WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-6
There have been a number of Cortex games. A geography version, one specifically aimed at children with simpler puzzles. And one just for adults with mature content. But now we have one specifically for fans of Harry Potter. Or, for families that don't mind a coincidental Harry Potter theme. Let's get into it and see how it plays.
Getting this game to the table is very simple. After initially learning the rules that is! There are three types of card in the deck. 74 test cards. six touch cards. And ten raised touch cards. Shuffle the test and touch cards together to form a face down deck. Then lay out the raised touch cards onto the table and give everyone the chance to have a good feel, look, and play with them. This is so people can learn about each card before the game begins. The raised cards have symbols, made famous by the Harry Potter books and films, with a raised and varying pattern on them. Once everyone has had a chance to familiarise themselves with these ten cards, set them aside, give each player the four parts of the Hogwarts crest, and the game can begin.
How To Play
One player will now turn over the first test card. The symbol on the back will tell each player what type of test this will be. There are eight in total. As soon as the top card is flipped, all players are trying to work out the solution at the same time, as quickly as they can. When someone thinks they have the right answer they must place their hand over the card. Fastest hand wins. They must then reveal their answer to the group. If they are correct, they take the card and place it face down in front of them. If they are wrong, the card is discarded and that player is out of the next round. In a two player game, the card is given to the other player. Whenever ever a player collects two cards of the same type, they can exchange this for one of their four Hogwarts crest pieces. The first player to get all four of their pieces together wins the game. All very simple. But what are the four tests?
1. Secret Passages: You must start at the Harry Potter symbol and follow his path into the first door. This door will match another door on the map, where Harry's path will continue into a second door. This second door will match another door on the card which will now lead to a symbol. When you have worked this out, slap your hand down onto the card and say the symbol. If you are right, the card is yours. Let other people check your path afterwards to see if you are right. Or, just slap your hand on the card immediately, and take a guess on one of the symbols as my wife likes to do! She gets lucky more than she is wrong! Above, it is a feather.
2. The Golden Snitch Race. The explanation for this challenge in the rule book is terrible! I had to go onto Instagram to get the answer from a few helpful people there. Thanks @lutz_boardgame.de The way this one works is you need to imagine there are only four people racing on broomsticks. Some may be shown on the card more than once, but that is just showing them from different perspectives. If a blue wizard is beating a green wizard in one picture, but the same blue wizard is losing to a yellow in another, that means the blue is second, the yellow is first, and the green is third. But if in the last picture, a red wizard is beating a yellow, that actually means the yellow is in the lead. Make sense?
Check this one above. Which one do you think is winning? See the bottom of the review for the answer.
3. The Unique Patronus. In this test you will be presented with a number of different animals, all in pairs. All, except one. Find the one animal without a pair first to win this card. Can you spot which one is going solo above?
4. The Wizards Mayhem. In this challenge, you will be presented with a number of different common objects seen in the books and films. They will have a blue, green, or red glow to them. Be careful, as some objects have these colours too and can confused you. Look for the glow colour, not the objects colour.
First, identify which colour glow is shown around the most objects, then memorise the objects with that colour. Slap your hand down first, state the colour with the most objects and then list the objects correctly to win the card. This one is a lot harder than it seems, as often player will slap with the right colour, but cannot then remember the objects. Generally all but one! Above, the most common colour is blue, the feather, ticket, and Hedwig. But you may think red, as there is the book and glasses, and the potion is red, but check again, it is surrounded by a yellow aura. It's just the bottle's contents that is red. Tricky Hobbitss'ss. Sorry, wrong franchise.
5. The Spells Battle. This is the hardest one for children as it needs you to remember your rights and lefts quickly! Something that I noticed even adults struggle with at times. The back of the card will show you the blue always relates to the left, and red to the right. When you flip the card you will see a wand and a spell coming out of the wand. If the wand has a red glow then you must hold up your right hand as if it has a wand in it. If the wand has a blue glow, use your left hand. Then, if the spell has a red glow you must point to the person to your right and say "Cortexum!" If the glow on the spell is blue, do the same nut pointing to the left. It's hilarious how often people get this one wrong. It's also a lot of fun to see who is pointing the right way with the right hand or not!
6. Hogwarts Houses. This is a simple game of spot the difference. You will be presented with three seemingly matching house crest's of one of the four leaders of Hogwarts. However, there will be one subtle difference on one of them. Spot this first to win the card. This is the weakest of the eight challenges as you will quickly learn what the differences are and be able to spot them from memory rather than observation within a few games or so. This obviously gives a massive advantage to anyone who has played the game more than others. There are only 74 normal test cards. That's roughly ten cards per tests. There are four houses in Hogwarts so only a couple of cards for each house. You will easily remember what is different for each. Especially obviously ones like above. They either needed more cards. Or just one House type for each one, so it was not so easy to spot the change.
7. The Magic Circle. The back of this card will show a number of symbols. When you flip the card you need to spot which symbol has either been added or removed. Quickest to spot this correctly wins the card. See the extra symbol above? It's a lot easier when one is added like this. When one is removed, it can be a lot harder for your first few games.
8. The Raised Touch Challenge. This is the most fun part of the game. When you see one of the six finger print test cards, you must as a group, decide which one of the ten raised touch cards to give to the person who most recently won a challenge. Give them one of the cards so that they can feel it, but not see the front. They then have ten seconds to touch the card and try to correctly identify the symbol. It is surprisingly hard to do this. It is a lot of fun to watch others try. It's a shame this comes up so infrequently in the game. These cards are the star of the show, both in looks and gameplay.
Is It Fun?
Playing this game is a riot. It has quickly become a family favourite for us. My children (Ten and Seven) have asked to play it every evening since we got this, and my wife and I are only happy to oblige. It is a delight to be faced by these eight challenges. In a game that typically lasts' 20 minutes, and has this many varying tests, it feels fresh each time they come up. People cheer or boo when the one they need to make a match with comes up, or not! And each challenge offers a different test of your brain. Memory, matching, colour identification, or problem solving. They all feel quite different, exciting, and consistently challenging. Bar the Hogwarts houses one.
The difficulty level seems to favour older players at first. But I found as my children got to understand the game more, they were able to win more than they lost. I would put this firmly in the family game category, but could see this being fun for a group of adults after one or two Butter Beers!
The raised touch cards are the highlight. They look great. Are fun to touch. And it is a lot of fun to watch other players trying to identify an image, which to you looks and seems so obvious. We end every game by challenging each player to see who can identify the most, trying each of the ten cards in turn. Even after about seven tries each, we still only score around seven or eight out of ten. That pesky Quidditch Cup gets me every time!
I would recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the franchise, and is looking for a fast, fun, family friendly game to play after dinner with their children. This ticks all those boxes, and will offer a lot of life for many games to come. It's a shame the rule book explains the Quidditch Golden Snitch race so poorly, and that the spot the differences on the Hogwarts Houses is so easy to remember. But other than that, this is a brilliant little family game I will treasure for many years to come.
It was red!