Clash Royale isn't just a fantastic mobile MOBA. It's a fantastic MOBA full stop, especially for people like me who abhor the vertical learning curves of existing fan favourites in the genre. I play it almost every day.
There's just one problem - the game does everything possible to stop me playing it.
When I've filled up my chest slots for the day and earned my crown chests it feels like I might as well stop. It's just not worth risking my ranking by playing matches for no reward. