Clash Royale

Clash Royale

Clash Royale is a tower-defence mobile game, but it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. That includes boardgames, computer games and mobile games. It’s fantastic! Why do I like it so much? And why am I talking about it on a blog about boardgames?

Well, there are quite a few reasons, but two in particular stand out. Firstly, it has a surprising amount in common with boardgames. A number of computer/mobile games feel very similar to a boardgame in the way that they play and Clash Royale ticks many of the “boardgame” boxes for me.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it nurtures the thing that I’m really into boardgames for in the first place: community. Let me tell you about it…


In Clash Royale you have a collection of cards that represent spells, buildings and units. There are close to 100 cards that you can possibly acquire altogether. However, to have a battle with someone, you have to construct a deck of only 8 cards.

Clash Royale Cards

During the battle, you have a hand of 4 cards and when you play a card onto a particular space (usually on your side of the arena), it spawns the appropriate unit/building or casts a spell there (eg. a fireball). You then redraw to 4 cards and the card you just played goes on the bottom of your deck (no shuffling).

Clash Royale Arena
Destroy the towers

You have no control of the units. Once they are placed, their actions are determined entirely by an AI. Generally, they walk or run towards one of your opponent’s towers and start attacking it. If they encounter an opposing unit on the way, they will attack that instead.

If you manage to destroy your opponent’s king tower, you win. Or, if the time runs out (matches are typically 3 – 6 minutes), whoever has destroyed the most towers wins.

Like many of the best board/card games, it’s one of those games that at first doesn’t appear to have much strategy at all. You plonk your units down and off they go. However, with repeated play, you discover there’s more and more to the game. An experienced player will destroy someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Although it’s technically a real-time game, it doesn’t feel like that. It’s hard to explain, but strategic placement is generally much more important than fast reactions (although that can help sometimes).

Clash Royale Match
Where to place your units?

There’s a nice matchmaking system that pits you against someone of a similar level though so battles are often close. You gain chests from winning battles that give you more cards and allow you to upgrade your existing cards to make them stronger.

Like many CCGs (eg. Magic: The Gathering), much of the interest in the game comes from constructing your deck. Choosing only 8 cards from 100 gives you a tremendous amount of variability in the possible decks you might encounter, but to do well you need a deck that will cope with most of the other decks you’re likely to meet. It’s tricky!

A couple of warnings. Although it’s free to play, you can spend money on the game to acquire cards faster. Generally I don’t do this, but in the year or so that I’ve been playing, I’ve probably spent about £25 on odd things. That’s a lot less than I typically spend on a boardgame though, and in terms of playtime, it provides fantastic value for money.

That leads to the second warning though, which might be more important for some of you. It can be quite a time sink if you’re not careful. It’s for this reason that I installed the game on my tablet, but not on my phone. I sit down at home every now and then and play a few games on my tablet, but I don’t play out and about on my phone throughout the day.

Clash Royale Clan War
Clan wars

So what about the community side of things? Like many of these online games, there is a clan/guild system, which allows you to chat with friends, watch their battles, engage in friendly battles and compete as a clan in wars.

Wars are pretty straightforward. Everyone in the clan fights a number of war battles over a couple of days and victories are accumulated across the clan to give a final score in the war. Cards are much more limited for wars though and everyone has access to the same cards for a particular war. This usually leads to interesting discussions about which deck will be best for us to use as a clan each time.

Clash Royale Clan
Our clan!

I find most people in our clan usually log on around breakfast time to open chests and play the odd game. It’s a nice way to connect with people at the start of the day. You then typically see people a bit in the evening if you play a few matches. The clan goals give us something to focus on and chat about, which is great way of unwinding and switching off from work.

Many of the people in our clan are real-life friends. In fact, Clash Royale will link with your Facebook account if you want it to so you can see which of your friends play. When I did this, I found every single one of my friends that play Clash Royale are also boardgamers. It definitely attracts that crowd. And for good reason. It just feels like a boardgame… with an in-built community!

Fancy giving it a try? You would be more than welcome in our clan – we are very friendly! Click this link on your mobile device if you are interested and we’ll see you in-game!

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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