Friday 15 November 2013

Review - Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Board Game

Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Board Game

Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Board Game
Published by Mattel
Designed by committee, to ensure all fun was removed
For 3-6 muggles, or something...

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I don't really like Harry Potter. I don't mean the fictional character (although I don't like him either). I mean the books.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm jealous, because the books are massively successful, and JK Rowling is a billion times more successful as an author than I could ever hope to be. But that's not it.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I think JK Rowling is a fantastic author. She got children (and a lot of adults) to pick up books again, and that makes her an amazing person. I think she created a detailed world, filled with interesting characters (real, three-dimensional characters, with story arcs and everything). I just don't think the story she had to tell was all that interesting, and I think it could have been told using fewer words. The books are a little bloated, and there is a lot of "stuff" that I don't feel adds to the story in a meaningful enough way to be included.

And I'm totally jealous.

No, I'm kidding.

Sort of.

But anyway. Long story short: I can appreciate her achievements and her talent, and I am in awe of what she has done for children's books in general. I just don't actually like the books, and that's entirely down to personal taste.

But while I'm not a big fan of the books, what I really can't stand is the franchise. The insufferable movies, with their wooden acting and lifeless special effects, and the toys... Oh, the toys.

And it's not because I'm jeal... You're not buying this, are you?

So, considering my feelings for the Harry Potter franchise, you can imagine my delight when Mrs Never Boring returned from a day at the shops with a copy of Diagon Alley, which she had found in a charity store.

People have divorced for less.

Diagon Alley wizard hat pawns
Nice hat!

But actually, the game didn't look too bad. It had a nicely illustrated board, groovy plastic coins, and cute little wizard hats for pawns. I was intrigued, and as I have made a habit of reviewing out of production board games, of course I had to give it a whirl.

Let me tell you, my entirely adult gaming group was delighted when I dropped this little box of delights on the table.

My leg casts come off next week...

Anyway, apart from a rather nice-looking set of components, and a name that sounds like something HP Lovecraft wrote about, what do you get with Diagon Alley? Basically, you get Monopoly. And I guess that's the point where most people are going to stop reading.

Diagon alley board
The alley... Not a homeless person in sight.

It is Monopoly with bells and whistles, no trading, and extra screwage, but Monopoly immediately sprang to mind when I started playing, and I was never able to shake that feeling of sinking despair.

The aim of the game is to move around the titular alley, popping into different shops as you go, in order to buy all the wizardy things that a wizard needs for wizarding. The alley is circular, and every time you pass the bank, you collect some extra money for your shopping trip.

Diagon Alley money
If I were a rich man... I'd buy better games.

There aren't enough items for everyone, so you have to race to be the first person to buy them.

That sounds exciting, right? Like going to M&S during a sale. But with wizards.

The screwage comes in the form of cards, which you get for landing on certain spaces, or by rolling a special symbol on the custom dice (the custom dice are made with stickers, folks; don't get too excited). The cards are spells that allow you to steal items from other players, close shops to stop them getting items, or otherwise be a bloody nuisance.

Diagon Alley cards
Pick a card, any card. That's magic.

There is also some nonsense about being banished to a different alleyway, which runs around the outside of the board; but it doesn't happen very often, and it isn't very exciting when it does.

So, on your turn, you roll the dice, maybe pick up a card, maybe play a card, move a few spaces, maybe buy an item or get some extra money, and then gently weep as the next person takes his or her turn.

Eventually, someone will gather a full set of six items, and return to the starting space with them. And there will be much rejoicing.

The game lasts almost forever, and is utterly dreadful.


I've reviewed it.

Diagon Alley rules
Photocopy of the rules. That's the danger of shopping in charity stores.

What? You want to know more?

I'm not sure there's really much more to say. It is a very basic roll-and-move type game. It might be good for teaching young children to count, but that's about it. There is no tactical way to play, and who wins will be entirely determined by luck of the dice, and luck of the cards. It isn't even bad in a "so bad it's good" kind of way.

It's just bad. Really boring. And the amount of screwage from the card play might result in younger children getting upset.

Avoid this game.

If you want a game for younger children, there are many better options. This one is for the die-hard Harry Potter fans only.

And did I mention, I'm not one of them?

And I'm not jealous.


  1. To make it really like an M&S sale, there would need to be a combat mechanic and rules for critical injuries.

    1. That would make the game considerably more interesting.


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