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Disney’s Sorcerers Arena: Epic Alliances (Core Set)

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Become the next Master Summoner in the battle arena game Disney Sorcerer’s Arena: Epic Alliances, an expandable tabletop game inspired by the popular mobile game Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. Recruit from a battle-ready roster of Disney and Pixar heroes and villains — Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, Gaston, Aladdin, Demona, Sulley, Dr. Facilier, Maleficent, and Ariel �…
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-USOHB76400220004 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Tabletop adaptation which surpasses the original app
  • A family-friendly but complex skirmish game
  • Recognisable IP paired with great strategic depth

Might Not Like

  • Some components are a bit fiddly
  • Lots of rules to keep on top of
  • A few component quality letdowns
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Description

Become the next Master Summoner in the battle arena game Disney Sorcerer's Arena: Epic Alliances, an expandable tabletop game inspired by the popular mobile game Disney Sorcerer's Arena.

Recruit from a battle-ready roster of Disney and Pixar heroes and villains — Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey, Gaston, Aladdin, Demona, Sulley, Dr. Facilier, Maleficent, and Ariel — then combine the cards for your characters into a single deck. You take turns playing standard actions and cards from your hand to move your characters and attack opponents. If you knock out rival characters or occupy certain spaces near the center of the arena until your next turn, you score points. When a player reaches 20 points or runs out of cards in their deck, the game ends at the conclusion of that round, and whoever has the most points wins.

The rules for Disney Sorcerer's Arena: Epic Alliances Core Set are spread out across four chapters, with each chapter building on what's come before to introduce players to new skills, upgrades, and abilities over multiple games. Multiple expansions will be released for the game line to allow for more team combinations.

Fairytale Free-For-All

Rival sorcerers summon beloved and feared characters alike from across the Disney and Pixar universe, pitting them against each other in the ultimate battle for victory. Mermaids’ glittering tridents clash with would-be princes’ scimitars; crackling lighting explodes against raging whirlpools; and laser blasts ricochet off shimmering dragons’ scales. It’s time to enter Disney Sorcerer’s Arena: Epic Alliances.

This expandable fantasy skirmish game for two or four players (or three, if one experienced player can manage two hands of cards at once) sees a cast of Disney and Pixar characters fighting in teams of three to reach 20 Victory Points. They do this by playing cards from their thirty-card deck – made from each of their three character’s unique deck of ten – in order to manoeuvre and perform actions (which can be anything from attacking, drawing cards, and healing, to inflicting status effects, teleporting and banishing opponent’s cards from the game), and to utilise special character skills to activate powerful buffs and super moves.

Victory points are acquired by holding victory spaces on the board, which adds a nice bit of king-of-the-hill tactics to the mix, but you will only secure one point for each turn a character starts on a victory space. The real treasure lies in defeating, or KO’ing, your rivals, with the beefiest bruisers worth more than the fragile fighters. Characters are returned to the board at the start of their turn, so you’re never out of the fray for long, and choosing when and where to deal the final blow becomes a puzzle in and of itself.

The rulebook even contains, for the first time I’ve ever seen or heard of it, chapters of varying complexity. You start with an introductory game of two set characters each, using only their cards and with a win condition of 12 points, then work your way up introducing more and more skills, hand size allowances, upgrades and teambuilding. This allows younger players to stick to the simpler scraps, while experienced gamers can implement or tweak any number of the rules as they learn the game. In this way, the rules are like building blocks; they are all individual pieces, able to be added or removed, but whichever ones you use they all elegantly stack together in a number of configurations.

Storybook Skirmish

Like a number of games with multiple factions or playable characters, from Twilight Imperium Rex all the way to Keyforge, all of the characters in Sorcerer’s Arena’s core set feel overpowered, but this has the net effect that none of them actually are! In reality, it’s your team drafting that’s going to carry you to victory.

