Rush Wars: First impressions

This week Supercell soft launched Rush Wars was in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Rush Wars is kind of like Boom Beach meets Clash Royale – with a few interesting twists. The game is about rushing an opponent’s base and destroying its 3 gold mines (think the King Tower in Clash Royale). Not unlike Boom Beach players will select the units they bring into battle and place them at the start point (at the Beach in Boom Beach) and they will automatically advance and interact with buildings or units as they get closer.

 

The opponent’s base has troops that will try to stop the attacking units from destroying the base. When you destroy opponents’ gold mines you get stars (1 per gold mine destroyed). As you accumulate more stars you go up in league.

 

Like Clash Royale, units can be upgraded by getting duplicates (and spending gold). Players get free chests at regular intervals, or chests from winning matches and defending their base.

 

One thing worth noting is that after playing relatively intensely for 4 days I still haven’t unlocked commanders (which seems like a super unit that doesn’t take up troop space). They unlock at HQ 4 which seems like a compelling feature to boost mid-term (read: around day 7-10) retention.

 

So far, there are 3 things that stand out for me.

  1. The asymmetry between attack and defense
  2. An emphasis on attack
  3. The “defense loop”

 

1. The asymmetry between attack and defense (asymmetry-asynchronous)

Clash Royale is symmetrical. Both parties have 3 King Towers to defend, and both aim to destroy the opponent’s towers. That symmetry and the potential for real-time PvP that accompanies it was a great part of the game’s success. And the way it implemented real-time PvP in mobile gaming also kind of redefined expectations around real-time competitive gaming in the mobile space.

In Rush War attack and defense are totally different. The attacker’s only goal is to destroy the gold mines. The defense’s only goal is to destroy attacking units. That’s why the attack and defense units are different (for the most part).

In Clash Royale, the only “real-time” agency concerns the placing of the units: both the timing and location. Defenses are fixed. You select the troops you want to defend your place and place them. Once they’re placed, they are on auto-pilot. It’s the same logic at play with Rush Wars. The attacker needs to initiate the attack – and place his/her troops according to the way the defense is set up. But there is no “live” agency required from the defending party. So that design choice seems to preclude any possibility of concurrent competitive gameplay where the attack and defense play at the same time. You could imagine down the road real-time cooperative events – where players cooperate for a group rush. But the current alliance event is not like that and features async cooperation.

 

2. An emphasis on attack (immediate gratification)

Unlike Boom Beach, Rush Wars is mostly about the attack. There is a very light defense component to the game. But it doesn’t include all the resource-management that is a central aspect of Boom Beach.

Rush Wars is more about the moment-to-moment gameplay – with an emphasis on attacking your enemy’s base and destroying its gold mines. An attack will usually last a minute or so. You will determine the troops you bring to battle, place them on the map, and see them advance and wreak havoc on the opponent’s defense. That’s what’s most immediately gratifying, providing players with instantaneous feedback and a clear sense of performance. It’s easy to see you’re good when you destroy your enemy. There isn’t such a clear and unambiguous measure of performance when you’re setting the layout of your base.

This doesn’t mean it’s all about the short term. There is a meta, but it’s driven by the offense. In Boom Beach building your base takes time (months and years). It’s a slow process and a big part of the meta that drives long-term engagement – and unlocking troops depends on upgrading your base. In Rush Wars (like Clash Royale) the offense is what drives the long-term engagement. It’s the slow process of improving your attack troops – and going up in leagues.

The focus on the offense is an interesting choice – and perhaps very in tune with current trends in the market towards additional “casualization” and an emphasis on immediate gratification. While of course there is a market for long-term base-building games, it seems like the bite-sized gamelplay offered in Rush Wars will be more appealing for more casual players. There is much less long-term planning when it comes to defense. There are few difficult choices to make (should I upgrade the Sniper tower or the Sawmill). Most importantly, there are no decisions concerning defense that have an irreversible impact. That’s the next point.

 

3. The “defense loop” (customizing your base – and monetizing it?)

Rush Wars makes the players’ experience mostly about the attack phase. But there also is an interesting twist and innovation around the way players set up their own defenses (you do need some player-generated defenses to have some bases to attack).

Defenses are characterized by a terrain layout, and troops defending it. The troops a player uses to defend its terrain follow the same acquisition and upgrade logic as attack troops. While some troops are for defense only, all offense troops can be used on defense. Players will determine the troops they place to defend and where they place them. As players defend against enemy attacks, they accumulate stars that go towards their “defense box”.

IMG_0179

 

The interesting thing here is that every day, players get a new terrain to defend. Players have no control over the terrain they will get. The randomized nature of your base also adds an element of surprise and novelty. There are also much less units/buildings to place compared to Boom Beach. So fewer combinations and things to consider when placing your defense troops (think about how much effort you can put into setting all the elements of your base).

 

All this is in line with the “casualization” of the game. There is little long-term commitment or investment (either resources or cognitive effort) that goes into setting up your defenses. I personally really like the design philosophy behind the balance between offense and defense here. But I also feel like perhaps this might be putting a very heavy burden on the offense for the monetization of the game, with fewer options to monetize defense.

One of the key aspects for defense is not the units (which in the grand scheme of things players have control over – they can do things to acquire/upgrade their units). It’s the terrain. The terrain will determine the potential path the attacking team can follow.

Different terrain layouts have a huge impact on the way the attack will go

The biggest untapped opportunity for me here would be providing more agency (and potentially monetization opportunities) for terrain customization. Not just the troops on a random terrain. Providing players with the ability to customize where the start point is, where there points that must be crossed only by a bridge are, etc. feels like a way to add a bit of depth and agency to the defense loop (and maybe even monetize it better) without sacrificing the “casual” philosophy adopted by the Rush Wars. For example, providing players with the ability to reroll the defense terrain they are given daily or keep their previous layout could be a way to provide players with “terrain agency”. The fact that terrains reset daily – and providing players with options on that front – could also create a routine of meaningful interactions with that part of the game. And that could also help normalize a daily spend on that aspect of the game (log in, spend 50 gems to keep your defense, go rush enemy bases…).

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