The most important thing you should know about My Little Pony Adventures in Equestria, the new My Little Pony deck building game from Renegade Game Studios, is that this is not in any way a kids’ game.
My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game is a fully featured, hobby-gamer level, deck builder that features six different resources, board game elements through various location cards, asymmetric pony powers, and more.
Once you know this isn’t a kids’ game, but instead a full on deck building game, the question becomes is it a good deck building card game? Read on to find out.
Disclosure: Thanks to Renegade Game Studios for sending us a review copy of this MLP Card Game. No other compensation was provided. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What is this My Little Pony Deck Building Card Game all about?
My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game was designed by the in house design team at Renegade Game Studios. It features artwork from Mary Bellamy, who is an illustrator for My Little Pony at IDW Publishing.
The core game box, which we are reviewing here, was released in late 2022 and there have already been multiple expansions released since. The base game has an MSRP of $45.
This cooperative deck-building card game plays one to four players, is suggested for ages fourteen plus, and has a play time of about an hour (once you get the rules down and start remembering what some of the cards do). The playtime is shorter with fewer players.
In the My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game players take on the role of one of the Mane Six, the heroes of everything My Little Pony, comprised of Fluttershy, Applejack, Rarity, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie.
Your chosen Guardians of Friendship will work together to overcome a number of Hurdles and then attempt to triumph over a Final Challenge.
This is all done through deck-building, while managing the resources of Help, Info and Move, and collecting and spending Knowledge, Work and Friendship in the form of sugar cubes.
For a look at these sugar cubes (sparkly plastic cubes) and the other components you get with this pony themed deck builder check out my My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game Unboxing Video on YouTube.
There you will see the very clear and concise rulebook, filled with lots of My Little Pony artwork and gameplay tips from the Mane Six, plus a punchboard with various tokens and standees for the characters, a very purple box insert with plenty of room for the game components as well as lots of room for future expansions, sugar cubes in two sizes in three different colours, bases for the character standees, and of course cards.
Standard sized cards include starting decks for four players, a character specific card for each of the Mane Six, and Ponyville location cards and situation cards used to make the game more difficult.
There is also a set of oversized cards, one for each character which features their unique ability, plus four Final Chapter cards, and fourteen Hurdles.
Overall component quality here is excellent. To me, the only thing missing was a list of what to put where to best use the insert, but we were able to come up with a system that works for us. I do recommend putting the standees into their bases and then leaving them there as they are a tight fit and you wouldn’t want to damage them by taking them in and out each game.
My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game Overview of Play
The players win a game of My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game by overcoming three hurdles and then completing one Final Challenge before time runs out. They lose if the Final Challenge reaches its Clouse Limit or if they can’t fill The Adventure Row (the card market) at the start of a turn.
Each player picks a Pony to play. They then collect the matching oversized character card and place it in front of them with their unique power showing. They will also get a set of nine starter cards, including five Helpful Townpony cards that provide Help (the main purchasing resource), two A Good Clean Race cards that provide Move, one What You Need is Organization card which provides Info, and one Working Together card that provides two Help. They then add their unique character card to this to form their starting deck.
Each player draws five cards from this deck. As this is a cooperative game you are welcome to play open handed with everyone’s hands just laid out on the table. If you find this leads to too much quarterbacking you are also welcome to keep them in hand.
The Adventure Deck is shuffled and six cards are laid out forming the initial Adventure Row. Then players have the option of adding Situations to the Deck. This box comes with two copies of four different situation cards. A standard difficulty game has you adding one of each situation to the Adventure Deck during set up (after the initial market is laid out). The rules suggest keeping these cards out for your first couple of games, which I didn’t really see as necessary.
Next up, you set up the Hurdles and Final Challenge. Sort the hurdles by level and build a face down deck with one card of each level. Flip the top card over when done, this will be the first Hurdle you will have to face. Then randomly select a Final Challenge and place that face up as well.
This deck can also be modified to increase or decrease the length and difficulty of the game. A standard game features one Hurdle of each level one through three. Though you could make things easier by using three level one Hurdles, or more difficult by adding a second level two Hurdle, etc.
Next, you set up Ponyville by placing the Town Square card in the centre of the table. You then shuffle the location deck and deal one card above and to the left and right of Town Square. These are the locations that the ponies can visit during play.
