Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Scrolls vs. Zombies
Thanks to the help of a reader, I finally managed to get the Scrolls shop loading, and bought and installed the game. Not long afterwards I very much regretted that decision. I had expected so much more, but Scrolls is very much lacking the innovation and creativity of a Minecraft. It would be hard to pick out Scrolls from a line-up with a bunch of Playdek games and Might & Magic: Duels of Champions.
One thing I was very wrong about was expecting from the screenshots that Scrolls had a tactical board-game aspect. Well, fans might say it has, but in reality you get to place your creatures only on your side of the board, in 5 lanes, 3 rows deep, and they attack the opponent down those lanes. That ends up playing more like Plants vs. Zombies than like a tactical turn-based game, even if creatures can be moved from one lane to another. That doesn't make Scrolls a bad trading-card game, but there are already other games of that kind which use lanes of attack, so the whole thing isn't very original.
What I found much worse is that this is all you get. There is no story, no campaign, only battles on this board that is always the same, plus the trials with minor rules variations. And the trials pay out their additional reward only once, so most people will only play them until they won them once. As the board is always the same, the variety comes from playing with different decks. Only that I can't talk about deckbuilding yet, because I never got there on my first evening. For $20 you only get one starter deck. I won a random match and got 89 gold, lost a random match and got 45 gold, visited the shop and found that a booster of 10 cards costs 1000 gold. That's a lot of playing to get enough cards for a second deck together. Trials give 250 gold extra, once. You can buy a single random card for 100 gold, but the boosters are probably better because they have guaranteed rare cards. You also can buy a single random card of the color you want for 175 gold, and there is a small but periodically changing selection of non-random cards you can buy for your deck. But overall I had the impression that you either pay a lot of money, or grind a lot of games before you can build really different decks. Especially since there are 3 colors, and the resource system appears to discourage multi-color decks.
Having to play a lot to get cards wouldn't be so bad if I enjoyed playing the game more. Unfortunately I don't. A typical game has a lot of turns, and you get multiple cards only at the very start of the game. Very quickly your hand is empty, and then gameplay is reduced to drawing a card and playing it, plus maybe moving a creature from one lane to another. It all feels extremely random, and with the same deck against the same opponent of the same difficulty level I had both overwhelming victories and crushing defeats, just based on what card I drew at what moment.
In conclusion, at the moment I consider Scrolls to be a rather bad deal. Games that play in a very similar way can be had for a lot less money, especially in the iOS App Store. And the much better Card Hunter, which adds a whole new dimension of a campaign with different boards and tactical battles to the trading card theme offers more options for free than Scrolls does for $20. Funnily enough even Ubisoft's Might & Magic: Duel of Champions look less like a blatant money grab than Scrolls does.