Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Epic Alliances is an entry level skirmish battle game featuring some of your favourite animated characters. You get to create a team of three Disney or Pixar characters and send them into the arena to battle.
In this review, I take a deep dive into the Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Core Set and let you know who should be looking to pick up this Disney themed game.
Disclosure: Thank you to The Op for sending us a review copy of this new Disney skirmish game. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with the Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Epic Alliances Core Set?
The Disney Sorcerer’s Arena: Epic Alliances Core Set was designed by Sean Fletcher and published in 2022 by The Op.
This is a two or four player, card driven, miniature skirmish game, featuring a sliding difficulty scale making it accessible to a wide range of gamers.
One battle in Sorcerer’s Arena will take under an hour once you’ve got the core game down.
While the box says this game is for ages thirteen plus, I feel like much younger kids could totally get into this one by sticking to the early chapters of the game. The MSRP on this core set is $39.99 USD.
Take on the role of Summoners in Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, and conjure up your favourite Disney and Pixar characters to battle each other in The Arena. This core set includes Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, Maleficent, Sulley, Aladdin, Dr. Facilier, Gaston, Demona, and Ariel.
Through the use of movement and action cards, you will use your characters to control key points on a hex grid and knock out your rivals in a race to hit a crown point total. Picking which characters to use and figuring out how they work together is going to be key to victory, as is managing your hand of cards.
The rules for this Disney skirmish game are spread out over four chapters, which helps with onboarding and lets you scale the difficulty to fit the players playing.
Note: While this game is based on the popular Disney Sorcerer’s Arena mobile game and shares some of the same look, the actual gameplay is completely different. You will find some character overlaps and aesthetics that match and a focus on status effects is present in both games, but otherwise, these are two very different games.
One of the best things about this new Disney game is the components which you can check out in our Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Unboxing Video on YouTube.
The stuff you get here is really nice. You get a solid box made to look like one of the loot boxes from the mobile game.
Within that box, you will find one of the best written rulebooks I’ve ever read. As noted earlier, this book is broken up into four chapters, each of which introduces additional rules to the game.
The rules include plenty of examples, colour coded sections, call outs and tips, all of which are not only good for learning the game but are also great for reference. The back of the book also has a summary of all of the status effects that can come into play.
Next we find some cardboard punch outs, most of which are specifically for tracking those status effects. There are also crown tokens and a character tile for each character.
The box also contains oversized, double sided, rules reference cards and character cards, which are clear and easy to read, as well as a rather large stack of standard sized cards which includes a deck for each of the eight characters in the game.
The game board is two fold and not too large, and the game comes with a serviceable box insert that’s good for keeping the character decks separated. What you won’t find though is room for any expansion content, which I thought was an odd choice.
Finally, there are the eight character standees. These are sturdy two sided acrylic standees that feature two pieces glued together with the artwork on the inside. So no need to worry about scratching them up.
Each character standee has a back and a front. These slot into plastic stands. There are colour coded plastic rings that go on top of these stands to show what team each character is on as well as for tracking their health.
I thought the standees were awesome. They look great and I actually appreciate the 2D cartoon cell look of them. The only issue I have with these, as you can see in my unboxing video, is that they come with a film on each side that is really annoying to get off. Thankfully you only have to deal with this minor annoyance once, when you first crack the game open (Pro tip: We’ve been told it is easier to remove the film if you start at the bottom edge near the clouds).
Overall, component wise, I was very impressed with this new Disney game from The Op.
Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Overview of Play
Before I get going on an overview of how to play Disney Sorcerer’s Arena I want to note a couple of things.
First off, this is a two player skirmish game with a lot going on, most of which is determined by the cards in play. While the rules I’m going to go through may sound quite simple, they are affected and sometimes changed by every card that gets played. Like many battling card games, the real complexity, and the true gameplay, comes from the cards and how they interact.
Second, the rules for this Disney battle game are presented in four chapters with successive chapters adding new levels of complexity to the game. Even after you have played through all four chapters you can still go back to playing using a previous chapter’s rules, which is awesome for playing with younger kids and for onboarding new players.
