An Intro to Clash Royale: Supercell’s Mammoth Brainchild by@asherumerie

An Intro to Clash Royale: Supercell’s Mammoth Brainchild

For anyone interested in mobile gaming, there is a strong possibility that you have come across one of Supercell's games. If you haven't, Clash Royale could be a fun introduction. It is an epic real-time strategy battle using uniquely gifted characters. Your goal is to take down your opponent's King tower - a customizable fortress that's sandwiched between two princess towers. This story describes my personal 8-card battle deck, Supercell's gaming philosophy, and two algorithms that define the strategy you adopt in-game.
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Asher Umerie

Content writer and Editorial Intern at HackerNoon.

Simply put, Supercell is mobile gaming royalty.

When the Finnish game developers launched in 2010, they set out to build games that people would play for years . If their 2020 milestones of crossing 5 billion total installs and having brawl stars – one of their 5 game offerings to the global market –hit $1 billion in total gross sales, are any indication then they are well on the way to achieving many of their initial goals. 

The Magic of Clash of Clans

In their early stages and following an original plan to create cross-platform gaming services, Supercell released gunshine.net, a multiplayer role-playing game that was playable over desktops, the web, Facebook, tablets, and mobile. However, they quickly realized that it didn’t fit into their plans of long-term playability. They did however learn an important lesson from its release and relatively short lifespan – A mobile-first gaming landscape was replete with opportunities to pioneer. 

In a fearless pivot, Supercell – believing in the comparative value of small teams, put aside ‘magic’ (a game that was being developed by a 5-man team at the time), in a bid to focus on the world of mobile gaming. However, this same team would eventually develop one of the biggest mobile-facing strategy games of all time, Clash of Clans. 

Fun fact: It was also nicknamed ‘magic’ before its release and eventual global launch on the 12th of August 2012. 

Clash of Clans was born from a love for real-time strategy games as well as the goal to make this type of gameplay widely accessible. 

From Clash of Clans to Clash Royale

As supercell describes it, Clash Royale is the home of Epic real-time card Battles. As I describe it, Clash Royale is equal parts the most satisfying and most frustrating mobile game I’ve ever played. 

One interesting metric that can be used to judge the popularity of a game (and something that has been a big part of Supercell’s culture), is the number of vibrant and self-sustaining communities that release content adjacent to said game. A simple search on Youtube, with this metric in mind, should give some insight into just how big of a deal Clash Royale has become, in the years since its March 2016 release. 

With many of its in-game characters adapted from the already successful Clash of Clans, Clash Royale broke into the market with the gift of immediate gratification.  

Gameplay Overview

In Clash of Clans,  you would typically spend time building an empire, with troops, spells, defenses, and royales. You would then earn points by combating against other would-be empires. This process could take long painstaking hours, but ultimately, the joy of watching your empire grow and expand while laying waste to those that challenge your rule, made it worth it. 

With Clash Royale, on the other hand, You’re faced with 2 minutes (+ Overtime) and an 8-card deck, to duel with a randomly selected opponent. Think of Clash Royale as a sprint, where Clash of Clans would be a cross-country marathon.

Before we go on to describe your arsenal, let’s talk a little more about Clash Royale’s Gameplay in general.

At the start of the game, you and your opponent have 2 minutes 56 seconds, and an elixir bank that fills up to a maximum of 10 bars to achieve one goal – Deal more damage to the other player.  

While you have an 8-card deck with each duel, your screen only displays 4 cards at any given time. These cards are randomly selected at the start of each duel, resulting in a different approach to the start of each game. This and many other factors (that will unfold as we go along) make the deck selection process truly exciting, a tad complex, but very rewarding once you get the hang of it. 

On Clash Royale’s latest offering, there are 97 cards, all with unique abilities and utility within the game.

Something that’s always fun to still see are the unique opportunities for the cards within a deck to collaborate and play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses as the game progresses. 

Each card on the roster is given an elixir rating. This rating (between 1 & 10), indicates how much a card would draw from your in-game elixir supply (that maxes out at 10 every 10 seconds). This means that while you’re working on selecting devastating card combinations that give value on attack and defense, you’re also aware of the constraints that card ratings and their elixir draws; relationship with time, institute.  

Pretty Exciting stuff if you ask me!

Let’s take a look at things from a personal point of view.

My Deck 

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A description of my current deck, and the linked videos that accompany it, should provide some more insight on what I’ve been going on about till now.

1) Valkyrie – This is, no doubt, one of my favorite cards on the entire Clash Royale roster. 

This character is an orange-haired menace that, in my opinion, looks a lot like Merida, from Disney's Brave – an independent Archer of Scottish descent that goes on a journey to rectify the consequences of her actions, discovering what Bravery means along the way. 

