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Sanctum | Strategy, Sorcery, SubterfugeSanctum | Strategy, Sorcery, Subterfuge




Sanctum cards are called spells. You cast them onto spell targets on the game board to support your groups, advance your strategy, and defeat your enemy.

Spell Data

Spell Properties

Spell Types

Spell Target Types

Spell Casting Requirements

Casting-time vs. Persistent Requirements

Spells in Play

Stages of a Spell's Life

Squandered Spells

Active Spells

Active Spell Lists

Spell Visibility

Real Spells and Helper Spells

Spell Requirements Recheck

Spell Interaction

The Spell List Box

Spell Data

Spell Properties

  • Every spell belongs to a house, which determines the 2 mana types in its casting cost.
  • Every spell has a casting cost, which uses only its house's 2 mana types.
  • Every spell card shows its house immediately below its name.
  • Each deck can freely mix and match spells from any houses, as long as you can pay their casting costs.

Spell Types. Spell types are distinguished by their duration (how long they last).

  • There are 5 types of spells in Sanctum.
  • Every spell card shows its spell type immediately below its name.

Spell Type





An alteration persists as an active spell for the rest of the game.



A conjuration persists as an active spell. It expires after a finite duration, or when a certain event happens.



A manifestation has instant effect, and then leaves play immediately (even before the next spell executes). It never becomes active.



A summoning has instant effect and zero duration, like a manifestation. It creates a monster group.



A Hero spell has instant effect and zero duration, like a manifestation. It creates a Hero recruit.

  • Enchantment. An active spell (alteration or conjuration) that is also visible is called an “enchantment” in numerous card texts. Some monsters and spells gain benefits in combat or effect against minions who have no enchantments.
  • Same lifetimes. Alterations and conjurations automatically leave play if their “host” spell target suffers any category of death, or is destroyed. They can also be explicitly dispelled. Some active spells can transfer to new hosts.

Spell Target Types. Every spell has a target type, which determines which part of the game board you can cast it on.

  • There are 10 kinds of spell targets in Sanctum.
  • Every spell card shows its target type immediately below its name.

Target Type



These spells are called individual spells. They must be targeted on a minion of the proper type. You can drop them onto:

These spells cannot target concealed minions (unless they explicitly state otherwise).



recruit group

These spells are called group spells. They must be targeted on a group of the proper type. You can drop them onto:

monster group

(minion) group


Square spells must be targeted on an empty (no structure), unoccupied (no group) square. (They cannot target any square that contains a structure or a group. If either of these entities appears in the square before the spell executes, the spell squanders!)


Structure spells must be targeted on a town or colony. (They cannot target a Sanctum or Sanctum entrance.)


Terrain spells are always helper spells. They nominally have the same requirements as square spells (but since the game engine casts them as helper spells, it just ignores these requirements).

Almost every terrain helper spell has a corresponding real spell that creates it. These real spells are always “square (spell) manifestation”, and their sole effect is to (cause the game engine to) recast the terrain helper spell, which is what you see persisting on the board. Most terrains can also be created by several other real spells. Hence, the real-to-helper relationship for terrain spells is generally many-to-one.


Globe spells must be targeted on the globe.
(The globe is shown in the upper-right corner of the board.)

Spell Casting Requirements. Many spells list various casting requirements in their texts, which begin with the phrase “Cast on ...”. They are checked at the following times:

  • Check before casting. During the player orders phase, while you are dragging a spell in hand to issue casting orders, the spell checks all of its requirements on the current spell target. If any requirement fails, the spell isn't valid for casting on that target.
  • Check before executing. During the spell execution phase, just before each spell is executed, the game engine re-checks all of that spell's requirements on its specified target. If any requirement fails now, the spell squanders (fails).

Casting-time vs. Persistent Requirements. Spell casting requirements actually fall into (at least) two distinct categories, which are checked at different times. Limitiation: Sanctum card texts have never clearly distinguished these two cases (and still don't)!

Casting-time Requirements

Persistent Requirements

These are checked only before a spell goes active, i.e. while issuing casting orders and just before execution.

Most of these are checked both before and after a spell goes active. Some are checked only afterwards! (e.g. spells that change terrain on execution)

Casting-time requirements restrict the initial casting, but permit players to freely violate these conditions later through in-game actions, without causing the spell to dispel itself.

Persistent requirements must remain true, or the spell will fail its next recheck, and automatically dispel. Skillful players can exploit this when they want a spell to dispel itself!

These requirements are usually casting-time only.

  • “... on nation ...”: The recruit may change nation later.
    Big Rock.
  • “... of n or less/more”: The group may add or lose members later. Accursed Minion, Renegades.
  • “... on friendly ...”: The caster may lose ownership later, by capture, minion exchange, or group stealing.
    Blindness, Harmattan, Kumatru Academy, Man-Catcher, Visionary.
  • “... not in a structure”:
    You may enter structures later: Alabaster Guardian, Sword of Zana (I and II).

These requirements are usually persistent.

