How Disney Lorcana Co-Designer Ryan Miller Helped Create A Card Game Unlike Any Other

When Disney Lorcana brand manager and co-designer Ryan Miller arrived at D23 Expo last year to present the new trading card game to the world, he didn’t know what kind of attention to expect. “We were unprepared for D23,” Miller says, laughing. “We did not know that we were going to have the kind of reception that we had there. If we knew, we probably would have brought more of those collectors sets to sell.”


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Those collector’s sets, the now-infamous First Edition D23 Expo-exclusive collection, are selling on eBay for upwards of $16,000. Lorcana’s initial set, The First Chapter, doesn’t hit store shelves until August 18 (or September 1 in the UK, Germany, France, and Canada) but its success is already assured. The company behind Lorcana, Ravensburger, may not have known what kind of reception to expect back at D23 Expo, but it’s certainly aware now. TCGPlayer lists the market price for booster boxes – if you can even find a preorder listing – at $270, or $11.25 per pack. That’s nearly double the MSRP. The demand for Lorcana is sky high, despite the fact that very few have even experienced playing the game yet.

Related: Lorcana Co-Designer Ryan Miller Schools Us (And Shows Off Some New Cards)

It’s no mystery why Lorcana is already a hit. Disney fans and TCG players are both willing to spend a lot on their hobbies, and they enjoy hunting down limited edition products and building impressive collections. Disney Lorcana brings both kinds of people together and has the potential to turn Disney fans into TCG players and vice-versa. It’s a perfect storm of collectibility, and it’s clear the market is already anticipating extraordinarily high demand.

Miller, who sat down with me for an extended interview and gameplay session, wants Lorcana to be so much more than just a high profile collectible. That’s part of the reason why, after D23 Expo, his team decided not to print a First Edition run of The First Chapter, as was initially planned. “Our goal is to get this into the hands of the community,” he says. “What we want to avoid, if possible, is people squirreling it away. We want people playing and trading and enjoying it. We felt that the first edition marker might exacerbate that issue, so we said ‘Let’s not do it.’ We’re gonna make beautiful, awesome cards that are fun to collect, they just don’t need it.”

Miller hopes to sell lots of trading cards, of course, but more than that, he wants Lorcana to be a well-designed game that new and experienced TCG can both enjoy. Miller says that his previous work with Ravensburger, on a board game based on The Princess Bride, showed him that the company is capable of producing products of an impressively high quality, and that Ravensburger’s history of working with Disney on the Villainous series convinced him that Lorcana was a project he could believe in. “Not only can they do it, I think they’re the only company that can really do this, and really do it right,” he says.

“Doing it right” meant recognizing that Lorcana will naturally attract players that aren’t already familiar with TCGs, and building a rule system that can accommodate them. Miller says understanding the aspects of TCGs that turn players off was essential to designing Lorcana, and while a lot of those factors exist outside of the game design, one element he identified was something he calls “confrontation level”.

In gaming, Miller says, you can imagine a spectrum that exists between Solitaire and Chess, with Solitaire being the least confrontational kind of game, and Chess being the most. Most TCGs, he says, exist in the top 80 percent of this spectrum, and are highly confrontational, both mechanically and thematically. “We wanted to pull that back a bit,” he says. “You actually don’t win this game by confronting your opponent. You still want to, and confrontation is an important part of a trading card game because you need some ability to interact with what your opponent is doing, but you don’t win the game that way.”

Rather than battle your opponent’s Pokemon or whittling their life points down to zero, winning a game of Lorcana requires you to collect 20 points (called lore) before your opponent. “That’s an important distinction, not only mechanically but emotionally,” Miller says. “It lightens the mood a bit.” That’s one of the ways that Lorcana is designed to be more welcoming to new players that are just trying out TCG for the first time.

There are new-player-friendly card games out there, and even the more complex games constantly pump out ‘Starter’ products to try and lure people in, but part of what makes Lorcana unique is that it is approachable without sacrificing all of its depths. One of the interesting mechanics that sets Lorcana apart is the fact that it doesn’t have a bespoke resource card, like energies or lands. Instead, most cards can become resources simply by playing them face down (known as putting them in your inkwell). Miller says that was a decision made to add complexity and choice to deckbuilding, as well a strategic depth to gameplay. “Which card to use as ink is a very skill-testing choice. You’re looking at the table and your hand and saying, ‘Which one of these cards is least useful for me in this situation?’”

That sort of high-level decision-making is what makes Lorcana complex without demanding too much from new players. “A new player doesn’t have to worry about all that, they can just put a card down and it’s no big deal,” he explains. “But as they grow in skill, they’ll start to see the effects of those types of decisions.”

For Miller and his team, the challenge of designing Lorcana was finding a way to meet the player where they’re at and give them the tools to enjoy the game, whether they just want to play with their favorite Disney characters or want to build competitive decks with high levels of strategy. “It was a really fascinating challenge. It was unlike other games I’ve done in the past.”

We covered a lot of topics surrounding Lorcana in our interview, so check out the full-length version here if you’d like to hear more from Lorcana co-designer Ryan Miller. We also play an entire game using Lorcana’s starter decks, which will give you a sense of how the game is played.

This interview is part of TheGamer’s weeklong celebration of Disney Lorcana, which is full of features, interviews, and guides that will help you get started with the game. Check out this hub page for more articles about Disney Lorcana.

Next: Disney Lorcana Week: Complete Guide

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