Unlike Merida’s arrow, Valkyrie wields an ax that she swirls around in tiny bursts as she attacks oncoming grounded characters. For her small, unassuming frame, she can take a mean punch, giving her considerable utility in both attack and defense.

She is the perfect nightmare until she’s faced with flying cards, in which case she is completely helpless unless supported by flying cards or spells on her team. 

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2) Bats – Clash Royale’s roster boasts an impressive range of flying characters, from the 7-elixir drawing Lava hound – rock-bodied lava-spewing monstrosity, that only attacks buildings and breaks up into smaller components after receiving a certain amount of damage, to bats demanding only 2-elixir points.

This card releases 5 (easy to kill) purple bats that nibble annoyingly at grounded and flying characters that roam the grounds without support. 

3) Elite Barbarians – An upgrade on an already existing character ‘Barbarians’, the elite barbarians are a pair of high-powered yellow-haired barbarians that have been reinforced with horned helmets – a mix of keratin and metal. They deal much more damage than the regular barbarians, are exceptional on the counter-attack and draw 6-elixir points in-game for 2 characters, whereas the regular ‘barbarians’ card draws 5-elixir points for 5 – characters.

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4) Goblin Hut -  This is my favorite and as the name implies it is, quite simply, a hut filled with spear goblins. Typically, building cards are designed to distract heavy-hitting attackers from doing any damage to your princess and king towers while you try to bring them down.  

However, each building card does a little more than distract – the zap tower, for instance, damages and slows down oncoming attackers with bursts of electricity, the furnace churns out deceptively effective fire spirits, and so forth. 

The Goblin hut produces small spear-wielding green goblins that are a great distraction and offer great value on the attack, as well. 

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5) Spear Goblin – Without the camaraderie of friends, s. Other times they’re great distractions and can come in handy in emergencies where you don’t have the 5-elixir points that the entire Goblin hut would require.

6) Zap –  This is one of Clash Royale’s 18 cards (PS: these cards tend to come through as the game nears its end). This one time burst of electricity draws only 2-elixir, disperses weak troops, and can take down a princess or even a king tower (provided it had already been considerably damaged, to the point where it had become more rubble than tower) 

7) Mega Knight –  Mega is a great way to describe this thick-metal suited, . In addition to having a considerable resistance to attacks from other characters. The Mega Knight can also cause devastating damage, with high-intensity lunges that it makes at grounded characters and buildings alike. For all its might, however, bats could take it down, if used cleverly. 

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8) Princess – Last, but not least, on my war deck, is this . . She shoots in slow bursts, but what she lacks in speed she makes up for in the ground she can cover with her arrows, both on attack and defense. She’s also pretty easy to kill, but if you play your card rights (haha), the Princess and her 3-elixir points draw can be an extremely frustrating card for your opponent to deal with.   

Me, My 5300 Trophies and Clash Royale’s Algorithms  

With every duel win, you amass trophies (which you can lose just as easily), and the more trophies you have, the harder your duels become. This is understandable, seeing as – just like with every game – the better you are the further you go. In a  multi-player game of this proportion, the better you are, the harder your challenges become as you start to compete with the best of the best.

I’ve been playing this game non-stop since the middle of 2021 (my second bite of the apple, seeing as I had played it for nearly 18 months from my first battle in 2017, until I lost all of my progress) and I currently have 5300 trophies. Not bad if you ask me ( I haven’t spent a dime in the in-game store)

Clash Royale has two major algorithms that define your gaming experience.

1) The Opponent selection algorithm, selects at random (but based on some criteria such as; the number of trophies, region, win condition, and so forth) opponents for you to test your mettle against. This is the crux of my topsy turvy relationship with Clash Royale. The further I’ve gone, the harder it has been to play the game without care, for fear of losing my hard-earned trophies. Because this is such a well-thought-out game, every card (no matter how devastating) can be made to seem useless, by some other card or combination of cards. When the algorithm is in my favor, my deck (which  I think is pretty good), serves me well, matching my opponents’ attacks and tearing through their defenses. On the other hand, when the algorithm is not in my favor, the game morphs into a contest of will and perseverance as I face opponents with cards that feel like they were specifically curated to destroy me.

2) The Card Unlock algorithm randomly decides the cards that you have access to as you spend more time playing the game. This has a telling effect on your strategy and winning card combinations, but the further you go, the less it matters as every player that makes it to a certain level, soon unlocks all the cards on offer. 

Final thoughts 

Summarily, Supercell has done exceptional work in the mobile gaming industry and if they maintain their values, one can only imagine that there’s a lot more to come.

Throughout this article, I have tried to describe one of my favorite games of all time, without giving too much away, I hope you give it a shot.

If you do, ‘ASH’ is my Supercell ID and #JOJOVJL82 is my Clash Royale player ID. Let’s play a game some time. 

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