Introducing The Magical World Of: Disney Lorcana
Step aside, Magic: The Gathering! Look out, Pokemon! There’s a new Trading Card Game (TCG) in town, and this one comes straight from The Mouse, himself. That’s right, Disney are dipping their toe into the TCG market with Disney Lorcana, and this feels big. As in, big-big. Could we be about to witness a TCG that could finally break into the ‘Big Three’ of Magic, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!? With the financial power and business clout of Disney behind it, anything’s possible…
So should we start to get excited? Should our wallets get ready to weep? Is Disney Lorcana the real deal? Or is this all a mere flash in the pan? Let’s take a look at what Mickey and Co. have to offer. What is it? How do you play? How do you win? How do you build decks? What’s available to buy, and when? Are you sitting comfortably? Let’s discover if this tale has a happy ending!
A Whole New World: What Is Lorcana?
Disney Lorcana is a portmanteau: Lore + Arcana = Lorcana! Coming August 18th (to smaller stores; everywhere else on Sept 1st), Lorcana is a TCG in partnership with Ravensburger. You might recognise them as the team that brought you Disney Villainous. Lorcana, though, is a different kind of beast. As a TCG, the core premise of the game revolves around deck-building and hand-management. You build a deck with at least 60 cards, then use those cards to go on quests. Your aim is to collect 20 points of Lore before your opponents. Lorcana isn’t restricted to 1-vs-1 battles, like Pokemon. It can cater up to four players (all-vs-all) in a race to hit 20 Lore Points.
When I say ‘deckbuilding’, this isn’t like Dominion, Clank!, or Valley of the Kings. A large part of a TCG involves you building the deck and collecting the cards before you even start playing! That's like a separate little game in its own right! There are plenty of products you can buy to continuously improve your deck. (Or decks – plural – if you want to experiment.) We'll look at those, further down!
The cards themselves feature a huge variety of memorable characters, items, actions from all your favourite Disney movies. Yes, you can build a deck that includes polarising characters. How about a deck that contains both Captain Hook and sweet, innocent Lilo? What about Moana and the cringeworthy buffoon, Gaston? The items are well-known ‘props’ from the films, such as Ariel’s ‘Dinglehopper’ from The Little Mermaid. And I haven’t even got to the coolest part: some of the Action Cards are ‘Songs’, which some characters can sing…
Oh, Mickey, You're So Fine: The Variety (And Limitations) To Deckbuilding
Trading Card Games tend to share many parallels when it comes to their model. You’re welcome to build a deck using any of the cards… but there are some restrictions. With Lorcana, it’s to do with Ink. As an Illumineer, you can use up to two different Inks (colours). There’s six different colours: Amber, Amethyst, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire and Steel. You can pick any two you like to construct your deck. Each Ink has a different kind of pattern, or play-style to it. The fun part is deciding which two you want to pair together, to make fascinating and powerful combos! (Alternatively, you can pick your favourite colours!)
To begin, there’s 204 cards released in The First Chapter. (The Second Chapter, or next wave of cards released, is due in late November.) There’s an even spread of 34 cards per Ink for now. You’re allowed to have up to four copies of the same card in your deck. This means you can’t build a deck with 60 of the same card in it!
However, there is, for example, more than one kind of Mickey Mouse card. (In fact, there’s seven! One in each Ink colour, and a second one in Emerald. It's almost as if he's got some kind of bias with Disney...!) Thus, it would be legal to have four copies of Mickey Mouse: Artful Rogue, and four copies of Mickey Mouse: Steamboat Pilot in your deck. With future releases, we'd expect there to be a huge swathe of, say, Mickeys in Lorcana. That might mean that you could, in time, build a deck entirely made from Mickey Cards!
It’s Not The Size Of Your Deck That Counts… It’s How You Use It!
In theory, then, your deck could contain as few as 15 unique cards (if you wanted four copies of each, this being 4x15 = 60). You can have more than 60 cards in your deck if you wish. The clever thing about constructing a deck though is not necessarily about it being humongous. The larger your deck, the harder it is, odds-wise, to draw the exact card you need.
The other cool consideration you need to make is how many cards to include in your deck that are ‘Inkable’, and which ones aren’t. “Inkable?” I hear you cry. Don’t panic. Let’s take a step back and look at the anatomy of a card, so we can digest what’s what. That way we can also digest some of the Disney Lorcana lingo!
Be Prepared: Learn What Means What On A Card
The cards themselves in Lorcana are the same size as Pokemon and MTG (rather than the smaller Yu-Gi-Oh! cards). They have a black border, and the number in the top-left is a vital one. This is the card’s cost – in Ink – to play it. This number will either have a plain gold hex border, or it will have a fancy, swirling golden spiral around it. If it has the latter, it is an Inkable Card, which means you can use it as the Ink in-game currency. If it has the plain gold hexagon, it is not Inkable.
