22 October 2021
Do you ever find a game and think 'hey, this was designed just for me!' As someone who loves card games, strategic play seasoned with luck and was around in the nineties, Sorcerer feels like someone’s been scanning my brain for ideas.
Sorcerer is a Victorian gothic card game for two or more players (the base game contains enough to support up to four) where you battle in a secret war for control of London, using spells and monsters to capture battlegrounds.
Each game starts with players choosing three card sets that will make up their deck. You’re not just some weirdo waggling a wand, you’re 'Zevrane The Necromancer Of the Screaming Coast' combining a character, lineage and domain deck. This ensures your first few games are a delightful mix of discovery and experimentation, as you combine different sets to uncover new strategies, then when you’re confident with what’s available, you can instead draft options to play with your favourite combination.
Play is split between the action phase and battle phase. Players take turns using an action to either gain energy, draw cards or play cards by spending energy. Cards take the form of sorceries which have an immediate impact, minions who will battle for dominance in your name and attachments which can either empower your minions or diminish your opponents.
Once all players have taken their five actions, battle begins! Each battlefield has players take turns activating one minion present, rolling battle dice equal to its power, causing misses, hits, double hits or critical hits. When playing cards or using abilities in the action phase, players can accrue omens that let them reroll their own dice or force an opponent to reroll theirs. Once rerolls have finished, critical damage is distributed by the attacker, whilst all other damage is chosen by the defender, letting them soak damage on their minions or take hits to their side of the battlefield, with twelve hits needed for a player to win.
Victory goes to whoever can tip the seesaw of power in their favour. It’s impossible to win a war on three fronts, instead testing players to see opportunities for gradual gains. As actions are taken in turn, it’s rare for a player to be caught off-guard with a sudden mass of minions, rewarding players who spend early actions gathering energy and cards to play near the end.
But even if you think all is won or lost, the dice add just the right amount of uncertainty that keep fights engaging. Choosing when to spend your precious rerolls is crucial, as relying solely on luck is the only guaranteed way of losing.
As well as being a fantastic duelling game, it also includes rules for roundtable battling as you fight off players on your left and right, as well as a team mode that takes the standard game and intensifies the spell-slinging madness delightfully.
Whilst I adore this game greatly, I know many that won’t. I love the “late 90s trading card game” aesthetic, that many will find outdated, others will detest the dice rolling for ruining their perfect plans and while I feel this base set offers plenty to sink your teeth into, this game is obviously designed to be expanded upon, with new decks already available for purchase.
But I still implore you to play this. Sorcerer revels in that particular blend of gothic excess, offering fun strategic gameplay enhanced with exciting moments of chance which make it a joy to play again and again. If you think you might enjoy this, I’m sure that you’ll love it.
If you can abide the gothic horror theme and dice rolling, there’s a highly replayable card game that adds a refreshing twist on randomness, along with a charming variety of play modes
Sorcerer feels like Smash Up went through a teenage goth phase. Both games reward reactive play and discovering combos, but Sorcerer definitely has more bite in both mechanics and setting
Designer: Peter Scholtz
Publisher: White Wizard Games
Time: 30-60 minutes
This article originally appeared in issue 60 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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