For this review, I don’t want to go through the rules chapter by chapter, that would take far too long. Instead, this summary will cover the gameplay once you get to chapter four. This is the level of gameplay most hobby gamers and people reading this are going to be most interested in anyway.
The start of each game of Disney Sorcerer’s Arena starts with the players drafting three characters. The start player picks one character, then their opponent picks two characters. The first player then picks their third and final character with the second player getting one final pick.
Players then use the character tiles to determine the order they want their three characters to act. Teams reveal this information simultaneously and an initiative track is built beside the board out of the tiles. The active character token is placed on the first character to act.
Players then gather the standees, oversized character cards, and card decks for their chosen characters along with three colored rings. A coloured ring is placed on each standee with the arrow pointing to that character’s max health and then the standee is placed into the starting hexes on the edge of the board. Each player shuffles their three individual card decks into one draw pile and the character reference cards are laid out in front of the players in initiative order.
Each player adds up the hand limit number on their character reference cards and then draws that number of cards. If they choose to, each player can take one mulligan, shuffling their entire hand back into their deck and drawing a new set.
A game of Sorcerer’s Arena is played over multiple rounds. In each round, each character on both sides will activate once.
At the end of a round if a player has twenty or more crowns, or if either player had to draw from their deck but couldn’t, the game comes to an end.
At the end of the game, the player with the most crowns wins. In the event of a tie, more full rounds are played until one player has more crowns than the other.
At the start of each character’s activation, a number of things happen. Status effects count down with triggered effects going off. Status effects expire when they are out of counters. If the active character is on one of the yellow crown hexes in the middle of the map the player that controllers that character gains one crown. If the active character is knocked out, they return to play at full health. Finally, the active player draws one card.
Note, a single card is drawn at the start of each character’s activation. There are no other ways to draw cards in this game unless a specific card effect tells you to draw additional cards.
The Movement, Action, and Skills phases are next. This forms the meat of Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. On a character’s activation, you can do any or all of those options in the order you chose. When playing through a phase the entire step must be completed before moving on to the next phase. So you could move, then use a skill and then an action, but you couldn’t use part of your movement, do an action, and then move some more. Similarly, you can’t do part of an action, use a skill, and then complete that action.
Here’s a short breakdown of each of the phase options:
Move Phase: Move the active character a number of hexes up to their default movement value and, optionally, discard from your hand a movement card for any character to add one to this movement.
Or, instead of using default movement, you could play a movement card from your hand that matches the active character and do what it says.
Action Phase: Attack a rival with the active character using that character’s default attack and, optionally, discard any attack card from any character from your hand to add one damage to the attack.
Or, instead of using a default attack, you can play an action card from your hand that matches the active character and do what it says.
Many actions deal damage to rival characters. This is tracked using the coloured dials on each standee’s base. When a character gets to zero or less heath they are KO’d. The opposing player gains crowns equal to the number shown on the knocked out character’s reference card.
As noted earlier any KO’d character will return to play, at full health, during its next activation. Also, any status effects in play are removed from knocked out characters.
Use a Skill Phase: This is the last option. Each character has one or more skills unique to them that are listed on their Character Reference card. When choosing to do something in the Use a Skill phase you can activate one or more of the active character’s skills in the order of your choosing.
This phase is what really makes this game fun and interesting. It’s when you get to see what those Movement and Action (and combined movement and action) cards do. Through card play you could have Sorcerer Mickey studying up to be a wizard by collecting broom tokens, Aladdin could be slipping through the crowd gaining the stealth skill so that he’s harder to hit, Dr. Facilier could be shrinking his rivals, and Sulley could be shouting out a bellowing taunt that forces all attacks to target just him for the next round.
There’s one other thing to watch for when playing cards during the Movement or Action phases.
Each card has a gear symbol on the bottom left of the card. After each phase, you should check the gears in your discard piles and compare them to your character reference cards. Each character has a set number of gears required to “level up.”
When you have enough gears to level up a character, you remove that set of gears from the game and flip over your character card. This unlocks a new powerful permanent character ability. Note due to the fact that used gears are removed from play, each discarded card can only be used to level up one character.
Once a player is done activating their character they then discard down to their hand limit, if above it, and end their turn.
The game continues like this until the game ends as described above: either by a player running out of cards in their deck or by someone collecting twenty crowns.
