Tobold's Blog
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.

Ok. You just ruined my high hopes for this game. I owe you 15€ I guess.
I watched a twitch stream of someone playing and they were getting over 300 gold a match from playing other people.
Maybe I was right about betas ;-)

I still think that 15€ for this beta (which basically is a final product in constant developement, like any other MMO) is perfectly fine.

Tobold dind't enjoy it but I suspect he's becoming more and more selective/exigent when it comes to viodegames fun/enjoyment.

Reading about Scrolls here and there I've found quite a lot of positive feedback in the latest 24 hours.
P.s. I'd pay 20 bucks for a freaking EDIT button.
Tobold dind't enjoy it but I suspect he's becoming more and more selective/exigent when it comes to viodegames fun/enjoyment.

While it is possible that I am becoming more selective, I'd like to point out that in this case my main point of criticism is a direct comparison to other games: You can get a game like Summoner Wars for free on the iPad and have nearly identical gameplay.

I watched a twitch stream of someone playing and they were getting over 300 gold a match from playing other people.

Possible, I haven't tried multiplayer yet. But inherently multiplayer takes longer for the same amount of turns. And once other people got better decks, it will be increasingly difficult for new players to win in multiplayer with a premade deck. Thus I'm not convinced that multiplayer is the fastest way to go from having only a prebuild deck at the start of the game to having a collection allowing a variety of decks.
When you posted about Scrolls yesterday I was tempted to write a ranty comment about why lemming gamers rush to buy games before they have seen reviews and in many cases before the game has even launched.

I must have gotten a good nights sleep however because today, despite direct evidence of early purchase leading to disappointment I can sort of understand the motivation: It is a kind of gamble. If you "win" and the game turns out to be good then you get the benefit of being an early adopter which has some social value especially if you recommend the game on facebook or in a blog etc. Even if you lose I guess there is some value in being able to tell people how bad it is.
Thanks for this post. I was about ready to spring $20 just to see what Mojang had been up to and you saved me the cash and trouble. I'll buy you a latte instead!
I think that a large part of the current issues with the game is that it is in such an early stage. It has really few features, and really few cards. It can be quite tactically interesting - it is really rewarding when your smart board movement results in a good outcome - but yes, the game is rather skeletonish at the moment.
The big thing, however, is that this is Mojang :) . Unless they change their policies, you can count on three things: a) no penny pinching, b) free additions to the game for years to come c) that are also intelligent. When I look, for example, at the current World of Tanks state of affairs, I find this a great deal.
I think some people just have that one amazing idea. For Notch, Minecraft may be his one great creation. He's made more than enough money to try his hand at more games though.
I read every bit of Scrolls news but frankly, I never had a feeling it will be something outstanding. The art was so-so and the cards themselves had 2/1, which is boring.

I'm waiting for Blizzard's Hearthstone.
Wait, you paid money for a -beta-? That's just wrong. Even more so because it was crap. :/
"Beta" is just a word. If you think about most MMO's out there, they are beta products that keep being patched year after year.

World of Warcraft? 9 years of fixes, drastic changes, etc.
If you call everything a beta then the word becomes meaningless. MMORPGs are released in an unfinished state but the early game is supposed to be in a complete (not unimprovable, not bug-free, but *complete*) even if they plan to add late-game content while players explore the early stuff.

They have free betas, which are actually betas.

CCGs will also be expected to have improvements, balance changes and expansions over time. But again, you expect the released version to be fully tested - IN AN ACTUAL BETA.

The problem with Scrolls is that it's been put on sale before they bothered to do a beta. Sure, maybe it's worth it to people for various reasons. I'm not knocking them for selling their product any way they want; there are worse marketing schemes out there.

I'm just saying, nobody should be surprised if they are sold a pup.

There's some missing info that your readers should be aware of before forming their opinions. I don't know about the viability of multi-color decks but the game does support it. Sacrificing a scroll will get you the appropriate resource and there are structures you can build that allows you to splash other resource types.

Instead of sacrificing for resource, you can also sacrifice a scroll for 2 more scrolls. There are also effects and scrolls that can give you more draw power if you want it. So if you are hurting for options late-game, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Also, remember this game is still in beta and more changes are bound to come. This TotalBiscuit video is a pretty good review of the game IMHO:

@ GQ

I don't agree, mainly because MMO's that keep changing are NOT "complete". They may SEEM complete, but a lot of stuff still needs to be balanced, fixed and so on. But having tons of things to see, they know you will probably wont notice that too much.

Having played a Hunter for 4 years in WoW I can tell you Blizzard was annoying as hell. That class (like many others) got so many changes that you ended playing something completely different from vanilla days.
Have you tried "Kings & Legends Global"?

Pretty similar idea - trading card game where you lay down cards in lanes for some Plants vs. Zombies style brawling.

I've been enjoying it quite a bit this last week. It feels pretty easygoing as a F2P game - I haven't felt that I was horribly squeezed for cards unless I splashed cash - and it throws a few different activities at you (1v1, 2v2 and 4v4 PvP, a simple solo PvE campaign, 4 player PvE dungeons).
Yeah, I tried Kings and Legends a few days ago on Kongregate. It seemed okay but was not really compelling. I didn't go too deep but the system seemed more like an 'add the numbers' game than the more typical CCG. Maybe that improves as you go on, but it could be an element in 'tower defence' influenced CCGs.
I've been playing Scrolls for about 2 weeks now and I love it.

1. It does have a campaign, so I'm not sure where you got the idea that it doesn't.

2. Like any card game, this game requires very good hand management. You can only do three things with a card: Play it for resources, play it to draw 2 or play it on the board. You may be faced with the tough decision of playing a great card for a resource so you can save yourself early on... or you may need to burn it and try and get a couple of lower cost cards. It's a brilliant part of the strategy.

3. Money comes fast and easy... especially through doing the campaign (minimum of 250 per plus bonuses for damage dealt).

4. Make no mistake, this is made to played multi-player. It's a CCG, you don't play Magic: The Gathering alone.... So why in the world you would review it, without having done that, is beyond excuse.
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