Clash Royale is a free-to-play blend of a card game, tower defense, and battle arena released in March 2016.
Basic gameplay dictates that you build decks of 8 cards. You begin a match with a random hand of 4 cards, and playing one card moves you on to the next, allowing you to cycle through your eight card deck however you choose. Playing a card costs a certain number of elixir, which is a fixed resource that generates automatically. There are three types of cards: Troop, Spell, and Building.
Troops are characters that gradually move forward when you place them down and must be placed on your half of the arena.
Spells can be placed anywhere in the arena, and typically have a temporary effect.
Buildings are stationary and have health that dwindles with time and damage.
Each player starts with 3 crown towers. The goal of the game is to destroy your enemies crown towers, which rewards you with a crown. You win by having the most crowns at the end of the 3-minute time limit, or by destroying the center King Tower which is protected by the outer two crown towers. If a number of crowns are tied by the end of the 3-minute time limit, the game enters an overtime mode which is chaotic and exhilarating.
Since the games are very short, it stays fresh and exciting. It only takes a little while to realize that while the basics of gameplay are simple, the strategy inherent to the game is only limited by your skill, creativity, and dedication.
Ladder gameplay is dictated by your trophy count (the game’s ranking system of your wins/losses. You play other people in real time of similar trophy counts, so the match should never be too skewed to one side. Here, levels can make a big difference. Getting higher leveled cards allows you to move up higher on the ladder. Only a tiny percentage of players have obtained decks that are fully maxed out. The good and bad news is that depending on the rarity, some cards are much easier to level up, while some cards are very difficult to level up. It could take a non-IAP player a year of dedicated play to get a maxed out deck (this varies on the deck and dedication). The game can also be a bit frustrating facing people with over-leveled cards, especially when they pop up frequently. There are alternatives, however.
Challenges have a significantly lower commitment ceiling. The much lower level cap allows for a very fair battle. This game mode costs ten gems for a classic challenge, or 100 for a grand challenge, which is quite a hefty price. In challenges, you play until you have 12 wins and receive the grand prize. Each win increases your prize, but at three losses your challenge is over, and you receive that respective reward. This is also where Supercell hosts its competitive tournaments which can have huge payouts. The Crown Championship gave out over 1 million dollars, and recently, another player just earned 60 thousand dollars for winning the King’s Cup. Free to play players can reach these tournament caps for any card they wish to play relatively quickly.
There are two types of currency: gems and gold. Gold is earned through playing, challenges, opening chests, and is spent on leveling cards. Gems are the premium currency and are earned much more sparingly. They can be obtained through certain chests, quests, achievements and by purchase. Gems can be used to speed up unlocking chests or buying chests or cards. However, the most economic and subjectively fun way to spend your gems is through challenges. This by far gives you the most value for your gems and allows you to compete at tournament standards and an equal playing field with other players. $1 nets you 80 gems, which can be used for eight classic challenges or leave you 20 gems short of one grand challenge. If you are looking to spend around $5-$30, the best way to spend your gems is waiting for a desirable deal that pops up in the shop. Buying the deals that net you the most gems, and using them to do well in challenges can carry you far. But, even players who have been playing since day 1 and have spent a few hundred dollars find that they still cannot max out the more expensive decks. Clash Royale does not utilize too many giveaways for gems, but they will often host events every few days with a free first entry with decent rewards if you do well.
“Colorful Chaos” is how Supercell describes its gameplay. They couldn’t have said it better. The animations are superbly colorful, pleasant, and entertaining to watch. The cards contrast well against each other and the backgrounds, and watching certain interactions can be very satisfying. The music is well done and adds to the tension and climax of a game. However, there are not many variances in the music or alternatives. Even though the music objectively gets very repetitive, you never notice since you are usually completely focused on the game.
When you win a battle, you collect a chest. Chests can range from Silver to Super Magical, and the prizes they contain vary. Each chest has their timer to unlock, which motivates players to check the game in the morning, throughout the day, and before they go to bed. Clash Royale just had a major overhaul in their newest update, which removed free chests (which spawn every four hours and were a strong incentive to log in) and added quests. This sounds like a positive, but quests are not where they should be. Free chests required no work besides logging in, and some quests are very difficult and situational. Even if quests give out a little bit more in the long run, the gratification is less significant and so is the overall commitment. It would come as a surprise to the player base if Supercell did not remedy this. On the other hand, Supercell introduces a new card roughly every month, frequently updates their game with new modes, new challenges, and balances the meta. There is a lot of fresh content, and the developers are excellent in keeping the game new and enjoyable.
Clash Royale is a game you can get safely get addicted to without worrying that it will feel repetitive. For a simple system, each game feels different and offers new challenges. Besides the 1v1 ladder and challenges, there is a host of different modes which to name some are: 2v2 ladder with a clan mate, friend, or a random player, mirror mode, touchdown, and draft. There are many variations of these, and each is fun and a welcomed sight when the game reintroduces them to the player base (they rotate out modes to keep the players heavily involved when they return). The developers have introduced more apps, but their involvement in Clash Royale has not dipped. You can expect new content and updates for a long time to come.
Clash Royale is a game with few barriers to entry. Its design is simple and easy to understand. You learn the game with other new players who are similarly experimenting. It offers not only a strong introduction but a rewarding ascent into the advanced strategy of the game. There are few caveats; Clash is a new species that will likely breed more of its kind. Being a long time defender of its prestigious position in the app store, Clash Royale will likely remain a strong benchmark for other mobile games to aspire.