One of the first games we picked up before starting our more expansive board game collection was a dice rolling cooperative game themed around the new Fantastic Beasts movies in the Harry Potter universe. We had absolutely zero knowledge of the gameplay when we bought it. Instead, we focused entirely on the aspect that it was a Harry Potter themed game. The outcome was one of pleasant surprise.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Fantastic Beasts movies, the stories revolve around Newt Scamander, the main protagonist. He is a Magizoologist (kind of like a real life zookeeper but focuses on magical creatures in the Harry Potter universe). Newt carries a magical briefcase that actually contains an entire environmental world within filled with magical creatures. In the first Fantastic Beasts movie, some of his creatures escape from the briefcase in New York, and Newt has to round them up and stop any mayhem from happening.
Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuits (FBPP) follows the same premise as the players work together to round up creatures that escaped from Newt’s briefcase. The recommended playing age of the game is eight years or older, the average gameplay time is around 45 minutes, and it is for two to four players.
Unlike most board games, FBPP is a cooperative game where all of the players either win or lose together. The game pieces are relatively sparse, but the few pieces that do exist are high quality and well made.
You can choose to play one of the main characters from the films. The choices are Newt, Jacob, Queenie, or Tina. Each one has its own special focus, but all of the characters follow the same play style and overall goal to win the game.
The beasts are chosen randomly by shuffling them and placing them face down in the middle of the play area. There are levels of beasts based on difficulty. For a standard game, players will choose the following: 1 level 1 beast, 1 level 2 beast, 3 level 3 beasts. For harder difficulties, you can add on extra level 3 beasts. With our experience in the game, we like to try and do every single beast that came with the game. We have yet to succeed in capturing every single beast, but we’re still trying!
On your turn, you roll all of the dice (a total of five black die and one special green die). The point of the game is to try and ready the skills on your board by keeping dice and rerolling up to two more times. Think of it like a game of Yahtzee where you keep certain die to try and match those rolls. Those skills correlate to actions on the player board.
Each character has a player board that contains different actions. The actions are as follows:
The Protect action is in the shape of a shield. If you get shields, you can keep yourself from losing life when the beast starts their turn. Those shields are sacrificed in place of losing hit points. You start with 10 hit points.
Each beast has a path with a starting location. The point of the game is to roll captures and move the beast closer to the briefcase. By filling out the Capture 1 action space on your board, you can successfully move the beast closer to being captured by one space.
When your turn finishes, the beast then rolls the number of dice listed on the beast card. By activating Distract on your board, you remove the number of dice the beast has to roll on its turn based on how many Distracts you activate.
The game has small cards that you use on your turn with varying effects. Some effects add on to your roll, take away from the beast roll, or give you bonus symbols to help try and match a set in your dice roll. By activating the Insight spot on your board, you can draw an Insight card.
Much like Capture 1, this space moves the beast three spaces closer to the briefcase instead of one.
On your turn, you roll the dice and try to match spots on your board to start activating the skills. Each skill requires a different number of dice to be rolled on your turn. Each character has varying numbers required based on the skill and the specialty of the character. Tina only requires one shield to ready her Protect ability. She then requires one additional shield to make the skill an active skill. Then, once you have readied it, made it active, now you can start rolling shields in order to gain them. In contrast, Jacob requires THREE shields to ready it, then one to make it active. Each character is different.
Once you’ve rolled your dice and figured out the result of your roll, you now have to roll for the beast. Roll the appropriate number of dice for the beast and resolve the dice. The beast can move further away from the briefcase, attack the player, or use its special ability that hinders the players in some way.
Once you are done, you pass the dice to the next person and play continues. If you capture the beast, you turn it over and gain any special resources or abilities for capturing it. If the beast runs away, you lose progress, lose activated skills, and move forward. If you capture all of the beasts, everybody wins. If two or more beasts escape, everybody loses. If one player drops to 0 health, everybody loses.
The game adds more complexity by allowing players to give a rolled die to an ally during the rolling player’s turn, puts restrictions on how many of each action can be taken each turn, and the special green die can cause major problems during each player’s turn.
Overall, it’s a fun game that requires quite a bit of dice rolling luck and some fun strategy based on which character you’re playing and how much the players enjoy the Harry Potter universe. Don’t pick up this game and expect a deeply involved game of intense strategy and non-stop action. Instead, enjoy the cooperative experience of rolling dice and working together to stop the onslaught of magical beasts throughout New York City.