Welcome to the first installment of Goonhammer’s Lorcana column, the Mikey Mouse Club. I am the titular “Mikey”, being one Michael Barnes – a longtime (20+ years) games writer that just recently semi-retired from reviewing and writing primarily about board games but I’ve covered the entire spectrum of tabletop games and even video games throughout my career. Some of you may recognize me from Boardgamegeek.com. That is, if you were around there some 15-16 years ago when I was the first person ever permanently banned there for allegedly inciting and inflaming the notorious Ameritrash/Eurogame war that nearly brought the site to its knees. I take writing about games, including Lorcana very seriously and I’ve always tried to give the games the same cultural respect and critical rigor that is afforded to film and music. Which is somewhat ironic given that most of my favorite games are more equivocal to Ramones rather than Rush. And, since we are being transparent here, I am spectacularly bad at games so don’t expect to see my name anywhere near the top of the 10k tournament results.
To establish my TCG “cred”, as if that really means anything, I’ve played Magic: The Gathering on and off since 1993, but my debut was delayed when I decided to buy Gundam comics instead of Alpha starter decks. I’ve played other TCGs over the years- Netrunner is of course a longtime favorite, I think the old Iron Crown Games Middle Earth Collectible Card Game is the Magic Realm of TCGs, and I didn’t play Pokemon or Yugioh until my son got into them during COVID. I’ve never played Flesh & Blood but folks I trust say it’s good. I had all of the TSR Spellfire cards for reasons lost to time and memory. I regard “living card games” as a bad joke. And WTF is MetaZoo anyway?
I never expected to be so taken with Lorcana, let alone participating in-store play. That was something I thought I had left behind years ago after the game shop I owned and operated, Atlanta Game Factory, went defunct. I’ve done more than my share of time playing randos and weirdos but here I am week after week, facing off with strangers at a very excellent game shop here in Atlanta, Level Up Games. No doubt many who know me might be surprised to hear that I’ve been sucked into this world of Illumineers, Dreamborn, and all of these classic Disney characters. But doubters, there is a game here and hopefully this column will show that there is nothing about this game that is “dumbed down”. It’s one of the smartly streamlined TCGs I’ve ever played, and I think there is lots here that will appeal to quite wide range of players.
I’ll save the review for a future column, but it makes sense here to explain how Lorcana has sunk its teeth into me on a personal level. No matter how punk AF I’ve been ever since I bought my first Bad Brains record in 1988, no matter how anti-capitalist and anti-corporate I am, no matter how jaded I am as a game player, this Disney TCG has me (and my kids) dead to rights. I love games that are accessible and easy to play but have emergent strategy and direct player interaction. I like volatile designs where luck and uncertainty create organic situations and divergent decision points. I like beautiful games. I like concise, extremely refined designs that respect my time and satisfy me without requiring me to alter my lifestyle. And to be quite frank I love Cruella De Vil and Maleficent more than I love Tyranids and Astartes.
In this column, which is the first time I’ve ever focused my writing on one particular game over an extended period, I’ll give you some thoughts and probably lots of opinions about Lorcana, the organized play scene, whatever is going on in the meta, deck profiles, strategy advisement (no guarantees as to quality), and probably a few of those listicles that everybody loves to bicker over. I’m hardly a “serious gamer” so expect my work here to be more casually focused, which I feel is appropriate for this game and its audience. I’ve been really enjoying getting deep into one game for a change, after years of being trapped in the endlessly revolving door that is the board games scene. I have played more games of Lorcana yesterday alone than I have of any board game I’ve bought in the past five years. So perhaps that is my number one qualification- I’m obsessed with these damn Mickey Mouse cards.
As to why Mikey Mouse Club is appearing here amongst the Grim Darkness of Goonhammer- I think this game is actually kind of significant in the larger gaming spectrum. It’s been something of a phenomenon. Games that explode onto the market and get people talking, playing, and buying like it has are rare. It’s of course extremely early in the game’s uncertain lifespan, but there is a vibe going on unlike what I’ve usually seen with other TCGs. It could turn out to be, dare I say it, important. I believe it has legs, and I believe it could emerge as a tentpole product like MTG or Pokemon. Granted, we’ve seen TCGs with huge licenses founder and fumble their way into obscurity before (witness Star Wars) and there is concern that availability might kneecap Mickey and the gang out of the gate. But with faith, trust, and pixie dust this game might go the distance. If people can actually buy it.
Next time: The Magic and The Madness
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