Disney Sorcerer's Arena has made the jump from the world of mobile gaming to the world of tabletop courtesy of The Op, and the new game is titled Disney's Sorcerer's Arena: Epic Alliances. It takes its inspiration from the original game in that it features two teams of Disney characters, pulled from their expansive film catalog, facing off against each other in turn-based combat. The roster is where the game's true strength lies, with abilities that feel satisfying but also authentic to the characters, all built upon a compelling team-based foundation, and no Disney fan will want to miss out on all the fun.
Sorcerer's Arena: Epic Alliances brings two to four players together to battle it out for Victory Points, and whoever reaches the VP goal first with their constructed team wins. The end goal is straightforward and turns play out in a similarly streamlined way. Teams alternate turns and turns are split into three phases, but those phases thankfully keep turns moving quickly without sacrificing any sort of complexity. Even the game's tutorial is split into four chapters that allow you to launch a game with several tiers of complexity to help expedite the start of a game.
The crux of Epic Alliances is its characters. Each comes with their own base factors, like health, movement, attack, and hand limit, but they also have at least one special ability completely unique to them, as well as the opportunity to upgrade them to gain another special ability that can be a game changer if applied in the right circumstance. These abilities all feel natural to who they are and range in complexity and usefulness, and each character lends themselves to an overall play style that is fun to learn and experiment with as you learn the ins and outs of the game.
The core set's roster is strong right out of the box, mixing iconic heroes and villains with fan favorites that switch up the gameplay including the likes of Maleficent, Ariel, Aladdin, Sully, Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey, Demona, Dr. Facilier, and Gaston. Sully, Gaston, and Demona are all powerhouses but offer different approaches, as Gaston hits hard but also has cards that move opponents to other spaces, while Demona is an offensive juggernaut that can hit adjacent opponents with attacks and can use her wins to fly to other spaces on the board.
Mickey's attacks and abilities can be boosted with the help of Magic Broom, which you can build up over time, while Dr. Facilier's specialty is to hit others with status effects that can affect your current turn and future turns and throw a wrench into your strategy. Ariel has a solid blend of range and melee but also has the ability to remove status effects and heal health, while Maleficent specializes in range and attacks that offer benefits to her as well. Finally, you have Aladdin, who is all about speed and combos, as several of his cards allow you to attack and move with the same card, or if not, he can attack and leave someone with a status effect.
Changing things up further is that your hand of cards during a round will apply to all of your chosen characters, so if you have a team of three, your hand will be used for all three characters, and your options will depend on which cards you drew from your deck. You can only play cards on a turn that corresponds to the character you are playing that turn, so if you only drew 1 Sully card for instance (which I did several times in a row in one game), your options for him are rather limited. You can use your base attack and movement on your character card, so you can still do things, but you will have to adapt to whatever options your hand currently offers. Also, this really means you need to shuffle for a while ahead of your first game, otherwise, you will end up with 5 Ariel cards in a row and 1 for everyone else like I did. Don't repeat my mistakes!
This all makes for an ever-evolving experience in each and every game, and I enjoyed experimenting with different character combinations to find that ultimate Disney team. Everyone will probably find a mix that works best for them, and a personal fave was Demona, Maleficent, and Aladdin, and they are gorgeously represented on the board with slick standees that connect to a base with their health and a character-specific design.
Now, the game's not perfect mind you, with two elements that rise to the surface the most. On those standees, they are gorgeous, and it's great to have the team colors, health, and character represented in the same place. That said, a few of the standees didn't have a solid fit in their bases after only a game or two, and since you need to lift the color ring to adjust their health, this led to standees falling out of their bases more frequently than expected, lending a certain clunkiness to the overall experience.
The other main issue is in status effects. The game explains what each status effect does on the back of the rulebook, so what they actually do is pretty clear. That said, aside from one or two effects, it doesn't feel like they really change up the gameplay that often unless you are able to stack them in a major way during a given turn. That could be purposeful, but more often than not, they didn't factor into the game all that often, which is a shame since several characters lean into them as part of their overall ability package.
Sorcerer's Arena: Epic Alliances has even more characters on the way and will only continue to add new abilities and winkles to the already impressive foundation, but even just taking into account the core set, Epic Alliances has a whole lot to offer to any fan of team-based gameplay. Disney fans will adore the lineup of their favorites and how authentically they feel to the characters they love, and there's enough strategy to keep experienced players engaged without ostracizing newer players to the tabletop genre. The Disney magic is plentiful in Sorcerer's Arena: Epic Alliances and the future is bright indeed. -- Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published By: The Op
Designed By: Sean Fletcher
Disney Sorcerer's Arena: Epic Alliances is now available online and at your local game store.
Review copy provided by The Op