At this point, you are ready to play. Choose a starting Pony to take the first turn. Play then continues clockwise until you all win, or lose, together.
At the start of each turn, you refill the Adventure Row so that it has six cards, sliding any existing cards to the right. If the market is full at the start of a player’s turn, the card furthest to the right is removed from the game before filling the market with one new card.
If all of the tasks at a location are completed, that location is removed from the game. Any ponies there are moved back to Town Square and a new location is drawn. Finally, if there is no active Hurdle (due to one being completed on the last player’s turn) flip up a new Hurdle.
Once all this start of turn stuff is done, you get to take any number of actions during the main phase.
Play Cards: Play cards from your hand to your play area. Most cards generate one or more resources which come in three types, Move, Info and Help. Some rare cards also generate sugar cubes, which represent Knowledge, Work and Friendship. Almost every card that isn’t a starter card also provides some other benefit.
As you would expect from any modern deck-Building game these card abilities can do a ton of different things, which aren’t worth getting into in this review. Of note, due to this being a cooperative card game, there are many cards in My Little Pony Adventures in Equestria that give things to and help out the other players.
Buy Cards: Use resources generated by your played cards to purchase cards from the market. Most cards cost Help but some cost Move or Info. At least in this base set, every card only costs one resource type. New cards are placed into your discard pile.
Move To A Location: Spend movement points equal to the number shown on the top right of a movement card and move your standee onto that card. Various things are keyed to where your pony is located.
Perform Tasks: Each location lists at least three tasks you can complete while there. The tasks in Town Square are repeatable and can be done any number of times by any number of ponies.
Tasks at the other locations can only be completed once each and once all tasks are completed that location card is removed from the game and a new one is placed.
Each token represents a +2 in one of the three main resources of Move, Help and Info. During a character’s turn, they can spend any number of these tokens to gain a bonus in that resource. This is great for making a big move, buying an expensive card or completing an expensive task. Each +2 token can also be flipped and turned in for +1 of a different resource.
Tasks at the other locations will always include a low cost task, one that costs a small amount of basic resources and gives you something good like a token or sugar cube, a middle task, which usually involves swapping something, and a very expensive final task that costs a lot of Help but gives you a lot of sugar cubes.
That final task can be made cheaper by having certain card types in your hand when trying to complete the task. For example, one task requires eight Help but costs two less for every pet you have in your hand.
Use Your Character’s Ability: Every pony has a unique power that usually gives something to the other characters. For example, Rainbow Dash can give everyone Move Tokens, while Pinky Pie lets other characters draw cards, that is as long as they are with her and sing or hum a song. Once a character ability is used the card is flipped. It can be flipped back on a player’s turn by spending one each of the main resources. In addition, some cards can flip a charterer’s ability card back over without that cost. Pets in particular are good for this.
Resolve A Situation: Situations are bad things that come up in the Adventure Row (if you’ve chosen to include them in your game). Each situation costs a significant amount of Help to resolve. When doing the Resolve A Situation action you can get the help of other ponies who can spend any tokens they have collected to help you resolve the situation. If situations are left unresolved they have a negative effect which always includes adding more clouds to Hurdles (more about that in a bit).
Overcome a Hurdle or the Final Challenge: If your team has collected the required sugar cubes to complete a Hurdle or Challenge any player on their team can initiate that attempt. First, you verify that you do indeed have the requirements listed and then you flip up a card from the unused Hurdles deck and add the Chaos Text at the bottom of that card as a new requirement. These will add additional costs like more resources, additional cubes, etc., to the Hurdle.
When trying to overcome a Hurdle or Challenge other players can contribute to any required costs. These include sugar cubes of course, but players can also spend tokens as well as cards from their hands to generate any needed resources.
If you can pay this additional cost, along with the initial cost, you complete the Hurdle. All costs are paid, players get the Reward shown, and the hurdle card is discarded. Final Challenges work the same way, except that you flip two additional unused Hurdle Cards and add two levels of Chaos. If your group succeeds at paying the cost of the Final Challenge plus the added Chaos the reward is that you win the game!
If you fail at overcoming a Hurdle or Final Challenge there isn’t very much of a penalty. Everyone gets to keep their cards, tokens, and cubes, but the active player’s main phase ends immediately.