  • “... on terrain type.”
    Dispels on any terrain-change:
    Faerie Circle + Oasis.
  • “... on recruit class.”
    Dispels on any class-change:
    Cruel Whim.
  • “... on minion with attack types.”
    Dispels on any class-change or
    “no longer attacks” effect:
    Oblivion, Pacifism, Protective Cover, Vivant.
  • “... on friendly ...”
    Dispels on change of ownership:
    Belvario's Horn, Raven Shroud, Scars of Kolekh, Touch of Death.
  • “... on town (not colony).” et al.
    Dispels on a structure type-change: Auberol's Grace, Ghost Town.
  • “... not in a structure”:
    These spells remain in play if you somehow occupy a structure without “entering” it, but they dispel in their next recheck!
    Belvario's Horn, Possession, Sentinel.

Spells in Play

Stages of a Spell's Life. Each spell goes through the following stages.

  1. In deck. A spell in your deck doesn't do anything until you draw it.
  2. In hand. You can target spells in your hand for casting or discarding. Some spells change their casting cost at the start of every turn while in your hand.
  3. Targeted. When you issue a valid spell casting order, your spell becomes targeted. You can change or cancel your spell casting orders at any time during the player orders phase, until you click Confirm Orders.
  4. Executing. After both players have clicked Confirm Orders, the game engine executes all targeted spells in the spell execution phase. Each spell execution either succeeds or squanders (fails).
  5. Active. Some types of spells remain in play after they execute, and continue to affect the game.

When a spell squanders, expires, is dispelled, or fails a persistent requirement, it leaves play. Also, whenever a spell target leaves play due to death or destruction, all active spells on that spell target leave play as well. Some spells explicitly transfer to a new host when their old host leaves play.

Squandered Spells. A spell that fails any requirement during spell execution is said to squander. It leaves play immediately, without any effect.

  • Causes of squandering. A squandering must have been caused by something that occurred between its caster's Confirm Orders, and its own execution:
    • A recruit training by the remote player
    • A spell that executed before this spell
  • Typical squanderings. Squandering can happen because your opponent had initiative, and her spells negated some of your spell's requirements. A careless player could also squander his own spells by casting the wrong combination of spells, or casting them in the wrong sequence!
  • Try, try again. A squandered spell does not count as having ever been cast. Some spells may be cast “only once per game”. If your first attempt to cast such a spell squanders, you can try to cast another copy of that spell later. You can repeat this until you finally succeed in casting the spell once.

Active Spells. When a non-instant spell (alteration or conjuration) executes successfully, it remains in play as an active spell.

  • No max. There can be any number of active spells at the same time. Some long games can have one hundred or more active spells.
  • Spell target. Every active spell has a spell target, or “host” entity. This is usually the same minion, group, structure, square, or globe on which the spell was targeted. Some spells can transfer to new hosts.
  • Ownership. Every active spell is owned by the player who cast it. Spells cast by the game engine itself are owned by the neutral player. Some active spells affect non-friendly players differently from their owner.

Active Spell Lists. All active spells are stored in sequential lists, approximately in casting order (oldest to youngest). The game engine traverses these lists as needed to access all active spells. Some spells can transfer to a new host, e.g. Jinx. Whenever this happens, the spell appends itself to the end of its new host's active spell list. Over time, this can slightly shuffle the active spell lists.

  • Spell target's active spell list. Each spell target maintains a separate list of all active spells on itself, regardless of the spells' owners. A given spell target could have spells from all 3 players, interleaved in strict casting order.

Spell Visibility. Every active spell is either visible or non-visible.

  • Enchantment. A visible active spell is called an enchantment. Some spells and monsters count the number of enchantments on other spell targets.
    • Displayed. Enchantments are displayed in their spell target's list box.
    • Dispellable. Enchantments can be dispelled.
    • Exclusive. Enchantments are exclusive (unless they explicitly state otherwise).
    • Green aura. A minion tile or square that has one or more enchantments is drawn with a green aura, as a visual reminder of their enchanted status. (Group sprites and the globe don't draw the green aura.)
  • Non-visible active spells. These spells enable the game engine to implement various “intrinsic” abilities, such as nation abilities and monsters' special abilities.
    • Hidden. Non-visible active spells are not displayed in any spell list.
    • Non-dispellable. Non-visible active spells cannot be dispelled. They ignore all dispel-effects. They last as long as their host does, or until they expire on their own, if applicable. Some spells explicitly dispel a specific other spell, even if it is non-visible.
    • Cumulative. Non-visible active spells are cumulative (unless they explicitly state otherwise).

Real Spells and Helper Spells. Sanctum's game engine itself casts many internal spells beyond those that you can purchase in booster packs. Some of these internal spells are enchantments, so you can see them once they're in play.

