Sorcerer & Stones embraces the principle of humanity’s search for immortality via the Taoist belief in Xian. According to Taoism, Xian is the highest level of enlightenment a human can reach. It is obtained by devoting life to learning, alchemy, and following the precepts of Taoism to reach a higher plane of existence and thus, becoming physically immortal.
Sorcerer & Stones at a Glance
The gist of Sorcerer & Stones is to gather Spirit Stone and Qi Refining stones, create artifacts, and make use of the magic cards to collect runes. The game ends when someone has collected all the rune types OR when the supply of Qi Refining Stones is exhausted, whichever happens first. Whoever has the most points when this happens has become Xian and wins the game.
Sorcerer & Stones is part of a Kickstarter campaign that also includes Mystery of the Temples and Round House. Mystery of the Temples was recently reviewed by GeekDad’s David Banks while Round House was reviewed by GeekDad’s Jonathan Liu. Completing this hat trick of a Kickstarter review, I’ll share my thoughts on Sorcerer & Stones as well, giving you plenty of time to decide if you want to back this campaign or not.
Much like the other two games in this campaign there is nothing in the content or artwork that would be inappropriate for younger children but having played this with my 13-year-old son I can tell you even he was a bit challenged by all the small tracking pieces and we often had to double check we were doing things properly as we played. As such, I would not recommend this game for children under 12, and even then it will take patience getting through the first game with children. They are just so easily distracted. Teenagers or more experienced kids who’ve played long complex games before and adults will do just fine, though.
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Sorcerer & Stones Components
- 44 Magic cards (11 cards per player)
- 13 Artifact cards
- 7 Objective cards
- 4 Reference/Player Aid cards
- 9 Alchemy/Element Zone tiles (double-sided)
- 56 Qi Refining Markers (used for points)
- 16 Elemental Runes (3 each for metal, wood, water, and fire then 4 for earth)
- 1 Spirit Stone Refill Marker
- 40 Spirit Stones
- 8 Player markers in red, blue, yellow, and green
- 2 Rule-books (English and Mandarin)
I’m not positive if these are the final versions of the pieces since I have the EmperorS4 version, not the final Kickstarter version, but I can tell you the pieces I have are of nice quality. Most of the colors are vibrant, which I feel makes them easy to spot and use. I have played many games where the plastic or wooden pieces are pale or muted and picking out the different pieces can become more challenging. Not an issue with that in this case.
The cardboard pieces, however, are a bit muted and some of the shades are a bit too similar in my home’s lighting. I think you’ll see what I mean in some of the pictures. The pieces are still nicely done, just could use a little more distinction between the similar colors.
How to Play Sorcerer & Stones
Sorcerer & Stones has several versions you can play. The rule-book recommended we try the variant version, Novice Taoist, for our first play-through and we did so. We played the full base version on our second play-through so that’s what we’ll focus on in the review.
Place 5 of the Alchemy Zone tiles (the double-sided tiles with the Alchemy Zone side up) in a cross pattern in the middle of the table. Place the other 4 tiles Element Zone side up in the shape of a square next to the cross of Alchemy Zone tiles. Then you shuffle and place the stack of 14 Artifact cards face up near the tiles. Take 3 off the top and place them face up near the stack of Artifact cards. These 3 drawn cards form your Artifact cards Supply for later.
Place 4 Spirit Stones of differing colors on each of the 5 Alchemy Zone tiles. The rules say “randomly” choose and place but that’s hard to do when they all have to be different colors. We did our best to stay random but this is one of the areas the rules had us scratching our head a bit. The goal is to have 4 Spirit Stones on every Alchemy Zone tile, but no repeat colors on a given tile.
Each player chooses their color of the 4 available, takes the 2 player markers and the stack of 11 Magic cards in that color. Choose your starting player by whatever method you prefer and then have the person sitting immediately to the starting player’s right take one of their Player markers and place it in the center of the Alchemy Zone as the Taoist for that zone. The other players follow suit. For setup, only one Taoist per tile.
Players shuffle up their Magic cards and place them face down in front of themselves. Each player draws 4 of those cards and place them face up next to their deck. Then you’ll arrange the remaining spirit stones in a random straight line with the Spirit Stone Refill placeholder. For the first round, swap out any repeat colors so there are no repeats.
If you’re playing the Novice Taoist variant this is where you’ll switch over to the rules for that play through and stop with setup. If you’re going to play the main version of the game you’ll have a few more steps for set up.
To continue with main game setup, choose the number of Qi Refining Stones for the number of players in your game, 30 for 2 players, 42 for 3 players, and 56 for 4 players. Then remove 1 Elemental Rune of each type (randomly), separate the remaining by type in stacks of decreasing value and place them on the corners of the Element Zone, except Earth, that stack goes in the middle of the Element Zone. Place the remaining Player Markers on their corresponding color of Elemental Rune stacks to be Spirit.
Place 3 random Objective cards on the play area and put the rest away. Then you’re off and running.
How to Play
The base game play will involve several rounds at least and each round consists of 6 actions per player and they must happen in the following order:
Play 1 or 2 Magic Cards
The first player must cast at least 1 but may cast 2 of the Magic cards that are face up in front of them. The goal is to either manipulate the Alchemy Zones or move your Taoist to a more strategic location. Once used, the Magic cards go into a discard pile and new ones are drawn to bring the hand back up to 4 Magic cards. Each of the Magic cards has a different effect such as using the Spin card to rotate an Alchemy Zone tile or using the Shift card to switch Spirit Stone locations of two differing colored types.
