previews\ Jul 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Scrolls, the next big collectible card game?


Scrolls is stuck under a pretty big shadow.

Not only is it developer Mojang's follow-up to the massively successful Minecraft, and not only will it share the same genre as collectible card game behemoth Magic: the Gathering, but before the game was ever put into alpha, it reached headlines for some pretty silly reasons. Publisher Bethesda/ZeniMax thought the title was too similar to their The Elder Scrolls franchise, so they sued Mojang. Ultimately, Mojang prevailed in the lawsuit, but a problem still remained: Before Scrolls ever had a chance to become famous, it had already become infamous. 

It seems a bit weird, then, that the game sort of fell completely off the radar. In fact, it came as a personal surprise upon learning that the beta was currently underway.With an itch to scratch in the card game genre (withdrawals from Magic get worse by the day), we hopped in.

The journey begins with a pre-constructed Growth deck. Growth is one of the game's three resources, the other two being Order and Energy. As expected from any card game, cards found in each of the resources play differently. Growth is about ramping up for your big bad creatures, somewhat similar to Forest decks in Magic: the Gathering. Energy plays somewhat like a control deck, and Order is able to lay down soldiers and contains a fair share of card draw.

Mojang Scrolls

That's where the comparisons to Magic end. Your turn consists of two phases, really: the phase where you'll play your scrolls (cards) and the phase where you end your turn and perform attacks. In order to play those scrolls, you'll need to add resources. Scrolls offers a clever way of adding resources to your pool: sacrificing scrolls. Once per turn, you'll have the chance to sacrifice any scroll in your hand to either add a resource or draw two additional cards. This simple little design choice offers so many variables for how each game pans out. Which scroll should I sacrifice? When should I stop adding resources and start just drawing cards? If I'm splashing multiple types, how should I go about gaining a proper amount of both resources? It's here where games can be won or lost, not allowing a match to be determined by luck at the top of your deck. 

Speaking of that "topdeck" mentality, that's nonexistent here. Games won't end just because someone drew the exact card they needed. Instead, Scrolls matches also have the habit of never being over until they're, you know, over. Instead of lifepoints, players are tasked with doing battle on an actual battlefield. Said field consists of five rows, each with three slots available for creatures. The objective of each match is to destroy three of your opponents' idols that lie at the end of a row; five rows mean there are five idols, so there's a constant struggle between proper positioning. There's nothing worse than being on the opposite side of an idol you're trying to destroy. 

Don't fret, though. Creatures have a cooldown between attacks, meaning that they can't attack every turn, giving players time to set up a proper defense. This creates a nice cat-and-mouse atmosphere between players, where proper decision making and skill are rewarded over luck of the draw. Though, it's still nice when you do topdeck that perfect scroll. Even if you don't, you can always sacrifice a scroll and try your luck again.

Scrolls, The Next Big Collectable Card Game?

While Scrolls isn't a free-to-play game, it does offer an in-game store. After all, how else do you expect to pick up those cards you desperately need? Thankfully, there aren't any pay-to-win type options. With the exception of six cards that rotate on a weekly basis and the preconstructed decks, nothing can be purchased with real money. If you're looking for a "booster" pack, that'll cost you in-game money. Random scrolls? In-game money. Trading scrolls between players? Also in-game money, but it's merely doing through a "WTB such and such" or "WTS so and so" system in a chat lobby. To call that system unpolished would put it lightly. Here's to hoping some type of auction house is on the horizon.

Scrolls has taken familiar card game mechanics and put a unique and clever spin on them, creating a high enjoyable experience that does more than enough for it to stand out in the collectable card genre. The beta is well worth your time; Mojang is working on another hit. 

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