Studies in Sorcery
You’re in the final semester of your magical degree. It’s time to acquire materials, complete your final projects, finish your Thesis, and graduate with your Masters degree in the Dark Arts.
Studies in Sorcery is a card drafting, resource management game designed by Chris Glein and published by Weird Giraffe Games. Up to four players ages 10+ can compete to become Valedictorian of the Dark Arts.
How to Play
Studies in Sorcery is played over a four “month” semester. Each month has four rounds (corresponding to the phases of the moon). Each player takes one turn during each round.
On your turn, you take one of the following actions:
This is your primary way to get the materials for your projects – digging up graves! This is done by means of a Winston draft (which we’ve also seen in Canopy). Look privately at the first pile. Then choose to either take the whole pile (and end your turn), or put it back. If you didn’t like that pile, add a face-down card to it and look at the next pile.
If you choose not to take any of the three grave piles, you may either draw the top card from the grave deck, or take a candle or vial from the market for free. There is no hand limit.
Enrolling in new classes costs money – and so do some materials! Discard material cards from your hand with a total value equal or higher than the cards you wish to buy. Candles and vials are “stock materials” and must be bought, as they cannot be found in graves.
After buying projects, restock the common project area.
If you have all the materials you need and not enough time to finish your projects, this is the action for you. Commit up to two material cards to your projects.
Some projects, when completed, give an action that may be used during your turn instead of buying, digging, or cramming.
After every player has had a turn, all players may commit two material cards to their unfinished projects.
Match up one icon from each material card with the icons on the unfinished project.
Once everyone has committed, check to see if there are any completed projects this round. A project is completed when all of the icons on the project are represented in the materials committed to that project.
As soon as a project is complete, its ability (if any) is active, and you gain course credits. Move any grave material cards to the discard and return candles and vials to the supply. Then flip over the project card to its completed side.
End of the Round: Advance the Moon
At the end of the round, the moon advances to the next phase. If it’s the end of the “month” (new moon), the moon moves back to the first phase, and the projects are refreshed, with more challenging projects added to the course load.
After the fourth month (the 16th round), the game ends. Players gain credits for their completed projects, plus any extra credit or demerits earned. If they’ve completed their thesis requirements, they get credits for that, too. And for a “Physical Education elective”, they may gain one credit for every $8 of materials still in hand.
Who has earned the most academic credits to earn the title Valedictorian of the Dark Arts?
We were first introduced to Studies in Sorcery shortly before it came to Kickstarter in 2020. At the time, I was surprised how a game with such a dark theme (digging up graves and making magical projects from bones) could stay family-friendly!
Making Grave Digging a Family Pastime
The “grave-digging” method for getting new cards is unusual. I’ve only seen this in one or two other games, but it fits this theme incredibly well. When combined with special project abilities that allow players to manipulate the piles, it provides a really interesting tension – what is in those piles, really? Do you want to take this single card that you know you can use, or press your luck and hope that a bigger pile will give you better materials?
Of course, cards are assigned to each grave pile by random draws – so you still may not get the materials you need to complete projects, especially early in the game.
Unfortunately, the rules are still a little confusing. Most of the “bone” cards have multiple symbols on them, but each card can only be used for a single symbol when committing it to a project.
Projects can grant all kinds of benefits. Some are immediate abilities, some give an action you can choose during the action phase, some depend on what your neighbors do, and some can only be used in specific rounds (moon phases). All of this makes for really interesting decisions on which projects to buy and when to complete them… but also means that players have to keep track of a lot of different options in the later part of the game.
A Graveyard Smash?
Ultimately, we enjoyed Studies in Sorcery. The drafting, collection, and committing mechanics are unusual but easy to understand. The project cards lean in to the creepy theme with an aged-textbook feel, but the art also points out its absurdity. We always laugh at the “Unstoppable Bone Sphere”.
Studies in Sorcery is listed for players 10+ and it fits that perfectly, though younger players (8+) who are experienced with gaming should do fine as well. If you’re looking for a fun and mildly spooky game to play with your kids and parents during this Halloween season, Studies in Sorcery is a great choice.
Buy it from Weird Giraffe Games or ask for it at your friendly local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Studies in Sorcery from Weird Giraffe Games for this review.
Studies in Sorcery
Age Range: 10+
Number of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 45-60 minutes