Before I begin, I was provided a review copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would like to watch a video review instead you can check it out below. Get your own copy here!
There are a few genres of games that I do not have many of in my collections, for various reasons. These include social deduction, dexterity, and tile laying. Of the first two I currently have two social deduction games, Grimm Masqeruade and Two Rooms and a Boom; and one dexterity game: Kushi Express. When it comes to tile laying games? I have none. Or I should say had none.
Since Sorcerer City arrived for review, I have given some thought to why I have avoided these games in the past. The reasons I came up with are, I find that often they become a bit plodding and slow, I tend to find them fairly theme-less, I often find them to be engaging rather than exciting, and I often find them dull to look at on the table.
Enter Sorcerer City. Would this be a game that makes me change my tune on tile laying games? We shall see. The game itself is fairly straight forward. Each player has a starting deck of tiles. These tiles are divided into sections with different colors on them. Some of the tiles also have scoring symbols on them, but more on this below. Ostensibly, each tile represents a city block, and each player is a wizard, who gets to magically move the city around each year into new positions, and they are awarded prestige, money, influence, and raw magic depending on how they place things. I assume you are currying favor of the rich and powerful by putting businesses and buildings in prime locations.
The game is played over the course of 5 rounds. Each round consists of a two minute city building phase, where you put your city out doing your best to maximize your points as you place each randomly drawn tile. Then there is a scoring round, where you gain money, prestige, influence and raw magic based on who you made happy in the city. After that you, convert your magic into one of the other three resources, then you collect rewards and purchase new tiles for your deck. The final thing is each player is given a single monster that will be part of their deck. These monsters all have some sort of negative effect when drawn into your city, and must be managed. At the end of 5 years (rounds) whomever has the most prestige is the winner.
Scoring is based on how you place tiles in your city. You either gain points for having colors connected in a straight line, simply connected in any order, or tiles with shields on them being adjacent to each other. The color on the icon on the scoring tile will determine what resource it earns you.
So what do I think?
This is a game that could very easily become an absolute disaster in the box, or need a ton of little baggies to organize. But NOPE! The insert for this game is amazing, even chits put in the well on top of the insert, fit so tightly that you can store the game on its side without pieces flopping all over. This reduces set-up exponentially. Speaking of the components themselves, everything is good quality, and the art is wonderful, the characters that you can choose from all are beautiful, and even the tiles, beneath the color have a city-scape on them. This game looks wonderful on the table.
At the top of this review I mentioned that I often find tile laying games to lack excitement. This one does not. The two minute timer is perfect. It adds so much tension to the game. As soon as you start buying new tiles you quickly get to the point where you have a very real risk of not being able to place all of your tiles out. So many rounds when I have played I have found myself all but throwing my last tile onto the table, hoping it lands how I want it to. I will also add that the app timer helps with this immensely, something about the ticking clock that comes in during the last 10 seconds really ups the excitement.
The game itself is intended for 3 or more players, I think. This assumption is based on the fact that with two players you have to have one “dummy” player, and when playing solo you need two “dummy” players, and when I play solo there are three “dummy. players. Usually bot players, after the first one, are not my jam. However, in this case the bot players are literally a couple of cards that get played each year, and are used to determine who gets what rewards. It is simplicity itself. This allows you to still have the excitement of the game, even with bot players. I was skeptical when I read those rules, but was quickly proven wrong.
Finally, I want to add that the mechanics of the game are streamlined and simple enough that it is easy to learn how to play and just jump in. It has just enough “deck building” elements to keep the game always feeling unique, and lets you develop a strategy, but not so much that you get lost in it. However, the truly masterful move is that they have limited scoring to three ways. It is easy to understand what you have to do to score, and it is easy to figure it out quickly.
I know I said finally before, but I remembered that there is one more thing that I really like. So “for realz” finally, I like the addition of a new monster each round. These monsters are not particularly hard to understand, and there are enough of them that very rarely will you have to play the same combos.
Remember how I just praised the monsters, and how there are plenty of them? Well, there are monsters, and there are plenty of them. This means that you really have to play the game a whole bunch of times before you have internalized the rules of each monster. This means that during any given game you will be pausing the timer while you stop and re-explain the monster rules.
Second, the theme is fine. I do not fully understand why I am moving city blocks all over the place, I just know that we are, and we all want to be the best at it. It is enough theme to make it not feel abstract, but not enough that the theme is the selling point of this game. The selling point is the mechanics.
Though this game looks wonderful on the table, it takes up a TON of table space. If you are playing at max player count you really need a whole lotta space so your city can sprawl however you want it to. The sprawl is part of the fun, but there is no playing this on the airplane tray table. Or a human sized table either! This game is made for a fancy board game table.
Bringing it all together
Sorcerer City is a stunningly crafted tile laying game. Everything about it is beautiful, components, insert, mechanics. The clever use of the timer keeps the game moving, and in almost all incidents should be under an hour. This game is truly the embodiment of an easy to learn, hard to master game. It will take more games than you would think before you really have everything internalized, and at higher player counts it takes up a metric crap-ton of table space.
I could build a city without magic faster than read all that blather
* Gorgeous components and production
* Simple mechanics that almost sing when you play
* Theme works, but could, perhaps, have a little more connection
* Every round is exciting
* Takes up a staggering amount of space at high player counts
* I cannot think of a tile laying game I would rather play right now