MineCon 2011: Hands on With Scrolls

Ross’ Take

Dave’s comparison to Magic: The Gathering meets Chess is spot on. I should note that I have less experience with tradable card games than he does, but I’ve played a LOT of Chess, which made it much easier than I expected to jump right in. The importance of strategic board unit-placement similar to Chess cannot be underestimated. It’s true that units attack in a straight line, but some units have a wider range of effect than others, while others can withstand heavier attacks (more on that below). Furthermore, players can select which unit to attack within their range, meaning that you don’t have to simply attack in the order enemies appear in front of you. The only exception is that you cannot attack an opponent’s idols until the path has been cleared of enemies.

Though some units are quite powerful – particularly the Iron Golem – and others relatively weak, limitations on unit-use prevents either side from employing them to create an insurmountable advantage. For example, the fact that the Iron Golem can only be used every 3 turns means that you have to be very careful where you put them on the board. They’re hard to kill, which means if you get enough of them you can make them your front line, presenting a difficult obstacle for your opponent. However, you might find, as I did, that this ends up limiting your ability to use your more nimble, and vulnerable, units effectively, since your weaker units will have their range of effect shrunk. I found they’re better placed near the back of your board, since, as long as a they’re blocking your idols, your opponent has to waste resources and units attacking them, which can free you up to deploy other attacks.

Similarly, though stocking the front line with nimble units that can attack every turn means you could gang up on a specific enemy unit, they die much more easily. However, some of the weaker units are designed to work in combination with other units. A unit I believe was called a ‘deathstalker’ comes to mind; it becomes more powerful in its attacks when you have also deployed another unit (I wasn’t able to write the name down, but it was, if I recall correctly, a thief of some kind) at the same time. This is basically a 1:1 combination advantage, the benefit not being distributed among all of the relevant units on the board. Further enhancing weaker units are the various spell cards you’ll be able to play by assigning their properties to a specific unit on the board. Some spells increase the attack power, others enhance defensive capabilities, and in this case the effect is cumulative; you can benefit from complimentary unit cards and apply spells to the benefitting unit to great effect.

This further adds to the importance of resource management. The player is forced from the beginning to make hard choices about which cards they’ll use and which cards they’ll have to give up in order to enable the use of their other cards.

It’s important to note that the game will be exclusively PvP. I ended up fighting the AI opponent to a draw, or at least what looked like a draw before we reached the time limit. This is partly due to the fact that we were playing, essentially, a mock-up created for Minecon, with a much smaller and evenly distributed range of scrolls than will appear in the real version, but even so, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as an experienced opponent, particularly one taking advantage of Scrolls’ microtransactions might be.

Overall, I found, like Dave, that Scrolls is a good example of ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’. I hope that it contains custom matchmaking, and that leveling up normally doesn’t take a punitively long time, so that players who utilize microtransactions aren’t gifted with an insurmountable advantage. But even with these concerns, Scrolls looks to be an original spin on tradable card games that encourages complex strategies, and I can’t wait to play more when the alpha becomes available early next year.

Can’t get enough Scrolls? Check out the art of the game.

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1 Comment on MineCon 2011: Hands on With Scrolls

Brandon J. Clark

On November 23, 2011 at 5:43 am

Ermmm, someone needs to tell mojang that pretty graphics aren’t a BAD thing.