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Ursula, resplendent in purple tangles of weird energy, looms over the Illumineers who stand against her reign in Lorcana.
Image: Ravensburger and Disney

Here’s how the first standalone game actually works

When Disney Lorcana launched in July 2023, it was strictly a competitive trading card game. As with any game, there’s a graceful way to play with newcomers or the kids at the local game store. But the thirst for lore (the game’s version of victory points) is real, and few can stand in the way of a parched Illumineer. Now publisher Ravensburger is expanding the format. Its new standalone game, Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble, is coming out soon and Polygon has your first look inside the box. Get ready for cooperative and single-player game modes — both of which make use of the cards and decks you might already own.

In Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble, players will take on Ursula, the tentacled villain from The Little Mermaid. The subtitle of her oversized card inside the game box is Ruler of Lorcana, and she’s achieved that title by corrupting copies of familiar characters from the Disney back catalog — creatures called glimmers. It’s a conquest that has played out over the course of Disney Lorcana’s first three sets of cards, including The First Chapter, Rise of the Floodborn, and Into the Inklands. Even more details are due out on May 17, with the mass market release of Disney Lorcana’s next set of cards, Ursula’s Return.

The contents of Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble, including several oversized cards and a sealed gold foil pack of cards.
Image: Ravensburger and Disney

Streaming to Lorcana’s rescue are four Disney characters at the head of two new 60-card pre-constructed decks. Mickey Mouse and his mentor, the sorcerer Yen Sid, are on the scene. They’re backed by a batch of buffs that could beat back Ursula with just a bunch of brooms. Backing them up are Mulan, Elite Archer and Piglet, Pooh Pirate Captain, each with some particularly good offensive skills. Players can take on Ursula all by themselves with one deck or the other, or go at her with up to three other players. You can even bring your own deck.

Yen Sid, Powerful Sorcerer and Mickey Mouse, Playful Sorcerer cards from Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble include unique powers, like Timely Intervention, which allows you to draw a card if you have a Magic Broom in play.
Image: Ravensburger and Disney
Mulan, Elite Archer and Piglet, Pooh Pirate Captain cards from Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble include unique powers like Straight Shooter, which allows you to add three to Mulan’s attack value if you shifted here on top of another Mulan card.
Image: Ravensburger and Disney

Ursula, for her part, is surprisingly powerful. Her unique deck of cards, which is automated by a short list of easy-to-understand rules, deals lots of damage and scoops up lore by the boatload. But players have a serious advantage: All of them go simultaneously, taking actions in any order they choose. Better still, all of the effects on their cards apply equally to all of the players at the table. That means your friend can use their glimmer’s support skill to add potency to your attacks, while one player’s powerful buffs that last until the end of the turn can be applied equally to everyone at the table.

“When Steve Warner and I started working on the idea for Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble, we only had a few concepts we knew we wanted to include,” senior brand manager and co-designer Ryan Miller told Polygon in an email. “When working out how the player turns would be, it quickly became apparent that having each player take a separate turn was causing the pace of the game to slow down too much. I think it was Steve who suggested the simultaneous turn, and once we tried it that way we never looked back. It just flowed so well and had the added benefit of naturally combining with abilities like support that reinforced the cooperative nature of the game.”

Gold-backed cards for Ursula from Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble
Image: Ravensburger and Disney
Ursula’s deck has cards with special backs, indicating that they can’t be used in standard play.
A tentacle, a contract, and a Captain Hook card from Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble show inky black tentacles at the edges of the frames.
Image: Ravensburger and Disney
The card fronts, on the other hand, have a unique “entangled” art treatment.

As an added benefit, these simultaneous turns make Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble a great way to teach the game’s core concepts to new players.

“Since it’s cooperative,” Miller said, “there’s a lot more permission […] to ask questions about card abilities and interactions without feeling like you’re giving away your strategy to an opponent.”

And what about the very youngest players who might not even be able to read? Well, turns out there’s a seat for them at the table as well.

“One of my favorite moments of playtesting came about when a family was playing, and one of the kids was too young to actually play,” Miller said. “So they had her ‘play’ as Ursula, flipping the cards from her deck each turn. That little girl had a blast as each turn she would cackle with delight as she laid the cards out and her brothers and parents groaned at the set of new challenges they’d have to overcome.”

A crystal cave, not unlike the one from Aladdin, but in the shape of a fish’s mouth. Flotsam and Jetsam float at the edges of the frame as the Illumineers step into view.
Image: Ravensburger and Disney
Battleground cards set the stage for the experience and include special rules that make it more challenging at higher difficulty levels.
A gold foil package that reads “Only the victors shall unseal this packet and claim the prize within or this treasure becomes property of the sea witch Ursula for all eternity.”
Image: Ravensburger and Disney

The game comes with four different difficulty settings, each represented by one face of another pair of oversized cards. Miller said that makes for a great way to quickly test out new decks, as Ursula is pretty overpowered at the highest setting.

The game also comes with a special golden envelope containing a singular, ultra-rare card. Yes, I’ve opened it and no, I can’t tell you what’s inside. But I can say that it’s not what I expected it to be. It’s a powerful card to be sure, but it has just as much narrative weight as it does mechanical punch.

“We’ve got an absolutely amazing team of narrative folks who have been working hard for years now to put together the story behind the realm of Lorcana, as well as the ongoing story behind each set and how they all tie together,” Miller said. “It’s a diverse team of writers, concept artists, and art directors that bring to story together with stories and visuals that set the stage for the game designers and artists to come in and make some wonderful cards.”

Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble will be available in hobby stores on May 17 and at mass retail on May 31.

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