Disney Lorcana review – Pure tabletop magic

Disney Lorcana is an inviting, approachable TCG with neat "combat" and all-ages appeal.
disney lorcana review

There’s something incredibly inviting about being introduced to a new Trading Card Game (TCG) on the ground floor. Disney Lorcana, as it currently stands, is bright, shiny, and new. It’s unfettered by decades of new mechanics and card complications that make gameplay feel inaccessible. While this may change in future, the game is currently very approachable, and buoyed by strong, simple mechanics that can be understood and enjoyed by players of all ages.

Knowledge of Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon certainly helps in the learning process, but with a boiled down approach to gameplay and combat, anyone can easily get up to speed. All you really need to know is your goal for the game – to earn 20 lore, thereby winning the game – and how you can use your characters to achieve that goal.

How to play Disney Lorcana

Rounds in Disney Lorcana will be very familiar to TCG enthusiasts. It’s a two player game (although you could play with more) where each player has their own deck of 60 cards, stacked with character, item, and action cards. Your starting hand comprises 7 unique cards, which can be played by spending “ink.”

In a neat twist to the Magic: The Gathering/Pokemon formula, ink does not feature on separate cards – instead, certain characters can be sacrificed to “become” ink. Your first move will always be to play an “ink” card to your “inkwell.” This requires you to analyse your starting hand, and sacrifice a card that you feel won’t be useful on the battlefield.

Sometimes, you face tough choices in that regard – which spices up your approach. If you’ve got a great hand, you’ll have to consider sacrificing a character that you really, really like. Sorry Pooh – it’s time for you to go now.

What I really like about this particular mechanic is that it limits how powerful a player’s deck can be. While you can load up decks with extremely powerful cards, if you do this, you’ll always end up in a situation where your most powerful cards will need to be sacrificed to the inkwell. You can put lesser-powered characters in your deck to avoid this complication, but elements of luck will then determine how fortunate your card draws will be. It’s a neat twist that works well, and adds more thought into rounds of gameplay.

Read: Disney Lorcana releases in Australia and New Zealand

disney lorcana review inkwell
>Image: GamesHub

It’s important to pick characters for your inkwell wisely, as you’ll need to make strategic moves on the battlefield to ensure victory. To play cards from your hand, you’ll pay their inkwell cost (seen in the top left corner), with more powerful cards (ones with higher “challenge” damage, or ample lore value) requiring more ink.

As mentioned, your goal in Disney Lorcana is to earn 20 lore, tracked on a playing mat. Rather than trying to defeat your opponent, you’ve got more noble aims here, which is a nice twist on the usual goals of TCG gameplay.

Your approach should be measured – it can be fast or slow, depending on your drawn hand and the synergies you’ll find within your deck. More powerful characters cost more ink, but cheaper characters can slowly accumulate lore, with a steady approach.

To earn lore, you’ll send your characters on “quests” by exerting them – but there’s also another twist to this mechanic. While exerted, characters can be “challenged” by another player’s character. At this point, a mini-combat ensues, where each character deals damage. Based on willpower (defence), and attack strength, you may end up having to “banish” your favourite characters, and then come up with a new strategy for collecting lore.

Wonderful simplicity

disney lorcana gameplay
Image: GamesHub

What is most appealing about Disney Lorcana is this lighter-touch approach. Card elements are easily understood, and mechanics (for now) are very easy to grasp. For more experienced TCG players, this means there will be a lack of difficult challenge by design, but there’s certainly a time and place for simple, effective card games like Lorcanaparticularly if you’re tired of working out complex damage counters and interlocking synergies for other, more established games.

That said, there are some wonderful synergies within Disney Lorcana that add a layer of complexity for players looking to strategise their way to victory. In the Rise of the Floodborn Amber and Sapphire Deck that I was playing, for example, each of the Seven Dwarfs in the deck have their own interactions with each other.

disney lorcana synergy
Image: GamesHub

When you play Grumpy alongside another Dwarf, they get additional strength. Sneezy allows all Dwarves to -1 strength to opponents, per every Dwarf played. Dopey also buffs other Dwarves, allowing you to amp up your strength in challenges, hopefully avoiding banishment and allowing you to continue questing for another round.

It’s in the journey of discovering these synergies, and how to speed up the race for lore, that Disney Lorcana is most compelling. While on the surface, it can be played as a simple and light game infused with the beauty and nostalgia of Disney films, there’s also layers beneath its surface that help to elevate gameplay, and keep the gears turning in your mind.

It remains approachable, in that its target audience is fairly young, but older players will still get a kick from min-maxxing their approach, and figuring out the best ways for each card to interact.

Off to work you go

Disney Lorcana, overall, is a streamlined TCG that adapts the mechanics of popular games very well, while adding in its own unique twists. Its inkwell mechanic is very clever, and adds a layer of complexity that shakes up each match. Reducing the focus on combat is also a neat twist, with this allowing for more pleasant, all-ages themes of questing and knowledge.

At this stage, Disney Lorcana is an incredibly approachable game, and one with strong building blocks for the future. There is ample familiarity in the game and its main mechanics, but with neat design choices and a refreshing approach to earning victory, Lorcana is an exciting – not to mention gorgeous – new TCG experience.

Four stars: ★★★★

Disney Lorcana
Release Year: 2023

A copy of Disney Lorcana was provided for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are scored on a five-point scale. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.