First Impressions of Scrolls: Mojang’s new online trading card game/tactical strategy game hybrid
Early this week, Mojang, the studio best known as the one that released a little game called Minecraft, introduced its newest game to the public: Scrolls. The launch was … rough. At least, my experience with it was, suffering numerous setbacks as I attempted to throw my ~$20 at them. Eventually, a Paypal option was added and all was right with the world. Since then, I have logged several games (mostly offline, since I’m still getting used to the game) and figured I would share my first impressions of Mojang’s Scrolls. (Edit: I failed to note that Scrolls is in Open Beta, so some of things mentioned here might change as the game is developed.)
So what is Scrolls anyway?
Well, more or less, it is an online trading card game. The ‘scrolls’ referred to in the title are, for all intents and purposes, cards which represent magic and units in a fashion that will be very familiar if you have ever played Magic: The Gathering or any of its kin. However, instead of waging battle just with the cards, playing your scrolls allows you to summon units to your side of a battle map. This allows for a spacial element to the game, as you might be able to move to avoid attack by an enemy or to hit a different totem. And those totems are really the core of the thing: The map in Scrolls is made up of five rows. At the end of each row, each player has a totem. The player that destroys three of his opponent’s totems first is declared the victor. The whole thing is played out with very pretty 2D graphics. You start the game with one of three preconstructed decks, each one with a different playstyle and them. The rest of the cards you will have to buy, which I’ll get to in a bit.
So what do I like about it so far?
Well, so far I find the game to be very fun, but I have not waded into ranked play yet and have not seen the sort of dastardly play that those with tons of scrolls can engage in. Still, the strategy feels engaging and that sort of metagaming is likely inevitable in a trading card game. At least the strategy of position your pieces well and the hard choice of being able to discard one of your cards each turn to either increase your energy supply or draw two cards means that players will need to make some decisions as they play through the game. Finding a match was easy and there are a bunch of offline trials that award bonus goals for overcoming steep odds. The graphics are very pretty and the design seems solid and colorful. I like it. All told, the prices for the packs of scrolls do not seem awful, as you get Gold after each game you play (more if you win), although I have spent most of my time with the Trials, which – as noted – grant bonus Gold for completing increased challenges, some of which will likely require you to get more cards. You can also trade your cards, so that’s a bonus, as well, since packs of 10 random cards are the most efficient way to buy them so far from what I could tell.
What don’t I love?
Well, you’re connected to the server at all times, so I did hit some pretty awful lag last night. I have hopes that this will be smoothed out as we get away from launch, but it certainly took away from my enjoyment of the game. Also, as is often the case, there are two currencies: Gold (which you earn through playing games) and Shards (which you buy with real money). From what I saw, there is nothing you can buy with Shards you cannot buy with Gold and the prices do not appear to be egregious compared to similar games I have played, but it is a little off-putting to have paid $20 for a game and then see them ask for more. So far, my Gold rate has been pretty good, you can buy everything just by earning Gold through play and the ability to trade should help, so hopefully it won’t detract from the game in the long run, but I am always skeptical.
Edit: I have noticed that you can’t buy packs of cards with the Shards (the real money currency). You can only buy the prebuilt starters or one of a set of randomly (?) chosen cards that are reset each week, which should mean that the game rewards good play over time instead of spending money, which is a nice way to protect against a ‘Pay-to-Win’ mentality, since the cards you can get with real money are so limited.
What am I not sure about?
The big question is how the game will stand up competitively as more people get more scrolls and start building more powerful decks. How much does superior strategy buy you? How constrained will the meta be? These things remain to be seen.
My first impressions of Scrolls from Mojang are very positive. I really enjoy the game and expect to be playing it for quite some time. The graphics look great, the game is a lot of fun, and if I get frustrated playing people online (still to be seen) I enjoy dueling the computer enough for the time being for it to be worthwhile. In the long run? Well, that will be seen, I suppose. Certainly, it has the promise to be a dominant entry in the online trading card game field and it appears to be off to a roaring start. If you want to learn more about Scrolls, you can always go to the official web site.
If, on the other hand, you would like to talk about it, why don’t you leave me a comment? If you’re reading this on a page other than the front page, why don’t you go to my home page and check out my most recent posts?