I have had the board game Small World for a few years now. I’ve played against and as sorcerers several times. Sometimes they are great, sometimes not. Regardless they are one of the most fun and interesting races to play.
First I want to analyze the properties of the sorcerer’s power. In summation, the sorcerer’s power is this:
Once per turn per opponent, substitute an opponent’s single active token with a new sorcerer taken from the tray, to conquer an adjacent region.
Below I take a look at the various facets of the sorcerer ability, and how they can help or hinder the sorcerers conquest.
Sorcerers can conquer by Substitution
Normally, conquering a region takes at least 3 race tokens. If the enemy is in a region with a mountain, troll lair, or fortress, it will take even more. There are several race abilities and powers that can reduce the cost of conquering by 1 under certain conditions, bringing the minimum down to 2 race tokens. But with a sorcerer, conquest can take just 1 token.
The sorcerer’s ability does not have to take mountains, troll lairs, or fortresses into account (Encampments do provide protection against the sorcerer’s power). A race token standing on a mountain and a troll lair is a conquest that would normally take 5 race tokens. A sorcerer can take it with 1.
The substituted race token goes into the tray.
Removing an enemy token from the board is the only way to ensure that your enemy cannot regenerate, and force your enemies into decline. To put an enemy token in the tray normally takes at least 3 race tokens because you must conquer the region that the race token is in. Again, sorcerers can do this with 1 race token.
Normally elves are immune to being put in the tray, and just return to your hand when they are conquered. However the sorcerer ability completely negates the elves’ race power, and sends them to the tray anyway. Sorcerers are the only race that can force an elf player into decline.
The sorcerer used to substitute is taken from the tray.
If this power is not already awesome enough, that token used in the substitution is taken from the tray, adding to the sorcerer’s overall population. This means that sorcerers can not only replenish their population, but increase it over time as well. Skeletons can do something similar, but the effort to do this requires the player use at least 6 skeleton tokens, to gain 1. Sorcerers don’t have to use any of their existing sorcerers to gain a new one.
This power can be used once per turn per opponent.
This puts a pretty necessary cap on the sorcerer’s otherwise terrifying ability. Sorcerers cannot steamroll through a race replacing everything.
However it does mean that they can use this ability more than once each turn. They can get a new sorcerer and new territory for each opponent player. If playing with a large number of players, sorcerers can potentially get very out of hand.
The substituted token must be the only race token on that space.
This is, in my opinion, the most important cap on the sorcerer’s ability. It means that as long as there is more than one race token on the space, the sorcerers cannot use their race ability on that space.
Bivouacking can also provide protection against the sorcerers, since an encampment counts as a race token in the defense of the region.
This ability can only be used to conquer adjacent regions.
Sorcerers need to be adjacent to every player to use their ability to the maximum. Taking advantage of their power will potentially make them very vulnerable to attack from many players.
This is potentially a large weakness in terms of player politics. The fear of the sorcerer’s power will make other players inclined to destroy them before they get out of hand. And to take full advantage of their power sorcerers must make themselves vulnerable to their enemies.
The substituted token must be from an ACTIVE race.
Sorcerers will not be as effective on a board with a lot of inactive race tokens. While not a huge set back, it does mean that the sorcerer ability is not as useful in the mid-game, at or directly after the first wave of races go into decline. This limitation also makes sorcerers more vulnerable to Ghouls than other races.
Sorcerer Special Power Combos
Dragon Master Sorcerers
This is the most OP combo I have ever seen in Small World. I played against this combo recently, and the player lasted 8 of the 10 turns as Sorcerers, and won the game by a not small margin.
Dragon master works so well with Sorcerers because it patches one of the major weaknesses of the sorcerer, that they can only use their ability on regions with a single race token. With dragon master, sorcerers can take ANY region regardless of how much defense it has. They are also relatively likely to conquer at least 2 regions per turn using a net of 0 sorcerer tokens (since only one is used with dragon master, and one is gained with the sorcerer power).
At that point the only way to keep a sorcerer from conquering a region is to make it completely immune either with Heroes from the Heroic power or Holes in the Ground from the Halfling race power. Both of which are extremely specific.
Not nearly as over powered as dragonmaster sorcerers, but still extremely good. Flying patches the second weak point of the sorcerers, only being able to use their power on adjacent spaces.
With flying, sorcerers can ignore fortified enemy lines and strike with their power at the enemies weakest regions. They can maximize the use of their power every turn, regardless of where the other players’ races are on the board in relation to the sorcerers. The more players there are, the more worrisome flying sorcerers can be.
Pillaging sorcerers are not as great as the previous combinations, but potentially still a game winner. Because sorcerers can conquer new regions with extremely little cost, sorcerers are great with pillaging.
Sorcerers have one of the most powerful race abilities. They do not need to directly attack to conquer regions, and can easily regenerate sorcerers from the tray. They are one of the most underhandedly offensive races in the game and can spread like the plague if left unchecked. Hopefully now you have a better idea of how to play to the weaknesses and strengths of the sorcerer if the race pops up in your game of Small World.