A deceptively critical choice is the order in which your team will take turns, and how this counters your opponent’s. Will you choose the starter set’s femmes fatales, Maleficent, Ariel and Demona, to build a team excelling in ranged lightning, particle blasters and healing, but at the expense of strong board control? Or maybe just a team of tanks, with Sulley and Gaston, fighters through and through who sacrifice speed for strength.

And don’t even get me started on how the roster’s unique character skills interact. Many of Dr Facilier’s cards are spells, meaning a pairing with Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey will enhance the mouse mage’s ability to keep multiplying his army of Magic Brooms each time he draws one of these magic-type cards. Team-building could be such an unimportant part of the game, reduced to just picking at random, but like many of my favourite game-design choices, it can be as simple or as complex as you like. Agonise over the best possible combo, or just grab your favourite characters; you’ll find a new and exciting mix whatever you do.

This is because interactions between characters and the moves you and your opponents make all feel so thematically accurate; I recently lost a game to a veritable tidal wave of a final move from Mickey. His Magic Broom tokens had amassed, multiplying exponentially just as they do in the Fantasia movie, suddenly overwhelming me, allowing him to deal a massive attack which instantly KO’ed Maleficent at full health and won my opponent the game.

Each character in Disney Sorcerer’s Arena feels like they fill a niche, but all complement each other, and that’s no easy balance to strike; you risk clashing mechanics, or introducing abilities so unique to a certain character that it doesn’t feel like the same game system at all. Those pitfalls are navigated expertly here. Each hero works around slight tweaks to the concrete rules laid out from the get-go, with some gaining extra little boosts from things like moving on their turn before attacking, attacking while occupying a victory space, or attacks which spread between rivals in close proximity to one another.

Mythical Melee

With so many options on your turn, the true skill becomes navigating the gamble of when and where to use them. Deciding to save your devastating Dragon Form in the hopes your rivals will cluster together on their next few turns might end in disaster when not pressing the attack can result in being forced to discard cards, waste time moving your allies back into the fray, or even lose the round entirely. This intricate back-and-forth is only further enhanced by things like turn order, how your allies can bolster you, what your opponents can or will do on their turns, and the fact your opponent is considering all of these things when it comes to you, too! Deciphering the decks of each character (and you’ll discover just as much by playing against them) is a delightful learning curve, raising replayability higher than the highest room in the tallest tower.

All the considerations mentioned so far must also take a nifty little system called ‘Gears’ into account when playing Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. Each card is given one of four tiny icons, a Gear, which does nothing by itself but is harnessed to upgrade characters (their card flipping to reveal their most powerful innate ability) when a certain number of each type is shared between the cards in their discard pile. This peels back an entirely new and exciting layer to the puzzle; as each character lists the quantities of each Gear in their deck and requires a unique combination to upgrade, the system gives you yet another facet with which to refine your team.

Speaking of refined, the game’s many status effects, too, are absolutely genius. I have never seen a tabletop game implement this so well – even most video game user interfaces, from Pokémon to Borderlands, don’t display the various Cursed, Stealthy, or Taunt effects this effectively and legibly. The chevron pieces slot into your character’s turn indicator, then others can stack on top of this in an ergonomic line. Cards most often give characters “2” of a certain effect, which means you place two counters on that status indicator and remove one at the start of that character’s turn.

Effectively, this means the effect lasts from the turn it is activated until the next one, as once the last token is removed, so is the effect, but it’s just a really neat way to handle it that eliminates confusion or the need for bulky numbered tracks. Sometimes it’s an ongoing buff which eventually expires – like Tough, lowering any damage taken by 1 point – or a timer ticking down to punishment like Flustered, which forces you to banish a card from the game for the duration of that round. This further distinguishes characters from one another, as many focus on immobilising or otherwise hindering opponents instead of dealing direct damage.

