MineCon 2011: Hands on With Scrolls
Mojang developers seem unconcerned with the Betheseda lawsuit over their upcoming game Scrolls. They’re going full speed ahead and even had a playable demo of the game for fans to check out at Minecon. I got to sit down with the game and I really liked what I saw of it.
The game plays kind of like a cross between Magic The Gathering and Chess. Players are dealt cards known as scrolls. They can choose to sacrifice these cards or play them. Unlike Magic, sacrificing cards in Scrolls is a necessity as it is the only way to obtain resources at the start of the game. Scrolls that are sacrificed give the player one resource of their choice, but they keep providing that resource at the beginning of each turn. Think of the resources like Magic’s “mana.” It’s necessary to cast spells and play creatures.
The goal of the game is to destroy three of the five idols on the opponent’s side of the board. Each of the idols have ten health points and when their HP reaches zero, they’re destroyed. To deal damage to the idols, player’s will enlist the help of creatures like the Iron Golemn and Sinmarked Zealot (no relation to the Protoss Zealot). Creatures have 3 stats: hit points, attack power and a number designating how many turns it takes to attack. In Scrolls, creatures automatically attack after a certain number of turns. For example, the Iron Golemn will attack once every three turns while the Sinmarked Zealot is able to attack every turn. The tradeoff is that the Sinmarked Zealot has much lower attack power and hitpoints.
Creatures attack in a straight line and if there’s nothing in its way, a creature will go straight to the idol and deal damage. However, if the opposing player’s creature blocks it’s path, that creature will take damage. Creatures can be moved one space in any direction, provided that another creature is not occupying that space. There are also spells in Scrolls. Chain Lightening is a spell that deals two damage to a creature as well as two damage to any creatures in spaces next to the target. Spells, like creatures can be sacrificed for resources.
As I sat down to play the demo, I fully expected to win handily against my computer opponent. The helpful Minecon staffer offered to give me a few tips but I waved her off. “I’ve played Magic before, this is going to be a slaughter.” And it was… in the beginning at least. I destroyed two of my opponent’s idols fairly quickly and began to get overconfident. I was sloppy with my creature positioning and soon noticed that my AI opponent had mounted a comeback. It still hadn’t managed to damage any of my idols, but it definitely had more creatures on the board than I did and its idols were now blocked by walls. When the 15 minute time limit expired on the demo, I was left wondering whether or not I would have won.
Scrolls has the potential to be immensely enjoyable. It’s one of those games that’s easy to learn and difficult to master. New players will be able to jump right in and veterans will keep coming back to tweak their strategies and take on new opponents. There’s just one problem looming in the game’s future: “Microtransactions.”
Inevitably there will come a point where Mojang will release new cards for Scrolls and players will have to pay to get these cards. Players might be able to buy single cards or booster packs but one thing is certain. Players who dump more money into buying cards will eventually build better decks. So how does Mojang stop this? One idea they’ve come up with is that players will earn an in-game currency that they can also use to buy these cards. But most likely, this in-game currency will be hard to amass, and the advantage will still go to players who are willing to open up their wallets.
I really hope microtransactions don’t ruin this one, as I really did enjoy playing it. It brought me back to my days of playing Magic the Gathering at my 7th grade lunch table. However, everyone who has played Magic remembers the kid who had the ultra-powerful deck because their parents bought them all the rare, expensive cards. It’s up to Mojang to prevent Scrolls from going down that same road.
For Ross’ take, check out the next page.