26 October 2023
Ravensburger work their Disney Magic once more in this phenomenal TCG debut
Review by Matthew Vernall
This was always going to be noteworthy. The biggest media property on the planet making their first collectable card game, a system designed to tap into that primal gathering desire, was going to print money. But whilst hype will help you make headlines, without a solid game to back it up, it won’t sell a system. Fortunately for Disney Lorcana, this first release manages to do both.
How do you play Disney Lorcana?
Players of Disney Lorcana are competing to be the first to gather 20 lore. To do this, you will use your 60-card deck comprised of cards selected from up to two of the six available inks to create characters and items as well as perform magical actions. You’ll use these three card types to generate lore, with the majority of character cards having the ability to create at least one lore by questing (turning them sideways.)
You can also use characters to activate various abilities (such as drawing cards, healing others or singing songs, more on that later) or to challenge your opponent’s characters. Any exhausted character can be challenged, with each card involved in the challenge dealing damage equal to their Strength and being banished (sent to the discard pile) once their total damage taken equals their Willpower.
Aside from being unable to use a card the moment its played (the ink has to dry after all) you’re free to play and use cards in any order you want, offering strategic depth in how you sequence. In order to play out new cards you exhaust ink, face-down cards that are added to your inkwell. You can add up to one card from hand to the inkwell each turn, by revealing the card to prove it has an inkwell icon around its cost (more powerful cards often lack this icon as a means of balancing their power potential) before putting it face down, ready to use immediately. This mechanic solves the problem faced by Magic and Pokémon; as almost any card can be turned into ink, your chances of not being in a position to play anything are dramatically reduced, whilst further increasing the odds of drawing playable cards when you need them most.
There are other means of circumventing costs or limits to keep things interesting. Some items or abilities will reduce the cost of played cards or let you put the top card of your deck immediately into your inkwell, whilst song actions can be played either by paying their ink cost, or by exhausting a character of equal or greater cost to ‘sing’ the song card, a flavourful way of offering value and deepening play considerations each turn. Some characters can also ‘shift’ onto existing versions of themselves, letting you immediately spring a more powerful version into play at the risk of losing two cards at once.
Which characters are included in The First Chapter for Disney Lorcana?
With a hundred years of animation to choose from (yep, Disney is now a century old) The First Chapter has sprinkled beloved characters from across the wide timeline, from newer hits like Moana and Frozen to the very first animated classics like Steamboat Willie and Fantasia. The designers have gone out of their way to showcase a bit of everything to appeal to Disney fans young and old, whilst also featuring your favourite heroes and villains across multiple inks, letting you play the characters you love alongside the strategies you prefer.
Each of the six different inks has its own personality and play strategy too: Amber characters look out for one another and have singers who can perform higher value songs for extra value; Emerald characters evade attacks can manipulate your opponents into charging reckless or even returning to hand; Amethyst has lots of magical characters and ways to gain specific advantages; Ruby character have daring abilities that steal lore or cause massive shifts to the board; Sapphire includes many ways to manipulate items or gain extra ink in a turn; and Steel has some of the sturdiest and mightiest characters, in the game.
What’s also great is how each possible pair then has its own character, infusing aspects of its inks for a more developed strategy. Ruby and Emerald excel at evasive characters, who can quest for lore without being able to be challenged back, combining Emerald with Amethyst makes for a more controlling deck, exhausting and returning your opponent’s characters as you steadily grow in power. Given that all ink can be used to play any card they had to find a way to limit players from trying to smash everything into a single deck, but even with that consideration a lot of effort has gone into planning each pair, with everything more than capable of working with another ink, just to different styles of gameplay.
What to buy when starting out with Disney Lorcana
Getting into Disney Lorcana is simple: the three starter decks each offer a great balance of core staples and fun rares from which you can branch off and customise your own decks. I love that each deck also comes with a booster pack; you can instantly start adding your own personal twists from the first game.
The product range will be familiar to anyone who has collected Pokémon, but this isn’t a negative: avoiding too many options will ensure players can buy to the level they’re comfortable with and not have to worry about missing out if they don’t buy in booster boxes. Having two rares guaranteed each pack (there’s also a foil that could sometimes be rare or higher too) should help keep card prices accessible, with a lot of the big money going to the special full-art Enchanted versions of cards. I never have a problem with any system offering luxury versions, provided that a cheaper option is available.
I also love the multiplayer rules: when playing with more than two players, simply pass turns clockwise. It’s perfect. Having cards mention ‘each opponent’ shift their power for these games, letting you revalue a card for different player counts if you desired, but not needing specific decks for various formats. If you want to get someone into the game, you can have them join in whilst you’re already playing, with the more experienced players helping them out as they now fend off two opponents. It’s a brilliant way to get people playing and gives the game a more welcoming vibe.
Should you play Disney Lorcana?
So far, every experience I’ve had with Lorcana has been fantastic. I feel that I’m learning more with each game I play, being able to customise my strategy without overly relying on rarer cards (though there are certainly some legendaries that will be expensive, have those card sleeves at hand.) I will personally be attending my local store to play in the Organized Play events (already planned from launch with prize support) as it’s the right balance of easy to start playing, capable of playing casually but also offering a slight competitive potential that fits within my lifestyle.
With accessible rules, variable player counts and enough tactical consideration for competitive play, you might be looking at the next big CCG craze. Here's hoping they can keep that momentum up. MUST PLAY.
What other games are like Disney Lorcana?
Fans of Pokemon TCG will find a lot of similar aspects to like in Disney Lorcana. Another franchise beloved many, both games reward players who learn the system well and collectors who just want to have a beautiful array of cards.
Who makes Disney Lorcana?
The Lead Designers for Disney Lorcana are Ryan Miller and Steve Warner. The game is published by Ravensburger.
What is available in 'The First Chapter' for Disney Lorcana?
- 216 Cards with set code “1”
- 12 Enchanted
- 12 Legendary
- 18 Super Rare
- 48 Rare
- 54 Uncommon
- 72 Common
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