Imagine this chaotic scene, if you dare: It’s noon on Christmas Day at the Magic Kingdom. Mr. Finger Candy and I are pinned into a tiny nook in a walkway that runs along the Rivers of America as a never-ending herd of people swarm past, shoulder-to-shoulder, Rascal-to-Rascal, eyes halfheartedly glancing over at the parade running in the opposite direction. Up ahead, the parade stretches on and on into Lynchian infinity, each bright, branded float pumping out more lunatic Christmas carols than the one that preceded it, while Elsa and Anna, snuggled together in a cozy little sled, sweetly trill about how wonderful it is to all be together for the holidays! Stepping out of our Nook of Exile, we immediately run directly into the back of a man on a motorized scooter who has stopped in the middle of the walkway to stand up so he can get a better view of the parade. I give some very un-Christmasy-like consideration to shoving him into the Rivers of America. Nearby, a pack of reindeer plushies have broken out into a manic little shuffle, as smudgy snope (artificial, soap-based “snow”) drifts down onto the restless crowd. It’s also hot as balls, and our walkway nook provides no shelter from the blazing midday sun. I’ve no idea how we’ve come to be marooned in this sweaty holiday hellhole, but it’s clear that Anna and Elsa have lied – this is so not wonderful (what I actually said – shouted at my husband in order to be heard above the din – was “WE’RE IN THE EPICENTER OF HELL!!!”) It wasn’t a great scene.
Unbeknownst to us (information we were not entirely shocked to learn until much later that evening) the Magic Kingdom had actually reached capacity some hours earlier; back at the front gates they were turning away all but re-entries. Disney is notoriously guarded when it comes to its official park numbers, but it’s widely believed that the first level of attendance throttling begins somewhere around 65,000 guests. Which means that at noon on Christmas Day along the holiday parade route in one of the biggest bottlenecks in the park, YES, we were absolutely in the epicenter of hell. Also in a couple of righteously – though thankfully temporary – bad moods.
As it was my incredibly poor planning that mired us down in that holiday hellhole to begin with, it fell to me to pull us out of the abyss; a day at Disney is just far too expensive a proposition to allow it to circle the drain over a few thousand cruddily-behaved people. We could outlast AND outsmart them, by outplaying them – literally. 🙂
And so we marched off to the firehouse on Main Street USA and signed up for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, an interactive role playing collectible card game and scavenger hunt. Which for the aging Sword in the Stone and Magic the Gathering nerd I’m married to was just the BEST. THING. EVER. Bad mood? Gone, gone, gone. And I can’t ever be unhappy when my husband is this pleased over the acquisition of a rare Winnie the Pooh spell card. 🙂
Here’s how Sorcerers works: After signing up at the firehouse (it’s free to play) you’re conscripted into Merlin’s army. Seems Hades has assembled an army of his own, joining forces with a number of classic Disney villains, from Ursula and Cruella De Vil, to Dr. Facilier and Maleficent, and the lot of them have been rampaging about the Magic Kingdom, up to no good. It falls to you, novice sorcerer now thrust into the deep end, to find Hades and his co-conspirators, hidden in portals all throughout the park, and put a stop to their dastardly plans.
And so you go through a bit of in-firehouse training in which you learn how to identify the portals (they’re semi-hidden in what might otherwise look like a shop window or a cabinet or simply a plain old wall all throughout the Magic Kingdom), how to open them (by tapping your enabled MagicBand or card against a nearby lock-shaped RFID reader) and how to stop the misbehaving meanies (by standing on a Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom seal centered on the portal and casting an attack spell with one of your reader-enabled spell cards.)
New players are given a free pack of cards to kick off their spellcasting journey, and returning players who present at the firehouse are given a free pack for each day they’re in the park. Additionally, if you complete all of the multi-part missions in one day (there are nine missions to complete in total, each with five or six sub-missions) you’ll receive another set of spell cards. Each spell card (there are 70 base cards in total, with a number of limited edition extras) corresponds to a different Disney character and is assigned a rarity, a strength and a set of attack stats. Each card is also embedded with a tiny chip that interacts with the portals’ RFID readers, which is what casts the spell, specific to your chosen card and character, and defeats the villain.
There are also, of course, booster packs available for purchase at select locations throughout the park. These packs contain a mystery assortment of cards from the regular offerings, as well as rarer, slightly more valuable picks. Mr. Finger Candy could not contain his glee upon discovering that not only were there more, better cards to be had, but that there was a snazzy spellcasting book in which to house them, no less! Manna from collectible card game heaven, I tells ya. 🙂
It was in the single booster pack we bought that we found this wicked powerful Winnie the Pooh card, which trounced any and all enemies it ran up against with a thick, smothering layer of smackery honey and extra stingy bees. 🙂 Mr. Finger Candy traded spells with a number of other players that day, and there was a fair bit of jealousy over that high performance Pooh card, let me tell you.
Of the other cards we received, my favourites were Tiana’s Hot Sauce (Tiana of The Princess and the Frog being our resort’s official/unofficial princess) and Rover’s Christmas Carousel of Progress, a limited edition card given out at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (which we did not attend…this time) themed to the Carousel of Progress, a weird throwback of an animatronic stage show starring John the oven-killing idiot and Rover, a VR headset-wearing dog.
And so on Christmas Day, this is what we did – ran from one end of the park to the other and back again defeating villains, looking like dorks in public, making new friends, exploring hidden spots, trading spells, following clues, deciphering riddles and just generally confusing everyone we (politely) asked to move out of the way of one of our portals (“Excuse me, could you please move your arse off this thing that absolutely looks like a fireplace but is actually about to burst into villainous life? Thanks!” always proved to be a bit of a non-starter.
This is actually what we did for about eight solid hours on Christmas Day. And if you’re thinking to yourself, “What a waste, you could have been riding the rides,” keep in mind that what drove us to Sorcerers in the first place (aside from the parade from hell) were the hour-and-a-half, two-hour wait times that were being posted for every single attraction in the park. And when given the choice between waiting statically in an infuriatingly long lineup with 3,000 other frustrated people or getting out there to actually explore the park, we chose exploration. And adventure! And so. much. walking. If you’re trying to complete all nine missions in one day, as we were (of course we were trying to complete all nine missions in one day; I think we’re incapable of going to Disney World without turning it into a challenge of some sort) it will take you to every corner of the park twice and then back again, and then a third time just for good, tootsie-aching measure (actual foot note footnote: I believe this is how I hurt my right foot Christmas Day.) I’ve been only half-joking that I need to create a diet and exercise plan around this thing; you’ll walk miles a day and hardly even notice it.
And not for nothing, but in addition to almost (oh, it was by the skin of our teeth!) completing all nine of the Sorcerers missions, we also rode 13 rides, watched the fireworks, hit up numerous PhotoPass locations, suffered through that godforsaken parade and had a nice, leisurely dinner at Be Our Guest. We’re no slouches in the Gettin’ ‘Er Done Department. It’s just that neither one of us cared to blow our entire day on endless lineups for attractions we had already experienced. Also, sitting in line for hours on end runs completely contrary to our general vacation mantra and battle cry of “Park or perish!” Also-also, odds are by the time you return to the attraction later on in the evening, having spent the afternoon dashing about the park having a blast, the wait time will be halved or better, even on that most insane of days, December 25th.
In the end, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom proved to be so much more than a nifty little diversion. In fact, plans are already in place to return as soon as possible and complete our game! Someone needs to defeat Hades, you know, why not a couple of Disney nerds from Canada? 🙂