Now we move on to the End Phase. Here one cloud is added to the active Hurdle, if it has already reached its cloud limit the cloud is instead added to the Final Challenge. If the Final Challenge ever hits its cloud limit the game is over.
As Hurdles and the Final Challenge accumulate clouds bad things can start to happen. These bad things are called Cloud Cover and are triggered when cards hit a set cloud amount. Bad things also happen when Hurdles hit their cloud limit. These bad things include things like removing a certain type of card from the market, cards costing more, movement costs being increased, players having to discard cards, and more.
Finally, the active player discards all of the cards they played this turn plus anything left in their hand and draws a new hand of five cards. Assuming you haven’t won or lost at this point the game continues with the next pony.
Remember this is a deck-building card game and many of the cards in the game are going to break these rules in some way. The real meat of any game like this come from the card interactions and what the players do with them.
What isn’t initially clear from these rules is the flow of play. In general, players will be trying to collect cards and complete tasks to get sugar cubes based on the face up Hurdle that is in play. Every Hurdle and every Final Challenge is completed by having sets of sugar cubes in specific colours and the game is really about collecting those.
While you will be spending resources to buy new cards, building your deck, and even thinning your deck to make it more efficient, all of this is being done in order to get the cubes you need to overcome the active challenge.
Another aspect of this is making sure that your group as a whole has some spare resources of every type to deal with the random Chaos Text effect that you will also have to overcome.
This is not a game about buying cards to buy better cards that let you buy ever better cards that eventually let you earn points, as most other deck builders are.
Who Should Pick Up the My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game
Thankfully when I signed the online form requesting a review copy of the My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game I had a good idea of what I was in for. Despite the kids’ cartoon look this pony themed deck building game is anything but a kids’ game.
Thanks to an online discussion I had in the Tabletop Bellhop Discord with Sarah Reed (from Rolling With Two), I had heard that this was a rather heavy, and somewhat complicated, deck-buidling game. So I had an idea of what I was in for before reading the rules and sitting down to play. What I didn’t realize is just how nuanced this game actually is.
This is a variable market deck-builder that features a total of six resources to manage and also includes board game elements and unique character abilities. While it’s not quite at the board game/deck building mash up level of Lost Ruins of Arnak, this game has a lot going on and a lot that players have to pay attention to.
This becomes a problem when people don’t realize this and purchase the game, or sit down to play the game, expecting a kids’ card game.
I’ve seen this first hand. The one time I brought My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game out to a public play event a small child picked up the game and was walking around hugging the box. I then had to patiently explain to their parents that this is not a kids’ game and talk them out of sitting down and playing it with their preschooler. I could see the look of disappointment on both the parents and the little girl’s face and I felt bad.
Now on the other hand, for hobby board gamers like me, and probably for most of you reading this, all of this complexity is a good thing. This My Little Pony deck building game is full on medium weight card game with solid mechanics, including some I’ve never seen in a deck-builder before.
One of these new things that I really like is the token system. This lets you use cards and spend resources to get +2 tokens that carry over turn after turn. I’ve never seen a deck-builder that lets you build up resources quite like this. I also really like how these tokens tie into the cooperative nature of the game letting you spend them on other players’ turns to overcome Situations, Hurdles and the Final Challenge.
One direct example of this is the pet cards. The base game includes each of the mane six’s pets as Adventure Cards. These pet cards provide a good amount of Help but also let their owners flip their character cards back over if flipped.
The neat part here, to me, is that ponies don’t have to collect their own pets. The cards are actually more effective for another player to have so that when they come up you can flip another pony over making their ability ready to use on their turn.
I also really love the fact that the market loses a card if no one buys anything.
One of the big problems that come up in deck-building games, in general, is when the market fills with unwanted cards. These are either cards no one wants or cards that no one can afford. This can cause games to grind to a halt.
You won’t see that problem here since every round at least one new card will be added to the market. Added to this there are many card effects, usually found on Hurdles or The Final Challenge, that remove certain types of cards from the market, making it refresh even quicker.
