Ever wanted to know what it would look like to see Gaston get murdered by ten brooms? Well, I have good news for you: Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is a Sean Fletcher-developed strategy RPG/Smash Bros.-style hybrid board game that allows you to do just that. Bet you never knew you needed this kind of game, but you do, because this is a seamless meshing of deep strategy, accessibility, and licensed properties of some of your favorite Disney characters, including Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog.
Players draft a team of three out of eight available characters to stand across from each other on a perfectly sized, hex-based field of battle. The object of Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is to earn twenty victory points, accrued slowly by standing on one of three golden hexes in the middle or in bulk by taking out opponents. To do anything in the game, players must play cards from their hand to prance across the map or literally punch Aladdin (from… Aladdin) in the face.
When selecting a team, players include each character’s deck into one big team deck. Shifting from one player to the next in equal fashion, each of the player’s three characters get a turn in isolation of the rest of the team. For example, my first character may go first, then my opponent’s first character goes, then my second, and his second, and so on until we wrap back around to each of our first character. Cards are designated as movement or action cards, and each character gets a movement and action phase, taken in whatever order the player decides. Using the right card at the right time can have a devastating effect on the opponent, especially if you’re synergizing your team well.
Characters have differing stats, with some being healthier than others and some granting more victory points for a defeat than others. In addition, every character has a special technique or two to further differentiate them from their cohort. If you don’t want to use the card’s special ability, you can decide to just move two or attack for two during each phase. To make matters even more complicated, every card has one of four elements attached to it, and every character can upgrade to an even more special ability by expending two sets of two resources from the discard pile. Not all characters tout the same amount of elements, with some having far more of the heart element than the fire element, for example. So, while your team might synergize well in terms of their abilities and skills, they may not synergize well with regard to elements and upgrade requirements. Truly, players have to think carefully in order to make the “perfect team,” which may differ based on who your opponent drafts.
Or you don’t have to think carefully at all! Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is just a fun game that lets Ariel (The Little Mermaid) beat up Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty). The games take about twenty to thirty minutes to complete, so having a best of three is completely reasonable. Try stuff out, throw spaghetti against the wall, and marvel at how annoying a simple ability like taunt (draw aggression from allies) can be. The rulebook is written quite well, with the developers offering four “chapters” of play, chapter one being the simplest. I’ve never seen a rulebook cater to new players who may not be proficient in these sorts of games so well. As players become accustomed to each chapter, they master the basics and gradually learn more challenging concepts. Accessibility is king here, and I appreciate that they don’t leave anyone behind. Still, the rulebook is not chapter-length, and can be read in totality pretty quickly if you want to jump right into the deep end, because it really isn’t all that complicated, rules-wise.
In terms of components, everything fits together well, though I wouldn’t call this a high-end production by any means. Players track health by using a sort of arrow at the base of the character, which is a nice way to do it, but the arrow can slide around; I would have much preferred an actual clicker, but of course, these sorts of niceties would require a heftier price tag. What’s here, including sturdy standees and adequate cardstock, is sufficient for a satisfying game, because at the end of the day, this is all about experiencing Mickey (Fantasia-variety) and Sulley (Monsters Inc.) battle it out.
When I picked up Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, I actually had the good fortune of running into its developer, Sean Fletcher, whose boundless passion for his game was immediately recognizable. In truth, I was just meandering the dealer’s hall, and there he was greeting passerby and shaking hands. He must have spoken to dozens of people before I ran into him, and he was excitedly rattling off details about the game and gracefully accepted the questions I peppered him with. With passion like this, it’s no wonder Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is so crisply designed with a growing, enthusiastic fanbase. In fact, the fanbase is so dedicated that multiple tournaments have taken place, including a $10,000 tournament that happened at Gen Con in August ‘23.
One startling realization after just a few nights of playing with the core set—again, eight characters—is that we want more. If eight characters feel this tight and interesting to chew on, what about twenty? Thirty? Disney’s well of lovable heroes and detestable villains is deep, and clearly publisher Op Games have taken the instant success and run with it. Four expansions currently exist, and I imagine more will be on the way. Don’t see your favorite characters in the core set? This is a perfect opportunity to watch a movie you may have missed, but if that’s not enough, just buy more characters to add to the depth and complexity that already exists in Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. I’ll be showing this one off to friends while continuing to hone my skills with my partner.