There have been lots of Harry Potter related games for kids, but not as many games for those earlier Harry Potter fans who have grown up and want something a touch more complex. USAopoly has answered that gaming need with their recently released Death Eaters Rising and I was lucky enough to get a change to review a copy.
What is Death Eaters Rising?
Death Eaters Rising is a cooperative game set during the Second Wizarding War of the Harry Potter books. It’s designed for 2-4 players ages 11+ and takes about 60 minutes to play. The game has a MSRP of $49.95.
Death Eaters Rising Components
As can be expected for a game in the $50 price range, Death Eaters Rising contains a large number of components which are as follows:
- 44 Character Cards (33 Hero Cards, 10 Death Eater Cards, 1 Lord Voldemort Card)
- 1 Lord Voldemort Figure
- 1 Location Board with 3 Interlocking Pieces
- 6 Headquarters Cards (3 Affiliations with 2 Cards Each)
- 1 Large Villain Card
- 6 Mission Tokens
- 6 Place Cards
- 14 Wizard Dice
- 1 8-sided Voldemort Die
- 24 Spell Tokens
- 60 Damage Counters
- 15 Corruption Counters
The components are what I would expect from a game of this price. The cards are playing card thickness and the art is based off of the Harry Potter movies. Symbols and color coding make it helpful to tell the cards apart. The tokens are a thick cardboard but designed so that it’s quick to separate them out based on size and colors. The dice and counters are plastic, but nicely designed with unique symbols or designs that help you tell pieces apart. Games with lots of cards and token can be overwhelming to sort, but I felt this game did a good job with keeping those pieces distinct enough in design that it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it could be. The Location Board is a decently sturdy cardboard and pops together quite easily. The Voldemort figure is decently sized and sculpted pretty nicely so you can clearly recognize who he’s supposed to be.
How to Play Death Eaters Rising
The goal of Death Eaters Rising is to cooperatively defeat Lord Voldemort without loosing too many Wizards or having too many Locations “Corrupted.” This is done by recruiting Wizards from such groups as the Hogwarts Staff, Dumbledore’s Army, and the Order of the Phoenix in order to fight the Death Eaters until the chance to fight Lord Voldemort himself comes up.
Setting up this game was something I anticipated to be trickier than it was. Make sure you follow the directions and you should be fine, but note that a younger fan who is super excited may struggle to with the time it takes and want to start grabbing cards of beloved characters before you can sort out what’s going on. For this reason, if you are playing with kids and can read the Rule Book before starting the game, I would highly recommend it. I would also like to note that the Rule Book does do a good job of showing diagrams and examples to help sort out gameplay.
Do the following steps to get the game ready to play:
- Set the 3 Location Game Board pieces together and set the Lord Voldemort Figure on a random spot so that it’s clear which section his wand is pointing at. Each section of board has a space for the Place Cards. It does not matter which Place Card is on top, but the Cards should match (so one spot holds the Hogsmede Cards, the other Ministry of Magic Cards, the last spot the Diagon Alley Cards).
- The Spell Tokens go face down in a pile and the Corruption and Damage Counters go where they are accessible to players.
- Each Player picks an Affiliation Card with matching Mission Token (Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army, Hogwarts) and a Starting Character that corresponds (Starting Characters are marked as such and include Sirius Black, Nymphadora Tonks, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, and Minerva McGonagall). Two players may have the same affiliation.
- Set the Lord Voldemort Card aside and shuffle all the Hero Cards (including the not chosen Starting Characters) and Death Eater Cards together. Place 3 Character Cards next to each Location and then stick the Lord Voldemort Card randomly in the middle of the deck.
- Place the Villain Card where it can be accessed with space next to each side for defeated Heroes, Death Eaters, and Corrupted Places.
You are now ready to begin the game.
Gameplay for Death Eaters Rising is complex enough that I would be hesitant to recommend it for a group made up only of casual gamers. Given the popularity of the Wizarding World as a franchise, I think the concept of the game will appeal to those who are usually more casual gamers and kids under the recommended playing age. You should still be able to play with these types of players, but you probably want at least one more experienced gamer guiding things. The Player who has most recently watched a Harry Potter movie goes first according to the rules, but I would actually recommend the most experienced cooperative gamer in the group goes first so less experienced board game players get a feel for what to do. Play then moves from Player to Player clockwise in rounds.
