Have you ever played a board game that was so overly complicated during your first playthrough that it almost completely turned you off from wanting to play it again? This was the unfortunate case of Munchkin Deluxe: Harry Potter. I have played the original Munchkin before, and I never had any struggles understanding the rules and playstyle of the game. However, when we had to choose, we chose the Harry Potter version of the game because of our love of J.K. Rowling’s universe.
Our first playthrough was a disaster. A couple of us became overly frustrated at a lack of understanding the rules and the complexities of the many different cards that affect the gameplay. In fact, we never even finished that first game because of the frustrations that stemmed from the rules and lack of clarifications.
But we weren’t about to give up, and so we picked up the game for a second time a few weeks later. We all had time to reflect on our issues with the game and the clarifications of the rules. We picked up the rules a second time, gave them a read, and started our game. What happened next was glorious.
We had fun, and we’ve played the game several times since then.
Munchkin Deluxe: Harry Potter is for 3-6 players, takes approximately 1-2 hours to play, and is for ages 11 and older.
The base game, Munchkin, is a quirky little game that involves building up a repertoire of weapons, armor, and other items to break down doors in a dungeon, fight monsters, gather loot, and level up to the 10th level. Munchkin Deluxe: Harry Potter follows the exact same premise, but utilizes the Harry Potter universe as the forefront of the contextual flavor for the game.
Setup for the game is actually much simpler than most. Set the board out and randomly choose a card to represent your House. All of the player cards have Houses on both the front and back, so there is a chance that two players will get the same House. The Houses are important because they have special powers or abilities to help you throughout the game. Put the matching cutout for your House crest on the board at level 1. Shuffle the Door Deck, deal four to each player, and put the deck in the correct spot on the board. Shuffle the Treasure Deck, deal four to each player, and place that deck in the correct spot on the board as well. Decide who goes first, and the game begins!
The first player to reach level 10 on the board wins the game!
Before you take your first turn, you can start playing cards from your hand to your side of the board. Here are the types of cards that exist throughout the game:
Items (Armors: Head, Chest, Hand(s), Feet)
Roles are kind of like being a Warrior, Rogue, or Wizard. However, in this case, you can be things like a Quidditch Captain or Head Boy/Girl. The roles all contain bonuses and extras that you can use to help become stronger. You may only have one role at a time unless you have the Dual Role card, which allows you to have two roles. Roles can only be played on your turn.
Allies are cards that you can play to help you in combat. Allies give you bonus attack as well as sometimes a kind of contingent bonus. You may only have one ally on the table at a time unless you have a card or ability that says otherwise. Allies can be played at any time.
Proficiencies are representations of the studies at Hogwarts such as Potions, Herbology, and Charms. Proficiencies are represented by levels. You can have as many proficiencies as you’d like as long as their total level does not exceed your current level in the game. Proficiencies provide extra combat strength and other miscellaneous bonuses. Proficiencies can only be played when outside of combat.
Items fall under several categories. You can only play/equip one of each item type. You can have one headgear, one chest piece, one leg/foot piece, and either two 1-handed items or one 2-handed item. The items usually provide extra combat strength and other random bonuses. Items can only be played outside of combat.
One-Shot cards are cards that can only be played one time and almost always usable during combat only and provide increased strength to either a monster or another player. The card will specify when this can be played.
The main tools used to level up in this game are monsters. Monsters in your hand are only able to be played during the combat of another with a card called, “Wandering Monster” or during a phase called “Looking for Trouble.” Monsters cannot technically be played to your side of the board.
There are random treasures that can help aid you or hinder others. Some of the treasures are cards like, “Go Up a Level” or “Steal a Level.” Follow the text on the card for when and how to play them.
Curses are cards that can be played at any time and hinder or affect your opponents in some way.
Everybody begins at level 1. On your turn, you can start by playing a new Role card, play a new item, or sell items for levels. Playing a new Role card will automatically override any previous Role you have played (unless you have the Dual Role card). You can also play a new item to your side of the table to gain its bonus. You can only have a limited number of gear items based on their slot, but you can play multiple as long as only one is equipped. For instance, if you have two 1-handed items played, you can play another 1-handed item, but you can only have two of them equipped at a time, and you have to decide which items are equipped before any kind of combat. You can also choose to sell items for a total or 1000 gold or more (the gold cost is at the bottom of each item card) as long as the items have already been played to the table. Selling items for 1000 gold sends you up a level. However, you cannot get level 10, the winning condition for the game, by selling items. Any extra gold spent (i.e. you spend 1200 in items), doesn’t provide you with any change.
