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Randy OConnor, Blogger

April 27, 2016

6 Min Read

I've been into Clash Royale for the past two months. I got in on the Canadian release a couple weeks before it officially launched in the U.S., and load it up most every day. For comparison, since it launched, I've also played Gopogo, Crashlands, Thumb Drift, Stack, and lately Looty Dungeon and pktball.  (Just some of the games I've spent thirty or more minutes in.)

I could say it's a commentary on my life and behaviors right now that I only occasionally put in time on computer and console. I mean, I've got some hours in Overland and Hyper Light Drifter, though far more in Regency Solitaire. I don't invest lengthy time to pretty much anything any more. I read books five pages at a time now, unless I can somehow commit to a full chapter. I'm writing this post using Stickies; I used to open an actual goddamn text editor to write. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic at this point.)

For me, right now, Clash Royale is an excellent game. 

I have 150 wins in the game, which means I've played probably double or more rounds than that, and each game is about three minutes, with a minute of overtime if players are tied. So fifteen to twenty hours of actual playtime. Not crazy numbers, but Supercell's held me for two months, and I'm a filthy casual.

It's easy to just log in and intend to play one or two games, and end up playing five or six. The reward structure, as analyzed in this excellent blog post, means that I feel good when I have to stop. I've won a game, so I get a reward, and now I just have to wait for that sweet Treasure Chest to open like a clamshell. The complaint about lengthy Treasure Chest timers is nonsense to me. The game doesn't expect me to play every 3 hours. I can go without playing for 18 hours and feel not wasteful of their timers. And you can always play, you just stop earning rewards. It's that diminishing returns thing. But I've played even when I'm not earning rewards. Intrinsic gameplay value!

The strategy and depth of the game complements the playtime and investment of casual games. Most of us play mobile games because they're easy and a break from everything around us. (That is neither a positive or negative judgement.) Whereas I played Hearthstone for a few hours, and enjoyed it while I did, I didn't stick with it because I reached a point where I wasn't willing to engage with having to strategize a deck of 20+ cards, from a decently large pool of choices, AND where I could have doubles of cards, essentially creating endless deck variety.

Clash Royale, I get eight cards, from a choice of forty. I cannot double up on cards. Just eight unique choices. I play for a few games, and I start to appreciate weaknesses in my deck. Recently I felt like I wasn't always able to respond to air units. So I looked at the 25 cards available to me. Only a few of those cards would work for what I needed. There are several variables you've got to pay attention to, and yet after a few articles online and a couple months of play, I feel quite competent, and fairly confident.


Things have, however, changed for me over the last couple weeks. I've gotten a little frustrated.

I haven't paid for anything. I asked people in my clan ("The IAP Boys", ironically) at my level if they have paid. Some have, some have not. I've pondered doing so a couple times, but the game is fun enough right now. Do I believe the game will be different after I've paid? Do I need new cards? What does payment actually improve in terms of my play experience?

The trickiness lies in card leveling. I have found myself looking at opponents' decks after games lately. The frustrating, brilliant, obfuscating thing that Clash Royale does is that, unlike Hearthstone, your cards can improve. They gain levels as you pay or find cards or whatever. It's only a few percentage points one way or another, but we all know how much that can change a competitive game. 

Discounting whether or not cards are Common, Rare or Epic, during the last 25 games I only lost once to a player with a lower total in card levels. I can beat people with better card levels. But they keep throwing people at me with higher level cards, and I lose if they're halfway competent. If I pay, however, the game will probably just throw even higher level decks against me.

And yet the game is fun! I enjoy what they throw at me. I get frustrated sometimes when I get steamrolled, because this is often clearly more powerful players thrown against me. But I sometimes win those matches. Supercell has balanced how often I should win or lose. And so I keep playing. I love the joy of a last second victory. People have a lot of different deck types to battle. I get the satisfaction or frustration of questioning my deck design, my play, or the numbers. I get frustrated at a draw, when I earn nothing for staving off my opponent. It's good, though.

I might pay at some point, but mostly to support a game I like, maybe for a little deck boost. Supercell doesn't need my money, but I have gotten a lot of value from Clash Royale. You could call it pay-to-win, but from my viewpoint, it's actually pay-to-lose-at-a-higher-level. Which is fascinating.


These days people are pushing back against instant reactions to everything. I was excited to talk about Clash Royale today, two months after release. To reflect on why it's still the thing I go to play on my iPad when I get home or wake up. Who knows, I could stop playing any day for no particular reason. But I still do play. It could just be that little notification that says "Silver Chest Unlocked". But even now, writing this gives me the itch. It only takes three minutes for a round! I do need a break after all this writing.


Randy is an indie designer and artist on Twitter and Tumblr and Itch.

He drew the art for Escape Goat 2, worked on Waking Mars and the Spider games, made a board game, is making another board game, is making an iOS game called Fire Child, and porting an old iOS game to new devices. He still actually sleeps a fair bit.

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