategic decisions based on what is available to you, to keep the game from feeling like sheer luck.

Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising is a fun cooperative experience, with a beloved theme that it does justice to. While not strictly a casual game, it is not too complex or difficult to learn and families with older children or teens can certainly enjoy it as well. It is both challenging and satisfying and makes for a great game night.

Pros: Quality components, fun and loved theme, building your team up is satisfying and provides good game escalation

Cons: Several elements to manage between turns, lots of card reading can increase downtime

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.