MSRP: $16.99 per starter deck; $5.99 per 12-card booster pack
From the publishers of Disney Villainous comes Disney Lorcana, a trading card game that takes precise aim at the decades-plus reigning juggernauts of the genre: Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon: The Trading Card Game.
Lorcana doesn’t reinvent the genre, but successfully injects tried-and-true competitive card gameplay with beautiful original artwork, bolstered by one of the few, if not only, IPs that’s even bigger than Pokémon.
Unlike Magic or Pokémon, the goal in Lorcana isn’t to destroy your opponent or their creatures. The goal is to achieve 20 lore.
Lore is acquired mostly through summoning characters and having them go on quests. Functionally, you’re either exhausting summoned characters to quest and acquire lore, or to challenge and banish other characters (thus slowing down your opponent from questing).
Just like Magic, each character has an offense value (Strength) and a defense value (Wisdom), but a crucial difference is attackers being able to target individual enemies, as in Hearthstone.
Lorcana takes this a bit further, with only allowing challenges toward exhausted characters. This is a nice improvement on the formula, as it prevents newly summoned characters (who can’t be used their first turn, as “their ink is still drying”) from being defeated before a player can ever use them, and makes using characters more of a calculated risk.
Another welcome improvement to the Magic formula is how resources work. Every turn a player can choose to turn one of their cards into ink, turning it face down and adding it to their inkwell. The inkwell is then used to summon other characters, items, and play action cards, creating a natural ramp up in resource costs as most players choose to ink something every turn.
I love being able to turn almost any card into a potential resource. It’s not quite as easy as Hearthstone’s auto-one mana increase, or Keyforge’s resource-less system, but a solid compromise to still track limited resources and build them yourself, and having to choose which of your cards to permanently lose.
On the flip side, dedicating cards to ink production creates a card-draw issue that most decks run into by the middle of the game. It’s a common enough problem in TCGs that it has a name, “topdecking,” when you have zero cards and only draw one card each turn, limiting your options.
In the starter sets we played with, there’s not a lot of card draw, limiting the potential strategies and interactions. In fact, in every game I played players on average went through only about one third of their 60-card decks. Not every deck has to ink every turn, however; sometimes it’s better to hold on to smaller cards and get them out faster, rather than build to big behemoths such as the 8-cost Maui.
A trading card game is also all about deck construction. Decks in Lorcana must include two of the six colors (even though ink doesn’t differentiate between them). Like Magic, the colors have different gameplay styles and themes. Amber tends to have more supportive and healing abilities while Ruby and Steel are more aggressive, with the latter having especially large, powerful late game characters.
Characters can appear in different colors, depending on their variant. For example, Aladdin: Prince Ali is an Emerald card, Aladdin: Street Rat can be found in the Ruby set, and Aladdin: Cornered Swordsman is a Steel card.
The three starter decks feature different color combinations, and do a good job showing off different styles and combos. They also each include a booster pack, letting you see different cards the first set has to offer, and making the starter decks an even way to get started.
One of my favorite brand new gameplay additions are the song cards. Songs are a major part of most animated Disney films, and they play a special role in Lorcana. They’re unique action cards that can be sung by characters instead of having to pay ink. Characters have to be at least the same cost as the song, and are exhausted to sing, but otherwise save you ink to play other cards.
And yes, it leads to funny situations such as Mr. Smee singing “Part of Your World.” Definitely a favorite part around my table!
The extra components are the most disappointing bits. The damage counters are flimsy cardboard chits, and the paper playmats aren’t even full mats. Seasoned players will quickly use their own playmats and lore-counters, but it’s a shame a game with this big an IP couldn’t spring for slightly nicer components.
On the flip side, the card art is absolutely gorgeous. Instead of using familiar stock images of the characters, new art has been commissioned for each card. Not only do characters come in different styles, but they also include Storyborn (familiar versions), Dreamborn, and Floodborn (cool new variants, such as a lava-crusted Scar, or Maurice as a world-famous inventor) versions. As a collectible card game, many folks will want to grab Lorcana for the awesome card art alone.
Lorcana has a recommended age of 8+, which puts it solidly between Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering. That sounds about right; even with the family-friendly Disney theme, Lorcana may be a bit meatier than expected for younger children. Cards have keyword abilities such as Rush, Evasion and Ward, as well as individual abilities to consider.
On the other side, Magic veterans may look at Lorcana as being a little too simplified.
With amazing art, solid gameplay, and a huge IP, Disney Lorcana has what it takes to take on Magic: The Gathering at the top of the TCG mountain. It has a long road to climb, but if the publisher can keep up with demand, create steady releases, and keep the mechanics fresh and engaging, we may be looking at the beginning of a whole new world in trading card games.