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Top Trumps is a card game in which the cards contain data and the players must compare values in order to win cards from each other. Top Trumps have been around since the 1970s and cover many different themes. The set that I am reviewing is based on the fifth Harry Potter film, Order of the Phoenix. Each of the 30 cards contains a different character from the film. This game is suitable for any number of players.
How to Play
All the cards are dealt out and each player holds their cards so they can see just the top card. The cards have five values to choose from. In this series the values are magic, cunning, courage, wisdom and temper, which are in keeping with the ethos of the Harry Potter stories. The first player reads out a value from their top card, e.g. 'magic 62'. Each of the other players must then read out the corresponding value from their top card. The player with the highest value wins all the other cards in that round and places them at the bottom of his/her pile. That player then chooses the next value. If at any time two cards share the same value, another round can be played to decide who wins the cards. The winner is the player who has all the cards at the end.
This game is suitable for children from around age 6, but my teenage children still enjoy it. Although it could be said that playing Top Trumps does not involve much skill, it does require children to study and compare numerical data. There is also some reading involved as the cards contain snippets of information about the different characters. However, it is not a complicated game and it is easy to get to grips with the rating system. The sturdy cards come in a neat little plastic container, which makes them portable. They take up very little space and are ideal for taking on car journeys or on holiday. It is certainly an advantage that, no matter how many people there are, they can all join in with this game.
Playing the Game
My children love this game particularly as Voldemort is one of the characters to feature in the cards - and, not surprisingly, he is a very good card to get your hands on. (Voldemort was not included in the Goblet of Fire set of Top Trumps, which my children also own and they found that a disappointing omission.) Voldemort has the same score for magic as Dumbledore, which makes for an exciting contest between these two adversaries.
However, in some cases the values given to the cards seem a little odd. Arabella Figg scores a generous 40 for magic but according to the book she has no magical abilities at all. Neither does the caretaker, Filch (which is why he is such a grump!) yet he scores more for magic than Peter Pettigrew, who hung around with some of the brightest young magicians at Hogwarts, so must've possessed some magic skills. Similarly, my daughter felt that Moody should have had a higher temper score and that Pettigrew was not entirely without courage, albeit a dark, despicable kind of courage. The values attributed to the cards do seem to be a little simplistic as it tends to score 'good' characters more highly than 'bad' ones, but the characters in Harry Potter are not so black and white as that. They are much more complex. Does Voldemort really deserve a score of zero for courage? My daughter didn't think so. Standing up for what you believe in, whether or not it is right in a moral sense, takes courage of sorts.
Although there is a good range of cards in this set, some were notable by their absence. Kingsley Shacklebolt, one of the Aurors at the Ministry of Magic, plays quite a big role in the book and is certainly very powerful. He may have added something. He is certainly more noteworthy than the more obscure Mrs Figg, whose inclusion seems a waste of time. Arthur Weasley also has a significant role in the film and book, so it seems strange that he isn't included. Fred and George (big favourites of my children) were missing also, despite them being involved in that wonderful fireworks scene in the film. My daughter also felt that it was a weakness of the game that there was a single card to represent the Death Eaters as a whole (apart from Belatrix and Lucius who appear separately) when in fact they have such individual traits in the book. She felt that lumping them all together in one card took away the dynamic element and made it seem a bit like "Voldemort and his gang."
The photographs are taken directly from the film and are therefore good quality. However, my daughters didn't particularly like the fact that Snape's card featured a picture of the young Snape from the flashback sequences, rather than the Snape we all know and love. The pictures have a slightly misty quality to them and the cards are a rather drab blue which is not as vibrant and attractive looking as those for The Goblet of Fire, which are a spell book-type red, but they do fit with the mysterious, brooding atmosphere of the film.
You don't just have to play the conventional rules. Sometimes my children vary the rules and play where lowest value wins, which means that some of the minor characters get a chance to wield a bit of power for a change! These cards are full of creative possibilities and my children have made up other games of their own. The cards can inspire story-telling activities. Picking cards at random and making a story up about those characters can be quite good fun.
As a family we have also enjoyed playing a version of Hedbanz with these cards. We each drew a card, displayed it in a makeshift headband (made from a pair of tights!) and asked questions which could only be answered 'yes' or 'no', such as "am I male?" or "am I a teacher?" to try to guess which character we were. You can also test your memory by picking 6 cards or so, studying them for 30 seconds, then getting someone to turn them all face down and see if you can remember them all. You can gradually increase the number of cards to remember to make it harder.
Another possibility is to play a version of matching pairs. My daughter discovered that it is possible to divide the entire pack into linked pairs, which is an interesting challenge. For example, Lily and Petunia can be paired because they are sisters. McGonagall and Snape can be paired because they are heads of Hogwarts houses. This is a fun way of testing your knowledge of the Harry Potter stories as you have to make connections between the different characters and themes. You could also try linking the cards into groups of three or even five. Sorting into sets is of course a useful maths activity for young children.
You could even try putting this set together with the Goblet of Fire set, if you have it, to make a huge game, although that would mean having two of the same characters. It would certainly be a way of passing the time though and it might be a good way to contrast how the values for certain characters change from film to film. For example, you could discover which characters had become more courageous or less cunning as a result of their experiences. Older players could also have fun picking three cards at random and play a version of 'snog, marry, avoid'. The possibilities are endless. That's why these cards are such good value, in my opinion, because there is the potential for so many games from one single pack of cards, if you use your imagination.
Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix Top Trumps can be obtained new from Amazon for £3.99. Used packs cost as little as £0.01.