ICv2 Stars: 3.5 (out of 5)
Posted by William Niebling on June 6, 2019 @ 11:41 am CT
Publisher: White Wizard Games
Release Date: June, 2019
Game Designer(s): Peter Scholtz with Robert Dougherty & Darwin Kastle
Format: Board Game
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Product #: WWG700
Age Rating: 14+
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
I am always intrigued by games that combine a variety of elements together: card games that use dice, any game that embraces role playing elements, games that manage to be both strategic and social. From this crossing of genres great creativity may emerge. So, I was excited to hear about White Wizard’s Sorcerer, which seemed to offer so much potential in this regard. But does it deliver?
Summary: In Sorcerer, each player is an "evil" magician determined to control Victorian London. To assist them, they have a band of minions drawn from the imagination of nightmare: vampires, fey-soaked spiders, demons, mummies, and more. Each has a unique "lineage" and "domain" that they draw upon to construct their grimoire—their deck of spells. Deploying their minions and sorceries, they battle each other for different sections of the city, leaving desolation in their wake.
Perhaps the most interesting element in Sorcerer is how the player decks are constructed. Each player crafts a unique grimoire deck by combining a 10-card character deck, 20-card lineage deck, and 10-card domain deck. Thus you might become Tegu the Necromancer of the Screaming Coast. Or Tegu the Demonologist of the Outcast Sanctuary. Or any other of the game’s 64 possible combinations. Each sub-deck offers its own blend of minions and sorceries, and using these effectively is the key to winning.
Each round begins with all players generating an equal amount of "energy." Then, over six turns they take actions, often to deploy minions or cast sorceries, but possibly to generate more energy, draw cards, or move minions from one location to another. Finally, the round ends with a battle at every location, with minions using the game’s custom dice to damage each other or their location. When a player’s minions inflict 12 damage to a location, they win that location. Winning enough locations wins the game.
Originality: One can recognize a lot of the elements of Sorcerer from other games. Using cards to represent magical spells and summoned creatures is familiar to most gamers, as is using dice to resolve combat between said creatures. The theme also is not unfamiliar. However, designer Peter Scholtz has done a nice job of mixing these elements together in a way that feels fresh and interesting. As mentioned earlier, the character-building system allows for a stunning variety of strategies, even before the game begins. Assuming that the various deck-components are well-balanced, the potential for players to customize their strategies promises a lot of replayability.
Presentation: The artwork in the game is, in my opinion, fabulous. While I’m not the biggest fan of the "dark Victorian" theme, the artwork is all top notch, and it really brings the theme to life. Theme and mechanics fit together very well, particularly with the way the cards in each sub-deck complement each other and, perhaps surprisingly, with how well the different sub-decks fit together. I was a bit disappointed with the color palette of the box cover, which to my eye looks washed-out, like the box had been sitting in a sunlit window for a bit too long, and I found the logo a little hard to read at first. But even these are steeped in the game’s theme and express the high technical quality of the artwork.
Quality: The material quality of the game is also quite excellent. The cards are a good middle-weight stock with a nice linen finish. The player boards are made from sturdy board stock, the dice are very good, and the tokens and counters are all good quality. The 30-page rulebook is lavishly illustrated, though it really would have benefited from more examples of play and it was sometimes hard to find a needed rule during the first learning games. Thirty pages seems long, but the text is large for easy reading, and the rules are pretty clear and well-explained, so reading the book wasn’t a chore.
Marketability: There is enough strategic depth and variability in Sorcerer to appeal to strategy gamers, while the theme and ease of play may attract more casual players as well. The potential for expansion through new sub-decks is enormous, potentially providing unlimited opportunities to explore new strategies and playing styles, a fact that is not lost on the publisher, who thoughtfully included an advert for three such expansions on the last page of the rulebook. This is a game that should intrigue those who like the gameplay of a trading card game, but are uninterested in the finer points of collecting and deck building.
Overall: Sorcerer has a surprisingly steep learning curve. Not because the mechanics are difficult or complex, but because of the vast variety of cards and card effects. Trying to grasp the game rules while simultaneously wrestling with the card combinations and trying to devise some form of strategy can be a challenge, so the first few games are likely to run much longer than the proposed 60 minutes. This may be a turn-off for some.
But once that hurdle is overcome, the game offers a rich tableau of strategic and tactical challenges, especially when playing one of the multi-player variants (the core of the game is, essentially, a head-to-head duel), and as long as Sholtz can keep all of the various sub-decks tuned and balanced, future expansions promise to keep the game deep, engaging, and intriguing to its fans. If you’re looking for a game where theme and mechanics are carefully intertwined and that pulls a variety of board game elements together in an interesting way, Sorcerer is a worthy offering. And that’s why I’m giving this game 3.5 out of 5.
-- William Niebling