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A selection of cards from Disney Lorcana, including Mickey Mouse and Maleficent. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

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A Disney Lorcana guide for absolute beginners

Never played a trading card game before? Start here

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Disney Lorcana, the brand-new trading card game by Ravensburger, is meant to be enjoyed by everyone — from hardcore collectors to absolute newbies. But the game draws on the rich traditions of the TCG genre, which were established some 30 years ago by games like Magic: The Gathering and the Pokémon Trading Card Game. In this guide, we will try to get you up to speed as quickly as possible on how these kinds of games work. We’ll cover the rules of Lorcana, how to get into collecting, and — most importantly — how to play the game with your local community of fans. Let’s get started.

What is Disney Lorcana and where can I buy it?

Disney Lorcana is a trading card game, also known as a TCG. In its most basic mode of play it’s a two-player dueling game where the best of three rounds wins. Each round is a race to 20 points, called lore, with each player hoping to reach that total before their opponent.

The game is sold primarily in two different ways, either as 60-card starter decks or as 12-card booster packs. To begin your journey you’ll want a starter deck, which runs $16.99. You can find them for sale first at your friendly local game store beginning Aug. 18. Starting Sept. 1 products will also be available at Best Buy and the Shop Disney website, with more retailers expected to follow.

Starter decks are preconstructed, meaning that they contain a curated selection of cards that all work together and contribute toward a shared strategy. Booster packs are assembled semi-randomly, drawing from the entire 200-plus set of cards that the game launches with. Boosters are a great way to find new cards so you can upgrade or alter a given deck, but they’re not necessary if you’re just getting started.

What are these tokens for? How do I keep score?

Inside every starter deck for Disney Lorcana is a cardboard insert with a series of tokens on them, marked -1 and -3. You’ll need those each time you play to record damage done to your characters. You can also swap them out for glass beads, six-sided dice, or bottle caps — whatever you have to hand, really, works just fine.

The other, larger token inside the box is for keeping score. Used in conjunction with the paper playmat, you can track your total from zero all the way to 20 points. There is also a free-to-download Disney Lorcana app (available for both iOS and Android). It contains a handy tool for keeping score at the table that is, in my opinion, much easier to keep track of than a cardboard token.

Do I need card sleeves, deck boxes, and a gaming mat?

You’re going to be doing a lot of shuffling in this game, and that will mean a lot of wear and tear on your cards. Can you ruffle and bridge those cards like a poker dealer? Sure, go right ahead. But you’re likely to damage those cards over time. The solution? Card sleeves, deck boxes, and neoprene gaming mats.

Card sleeves can feel bulky at first, but in a way that’s kind of the point. When you’re drawing cards, the sleeves help guide your fingertips so that you’re less likely to pull multiple cards by accident. They will also help you to shuffle the cards more easily, letting you slide two halves of a deck gently together rather than bridging them. You’ll likely tear a few sleeves while learning to shuffle in this way, but again, that’s the point. The sleeves will give themselves up to protect your cards, and if you rip one of the sleeves, just replace it and move along.

Deck boxes are fairly self-explanatory: They help you get your decks from point A to point B safely. Any box will do, but the Disney Lorcana ones are themed to match the cards you might be playing. While they are stiff and hard to open at first, they break in nicely. They’re also water resistant, so they’ll keep your cards safe if someone spills a whole drink at the table.

Neoprene gaming mats are, in my opinion, more of an optional accessory. They have a little give to them, meaning that picking up cards is easier than off a flat table. But Lorcana involves a lot of sliding cards around, and I find that the spongy surface of the officially licensed mats can sometimes slow me down. Your mileage will vary, but with card sleeves alone you should be protected from most of the hazards associated with playing on a kitchen table or a bench at the local game shop.

How do I play?

The rules for Disney Lorcana fit on a single sheet of paper, a copy of which you can find inside the box that came with your starter deck. You can also download the rules from the Disney Lorcana website and right here on Polygon. The app (mentioned above) will also walk you through the game.

You’ll start with a hand of seven cards. You can mulligan — that is, swap out any number of cards — completely free the first round. But you only get one go at that exchange. Pick however many cards you’d like to swap, place them on the bottom of the deck, and then draw new cards in equal number from the top. Then shuffle the deck.

A diagram showing the anatomy of a Disney Lorcana card, in this case, Mickey Mouse, complete with cost, ink type, abilities, and more Image: Ravensburger/Disney

The very first player, on the very first turn, begins by placing a card from their hand into their inkwell which is just the place on the table in front of you where you put your ink, the resource you’ll use to play other cards in the game. Converting cards to ink in this way removes them from the game — they can’t be played for the remainder of that hand. To turn a card into ink, first show it to your opponent and then place it face down on the table in front of you. The first player can finish their turn as normal from there, either by playing a character, item, action, or song or taking some other available action — or no action at all. When they finish, play passes to the second player.

The second player, on their very first turn, will be the first to draw a card. Going forward, for each round of play after the first, each player will draw a card at the beginning of their turn. Play proceeds from there, with each player generating ink, playing cards using that ink, taking other actions, and then passing the turn to the other player.