A game round for a player consists of the following actions:
Travel to a Location
A Player picks one of the three Locations and moves their Mission Token to that spot. During their turn, the Player interacts with the 3 Characters present, the Place in the Location, and the Wizards on their Team (A Team is all Wizards that a player has recruited, not the other Players).
Lord Voldemort and Death Eater Actions
Now the Voldemort Die gets rolled. An “L” roll makes Lord Voldemort rotate to the Location to his left. A “R” roll makes him rotate to the location to his right. A Dark Mark makes him remain where he is. Lord Voldemort attacks each Wizard in his location including those on the Team of any Player in the Location. Next, a Corruption Marker is added to the Place Card. Any Death Eaters in the Location get to preform the action on their Card which usually Damages Wizards or adds Corruption. If a Dark Mark was rolled, all Death Eaters get to preform an action starting with the Location Lord Voldemort is in and then each Location clockwise. Some Death Eaters have special Dark Mark actions too.
Now the Wizards get their chance to fight back. The Active Player rolls the Wizard Dice indicated on their Affiliation Card as well as any extra dice based on the Wizards they have recruited or Spell Tokens they want to use. Players are limited to the dice available and cannot roll past that number or substitute other dice. With the dice rolled, the player must look at the Trait symbols that were rolled and decide if they will use these dice to activate an ability, recruit a Wizard, or fight a Death Eater/Voldemort. At least 1 die must be assigned to a purpose (it cannot be changed) and then the Player may reroll the remaining unassigned dice. As soon as the Player has the correct dice for an action, they may take it.
A Player’s turn ends when they have used or forfeited (cannot assign) all their dice. Any recruited Wizards have their Damage Counters removed and are added to the Player’s Team. Any defeated Death Eaters are moved to the Villain Card and for every point of Damage the Active Player gave them, the Player receives a Spell Token. Any Wizards defeated are moved to the Villain Card as well and are now out of play. Character Cards are now added to the Location to replace those removed by recruitment or defeat. Any Place Cards filled with Corruption are also moved to the Villain Card.
There are also some additional game rules that come into play.
Each Wizard or Death Eater has a certain amount of Damage they can take as indicated by boxes on the right side of their card. There are abilities that may heal Characters. A Character cannot take more Damage than indicated by the Card, but at the end of a Player turn all Character with all their Damage boxes filled go next to the Villain Card in either the Azkaban (Death Eater) or Infirmary (Wizard) pile.
Each Wizard has a special ability indicated on their Card. Some of these abilities are automatic and some might requite spending dice with matching Traits rolled. The abilities that require spending dice may be used once per Player turn. If an ability is tied to a Location, they can be used on either Place connected to that Location.
Each Player gets certain abilities based on their Affiliation that can be activated once per Player turn with the correct dice. The abilities are indicated on the Affiliation Card.
Death Eaters are attacked by assigning dice with the correct Trait symbols rolled. Dice can only be assigned to each Death Eater once per Player turn, but other abilities may damage them further. For each Damage point a Player adds, they receive a Spell Token. Death Eaters with their Damage boxes all filled at the End of a Player turn go to the Azkaban section of the Villain Card. Death Eater abilities that require Players to add Damage to the most or least Damaged Wizard on a Team apply to all Wizards tied in that position.
Every time a Player Damages a Death Eater, they receive a Spell Token. They can be used during any Player’s turn after the Voldemort/Death Eater actions are resolved so Players can assist other Players with their Spell Tokens. Once used, the Spell Tokens are discarded face up. If all the Spell Tokens get used, turn them face down and mix them up again.
As part of Lord Voldemort’s actions, a Place Card gets a Corruption Token added. The counters cannot exceed the number of spaces, but any Place Card that is filled at the end of a Player Turn becomes a Corrupted Place and is placed beside the Villain Card. Corrupted Places have extra abilities that activate with a Dark Mark roll. If both Places in a Location or 4 Places total are Corrupted, the Players lose. Some Affiliation and Character abilities can remove Corruption from a Place.
