Let's Take a Look: Cho Han Sorcery Review
Never underestimate the power of innovation, creativity, and strength in simplicity. These are the virtues that help shape and define Ninja Pirate Paladin Priest Productions’ (or NP3 Productions) latest game: Cho Han Sorcery. The Michigan-based private company has produced a simple and fast-paced game where the last sorcerer (player) standing after holding their own against a withering and punishing massive battle against the other players will be crowned victorious. Grab a hold of your Six-Demon Bag, let's dive in and take a closer look at Cho Han Sorcery.
The basics of Cho Han Sorcery is an innovative take on a classic Japanese dice game; Cho Han Sorcery even takes its name from the same game: Cho-Han Bakuchi. The primary mechanic of both games is the rolling of two six-sided dice and then speculating whether the dice total will either be an even result or an odd one. However, in Cho Han Sorcery, each players take turns rolling the dice (rather than only one neutral, non-betting judge), then select another player to attack, then guess as the results of the die roll [even or odd] and finally determine the outcome of that players turn. If a player guesses correctly, then they have successfully cast their spell and inflict harm on their chosen opponent; on the other hand, if they guess wrong, then their spell has backfired and the failing spellcaster will instead take the damage. Players will also have an opportunity to modify the amount of damage a player will receive and even attempt to prevent the damage. The way players can alter the end results of an attack (or backlash) is by playing cards from their hands. However, players are limited by the cards they were dealt at the beginning of the game; no one will be able to replenish their hands during the course of the game! Players start the game with twenty health; the game ends when there is only one player remaining with any health.
The game is a very recent release from NP3 Productions and so far with a limited print run. It has been printed using standard cardstock, with a template for Tarot cards for the card box itself. Even though this has been made with a modest budget, the quality of the cards and the accompanying box is solidly good. The artwork is consistent with the overall oriental aesthetic, with Chinese characters (ironic considering that Cho-Han Bakuchi is a Japanese game) and elemental pictorials invoking the mysticism of the fantastical east. Only a select few cards stand out from this norm with minimal artwork that help convey the intent of the cards, but do not add much flavor otherwise. The rules are bordered by similar oriental designs.
Overall, the artwork and aesthetic design do not add significantly to the experience of the game; however, the enjoyment and fun of the game is not impeded by the bare artwork.
Cho Han Sorcery is a fun conglomeration of dice and card games. Primarily, it is a dice game, as the cards only modify the end results of the die roll; rather than drive than main focus or goal of the game. In the end, the cards act as a limited resource for players, but do play a vital role in the game; enabling players to turn a terrible die roll in their favor, add insult to injury by piling on an opponent’s bad luck, or even stack a successful attack and transform it into an overwhelming blitz that knocks an opponent down a few pegs (or just out of the game in general).
The main structure of Cho Han Sorcery does present interesting challenges from a balance point of view. Since the primary determiner of the game is a dice roll, it is difficult to adequately balance the game. Of the thirty-six possible combinations on two d6, there is an equal number of possible outcomes for the dice to roll total either as an odds result or an even one. However, with the cards players can nullify a severe attack (or backfire) or alter the fate of another player’s actions based on their whims.
Again, with the simplicity of the game, the rules are easy to learn, but present some interesting strategic and tactical challenges. As there are an equal number of possibilities for either an odds or evens result, players are free to choose either result without the chances being skewed in or against their favor. Since cards are not redrawn during game-play, players must carefully consider how and when to play their cards to affect the outcomes of the dice rolls. The other major concern of players is who to target. Initially, with an even playing ground, any player is an equally wise choice. However, once the ball has started rolling, then it becomes more challenging as to determine who the best target for one’s attacks is. Likewise, should you save your cards for when you will need them; or do you toss your hat in and pile onto a successful attack and cripple an opponent (or potentially knock them out)?
With a final note on some of the design, there is a set of optional rules presented in the back of the game. These rules govern adding the option of scoring Kill Points which can further augment the results during game play; either as a defensive measure or offensively, but only when it comes down to two players remaining. These additional rules are easy enough to describe, learn, and bear in mind when it comes to regular game-play. It is recommended to incorporate these additional rules from the start rather than as an add-on to later games once you have ‘mastered the basics’ as it were.
While the aesthetic is a decently executed, the game-play simple and easy-to-learn, Cho Han Sorcery’s theme is unfortunately its only major weak point. The concept is that Chinese sorcerers are engaging in heated mystical battle with one another (imagine a larger scale battle than as presented in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China). However, the mechanics are not particularly influenced or tied to that concept, despite the aesthetic choices of the game designers. Overall, the game’s theme is a cosmetic choice, but a good one (from a personal perspective).
As previously discussed (and cannot be stressed enough), a game’s thematics is not the end-all be-all determiner of its design; just one aspect of it. How important a game’s theme is, is ultimately up each individual participant.
Cho Han Sorcery is an easy to pick-up and play game with minimal time investment in order to learn and/or actually play. The game-play itself is fairly quick, depending on the speed and attention level of participating players. It serves very well as a pick-up game to help fill in time while waiting for other games to end. In this manner it does well as it plays as few as two players and as many as eight; so pretty much any number of players can jump in and play before going for another game. With this role in mind, it functions best in any game library for gaming nights or days where the attendance can fluctuate throughout the day. It also serves well at conventions as a fun diversion while waiting for an event to begin. One distinct strength of the game is its replayability; between the wide range of possible participants and the varying results of the dice and the numerous choices players have in regards as to when and how to play their cards, no two games will end up quite the same.
Cho Han Sorcery has great potential at this point in time. With its basic structure, just about anyone can pick-up and enjoy the game. As NP3 Productions grow, they can release Cho Han Sorcery to a growing audience and make it ever-more available. Likewise, as this is just a base set, there is plenty of room and potential for any number of expansion sets or supplemental rules that can change up the game. The future is bright for Cho Han Sorcery; after all, look at what some imagination and innovation has produced thus far!
- NinjaPiratePaladinPriest Productions - NP3 Productions: Gaming, Filming, & Writing
If you want to learn more about NP3 Productions, then check'em out their website.