A layout for a single player in Disney Lorcana. The action moves clockwise from the upper left, and includes cards currently played an those waiting to be played. There’s also a pool of ink and the player’s hand, which is normally kept private.
A typical layout for a single player in Disney Lorcana. Starting in the upper left-hand corner and moving clockwise you have your deck and your discard pile. Along the top row you have three characters ready to go, able to exert to gather lore or to challenge opposing characters. The Wardrobe has taken three damage. To the right, Hades has already been exerted to sing a song. Note that the song has been placed right-side up to the opposing player so that they can easily read its effects. Elsewhere, to the far right, a Magic Broom card has been played. Its ink is still drying. Next round, during the ready step, we’ll move it up and ready it for play. Below that is the player’s hand of cards, which would normally be kept private. To the left of is the inkwell with six cards of ink, two of which have been exerted to play Magic Broom. Any unused game tokens are kept to the side.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Some things to remember as you go along:

  • Make sure you place ink every turn, especially in the opening few rounds of play. Getting behind in ink is a surefire way to disadvantage yourself in later rounds, and it’s easy to forget to ink with everything else going on in the game.
  • Most characters that are played can’t take any actions on the first turn they get played. Their ink is said to be “drying.” I’ve found it handy to place characters that are drying to the side of my other cards, and I make it a point to move them over and up to join my other characters at the beginning of each round once they dry.
  • Remember to ready, set, and draw each round. To ready, turn all of the cards in front of you (your ink, your characters, and any other cards you may have exerted the previous round) straight up in front of you. Move up the character(s) that were drying so that they are ready to go. Then check the field of play for any conditions you may need to set before beginning your turn. Then draw a card.
  • Again, just like inking cards, it can be easy to forget to draw a card. Getting behind on the number of cards in your hand is just as bad — maybe worse, in fact — than getting behind in ink.
  • You can take your actions in any order you like during your turn. That means you can do clever things like draw a fresh card from your deck before you place a card in your inkwell, making sure that you don’t remove a useful card from the game if you don’t have to. You can use an item before or after you challenge another character on the table, meaning that you can cast a buff (an increase to a card’s attack or defense) or a heal a character whenever you want during your turn.
  • Finally, keep an eye on the app if you’re using it. The buttons for changing the score are a little fiddly at launch. Basically, make sure when you press the plus or minus buttons on the screen that the number actually changes.

Disney Lorcana etiquette

It’s likely that you’ll play your first few games of Disney Lorcana at home with your friends and family. But the traditional experience of playing a TCG can only come from engaging with other people in your community — folks who might have different cards, different decks, and different strategies that you’re not familiar with. It’s a game meant to be shared, and that means going outside your comfort zone to find new people to play with.

Showing up at the local game store can be intimidating, but the launch of a new game is actually the best time to take the plunge. That’s because virtually everyone you lock horns with will be learning the game right alongside you. But there are a few items of etiquette to keep in mind.

Polygon spoke with Brian “The Professor” Lewis, who has spent more than a decade now advising TCG fans around the world through his YouTube channel, Tolarian Community College, on the rules of the road. The most important bit of TCG etiquette? Keep your hands to yourself.

Mickey Mouse, Heihei, and Captain Hook cards from Disney Lorcana, all arranged to show their rarity compared to other cards.
Card rarity is a big deal in Disney Lorcana, especially for collectors. There are several different types of cards you might encounter. First are foil cards, like the foil Heihei shown here in the upper right corner. He has the same in-game effect as the other Heihei in the lower left, but he’s just been printed with a shiny surface. In the upper left is an event exclusive, which was only available at this year’s Gen Con. It won’t be made available in this exact way ever again. In the lower right is a variant of Captain Hook, one that is currently only available inside booster packs and not in one of the preconstructed starter decks. It’s a normal card, but nonetheless sought after because it has different gameplay properties than the other Captain Hook cards that come inside starter decks. He is also available as a foil, which would make his card doubly rare. Finally, enchanted cards look quite a bit different than standard cards. They don’t have a black border at all. Instead, they have unique art that stretches from one edge of the card to the other. We haven’t found any of those yet in Polygon’s collection, but they also come in regular and foil versions.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

“Ask before touching something that doesn’t belong to you,” Lewis told Polygon in a recent interview. “It’s understandable that you might see a card that you don’t recognize or [that] you don’t know what it does and you want to read it. But remember, that’s someone else’s thing. [...] You should always ask first.”

Also, be a good neighbor while you play. Take out your earbuds, stop chatting with that friend you brought with you, and greet your opponent. “It’s important to engage with the other person that you’re playing with,” Lewis said.

What if you make a mistake? Lewis said that’s something you should hash out with your opponent before you draw your first card. “It really depends on the player,” Lewis said. “If it’s immediately caught, it’s not unreasonable to ask to redo something. But if the game has progressed, then saying Oh wait! I don’t want to do that! if you already know the result [is a bit of a bummer].”

What if you’re confused about how to play a given card? Or about the order in which certain powers or rules pop off? If you’re unsure about what just happened at the table, don’t be afraid to call for someone to adjudicate the issue for you. In other TCGs, those folks are referred to as judges. “Calling for a judge isn’t an accusation or admission of messing up,” Lewis said. “It’s simply asking for a guide to navigate those situations.”

You should also try to be respectful. Clean up after yourself, mind your language given that the game caters to children as well as adults, and just generally be a good citizen.

“Maybe you want to buy a couple of cards,” Lewis added. “If you’ve got a game store that’s really cool and chill and not charging you money just to play at the table — like some do, which is also fair — maybe you want to pay that forward by picking up a reasonably priced pack of cards or some singles.”

Singles are cards that a game store has found on its own by opening booster packs, or that it has bought from other players doing the same. Buying single cards to augment your deck is a usual and customary part of TCG culture. It’s also one of the biggest ways that game stores make their money, so buying some singles is a great way to give back to your host.

“Most game stores live on razor-thin margins and survive on a month-to-month basis,” Lewis said. “Helping them out helps the community out, and helps the community grow.”

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

“It’s a game,” he said. “You can’t always win. Don’t measure success by winning. Measure success by learning.”


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