Scrolls

A month and a half ago, Mojang announced the open beta for their next game, Scrolls. Scrolls is a mix of collectible card game and a miniature war game. Each player takes their turn casting scrolls from their hand to place units on the board or affect units on the board. To win, a player must destroy three of their opponent’s five 10 hit point totems.

The board is a grid of hexes in a three column, five row layout per side. Creatures on the board have attack ratings, hit points and countdowns. When a creature’s countdown hits 0, it attacks the creatures or totems in it’s row. Once per turn you can discard a card in your hand to either gain one resource or draw two cards. Each card has a resource cost to cast.

Two weeks ago, I finally installed the game and played all weekend and at least an hour each night since then. Unfortunately, this game just doesn’t have the depth that is necessary for it to succeed yet. There are only three factions and while well defined, they’re a bit boring. A fourth resource is in testing and will bring some need variety. The cardpool is shallow with only 145 cards divided between the three resource types.

The game’s single player component is basically non-existant. You can play quick matches against three different levels of AI but there’s no story or campaign mode. It has been promised but it doesn’t look like it’s a high development priority at the moment. Ranked matches could be fun but the shallow cardpool makes it difficult for a complex metagame to develop. In addition, some of the mechanics and rules will make card advantage far more important than in other card games.

One of the supposed advantages Scrolls will have over other collectible card games is that they can update every version of a scroll whenever they want. They don’t have to worry about reprint rules. And yet, they’re only releasing a few cards every few weeks. I believe they’re spending too much balancing scrolls in their QA process. They should design new scrolls, give it a few passes and release to the beta. The metagame will quickly smoke out any overly powerful cards and the development team can tweak from there.

I suppose these negatives are a natural part of designing a new collectible game and part of being in beta. But I really can’t recommend Scrolls to anyone but the most dedicated playtesters or collectible card game fans. And even then it comes with a warning that the cardpool is shallow which makes the metagame non-existant. If you can manage to trudge through all this, it’s a pretty game that will fill your CCG addiction without killing your wallet.