Sorcerer King: A Board Gamer’s Perspective

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There’s a lot of common ground between videogames and board games. Both media require player interaction and both tend to appeal to a certain demographic of entertainment-seekers.

Turn-based strategy games in particular are an excellent comparison to their less-digital counterpart. The slower pacing and turn-based structure are present in both styles of game, as is resource management and, in certain cases, increasing player power.

As an experiment, I dove into Stardock Entertainment’s Sorcerer King with the idea that I wanted to compare the mechanics with that of some of my favorite board games.

Stardock Entertainment comes to the table with a stellar pedigree. Known for their strategy games, the developer and publisher has honed their skills to a fine point over the last 25 years, and now have the legs to stand in an arena dominated by Sid Meyer’s Civilization and XCOM.

Taking place in a generic fantasy setting with a nameless evil sorcerer serving as an antagonist, Sorcerer King makes a bland first impression That may seem like a hypocritical observation from the person who enjoys the driest of EuroGames, but videogames are a much more expressive form of entertainment. We’ve come to expect flashier presentation out of videogames, especially from the studio that published Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations.

Sorcerer King is a blend of 4X strategy and RPG. You’ll manage an empire and upgrade cities while using armies to explore  and defeat enemies in tactical battles, although I found it easier to just simulate most of the battles.

I had a few qualms with Sorcerer King that most board games are able to avoid. The presentation does little to prepare you for a game, for instance. In a game with as many complex systems as this one, a tutorial would have gone a long way in making itaccessible. Going into my first game I had no idea what produced mana and lore, both vital resources. A rulebook makes questions like this easy to answer.

A surprising element of Sorcerer King is its humor. In such a heavily strategic game, moments of levity are a welcome break. Quests are littered with hilarious dialogue and tell absurd stories,like trying to convince an underperforming ghost that it was indeed scary,  or simplypoking fun at fantasy tropes, like the millionth peasant asking for a hero .

In board games with an exploration element,  players reveal tiles, which possess varying stats and features. This is true of Sorcerer King as well. As you expand your city’s borders, you must take into account the features of surrounding tiles, à la Betrayal at House on the Hill.

All told, Sorcerer King is a delightful strategy title wrapped up in an unfortunately bland package.

Working your way past the generic presentation will reveal a humorous game ripe with all the trappings of great strategy: tech trees, multiple paths to victory and diplomacy with competing parties are all present and accounted for here.

Fans of board games will find a lot to like here, as well. After all, there’s a reason Civilization is a well-respected title among enthusiasts.



Games, Review