In addition to what I just described, the rulebook also presents a four player team variant.
When playing with four, each player drafts and controls two characters and you form four on four teams.
Other than that the game plays the same. The only rule change when playing with four is that a player can use a card in a teammate’s discard pile to level up one of their characters, as long as the teammate agrees to it.
I was very impressed by the Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Core Set.
A lot of Disney games have come out over the last couple of years, and each is very different from the next. Due to that, I feel like I never know what to expect from a game with the Disney name on it. It used to be that you could correctly assume that a Disney game was a kids’ game and while those games may have appealed to adults, they were made and designed for kids.
This is no longer the case anymore. While there are some newer Disney games that are for kids, the majority, especially the ones coming out of the hobby game market, are for adults. In some cases, these games are not only for adults but are also meant for adults who are already experienced hobby gamers.
Check out our review of Smash Up: Disney Edition for a perfect example of this.
I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but it is a change that I’m having to get used to. For me, what I want to see from a game with the Disney name on it is a family friendly game. A game that families can play together and that is also enjoyable for adults to play on their own. I’m very pleased to say that Disney Sorcerers Arena Epic Alliances nails that sweet spot.
The secret to making this game work for both kids and adults is the fantastic four chapter onboarding system presented in Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. In Chapter One you get a light two player skirmish game you can play right out of the box. It features only two set characters per side and has set initiative. This means there are no decisions to be made before you start playing, other than who will play which team.
The Chapter One version of Sorcerer’s Arena also removes a lot of the more complicated rules. There are no character reference cards here, only a small handful of simple to understand status effects, default movement and attacks for all characters, and no spending additional cards to boost those. There are no gears or leveling up to worry about and no skills. Even the point goal is lower in this version of the game, which leads to shorter games better suited to new and younger players.
Playing with the Chapter One rules is not only a fantastic way to get the game to the table right away, and to introduce the basic rule structure and mechanics, it’s also a great way to later play the game with younger kids.
That said, this is still a family weight game, even at Chapter One, and not a kids’ game. There’s a lot of reading required to play Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. Learning the action cards, handling status effects, and figuring out card combinations, all take some skill.
I think at this level Sorcerer’s Arena would be good for eight year olds and up, potentially younger if your kids have plenty of gaming experience.
Chapter Two is the level I use to introduce the game to most people. Here you actually get to draft your team of three characters and the rules for boosting movement and attacks come in. To me, Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is a great light or introduction skirmish game at Chapter Two.
For me and the people I play with, Chapter Three is where the game really starts to shine. At this point, you have the majority of rules in play. You have character reference cards for each character. Characters have variable base movement and attack values and unique skills both of which lead to more decision points and ways to influence play.
If introducing the game at a hobby board game event or FLGS this is the level I would use.
The final chapter of rules in Disney Sorcerer’s Arena introduces the gears and the leveling up system. This is a cool part of the game but I understand why they saved it for last. It’s just one extra thing to look for and think about while playing and adds another level of asymmetry and complexity.
When introducing the game to hobby gamers who have played other card driven skirmish games before I just start here.
For anyone who is interested in jumping into this game at Chapter Four and skipping past the earlier, simpler, chapters there is an awesome Combined Rulebook available.
The Combined Rulebook gives you everything you need to play, including the status effects reference, but presents the rules together, cohesively, in the way you expect most board games rulebooks to present you the rules.
You can grab the pdf for this Combined Sorcerer’s Arena Rulebook for free on Board Game Geek. Sean Fletcher, the designer of Disney Sorcerer’s Arena, was the one that brought this modified rulebook to my attention and fully approves of its use for hobby gamers.
Even if you are an experienced hobby board gamer who has played lots of card games and skirmish games, you still may want to play through the game chapter by chapter. This is what I did, both to learn the game myself and when teaching it to my kids.
One interesting thing I learned by playing through the full onboarding systems is that the more rules that are unlocked the more powerful the characters get and because of this the game gets quicker.
We found Chapter Two games took longer than Chapter Three or Chapter Four games. The addition of character skills and permanent abilities ramps up the back and forth in the game, with characters getting moved around more and KO’d more often.