A good 50-60% of the card itself is beautiful art, showing the character, action, or item. A coloured banner sits, horizontal, under the art. This is which of the six Inks it is. For colourblind players, each Ink has an icon on the left-hand side of this banner. Within this banner there’s the name of the character, item, or action. Underneath it, in smaller font, is a brief description of that character, such as SIMBA: Protective Cub. There are multiple Simbas in The First Chapter alone, but not all of them are ‘Protective Cub’. One is ‘Rightful Heir’, for example.
If the card is a Character, then on the right-hand side of the banner are two other important numbers. One is in a circular ‘compass’ (at least, that’s what I’m calling it!); the other is in a shield. The first (the compass!) is the Strength that this particular Character has when it comes to battling other Characters. The number in the shield is, as you might have guessed, its defence, or Willpower, as Lorcana calls it.
A darker, slimmer banner sits beneath this main banner. The italic text states if this card slots into any particular categories. These include the likes of Bodyguard, Hero, Princess, Mentor, Inventor, King, Ally, Villain, Deity, Queen, Sorcerer, and many more! These also include the curious categories of Storyborn, Dreamborn and Floodborn. Storyborn glimmers are characters as you recognise them in their Disney film(s). Dreamborn glimmers are different, alternate versions of themselves. They're created by “the imaginations of the Illumineers”. Floodborns are unique again, but to find out their official origin, we’ll have to wait until The Second Chapter...
For the collectors among you: the bottom border of the card is where you’re going to want to look. In the bottom-left is the card’s number within the set (out of 204). In the centre of the black bottom border there will sit the card’s rarity icon. At first, Lorcana announced five types of rarity among the cards: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Super-Rare, and Legendary. However, at GenCon (3-6 August 2023), a sixth type of rare card entered the scene! It’s safe to say that the Lorcana lovers were over the moon upon this announcement! Again, we’ll look at this in greater detail further on down.
The bottom third of the card is where the text sits, explaining what kind of unique abilities (if any) this card performs. To its right, Character cards (not Items or Actions) have 1-4 fancy teardrop diamonds. These are how many Lore Points this card can earn you, if this card goes Questing. Doing this is what wins you the game, so let’s look at that, next!
Circle Of Life: How To Play Lorcana
You start games of Disney Lorcana by everyone shuffling their own deck. Then, everyone draws seven cards into their hand from the top of their deck. There is a mulligan system (in case you don’t like your starting hand), where you can remove x number of cards, then redraw x cards. Then you reshuffle your deck. You must keep this second hand, though.
The first player can then play one of their Inkable cards face-down into their ‘Inkwell’. They have to show it to their opponent(s) first, though. Otherwise, they could cheat and play any old card in this manner! Then, if they have any cards in their hand that cost 1 Ink to play, they could ‘spend’ the Inked card in their Inkwell. This would let them have that 1-cost Ink card enter the game, face-up.
Because you are an Illumineer, using Ink to create these glimmers of Disney tales, you’ll use a lot of Ink. This also means that when cards enter the game, they haven’t ‘dried’ yet! Meaning, you cannot activate them straight away (unless they have an ability that overrides this). This is akin to Summoning Sickness in MTG. The first few turns in Lorcana are quick, then, because you don’t have much Ink in your Inkwell to play with. This is why it’s important to put a few 1-cost cards into your deck, when building it!
Assuming that’s the end of their turn, now the next player goes, clockwise. From the second turn on, every player gets to draw a card from their deck at the start of their turn. (The first player doesn’t get this privilege, because they got to go first!) As the game progresses into turn five, you might have five Inked cards face-down in your Inkwell. This gives you a lot more flexibility to play more expensive cards. Or, you could play multiple cards (with the sum of their Ink cost amounting to five).
Tale As Old As Time: Hand-Management Decisions
Characters stay out in front of you all game, as do Items. Once you’ve spent Ink to play them, they stay with you, meaning you can trigger them time and time again. To do this, you Exert the card (AKA, turn it 90°). This is for two reasons; one, so you cannot cheat and attempt to do it twice in one turn! And two, because opponents can only Challenge Exerted Characters. (More on that in a moment!)
Actions are one-time benefits, but with good timing they can be crucial. Songs, meanwhile, are like actions. But the cool thing about Songs is that they have a boost on them such as, “A character with a cost 4 or more can Exert to sing this Song for free.” This is amazing, because it means you can save yourself a lot of Ink by Exerting one of your other Characters! Plus, you can imagine it’s like the Character is singing the song, itself!
