Review – Disney Sorcerer’s Arena: Epic Alliances Core Set
Your favorite Disney characters duke it out!
The Op’s new arena fighting game allows players to build a team of 3 Disney characters, using both heroes and villains, to square off against another Master Summoner. Is it a good game in its own right, or is it a licensed cash-grab?
Epic Alliances includes a 4-step playing guide to ease newcomers into the game which is an excellent design decision given the Disney theming, which is sure to draw in newer players. Veteran tabletop gamers will have no problem jumping right into the chapter 4 fights, which is how Epic Alliances is meant to be played. First player to 20 victory points wins. Victory points are gained from defeating enemy fighters and from standing on 3 special VP-generating hexes in the arena.
Each Master Summoner will control 3 fighters, and the fighters alternate turns until everyone has gone. On a fighter’s turn, they can move 2 spaces, perform an attack on an adjacent opponent for 2 damage, use a special ability, or play a card to enhance their movement/attack. It’s a simple formula, and the character asymmetry comes through in each fighter’s unique cards. For example, Gaston is a tank who deals tons of damage, Maleficent is more fragile but has a couple ranged spell attacks, and the list goes on. Each fighter also has a special upgrade ability, which can be used when players banish cards with the matching symbols from their discard pile.
Though the arena is simple and symmetrical, the characters’ different playstyles and the VP-generating hexes keep things interesting. Should you move your fighters in right away to start racking in victory points? Should you bum-rush the middle of the arena? Should you hang back and take out your opponent’s fighters first? These are all questions each player will need to answer in order to come up with a winning strategy.
Some things to consider when choosing your 3-person team: What are their upgrade costs? You’ll need characters with those gem symbols in order to upgrade. What is their playstyle? An entire team of low-damage, hit-and-run might work, but only with the right strategy. What are their special abilities? Some characters can help others out by giving them beneficial status modifiers.
Not all fighters are created equal. Some fighters are just better than others; however, designer Sean Fletcher tries to balance this by giving each fighter varying amounts of health and different victory point values. When a fighter is defeated, the opponent gets victory points equal to that fighter’s value. So Sully, a tank with a ton of health, is better than Dr. Facilier, but Sully is worth 7 VPs when defeated, compared to Dr. Facilier’s 4.
The components are really good. The artwork is great, even if some of the card art looks like a bunch of shapes thrown together (some of it is animation from the mid 1900s, after all). The status chits fit right next to the characters’ turn order pieces, and the rest of the cardboard tokens are fine. Helpful reminders for the different turn orders are also included, which is always a plus. Finally, the acrylic character standees are amazing. Better than minis because they’re colored, bringing the characters to the board in an exciting new way. I wouldn’t be surprised if other games follow suit.
I couldn’t help but think of Unmatched while playing Epic Alliances. I think Unmatched is a great combat game, and while Epic Alliances does its own thing, it’s not as good as Unmatched. In Epic Alliances, so many things are going on in a 3v3 or a 4v4 match and so many statuses can be applied. However, the core of the game is so simple that the extra bells and whistles of statuses and multiple special abilities detract from the game instead of enhance it. It feels like Epic Alliances tries too hard to be a highly-strategic combat game while also being accessible to families and playing within a reasonable time frame. To some extent, it succeeds, but most of the statuses and special abilities feel too shallow to be worth the upkeep.
Part of what makes the statuses and special abilities feel shallow is the lack of choices in Epic Alliances. In a game like Unmatched, all of the cards a player has pertains to their figure, so even though the hand sizes are similar, you have multiple options. In Epic Alliances, your fighters take individual turns, and you’re controlling 3 of them, so you could have 4 options for what Ariel can do, but by the time you get to Dr. Facilier’s turn, you only have 1 Dr. Facilier card. Epic Alliances can give the illusion of control, but each fighter’s movements and attacks are largely on rails, pre-determined by the cards in the Master Summoner’s hands.
Sorcerer’s Arena: Epic Alliances allows players to play as fun Disney characters in an easy-to-teach fighting game, but more experienced tabletop gamers will be frustrated by: the general lack of choices, the seemingly unnecessary amount of upkeep, and the fact that most of these characters don’t feel unique enough to actually play as they do in their own universes. It’s not a bad game, and I can see the appeal for Disney fans and for families looking for a light fighting game. However, unless you fall into 1 of those 2 camps, I recommend Unmatched over Epic Alliances.
Review copy kindly provided by The Op.
The Bottom Line
Tries to balance on the fence between strategic and family-friendly and ends up flailing a bit, despite some interesting team-building and excellent components.