1) Randomise which player goes first. That player chooses a deployment area, and places the First Player Token next to their Gate.
2) Players decide if they wish to freely choose their 3 favourite Champions to play with, or draft Champions using the casual draft or competitive draft rules. Players take the base rings of their colour of choice and add them to their Champions to form a team. They then place their team on their player Gate, and their Champion cards and 3 Cores of magic, one of each colour, on their player board.
3) Each player takes the 3 Action decks for their Champions and shuffles them together to form their draw deck.
4) Shuffle one deck of 11 Challenge cards. Draw a Challenge card and place it in the Cannot Be Scored slot (the one with no trophy symbol).
5) Place the victory and damage tokens at the side of the board at the reach of players.
6) Place all the traps face down beside the board. The first player places traps face down on 2 trap hexes of their choice, without looking at them.
7) The second player places traps face down on 2 trap hexes of their choice, without looking at them. There should now be 4 traps and 2 empty trap hexes on the board.
8) The first player draws a hand of 5 cards from their draw deck. They may discard any number of those cards and draw a new card for each card they discarded. Then all discarded cards are shuffled back in the draw deck.
9) Then the second player draws a hand of 5 cards from their draw deck and discards them the same way as the first player. Discarded cards are shuffled back into the draw deck.
10) The first player places their Champions onto unoccupied hexes in their deployment area.
11) The second player places their Champions onto unoccupied hexes in their deployment area.