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Spellcaster University shows it's harder running a magic school than going to one

If only I was a good enough wizard to make this admin disappear!

I've never had much of a desire for "I'm attending school" sims, because I hated attending school and not having to do it is one of the prime benefits of growing out of your teens. Running a school though? That's a challenge I don't mind taking on. Twopoint Campus does a great plate-spinning take on a school admin sim, but if you want something with cards, a dark lord, and the option for organic school meals, then... well, then you're making a very specific request. But it's one I can fulfil with Spellcaster University. And it's bloody difficult.

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The pitch is that, due to the kind of calendar miscount that normally results in me sweating about whether I might be pregnant but in this case resulted in the destruction of all magic schools, you're one of the last remaining mages in the world. A continually advancing Dark Lord means you have to keep building magic schools, training up as many people as you can, and then hotfooting it to increasingly remote and dangerous locations to stay one step ahead. Bonuses you accrue in the previous schools will help you going forward.

You build as you go, stacking new rooms on top of one another to build a different castle each time. You start with the basics, slotting in general school areas like the refectory, dorms, and of course the Pig Tower, where guinea pigs solemnly climb into a catapult and are flung accross the land to send your messages. Building new rooms relies on a draw of three cards, which you buy from different decks - the general school cards cost money (from tuition), but will throw up a classroom or two to get you started. Classrooms generate you different types of mana, which you can use to buy cards from the respective decks.

A side on view of the pig tower in Spellcaster University, a tower housing many guinea pigs which carry messages by being catapulted from the top of the tower
The greenhouse classroom in Spellcaster University
A classroom in a school in Spellcaster University, with a dummy interrogation set up.
A draw of three cards in Spellcaster University. The selected card is for a potted unicorn, which has a chance to produce unicorn horns

The greenhouse trains your students into herbalists and generates green Nature mana, which you can spend on drawing nature cards, which might throw up a stable to make little beast masters. It doesn't pay to be a generalist school, really, and your specialisation will probably be determined by the first couple of classrooms you get. Arpus Academy, featured in these screens, is a Nature school with a side of Light-specialised inquisitors.

There are so many layers in Spellcaster University. Teachers and students all have different traits; you can divide your students into houses that have their own specialisations, uniforms and coats of arms; you can give students halos; the factions in the surrounding countryside trigger events and confer bonuses based on your standing with them; skeleton attack!; some cards are decorations that give passive buffs; if your school is in the forest you have a higher percentage chance that students will be werewolves.

It's ridiculous, and even though it's a little bit janky here and there, the amount of detail and weird interacting systems mean that Spellcaster University deserves to be talked about much more than it is. My school has a faun wondering around. There's a snake that eats leftover magic. We have an indoor henge. Chosen one? Try running the school the chosen one goes to. Does the chosen one have to deal with angry villagers who've lost a cow? Does the chosen one have taxes to worry about? I didn't think so.

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