‘People will feel our love for Disney in this game’: Lorcana co-designer on the House of Mouse's TCG rival to Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon
Ryan Miller talks keeping gameplay friendly, plans for “inclusive” organised play and why the card game won’t “reinvent the wheel”.
Disney Lorcana, the House of Mouse’s new trading card game, has been revealed at D23 Expo, showing off the first cards from next year’s debut set The First Chapter and giving us our first tease of how it might play.
Lorcana was originally announced over the summer as an ambitious TCG drawing from the movie company’s iconic catalogue of animated films. Disney convention D23 saw the first cards from the game unveiled, including the likes of Mickey Mouse, alongside classic characters such as Cruella de Vil, Captain Hook and Maleficent, and newer additions to the Disney canon like Frozen’s Elsa and Stitch.
The game is billed as taking place in an original universe, to which the characters are summoned via being drawn with magical ink by players’ sorcerer-like illumineers. While Lorcana’s movie-melding setting of The Great Illuminary and story are yet to be detailed in depth, the game’s creators have confirmed that its cards will tell an overarching storyline involving the various characters and songs of the Disneyverse.
We also don’t know exactly how Lorcana will play, although the seven cards revealed from The First Chapter so far heavily suggest something similar to Magic: The Gathering and other traditional trading card games, with players summoning cards to the table by spending a pool of resource points before using their attack and defence values and unique abilities to defeat their opponent’s characters via ‘challenges’. The cards display a variety of keywords with universal effects, alongside unique powers inspired by each character.
What we do know for sure is that Lorcana will be published by Ravensburger, the storied tabletop maker behind asymmetrical board game series Disney Villainous - in which players control the various baddies from Disney movies as they compete in pursuit of their own evil schemes. The company has been upfront about its big plans for Lorcana, already confirming that it will release four sets each year and support the game’s competitive scene with a “robust” organised play programme.
Ahead of Lorcana’s release next autumn, Dicebreaker spoke with the game’s co-designer and brand manager Ryan Miller at D23 about what we could expect from the collectible card game, where it sits alongside the likes of Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, and how the team plans to weave together characters from across Disney’s almost century-long history in an original story.
(A big thanks to Tiffany Babb from Dicebreaker sibling site Popverse for speaking with Miller at D23!)
So, how does Lorcana play?
Players take on this role called an illumineer. An illumineer is someone who has the magic of Lorcana. They can use magical inks to bring characters from the pages out to life.
[Like many trading card games,] a huge part of the fun is putting together the combos and cards, and crazy powerful abilities that go together, and then battling against your opponent.
We've got a team of people working just on Lorcana's story.
In our game, it’s two illumineers trying to show who's the best illumineer. The cards represent characters that you've put together from your team that you summon from your illumineer station and you send them on quests to gain lore.
We're gonna be talking [more about the gameplay] next year. We have lots of plans that are going to roll out the gameplay. We want to make sure that by the time this game launches that people know how to play the game.
How about the game’s storyline and original setting, and how those will be integrated into the cards and supporting content?
So [we have] touched a little bit on the story. The group, The Great Illuminary, which kind of houses all those [characters]. But I can't go into much more detail about that. We are integrating the story in the cards and we'll have more to talk about there.
There's a lot more about the story coming out. We've got a team of people who work on just the story part, that's very exciting.
We've struck a really nice gameplay balance between being easy to get into and there being a lot of strategy once you do get into it.
Do you see Disney Lorcana as a direct competitor to the likes of Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon in terms of audience?
I don’t like to look at it as competing with them. They’re great games. I used to work on Magic. I have many friends at work at Pokemon. Those are awesome games and we just want to bring an awesome experience to the trading card game arena. And so we have an exciting organised play programme that we're going to be talking about next year.
The gameplay itself; I think we've struck a really nice balance between easy to get into and there's a lot of strategy once you do get into it. That's one of the wonderful things about trading card games: the game itself can actually be very accessible and easy, the strategy comes on all the cards and which cards you put in your deck and how you play them during the game. So I just want to make a great experience for our Disney fans and our TCG players.
What will the release format for cards and sets be? Will it be primarily randomised boosters?
We haven't talked about the line yet. I can't say that you won't be super surprised by what you find in our line plan because we don't want to reinvent the wheel, but we're going to be talking about the product line later on.
I don’t like to look at it as competing with MTG or Pokémon. I just want to make a great experience for Disney fans and TCG players.
Will the game be limited to Disney/Pixar characters or sets - or can we expect to see other Disney properties such as Marvel and Star Wars in future Lorcana releases?
Again, I'm gonna have to give a similar answer. But we have super exciting plans for the sets and the characters that we want to use.
Are there any plans for additional gameplay formats, equivalent to MTG’s Standard, Modern, Commander and so on?
Standard answer to the standard question right now!
My first job was as a judge - I judged Magic tournaments. So organised play is very near and dear to my heart and I want to make sure that we are going to have an amazing programme that is welcoming and super inclusive. We want people to come and have fun, celebrate the game, play it, trade - all that stuff. So we have big plans for that, that we will be talking about next year.
What is it like being here at D23 and showing people the game?
I've been making games for 20 years, I've been in tabletop for 20 years, and when you make a game it's like… You know that feeling when you buy someone a gift? And you're very excited for them to open it. That's what it feels like, right? It's like, “I can't wait for them to open it.” We’ve been working on this game for two and a half years now. And so to finally be here and see people excited about it, it’s just amazing.
We've got a great, amazing team. Really dedicated people who love Disney. I mean, we’ve been working on Disney for years with the Villainous line. We love Disney. And I think that the players are gonna feel that love when they hold this product, when they pull it off the shelf. They're gonna feel that people who love Disney made this game.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.