Activate Alchemy Zone
In the Alchemy Zone where your Taoist is located look for alignments of Spirit Stones across the tiles. If one of the colored Spirit Stones on your tile matches up to the same color you may take the Spirit Stone from the tile your Taoist is on and add it to your reserve. Even if a Spirit Stone color matches up to more than one tile or forms a line of 3 where 2 of the in-line Spirit Stones are on the player’s own Alchemy Zone only one may be taken. However, if the player’s Alchemy Zone has two Spirit Stones of the same color and both of them match up with other Spirit Stones on adjacent cards then both of the Spirit Stones may be reserved from the player’s Alchemy Zone.
If you receive a Spirit Stone in your reserve that matches your own player color you get a bonus Qi Refining Stone for the match.
Move Spirit in Element Zone
The gathering of Spirit Stones in the prior step are what allows the players to move their Spirit Player marker around in the Element Zone. If the Green player managed to get a red and a yellow Spirit Stones in the prior steps they may then move their Spirit Player marker to any adjacent Element of that color. Movement can be made as many times as the player has Spirit Stones that align to adjacent Element colors in the Element Zone.
Forethought is key at this step. The player should study the Element Zone setup carefully to determine the best use of their moves. Landing next to an Elemental Rune means the player can pick that up and add it to their collection, getting a step closer to winning the game. It is also important to note you don’t spend a movement Spirit Stone to pick up the Elemental Rune. You aren’t moving to that space, you simply pick it up when you land next to it. Players may only have one of each type of rune so if they land next to an Elemental Rune they already have, they cannot pick it up.
Movement can only happen with directly adjacent spots, not diagonally and the space cannot already be occupied by another Player Marker.
Gain Objective Card Rewards
Meeting the Objective card goals can mean extra rewards and be just the thing that determines who wins and who does not. Be sure you’re keeping those goals and rewards in mind as you plan your other steps and do not forget to review them at this stage of each round to determine if you have met the Objective card requirements and can take the reward.
The Object card rewards are extra Qi Refining Stones gained when certain playing pieces align such as when you have 3 Spirit Stones in a line you’ll get 1 extra Qi Refining Stone, 4 in a line and you get 2 extra Qi Refining Stones, and so on.
Refill Spirit Stones
Do you recall during setup where I specified that you had to create a long line of Spirit Stones that cannot repeat? Here’s where that comes into play and you’ll realize right away why you can’t have more than one of a color in a row when I explain the next step.
Starting at the top of the Spirit Stone snake/chain thing where the refill marker is, begin placing the stones from the chain into the now open slots in the Alchemy Zone tiles. Fill in the open spots from left to right and from top to bottom. Then slide the Refill Marker up to indicate the new starting point in the Spirit Stone refill chain for the next turn.
Craft an Artifact
An optional step as the last turn allows a player to craft an Artifact. We turned up 4 Artifact cards at the start of game setup. If a player has the requirements they can choose to craft that Artifact and will place the required Spirit Stones at the end of the Spirit Stone refill chain. That order is up to the player crafting the Artifact.
The player takes the Artifact card they completed, replaces it with a new one from the deck, then counts their own Spirit Stone Reserve. If it exceeds 5, any extra stones must be added to the end of the Spirit Stone refill chain. This also in the order desired by the player returning them.
Ending the Game
There are three ways to end the game in the main base game.
- The game ends when a player obtains all 5 Elemental Rune types. The current round will finish out so that everyone gets the same number of turns.
- The game ends immediately, with not more turns, when the Artifact cards run out.
- Finally, the game also ends immediately if the Qi Refining Stones fun out.
Winning the Game
Score your points by counting up the points on the Elemental Runes you have. Add in the Artifact cards points. Every Qi Refining Stone is worth a point. Finally, Elemental Runes might give bonus points. See if your Artifact cards have any symbols that match the color of one of your Elemental Runes. Be sure to include the starting Rune from your card. Each match is worth 1 point. And then match any stones to Elemental Rune colors for a single point each match.
The Verdict on Sorcerer & Stones
Sorcerer & Stones can seem a bit intimidating at first. The different cards, runes, tiles, stones, and all the various ways to score can be a bit overwhelming at first. It is absolutely worth slowly working your way through a first play through with frequent discussion on the rules and scoring options with the others playing to learn as you go. By our second time playing we felt we had the rules down very well and had a very enjoyable time.
The game also has several variants you can try out. Not only is there a Novice Taoist version that makes the rules for winning much simpler but there is also a co-op mode for a nice change of pace. The Novice Taoist alternate approach could be a great option if you have someone a little younger or less experienced eager to play.
When I look at games at this price point, I require that they be just as enjoyable on the 20th play through as they were on the first few. I get the feeling that this game will be replayed frequently.
I definitely get some Settlers of Catan vibes from this game. The way that you get stones based on where your token is placed is a bit similar. I think folks who enjoy Settlers will definitely like this one, but it also has enough depth to pull in those that maybe don’t find enjoyment in Settlers any longer.
My verdict is that it has a good price point just as it is, at $35 to add it on in the Kickstarter. You get good quality components, gorgeous artwork, and solid game play that has repeat value. I think the game could benefit by jazzing up the cards a bit. A lot of them are double-sided with the same artwork on each side but with Mandarin on one and English on the other. If the cards could be done in just one language for the English release and some nice artwork placed on the back it would look so much better.
I think the value is there, and would highly recommend backing the Kickstarter for this one. All three of the games look wonderful and the reviews show that they play well, too.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.