  • Real Spells in your Coll(ection) and Deck. A real spell is a spell that you, the player, can own in your collection and include in your decks.
    • All rules apply (to you). Real spells go through all five stages of a spell's life. You must obey all of their casting requirements to put them into play.
    • In your deck. In the simple case, your deck consists of exactly the real spells you put there, and no others. In the general case, some spells insert copies of real spells at the top of, bottom of, or randomly into, your deck. These could be copies of your own real spells, or copies of your opponent's real spells (but they will always be real spells). So it's possible that your “deck during play” can include spells that you don't own. You don't keep these bonus spells! They last only until the end of that game, and don't persist as cards in your collection.
    • In your hand. In the simple case, your hand always consists of spells from your deck. Some real spells insert copies of themselves into your hand. The phrase “when cast from a player's hand” applies equally to any spell in your hand, no matter how it got there.
  • Helper Spells in Play. A helper spell is a spell that is internal to Sanctum's game engine. Once in play, helper spells behave just like real spells. But the game engine has special privileges in casting them, which bypasses some casting requirements. Helper spells are used to implement many “intrinsic” abilities, such as terrain types, monsters' special abilities, recruits' nation abilities, the Colony game rule, etc.
    • Usually non-visible. Just like real spells, helper spells can be visible or not. Most of them happen to be non-visible (because you don't need to know about them, and also to make them non-dispellable).
    • Visible means dispellable. Some active helper spells are deliberately visible. These can be dispelled like any other visible spells. They also count as enchantments! Examples include:
      • Generated items: Dwarven Blade, Djinni Bow, Dwarven Arrows; Changelings, Farm-boy.
      • Trophy items: Gorgon's Head, Minotaur's Axe, Obsidian Armor, Wyrmling Hide.
      • Temporary effects: Karillian Venom, Nihil's Curse, Shadow's Chill.
      • Persistent effects: Faerie Blessing, Gorgon's Gaze, Thermite Damage.
    • No Target Hides from the G(ame) E(ngine). The game engine is specially empowered to cast its spells. It ignores some casting restrictions:
      • Ignores concealment. Helper individual spells ignore concealment. Think of the game engine as your friend!
      • Ignores occupants. Helper square spells and terrain spells ignore any groups and structures in those squares.
      • Ignores blocking. Helper spells ignore any blocking by active spells (even by other helper spells!). For example, Bedlam can cast additional Chaos Features onto minions that already have Wrack, Brimstone Dragon can still Fireball an enemy group that has Raven Shroud, all monsters' spell-like abilities ignore Intercession, etc. Mnemonic: Spells block your mouse. They don't block the game engine!
      • Always cumulative. Helper spells are always cumulative (unless they explicitly state otherwise, e.g. Minotaur's Axe).
    • Real Spells as Helper Spells. The game engine sometimes casts real spells “as if” they were helper spells, e.g. Yfreet's Cleansing Light. Such spells benefit from all of the game engine's special casting privileges.

Spell Requirements Recheck. A spell target must recheck all persistent requirements (only) for all of its active spells (real and helper, whether visible or not) whenever any of the following things happen. Each spell that fails any persistent requirement is immediately dispelled.

  • Spell flux. For all spell targets, whenever any other spell on that target executes successfully, or leaves play for any reason. Dispelling one spell may cause several others to immediately fail their recheck!
  • Structure flux. For a square, whenever it gains or loses a structure, whether by creation, destruction, boardhopping, or “moving”.
  • Minion exchange. For a minion, whenever it exchanges into a new group.

Spell Interaction

Spell list box. The spell list box is located at the bottom of the game window's left sidebar. It always displays the current spell target's active spell list. Click any spell target to select it (which makes it become the current spell target).

Spell list box

  • Enchantments only. It shows all enchantments on this spell target, and their owner dot colors. Non-visible active spells are skipped automatically. (That's what “non-visible” means!)
  • Potents this turn. During the player orders phase, it also shows all potent spells you have targeted successfully on this spell target, with their names in parentheses.
  • Double-click for spell help. Double-click any spell name in the spell list box to open the spell help modal window, which shows:
    • Actual house and cost. It shows the spell's house and “base” casting cost at the time of its casting, including any transmutings to a different house (which also transmutes the 2 mana types in its casting cost). Note: Any spell cost penalties (e.g. Dissolution) or reductions (e.g. Syzygy, or Ogi's Armor when Ogi is in play) are not included in the “base” cost.
    • Card text with radio buttons. Up to four radio buttons are displayed on the right edge of the spell help window. Click these to show different “pages” of the card text. These 4 radio buttons are identical to the ones in DeckBuilder, which see.
      • Spell text. Describe's the spell's in-game effect.
      • Flavor text. Shows the card's flavor text, if any.
      • Monster text. [If this spell creates a monster group or special recruit]: Shows the in-game text associated with those monsters or recruit. This is an abbreviated version of the spell text, with all casting requirements elided (since they are no longer relevant after the group is already in play).
      • Helper text. [If this spell creates, or is otherwise associated with, a helper enchantment]: Shows the name, house, target type, and spell text for that helper enchantment (which you'd see in a game if you double-click on the helper enchantment itself). Example: Master Smith's helper text shows the spell text for Dwarven Blade (even in DeckBuilder!).
    • Duration or tokens (if applicable). Spells with a finite duration, or tokens, display them at the bottom.

v2.20.00 Last updated 2009/03/27




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