When the Lord Voldemort Card is revealed, it is placed on its designated space on the Villain Card. He can now be attacked by any Player in the same Location as him determined by the Voldemort Figure. Lord Voldemort can only be Damaged once for every Death Eater that has been placed in Azkaban. An Active Player who wants to attack Lord Voldemort when they are in a different Location may sacrifice a Wizard Die of their choice from their Dice pool for the turn to relocate and fight him as long as they make this choice before they start rolling. Lord Voldemort does not count as a Death Eater when resolving Character or Place abilities but a Player who Damages him is rewarded a Spell Token.
Players can chose to set Lord Voldermort’s Damage at 4 for an easier game or 6 for a harder game.
The Players all win or lose together. If Lord Voldemort is defeated, the Players win. If any of the following scenarios happen, the Players all lose:
- Too many Wizards Defeated (8 in a 2 Player Game, 10 in a 3 Player Game, or 12 in a 4 Player Game).
- Any Player has their entire Team Defeated with no remaining Wizards left.
- Four or more Places are Corrupted.
- Any one Location has both of its associated Places Corrupted.
Why You Should Play Death Eaters Rising
Any board game loving Harry Potter fan will want to check this out. Overall, it feels like a game true to the spirit of the series and the idea of recruiting Wizards to fight Death Eaters and Voldemort is spot on for the events of the later books. It’s a solid use of source material to create a game that makes sense.
The components are exactly what I would expect quality wise for a game of this price range. I really liked how size, colors, and symbols made the different components easier to differentiate which really helps in setting the game up. The artwork is based off of the movie actors which book purists may not be big on, but as these actors are very closely linked to the characters, it does make everyone highly recognizable.
The game is recommended for ages 11+ which seems fairish. I am not sure a group of casual 11 year old gamers could easily sort out this game. If those kids are the kind of gamers who have a few years of cooperative board games under their belt, that’s a different story. Similarly, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you just grab this game for that casual board gamer who loves Harry Potter. However, an experienced gamer should be able to pull in their kids and casual gaming friends by guiding them through how to play a game. Once you get going, the mechanics of a round isn’t too hard to catch onto. It’s the strategy that creates the challenge. You can probably pull in your kids younger than the recommended age because the cooperative nature lets you help them more. They just have to be able to understand things like while they might love Hagrid to pieces, recruiting him might not be the most strategic move on their turn. Players that are a bit too young but love Harry Potter might just enjoy being included if you let them handle things like Damage and Corruption Counters etc.
The actual gameplay hits that sweet spot balance between luck, strategy, and round actions that are easy to pick up on. The rounds themselves don’t have a ridiculous amount of steps so understanding how a turn works doesn’t take too long, but it is involved enough that you want to make a good read of the directions before your first play. The rest of the game is a careful balance of luck and strategy. Where Lord Voldemort ends up can really impact a round, especially if the Players keep rolling Dark Marks (been there, done that, and it did not end well for the Wizarding World). Which Character Cards end up where can also make a huge difference on how difficult or easy things will be. Strategy lovers will have enough to keep themselves engaged, though. Certain dice have better odds of rolling certain Traits, and the ways Character Abilities interact with each other does add a layer of complexity. Keeping track of which Wizards to recruit before they are defeated, and which Traits you are more likely to roll is going to to take some thought, as is how to assign those Traits when they’re rolled. With several ways the Players can lose, the game is trickier than it looks, but a fun enough concept that you’re really going to want to get to the point where the Voldemort Card turns up. The cooperative nature of this game will help with more casual players who might feel overwhelmed at playing against experienced board game players because the point of the game is that you are all fighting Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters together. Since you never know what Character Cards are coming up, or dice are rerolling, the game does have solid replayability and the variation rules will help you set the game where it makes the most sense for your group.
The game has a MSRP of $49.95, which I feel is well worth it given the components number and quality, the complexity level of gameplay, and the solid job it does of representing the events of the books. Given the popularity of Harry Potter, there is a very good change your local gaming store will carry it. If not, Amazon sells it for $46.25 or you may wish to keep an eye out for it at places like BoxLunch which have often started to carry fandom based board games and may have site-wide sales or loyalty cash that you can use towards buying your copy. I would certainly recommend it as a holiday gift for a Harry Potter loving board gamer in your life.