So, a bit begrudgingly, I joined my friends in a clan. And raided goblin villages. And built myself a nice little town. But mostly what I did was wait.
Learning the basics
Clash of Clans is at heart a strategy game; the object is to fortify your town to ensure it can't be looted by other players while simultaneously advancing your own technologies to both increase resource production and to build an invincible army. You are allowed to arrange your town however you see fit, constructing walls around valuable structures and placing defenses such as canons, mortars, archer towers, and more to help keep your stuff safe. It's a simple, effective set-up that encourages the testing of various layouts and the investigation of different defensive strategies.
Additional depth is found in the leveling up of individual structures. Each town hall level allows for a certain amount of upgrading of the buildings and defenses located in your town. A level two canon does more damage and has a higher number of hitpoints than a level one cannon. Level five walls are harder to break down than level three walls. And upgrades for non-combat structures, such as the gold mine or elixir collector, provide for an increase in the rate of resource collection or a raise on your gold/elixir cap.
Attacking other players (and winning) earns you and your clan trophies. The most successful clans and players get to sit astride the global leaderboards, from which any paltry serf can view his majestic, expensive, and invincible kingdoms. If leaderboards aren't your thing, sharing designs with (and attacking) your friends adds another layer of socialization to the game. My clan, which goes by the name "Other Barry," has amassed 3,215 trophies, placing us at an impressive global ranking of 557,151st.
Try not to be intimidated.
On the surface, Clash of Clans is a charming mobile strategy game with some truly engaging elements. Designing an impenetrable town is an exercise in OCD-inspiring trial and error, and building the perfect army for ransacking another player's settlement or destroying a village of unsuspecting goblins is a task that brings immense satisfaction. The addition of the clan tower, which allows players in your clan to send you reinforcements that serve as additional defenders or troops (depending on how you want to use them), is a nice touch, especially once you've leveled your town hall up a couple of times and begin to suffer daily assaults. Mix all of that with the attractive art style and an excellent UI and you've got a fun, enjoyable little tablet game perfect for burning a few minutes of downtime.
The premium currency in Clash of Clans is gems. A pile of 500 gems costs $4.99 US, while a chest of 14,000 costs $99.99. It's nothing new in terms of the free-to-play market. And to Supercell's credit, gems can be earned (slowly) through normal gameplay by clearing out trees, rocks, logs, and other respawning debris from the land around your town. Every action in the game takes real time. Every troop you create has a spawn time. Every building you build or upgrade has a construction time. The deeper you get into the game, the longer these times get.
The slow crawl
There's another artificial slowdown in the mix, however. Clash of Clans provides you with only two builders by default. A builder can only work on one thing at a time; if one builder is on a two-day construction project, you'll have only one other builder to clear debris or to work on something else. When both builders are busy, you are incapable of doing anything besides spawning troops at the barracks. Unsurprisingly, builders are the only unit in the game that are available exclusively for gems. If you want to build/upgrade more than two things at a time, you'll need to pony up 500 gems ($4.99) per additional builder's hut.
Clash of Clans is a fun little game. It provides relatively deep strategy through base design, structure upgrades, a challenging (if small) single-player campaign, and PvP attacks. Supercell has the formula nailed; there's likely few, if any, games like this on the App Store that are executed with as much care and competency. It's an absolutely solid title that does everything it promises and contains very few cheap shots, though the reliance on real-time delays may turn you off as it did me.
I'm still building away, of course. Perhaps I'll write a Second Wind when I hit max level in 2017.
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