Fighting Fables

In terms of quality, there’s a lot to talk about in this big ol’ box of Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, and it swings wildly. Glancing at product shots, I initially thought the acrylic standees were a major cheap-out, where miniatures could have obviously been included (and are, in skirmish games ranging from Unmatched to Warhammer Underworlds). But getting the game in-hand and seeing the stylised geometric-edged art style, miniatures would have been out of place. Plus, choosing what would have more than likely amounted to a single colour per miniature would have been difficult for such a vivid roster, and as a bonus each character actually has their own printed scenic base rather than a generic one shared by all.

The board is the only place where the aesthetic falls down. It looks like a mobile app, which makes sense given the game’s origin, but where a phone would have to utilise processing power to render scenery, a physical board has no such burden, and therefore no such excuse (other than printer budget, I suppose).

However, keeping it neutral with so many characters from different universes and genres in play does make sense, but a number of titles manage to get away with exotic locations while still feeling neutral. The opportunity to include locations from the Disney Parks was right there, guys! Even some kind of mediaeval brickwork would have gone a long way here, what with Disney being most closely associated with a castle. There could have been steps up to the victory tiles in the centre, with gold coins and treasure strewn across the floor. This way some visual flair could have been injected while still being kept primarily grey so as not to clash with any of the colourful standees. Oh, well, no point wishing on a star for that one – the board is so simple that you could print off a custom one if you so desired!

The cards in my copy had to be sleeved, as they’re noticeably thin and many were even stuck together like the pages of a child’s ketchup-smeared reading book, resulting in a tear to the back of a card when I tried to extricate a particularly stubborn pair from one another. I doubt they would shuffle at all without the more polished surface of the sleeves, and I didn’t want to risk damaging any more of them to find out, because when it comes to artwork the saturated colours and unique art assets really pop.

The only mechanical gripes I have are the management of health, and the sheer number of rules to keep track of. For the former, dials which look like they would rotate with a satisfying click are actually plastic rings you have to lift off the base, move, and push back into place. As you have to pick up your standees unless you’re particularly dextrous, they often fall off their bases. This resulted in more than one occasion where after the awkward fiddling we didn’t know quite which space they had been standing on.

As for the rules in the Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, I know I said they all mesh together exquisitely, and I stand by that; the included reference cards also offer a perfect timeline of each turn, from checking status effects and drawing a card through to moving, attacking, triggering skills and upgrading. But with six characters, each with multiple skills, thirty cards per player, which Gears you’ll need in order to upgrade, and three victory spaces (and that’s even before any status effects), your brain is grappling with dozens of eventualities at once, and there were a few times we were so caught up in calculating our master plans that we suddenly realised Dr Facilier had Stealthy, meaning a card must first be discarded in order to attack him, and the last three turns had contained illegal moves. Whoops!

King Of The (Disney) Castle

If you’re wondering how I explained the rules in two paragraphs then proceeded to discuss them in depth for another dozen, that’s the true secret hiding behind the kid-friendly theming. There’s no simpler way to put it: this one truly blindsided me. Initially picked up as a fun free-for-all for my fiance’s Christmas present, it’s true that I saw some similarities to my favourite game in my collection, Unmatched. But what I didn’t realise, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, is that Sorcerer’s Arena would surpass it to claim the top spot.

The one thing holding a lot of great games back is the wider appeal. Plenty have amazing rulesets and design, but ultimately a game is only as good as the number of times you can get it to the table. Well, I can guarantee, no matter which group I’m playing with, that whenever I bring out the chunky purple treasure chest box that contains Sorcerer’s Arena, attention is grabbed, eyes light up as they spot the Mickey logo, then an entire evening of cartoon chaos ensues for an exceptionally tactical, thematically rich and lovingly realised experience which has made all my tabletop dreams come true.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Tabletop adaptation which surpasses the original app
  • A family-friendly but complex skirmish game
  • Recognisable IP paired with great strategic depth

Might not like

  • Some components are a bit fiddly
  • Lots of rules to keep on top of
  • A few component quality letdowns