When looking at Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Epic Alliances as a whole, I really enjoy how simple and elegant the basic mechanics are. Each turn you do some upkeep, then your active character moves, does an action, and maybe uses a skill. Through this, you will move your team around the board, control key victory point spots, and KO rivals. Then it’s just a matter of possibly discarding some cards and checking to see if anyone’s won at the end of the round.
There’s something about this flow that I found very pleasing.
The next highlight to me is just how differently each character plays. As most of you reading already know, I love asymmetry in my games and this game is super asymmetric.
Not only does each character have its own deck with its own set of cards, but different characters also have different health, crown values, and movement and attack rates.
In addition to this once you get to Chapter Four you will notice each character has a different ratio of gears in their decks, and no character has enough gears in their own deck to level themselves up. So that’s something else that you have to watch for when drafting and adds another asymmetric element.
The gears let you unlock another unique character ability for each character. All of this combines to add variety to the game but also adds strong theming. Each character feels different from the others, and they also feel like the Disney and Pixar characters they represent, because of this asymmetry.
For example, Maleficent likes to hang out on crown spaces (they make her cards more powerful) and she has a variety of spells, including one of the biggest damage spells in the game. She can dish out a lot of damage but she doesn’t have much health and is easily KO’d.
On the other hand, Ariel is the core sets only healer. While she has some solid attack cards, her deck is much more about moving around the board quickly and healing adjacent allies. She also has the only card I’ve seen that can remove crowns from another player.
Any card based battle game is going to be all about the cards and what they do and how they work with and against each other. Disney Sorcerer’s Arena does a great job of balancing both the individual character decks as well as all of the potential combos between them, which is an impressive feat. Something I hope they keep up with, with all of the expansions that have been coming out.
Speaking of expansions, while the base game comes with eight characters, six of which will be in play during any one game, there are already three expansions out there that you can pick up to expand your options. Each has three new characters and some also add new rules to the game. For example, Turning the Tide adds water terrain tiles (I have all of the current expansions and will be talking about each in their own review in the future as I dive into them).
In addition to expanding your game through expansions, you can also expand it with a second core set. With two core sets two different players can use the same character at once. While this could be thematically silly in some settings, I don’t think it’s a problem in an arena battle game where you are playing summoners who conjure up aspects of the characters. While I haven’t tried it, as I have just one copy of the core set, I think the ability to duplicate characters would make for some very interesting matches.
Where you can see this in action is at any Disney Sorcerer’s Arena organized play event. At these events, each player is expected to show up with their own three character team chosen from all of the currently released sets, with each player bringing their own standees, cards, etc.
Overall I am really digging Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. It’s an extremely solid, card driven, skirmish battle game. The best part of this game, to me, is the way it can scale. With this one box, you can fight a quick battle with Mickey and Aladdin versus Ariel and Gaston using simple rules that are great for younger kids, or you can sit down with an experienced dueling card game player, draft your own dream team, and battle using the full rules to determine who really is the Master Summoner.
If you are a gamer looking for a solid family weight Disney game that you can play with the kids as well as challenge other gamers with this could be the perfect game for you.
If you have played other two-player skirmish games and enjoyed them, especially card driven ones, don’t discredit this game as only for kids due to the Disney theme. There’s a very solid battle game here, especially when playing with the full rules.
For those who have always been curious about miniature battle games but have never tried one, I think this is a fantastic introduction to the genre. There are no hobby aspects here, no assembly or painting, and the chapter based onboarding system is great for holding your hand while getting started.
Due to the simplicity of the basic mechanics, I also think this game may appeal to players who haven’t liked skirmish games in the past. This one can be much simpler than some of the heavy wargames out there and is much more approachable in general. And of course, if you are a Disney fan, especially, you may want to give Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Epic Alliances a try.
I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I agreed to check out the Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Epic Alliances Core Set.
The end result was me being very pleasantly surprised. To me, this game is the perfect kind of game to have the Disney name on it. Not only does it feature iconic characters and thematic gameplay it’s also family friendly. I love that you can play this game with younger kids just as easily as you can use it in a professional card game tournament.
What is a game, other than this one, that you think fits its license perfectly? Tell me about it in the comments below!