Another aspect that sets this game apart is the scalability. Adventures in Equestria offers multiple ways to make the game more easy or more difficult, which is a very cool thing. For us I’m glad you can make things harder as once we figured out the main flow of the game we found it to be rather easy to win. In our games using the Situation cards is a must and we prefer to stick to the level three Final Challenge cards. In future games, if we continue our winning streak I plan on adding in more higher level hurdles as well.
One thing that stuck out to my kids, and that they loved, is that all of the locations, hurdles and final challenges are right from the first three seasons of the TV show.
Now my kids are bigger Pony fans than I am, but it’s good to see they stuck to the existing lore. Gwen, my oldest, also wanted to make sure I pointed out that the lore is just from the show and not the comics, which she found a bit disappointing.
I will say that the game looks like a My Little Pony game through and through, which makes sense when you find out who the artist is.
All of this official My Little Pony artwork from an actual My Little Pony artist comes at a cost though, and that’s clarity. While the artwork is great, the iconography and the clarity of those icons is not. It’s actually the opposite of great, leaning towards terrible.
You will see this problem right away in the starter deck with the A Good Clean Race cards. I’ve had multiple people I’ve taught the game to hand me one of those cards asking “What does this do?” because after staring at the card they failed to find the +1 Move icon which blends in with the background. Resource generation icons being lost in the artwork isn’t just a problem on the starter cards either.
Even worse to me is the text and icon size on the location cards. The text on these cards is so small that even my kids, who have great vision, can’t read them from across the table. To make things worse many of these cards include even smaller icons. In particular, the Help cost is shown as a small number inside a horseshoe. I find these hard to read even at arm’s length.
These graphic design issues have literally made the game unplayable to my wife who has some vision issues. Note, I said “some vision issues”. It’s not like she’s legally blind, yet to her, some of the location cards are completely unreadable.
This is the biggest problem with My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game. once you know it’s not for kids. Because of the legibility issues, some people may not enjoy playing, or may even be unable to play. Which is a shame because it’s a very solid game.
I really hope this is something that Renegade Game Studios has realized is a problem and something they fix either in a second printing or second edition.
My final complaint about this game also comes from my kids, and it’s a minor one. They want to know why you can’t play all six ponies. The entire cartoon that this game is based on is about the core six characters and how they work together to overcome whatever is put in their path. It’s odd that a My Little Pony game wouldn’t let you play all six at once somehow. They are called the Mane Six after all.
Personally, I would have liked to see something like what Japanime Games did with Cowboy Bebop where all of the character standees are in play and there are cards that let you move them and some way to use each character’s ability, even if they aren’t being controlled by a player.
Overall I was surprised and impressed by My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game. This is a very solid and engaging cooperative deck-building card game. One that’s definitely not a kids’ game and features more than enough depth and decision space to keep hobby gamers like us entertained.
Not only is this a solid deck-builder but it’s also one of the better cooperative games I’ve played. Due to the card combinations and the way you can share resources during key moments, you really get the feeling that you are working together while playing Adventures in Equestria.
The big thing to watch for though is the size of the card text and the iconography, which is small and sometimes obscured. No matter what you are going to have to pick up cards to read what they say and if someone in your group has vision problems you may just need to skip this game altogether.
If this isn’t a problem for you and you are a hobby gamer and a fan of My Little Pony you need to pick this game up. You are going to love it, with its detailed gameplay and great theme integration.
If you are deck-building fan and have no feelings on My Little Pony either way, you should check this game out. Don’t let the My Little Pony theme scare you away. This is a solid cooperative card game.
Don’t like deck-building in general? I suggest finding a way to try this game as it “fixes” some of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about deck building. One fix is the way the variable market refreshes itself so that you never get stuck, turn after turn, with a row of cards that no one wants. Another fix is the ability to carry over resources between turns through the use of tokens.
For those that really dislike card games, deck-building games and/or My Little Pony, I doubt this one will sway you and I doubt you’ve read this far.
Personally, I really enjoy this game and I’m itching for more. I’ve now played enough that I feel I grok what’s here and am eager to see what the expansions add to the game and how they mix things up.
I’ve been noticing what seems like a trend in the last few years of games that look like kids’ games but turn out to be anything but. My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game is a great example of this, but there have been others that we’ve run into recently, like Disney Sidekicks and The Ghosts Betwixt.
What’s a game you’ve played that didn’t match what seemed to be the intended market? Let us know about it in the comments below!