The arrival of Lorcana ushers in a new golden age of TCGs

Sergio forgets about 'Magic' for a moment to take a look and play a few games of Disney's foray into collectible card games in style.

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Some of us have been playing TCGs (trading card games) for so many years that we don't have any grey hairs because, to tell you the truth, we barely have any left. Since Magic The Gathering arrived in the mid-90s to change everything, we have seen a good number of attempts to unseat Richard Garfield's game from its golden throne and become the true king of the tables in role-playing or comic shops.

But the winds of change are blowing... A sort of new paradigm in the world of TCGs that has been in the air for some years now, but which has emerged relatively recently and which represents a break with what we have seen over the last 30 years.

Because earlier we alluded to the many games that have come and gone and bitten the dust under the iron fist of Magic, which in the end always prevailed as the only sure thing in the world of collectible card games. Netrunner, Mechwarrior, Vampire the Masquerade, The Lord of the Rings, The Legend of the Five Rings... And I say these from memory because there have been many more that promised to be the next 'Magic killer' and although they gained some relevance in the short or medium term, their destiny to languish and disappear was written in the stars.

The arrival of Lorcana ushers in a new golden age of TCGs
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Wizards of the Coast's game kept releasing collections, each time at a faster pace, and its competitors withered away because this was Magic's garden, there was no room for another really strong TCG. And Pokémon doesn't compete in the same space.

Time has gone by, a lot in fact, and real old fogeys like me, who still play, have been amazed to witness an era that had never happened before, a real TCG-explosion you could say.

In a world in which digital seems to set the pace, the tabletop version is experiencing an unprecedented moment of growth, a surprising miracle with different explanations, ranging from a craving for socialisation post-COVID, to the fact that people simply like the smell of fresh ink when they open a pack of cards.

This seems to be the reason why nowadays collectible card games are at the top of the pyramid of coolness, any Flesh and Blood, One Piece, or Lorcana event sells out in minutes and hundreds of players leave their cities and travel as far as it takes to go and play.

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All of this nonsense I've just said is just a context to understand that the moment we are in right now is wonderful for lovers of a genre in which, after the arrival of Hearthstone a few years ago, everything seemed doomed to a future of pixels and mobiles, but which is experiencing a second youth that is even more vigorous than the first and which is certainly unforeseen.

The arrival of Lorcana ushers in a new golden age of TCGs

In this context, Ravensburger, a veteran of board games and puzzles, presents us with a TCG with the lore of the Disney world as a backdrop. I would like to draw attention to how relatively inconsequential, almost marginal this would have been a few years ago in the midst of the esports boom, not because of the demerit of the game, which is great since we mentioned it, but because the market did not think in those terms and did not respond to these stimuli.

But it's not 2015, it's 2024 and Lorcana has become an absolute success that few could have foreseen. Booster packs and decks disappeared from the shelves of specialty shops, truly massive events sold out in minutes, a healthy and active scene of players blossomed, and above all a rock-solid, fun, and in many ways different game appeared.

How to play Lorcana

I'm not going to explain the rules of Lorcana in detail because it wouldn't make much sense or interest either, but I will say that it is played relatively differently to other games, with some lessons learned and even inheriting things from digital card games with very good judgement.

There are two ways to win in Lorcana. Decking, that is, leaving the opponent without cards, something that I honestly don't know if it's realistic at the moment or if it's in the meta at all, or accumulating 20 lore points, which is the normal way to win.

Lore is generated through our creatures that are played with an element called 'ink' and that replaces the classic mana but with a completely different mechanic, as there are no specific cards for it, but some of our creatures themselves can provide this ink so that we can do things in exchange for not performing other actions.

The arrival of Lorcana ushers in a new golden age of TCGsThe arrival of Lorcana ushers in a new golden age of TCGs

There are three types of cards in Lorcana: creatures, actions, and artifacts. Each has different conditions and abilities and together they generate a game system that a child can understand, but that should not fool us with its relative simplicity because the reality is that Lorcana is deep and complex if we want it to be and offers a frankly surprising set of combinations.

The games in Lorcana are not too long. I must admit that I haven't played as much as I would like, which slows me down in my decisions and forces me to read the cards as I don't know them, but even so, a normal game usually lasts between 10 and 25 minutes according to what I've seen. Granted, it's true that these precepts could also apply to Magic, and when it comes down to it, I've seen two-hour games, but as a weighted average it's probably pretty close.

Lorcana's games feel light and fast because it's all so fun and satisfying. The decision that I found questionable at the start to remove the clean up phase, meaning that the damage a creature takes is 'wiped' at the end of the turn, works much better than I expected, and keeping the count doesn't weigh the game down as you might expect. On the other hand, in Lorcana there are no 'phases' as such, but we can play our cards of different types at any time but there is an order to it, even if it doesn't stick to time slots but flows very well during the game and speeds up the pace of the game.

The arrival of Lorcana ushers in a new golden age of TCGsThe arrival of Lorcana ushers in a new golden age of TCGs

The idea of using Disney lore and characters could also be a point of friction for a perhaps too adult audience that could penalise the game for having to use the Little Mermaid, Uncle Scrooge McDuck or Goofy instead of cute and cool Dragonakos, but I think the new young generation that Lorcana is aimed at, between 25 and 35 years old, already feel comfortable in this world in which they have grown up and find it far from being a problem, if anything it is probably an attraction. Let's not forget Kingdom Hearts. Moreover, the TCG world, fortunately, has less and less of a gender gap and this helps and partly explains its success.

The artwork is a showcase of good work, with colourful and authentic-feeling card design and classic Disney characters at their best with high quality illustrations.

In short, Lorcana is a surprise for me, but I'm sure for you too, because no matter if you're a hardcore TCG player who has travelled to Pro Tours or a fan captivated by the excellent card art, Lorcana doesn't disappoint and after 30 years of playing Magic where I swore I'd never be caught playing anything else again because I couldn't afford it, now I think I'll be playing Lorcana from time to time.

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