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The set of Top Trumps that I am reviewing is based on the fourth Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Each of the 30 cards represents a character from the film and contains a photograph of that character plus a snippet of information about them. This game is suitable for any number of players.
How to Play
Please feel free to skip this paragraph if you already know the rules of Top Trumps. Top Trumps is a game in which each card contains a set of data and values. The player who produces the card with the highest value wins the cards of the other players. 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 spirit of the Harry Potter stories. The first player reads out a value from their top card, e.g. 'courage 25'. 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 and upwards. It is quite a simple game to grasp and does not require a great amount of skill, although it provides an opportunity for youngsters to study and compare numerical data. There is a limited amount of reading involved, but the information printed on the cards may motivate reluctant readers who want to learn what is being said about their favourite characters.
The 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 there is no limit to the number of people who can join in with this game, so nobody has to feel left out.
Our experience of playing the game
One of the interesting things about this game is that there is a good mix of old and new characters. My daughters were surprised and pleased to see the inclusion of the Hungarian Horntail, the dragon that Harry fights in the film.
The range of values not only is in keeping with the ethos of the books, but it also means that even those characters who aren't valuable for their magical abilities can win in other categories. For instance, Crabbe and Goyle are hopeless at magic but they have high temper scores. For a bit of variety, sometimes my children like to adapt the rules so that the lowest value wins, which means that characters like Crabbe and Goyle whose magic scores are atrocious can become two of the best cards in the set! It can also be rather amusing to watch the usually powerful Dumbledore losing consistently to minor characters and it means it isn't too depressing to find the Patil twins in your hand, which are otherwise pretty rubbish cards to have.
The absence of Voldemort from this set is a big disadvantage. It is the contest between Voldemort and Dumbledore that makes the Order of the Phoenix a much more exciting Top Trumps game to play.
Generally speaking, the cards stay loyal to the original characterisations from the film, but some of the values seem a bit inaccurate. For example, why should Barty Crouch Jr have zero for courage when he actually poses as a teacher for a whole term in a school where he is supposed to be dead, knowing what the penalty will be if he is caught?
The cards do seem to simplify the idea that the 'bad' characters are all snivelling and low and devoid of courage, when it never seems so black and white in the books. Snape's courage score is also quite low here which, given what we learn from a later film in the series, seems very inappropriate, but at the time The Goblet of Fire was released it would have been impossible to give Snape a higher courage score without giving away a major spoiler. Dumbledore's low score for temper seems inaccurate too as there is a part in the film when he loses it on finding out that Moody isn't the real Moody. My daughter felt that Fred and George deserved higher cunning scores due to their propensity for practical joking.
Certain characters that are included seem to add very little. Gabrielle Delacour (Fleur's little sister) has such a low-key role in the film that there is little to be gained by her inclusion. It would have made more sense to have Wormtail instead or the wonderful Moaning Myrtle. Having minor characters in addition to the more significant characters does make the game feel balanced but some characters are definitely more minor than others and a bit on the boring side. It seems that the manufacturers didn't just want to provide the same cards from all the other Harry Potter Top Trumps sets and were keen to introduce new characters as well, but sometimes this is at the expense of excitement and drama.
The cards are very attractive. They are sturdy and unlikely to tear. They are a deep red colour, which reminds me of an old spell book, with a shiny finish and glittery, golden font. Just looking at them makes you think of magic.
In addition to playing by the conventional rules, these cards can be enjoyed in other ways. My children have made up a lot of games of their own, which range from story-telling activities to 'snog, marry, avoid' type games.
They like memory games and 'Which character am I?' games where you place a card in your head band (usually made from a pair of tights) and have to guess who the character is by asking questions which can only be answered 'yes' or 'no.'
As I mentioned, sometimes we like to change the rules and play it so the lowest value wins, which means that some of the minor characters experience the taste of power for a change!
My children used to enjoy challenging each other to try to divide the entire pack into linked pairs. It's a great way to test your knowledge of the Harry Potter stories as you have to make connections between different characters. You could also try linking them into groups of three or even five. Sorting into sets is of course a useful mathematical activity for young children.
If you have another set of Top Trumps from the Harry Potter series, such as The Order of the Phoenix, you could try putting all the cards together to make a marathon of a game. It might be a bit strange to have two cards of the same character, but it would be interesting to see if the values for those characters had changed from one film to the next. For example, you could find out which ones become more courageous, less cunning etc as a result of their experiences.
This set is a little pricey on Amazon. It can be obtained new from sellers for £12.95, which seems a bit steep for Top Trumps. Used copies from sellers at Amazon are priced at around £2.20. I imagine it is worth looking on eBay. These cards are lots of fun, despite the absence of Voldemort and have certainly been well-used at our house.