After you do or do not do any of those things, you flip over a door card from the Door Deck so that everybody can see it. This is called “Unlock the Door.” If the flipped card is a monster, you have to fight it. If it’s not a monster, you can put the card in your hand and then take further steps. I’ll discuss those in a moment.
If you flipped over a monster, it’s time to fight. The first thing to do is to read the text on the monster card because there is almost always an effect that takes place as soon as the monster appears. After resolving the card text, add up all of your combined strength. This includes your current level on the board and any bonuses from your items/proficiencies/allies/roles. Then look at the strength of the monster. If the monster’s combat strength is equal to or greater than your strength, you lose, and you have to run away.
In order to run away, you pick up the small die included in the game and roll it. If you roll a 5 or 6, you get away safely and nothing happens. If you roll a 1-4, check the monster card, and the bottom will contain the “bad stuff.” Resolve the bad stuff and your turn will be over.
However, if you defeat the monster, you automatically move up one level and draw cards from the Treasure Deck equal to the number shown on the very bottom of the monster card. Your turn is now over.
A time will come when your strength isn’t enough to defeat the monster. If that’s the case, you can ask the other players for help. The other players are not required to help you, but if they do, they are not a part of the combat. They can help you by simply adding their total combat strength to yours. They can also help by playing One-Shot cards or other effects. The other players can haggle for part of the treasure or just out of the kindness of their heart. However, other players can also play One-Shots or Curses or even Wandering Monster cards (which allows them to add a second monster and its strength to the original monster) to the monster to strengthen in. Now, if the two players fighting the monster can’t win, they both have to run away from the monster. If both have a high enough combined strength, then they win and gather the treasures as previously discussed.
If you don’t turn over a monster when you Unlock the Door, you add that card to your hand and now you have two different options. You can choose to Loot the Room or you can do Up to No Good. When you Loot the Room, you simply draw another door card and add it to your hand. If you choose to do Up to No Good, you play a monster from your hand to the table and then fight it just like you had drawn it when you did Unlock the Door. Players can interfere and you can ask for help. Combat is basically the same during Up to No Good as if the monster had been drawn when you did Unlock the Door.
If you turn over a Curse card, the effects of the Curse immediately resolves and you suffer any negative (or very rarely positive) effects the curse bestows upon you. You only add a Curse to your hand if you draw it during “Loot the Room.”
At the very end of your turn, you must do the Charity phase. During this phase, if you have more than five cards in your hand, you must either play cards to get down to five or if you cannot or do not want to play any, you have to give your cards to the lowest level player. If there is a tie, you can have to divide the charity cards as evenly as possible, but you decide who gets what. If you are the lowest level player, your cards simply get discarded to the appropriate discard piles.
There are only two other small facets to the game. First, you can trade with other players at the table. You can only trade the items in front of you, and you can trade them at any time as long as you’re not in combat. You can give out items to other players without taking anything back if you’d like as well. Second, you could die. Some card effects cause you to die.
If you die, you lose all of your stuff with the exception of Role, Proficiencies, and level. Once your turn is over, you are considered dead, so you lay out of all of your cards on the table, and in order of the person with the highest level, the other players get to loot the body and take one card of their choice and add it to their hand. Once every player has looted a card, the rest are discarded to the appropriate discard pile. When the next player’s turn starts, you are no longer dead and are considered alive again. When it gets back around to your turn, draw four cards from each of the two decks and play out your turn like it’s the beginning of the game again.
When the first player reaches level 10 via combat (you cannot move up to level 10 by a Go Up a Level card or selling items), that player wins the game!
The original Munchkin can be just as complicated, but tends to be generally easier to understand and implement. We really struggled hard with grasping all of the rules for the Harry Potter version of this game. Thankfully, once we played the game a few times, we started to grasp the concept of the rules and easily adapted to the gameplay. We started playing around with asking for help and bartering for treasures and items. The flavor of Harry Potter is rich in this game, from familiar characters on the monster and allies cards, to the spells and enchantments prevalent throughout.
If you’re a fan of fantasy themed board games and want that theme to reflect Harry Potter, then give this game a try. It’s extremely difficult to grasp (at least it was for us), but occasionally gives us that thrill of delving into the Harry Potter universe. We really do feel like Curse Breakers or Aurors at times, but it’s still just a board game dripping with J.K. Rowling’s world.