Exerting cards is a big deal on your turn, then. You can either opt to Exert them to go questing for the Lore value on the card. Or, you can opt to for them to Challenge an opponent’s Exerted Characters. This is where those Strength and Willpower numbers come into play. You compare the Strength of the Character you’re Challenging with, versus the Willpower of the card you’re attacking.
If you can knock that number down to zero, then it has to come out of play and into that player’s discard pile. Any damage it might deal back to you stays on the card, though. The game comes with tokens to keep track of this. This doesn’t heal over time. You have to find ways of healing your cards (using other cards, like certain Items, for example). Or else your wounded Characters then become a target for your opponent! However, it’s worth noting that players can only Challenge Exerted cards. This is a cool twist, if you want to protect a card for a little while! Especially since at the start of your turn, you Ready any Exerted cards (rotate them back 90°).
You’ll keep going until one player reaches that magical target of 20 Lore points! It’s almost the reverse to MTG, in that there’s no player elimination here. You’re not all starting on 20 and trying to knock each other down to zero. It’s the opposite; it’s a race to hit 20.
Into The Unknown: What’s The Deal With The Rare Cards?
There’s 204 cards announced for The First Chapter of Disney Lorcana. To break that down, rarity-wise across all six Inks, there will be:
- 72x Commons
- 54x Uncommons
- 48x Rares
- 18x Super-Rares
- 12x Legendaries
There will also be foils of every single card within The First Chapter. The collectors out there will no doubt aim to try and get all 204 of them! At first, it seemed like Legendary foils would be the ‘Chase’ cards. But no! There are also 12 Enchanted Cards announced at GenCon. These are are variants of 12 of the cards among the 204, with alternate art. They are full-art (no borders), and also have an Inkwash foil treatment, which is different to a standard foil.
How Far I’ll Go: Which Lorcana Products Will You Pick Up?
So, now that you’re eager to start playing, you might be thinking: how do I get started? Great news! There’s a lot of products available, so let’s take a quick look at them all:
The core product to any TCG is the Booster Pack. This is a sealed pack containing 12 Cards, but you don’t know which 12! Of the 12, six are guaranteed Commons, three are Uncommon, and one is a foil (this could be of any rarity, including the illusive Enchanted!). The final two will be from either Rare, Super-Rare, or Legendary. Cracking packs open like this and seeing what you get is a huge thrill to any TCG fan. Especially when you pull the card you desire, or a super-shiny Legendary!
It’s recommended, however, when starting Lorcana, that you begin by purchasing one of the Starter Decks. These contain a 60-card deck, across two Inks. There’s three options: Amber & Amethyst, or Emerald & Ruby, or Sapphire & Steel. Of course, there’s nothing to say that you can’t buy two Starter Decks. Then you could mix and match the cards from within them to build a different deck! Starter Decks also come with one free Booster Pack. This is a wonderful touch. It means you can open it and add some of the corresponding Ink cards to your Starter Deck straight away!
The Gift Set
This is the product aimed at the Disney Lorcana collectors. It comes with two specific foils (an Amber Hades and a Ruby Mulan) and four Booster Packs. But it also contains two oversized cards of Amber Hades and Ruby Mulan! This is very much on parallel with Pokemon products that come with a jumbo-sized card. It’s not ever intended to play with, of course!
This is the biggest product available on launch, coming with a whopping eight Booster Packs. This isn’t about mere quantity of cards, though. You also get a Storage Box, 2x deck boxes (to keep your cards in), 15 game tokens (for tracking damage) and a player’s guide.
And that’s not all! Disney Lorcana will also release packs of 65 matte Card Sleeves. You can also get Deck Boxes that can hold up to 80x sleeved cards. There’s three designs available for both, featuring one of Captain Hook, Elsa, or Mickey Mouse. And what TCG would Lorcana be without fabric playmats? There’s another three designs ready for lauch: Maleficent, Maui, and Mickey Mouse. Finally, there’s also portfolio folders, so you can transport your pride and joy! There’s two different designs: Stitch, and The Queen (from Snow White).
Phew! That’s a whole lot of goodies for launch day! It’s impossible to tell right now if Lorcana can muscle its way up the TCG ladder. One thing’s for sure: it will have a broad appeal, due to the popularity of its IP. Disney has a monumental lure to its already-hardcore fanbase. Meanwhile, folks like myself, who aren’t afraid to admit they enjoy a bit of childhood nostalgia, will get a kick out of it, too. There’s a collector’s element to it, as well, ticking that box. And then there’s the all-important gameplay: will that hold up? Early indications seem to be a resounding ‘Yes’. Disney Lorcana is fun. It’s coming. Could it flood its way to a tabletop near you, soon?