Disclaimer: This preview is from a prototype copy of the game that was provided by Weird Giraffe Games to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Disclaimer 2: Marti is now a social media contractor for Weird Giraffe Games and Galactic Raptor Games and, even though she didn’t write this review, wanted to make sure that was clear for reasons of transparency.
Description: Studies in Sorcery sees players completing projects in various departments to accrue credits for their coursework. From sorcery to reanimation, and more, players dig for ingredients from the grave for these projects and try to complete the requirements of their thesis.
After setting up the tableau with the turn/round trackers and the initial project and ingredient market, as well as the grave cards, players each receive 2 random thesis cards and select 1 to be their goal for that game. They also receive a Research Grant which can be used to purchase cards from the market and 2 random 100-level project cards, which they select 1 to keep.
The game is played over 4 months (rounds) each consisting of 4 weeks (turns) that in turn consist of 3 steps:
- Action Step: In turn order, players select 1 of the actions below to carry out.
- Cram: The player can commit up to 2 material cards from their hand to their projects (explained more in the Commit Step below).
- Use a Project Action: The player can use an action from a completed project in their area. Some projects require the moon to be in a certain phase (related to which week of the month it is) in order to use the action.
- Dig: Privately look at the first pile of grave cards. If you want them, take the pile and deal a card from the deck to the empty space. If you don’t want them, deal a card from the deck to the pile and look at the next pile. Continue in this fashion until either a pile is taken or you get through all 3 piles and don’t want anything, in which case you can take the top card from the grave deck or a stock ingredient (candles or vials) from the market for free.
- Buy: Buy projects and/or stock ingredients from the market by discarding grave cards from your hand with total value equal to or greater than the cost of the cards you wish to buy (no change is given). This is the primary way to acquire new projects to work on.
- Commit Step: Each player can commit up to 2 cards spread across any of their projects. Cards are committed by sliding them under the left side of the project card so only the ingredient icon from the card is left showing. Some ingredient cards have multiple icons; this makes them more flexible as to what they can be used for but each card only counts as 1 ingredient for a project so you have to choose when committing what ingredient it will fulfill. Some projects, once completed, will increase the number of ingredients you can commit each turn from then on.
- Complete Project Step: Each project that has materials committed matching its entire set of requirements is flipped over to its completed side, and the ingredients discarded (or returned to the market for stock ingredients). If the project has an “on complete” effect, the player gains that now. Other projects have ongoing effects that are active automatically from the moment the project is completed. Still others have actions you can then use on later turns (as described above).
Once the 4th week of a month has been completed, the market is cycled (with higher level projects being available as the game progresses) and the first player token passes to the next player. At the end of the 4th month, players reveal their thesis if they completed the requirements, then total up their earned credits. The player with the most credits wins!
Review: Studies in Sorcery is a delightful engine building and drafting game, think of games in the style of Splendor and Century Spice Road. You have a secret thesis (objective/goal) that you are hoping to fulfill, as well as the main goal of earning the most credits (points). The theses are easy to understand, and they can be pretty quick to fulfill, as well.
You have to be able to get different cards into your hand via either the digging or buying action in order to commit them to the projects you want to complete over the course of the game. The game play is relatively quick and straightforward, and I feel like we could teach it to anyone with a basic understanding of modern gaming with ease.
There are many interesting decisions that you make as you try to complete your course projects. Should I take this ring for its money value, or leave it for another possible dig action, will the next pile of dig cards have what I’m looking for to finish up this Reanimation project? Or will I bust in digging and either draw a card off the top or get a free stock ingredient?
The choices of how best to pursue your Studies in Sorcery are up to you and how well you are able to align your grave and stock cards with the projects you have drafted. This is what makes the game special – while it’s easy to understand there are a lot of choices and the push your luck element is definitely feast or famine, at times.
I love the theme of this game! The thematic elements of the weeks being symbolized by the phases of the moon are great. The progressions from 100, then 200, then 300 level projects also give this a university feel. The illustrations are somehow endearing, even though they are also creepy. I’m not typically the kind of person who enjoys bones, worms, and such, but the illustrations have a certain charm.
All in all, Studies in Sorcery fits that lovely niche of both creepy and cute. It takes the school of magic theme in a new direction and is an absolutely perfect addition to any collection of spooky and/or Halloween themed games!
Kickstarter Info: Studies in Sorcery launches TODAY! Check it out here.