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     " Pleasantly enough this does actually allow for deep strategy as there are several different card types but also has a simple enough premise that every kid I talked to whose played it had no trouble grasping the rules. "

      Title: Harry Potter: The Trading Card Game by Wizards of the Coast

      Format: Harry Potter game for…Um…Card playing?

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: Last year Entertainment Weekly said that the person(s) who control the Harry Potter property were, by default, the most powerful people in the entertainment business. While I try hard not to agree, I can certainly see there point- and so can Wizards of the Coast. Thus, the by the people that started it all, comes Harry Potter roaring to a table top near you.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Playability: Despite the huge number of late teens and adults who read the Potter books, let's face the fact that it really is designed for kids. That being said, I approached playing the card game with a certain amount of trepidation. Sure, it's a cute concept but it's also very adolescently oriented- and the last thing in the world I wanted was to play another dumbed down kids game. So I let out a shudder and a large sigh of resignation as I opened the game up and prepared to slog my way through the hands on playing portion of reviewing as fast as possible.
          What I found instead, however, was a surprising mix of adult strategy and streamlined gameplay. Certainly make no bones about it, this game is definitely designed around the youth player (one need only think of the Pokemon leagues that were so common to realize why Wizards would want to hit them) but, unlike so many other kids games, manages to stay intriguing to even the most veteran card gamer.
          The premise, simply enough, is that you are both students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who are having a friendly little impromptu duel between classes. You step up to the plate, demonstrate your best and brightest magic, and then the both of you skip merrily off to class (which is a concept that should please parents and kids alike). To do this you wage cards of a variety of types against your opponent who will lose cards from their deck if they can't defend. The loser is the one who runs out of cards in their deck first (no one dies or is killed).
          To veteran gamers these concepts will sound very familiar- and there isn't much here that would surprise you. Really, the only major difference between this and other run-down-the-deck systems is the lack of "tapping" or other forms of card maintenance. This system, simply enough, allows any card in play to act and gives players a very straight forward "play, draw, or pass" option on their turn. Pleasantly enough this does actually allow for deep strategy as there are several different card types but also has a simple enough premise that every kid I talked to whose played it had no trouble grasping the rules. 4 out of 5

      Aesthetics: Wizards invented the beautiful playing card and they stay right on course here. Bright, colorful painted cards depict the items and beasties given- which all should be familiar to readers of the books. My only gripe is the relatively small amount of space on each card the illustration occupies- but at least it makes reading the text easier. 4 out of 5

      Balance: My only real gripe with the game, Harry Potter- as with most TCG/CCGs, becomes a "best card from the booster pack" hording game. The starter is certainly balanced and fun to play, but several of the card types aren't even included in it- so accumulation of power through future expenditure is a must if you have any desire to play it long term. And, as many of you know, that is a concept that drives me nuts. 2.5 out of 5

      Value vs. Cost: Good and bad news here, monkeys. On the plus side, a 2 player starter ranks in at an incredibly reasonable 10 bucks so getting you started won't be a problem. However, on the down side, the boosters- which are vital for longevity but only contain 11 cards, are near 4 bucks a piece! What? Can that possibly be right? Do they really expect us to shell out 40 cents a card? Well, no. They don't expect you and I to, fellow monkey. It's those poor sods with kids that will be caught by this one. 3 out of 5.

      The Verdict:

       All in all, Harry Potter ends up being a card game that should well bridge the gap between parents/older siblings and younger kids. It is, to coin the phrase, "Fun for all ages" and- if you can get past the booster price, is a good choice for any gamer who enjoys the series.

      The Good: Great art on nice, easy to play with cards.

      The Bad: 4 bucks a booster! Ouch!

      The Overall Ugly: If you're on the fence about getting it, I say go for it.

      What it's Worth: Market for starters…Look for the boosters on sale.

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