Disclaimer: All opinions expressed here are of my own.
Paraphrasing from my older article on the AutoChess genre before. “It is only a matter of time when one developer checks all the right boxes and a viral hit is born!“. I couldn’t help but feel that after spending sometime playing Clash Mini. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so).
Why you ask? Well, I would say Clash Mini has managed to keep the core-elements of the AutoChess genre that made it unique and fun while simplifying and eliminating the redundant and complex systems and mechanics in the genre and ended up with a fast paced, quirky and strategically deep game. So, this is my early review of the game.
What are these changes you ask? In my opinion, they are
Drastically Reduced Sessions via Modes
- With the 2 modes available in the game, Duel Mode (Best of 3) which I’m feel is what most people are playing and a Rumble Mode , which is a 10 player, 5 round tournament mode.
- The max match duration for both modes does not exceed 5 minutes. Which is a huge reduction from the average match durations from traditional Auto Chess games (Around 20 minutes average).
- With the introduction of the Duel mode (2v2, Best of 3) and Rumble Mode (10 player, Simple elimination), Clash Mini has more control over sessions to keep it short. With session control elements like time limits on rounds to make sure matches don’t go longer than a maximum of 5 minutes.
- There are also tiebreakers in place if the round doesn’t end on time, where the first player to lose a Mini/Hero loses the match (Similar to CR’s tie-breaker).
- So, with each round being 45 seconds long with 15 seconds for planning and 30 seconds for gameplay. With Duel/Rumble mode going for a max of 5 rounds. The actual gameplay is restricted to a maximum of 3.75 minutes. Add another minute or 2 max for the animations and transitions. Which makes it 5 minutes tops!
Removal of Player Health
- In AutoChess, health was an important factor in determining the session length since only players who had 0 health would be removed from the pool of players.
- Health reduction was a variable based on in-game parameters, which means variable matchups and durations.
- In Clash Mini, health was replaced by a much simpler timed Round system.
Removal of Player Level
- In AutoChess, player level determined how many pieces can be present on the board at a time. And players needed to upgrade level by earning XP earned over rounds and spend coins (Which was also used to buy pieces).
- In Clash Mini, only factor determining the number of pieces on the board are the elixir cost and your pool of Minis. (Which is restricted to maximum of 6, including the Hero).
- Every round starts with 6 elixir, with the possibility maximum of 4 characters on the board on round 1.
- As you play more rounds, any elixir that you don’t spend carries over, which gives you a bigger spending pool to either upgrade your existing minis or add new ones.
- You also get 1 free re-rolls every round which carries over if unused.
Removal of Items and Synergies
- Character synergies and items played a big part in the strategy of placing the various pieces in the game. However, they were complex and needed memorisation for efficient play.
- Clash Mini decided to cut these aspects, and instead focus on a Hero, Minion strategy where every player will have 1 Hero/Champion, accompanied with 5 Mini’s. They are further complimented with Clash abilities, Supers and upgradable Passive abilities.
Hero and Mini Design
Another important deviation that Clash Mini took from the AutoChess genre was its approach to characters. In AutoChess, the entirety character progression is during gameplay and is reset for every new game, and all players pulled from a single pool of characters during a match.
Clash Mini took a different approach, where every player goes into a match with their own roster of characters. And the characters themselves will have progression both in the coregame and in the meta. This is Clash Mini’s revamp on the character system, and it works really well for a F2P mobile game. Here’s what they do,
- Heroes are characters that cannot be merged during gameplay, but rather in the meta where you can upgrade them.
- Heroes unlock abilities at fixed levels (0,5,10). And their pieces can be collected in game via boxes, store offers etc. Heroes can be upgraded with coins.
- Minis are characters that can be merged during gameplay. Merging 2 pieces of a Mini upgrades them and unlocks newer abilities based on their Star level.
- However, the newer abilities are tied to the “Star” level of the minis that is determined outside the game. If you have a 2 Star Mini, then you can upgrade it to a 2 Star mini in the game and unlock it’s associated ability.
- You can unlock Stars on minis from the games gacha, store deals and other offers. But you do not need to spend any gold to upgrade a Mini.
- Interesting thing to note here is that, at the end of every Mini pass season, all players minis (Only Minis) are reset to 0 stars. And the player gets box with rewards based on number of stars lost.
- This is an interesting way to keep the game fresh, since you never know which mini’s you max out first in a season and allows the Clash Mini team to experiment with different abilities on Minis.
- However, this means that any gems or coins you spent to purchase minis from the store only last for a season, and the info about the reset is not very easily visible (Only via tooltips right now). This could be seen as misleading. However, I will reserve my judgement about this system for now.
- Clash Abilities are triggered at the start of a matchup. Which means placement of pieces based on their clash abilities comes to play.
- Supers are the abilities that are enabled when a Mini/Heroes energy bar is filled. Energy is earned from dealing, taking damage or from board power-up tiles.
- Passive Abilities – Some pieces have permanent passive attributes that are available from 0 star up until 3 stars depending on the Mini or the Hero’s level.
Though my horrible explanation does not do justice to the elegance of this system. It is actually a much easier and simpler system which preserves the strategic element of board placement and allows for character progression both inside and outside of gameplay.
Boards and Board Design
In additional to character abilities, Clash Mini brings more strategy and depth on the boards themselves.
- Position of the pieces on the board are critical to strategy, which is ensured by the Clash abilities. Even a small mistake in placement can decide a victory or loss.
- For example, if you want to Clash ability to connect with an opponent, but then there are no pieces nearby to aggro the opponent, chances are the opponent will move at the very start of the game and your clash ability will miss.
Opponent’s Mini Placement
- On the start of every new round. You can see the placement of the opponent’s Minis in the previous round.
- Now, it’s upto you to decide and predict how the opponent will change his formation. Or maybe he’ll pull a double cross and not change it at all!
Power Up Tiles
- Certain boards have power up tiles that give different perks, like healing over time, instant energy charge and these tiles affect the strategy of Mini placement on the board.
- Both you and your opponent will want to put a tank on the healing tile while you would want to put a Mini with a powerful super (please nerf ewiz) on an energy tile.
Upgrading vs New Minis
- Though you can argue that there is strength in numbers. Sometimes, if you have a powerful Mini. The game winning decision could be upgrading an existing mini to 2 or 3 stars over placing that new, less powerful mini.
- These decisions vary based on the board, opponent mini and your elixir balance.
Verdict and Predictions
The core game feels well balanced (With some minor exceptions) and with great depth complimented with Minis, Heroes and different boards. This opinion has also been shared by Supercell’s thriving creator and player community on Reddit, Youtube etc. People love this game!
Considering the content monster that is the Clash universe, I know Clash Mini is not going to have to look far when it comes to new Minis, boards or mechanics in the future.
Praises aside, there are still work to be done in Clash Mini, which I’m pretty sure the team is already aware of and working on. With some obvious pending balancing changes, tuning of the ranked system and adding some staple features. However, I do not think the game will need any major overhauls in terms of core mechanics.
Finally, as a gamer myself. I haven’t been able to stop myself from playing Clash Mini from the day it launched, and not many games have gotten me hooked for so long. It is clear that the team has successfully managed to carve a diamond out of the untapped mines that is the AutoChess genre!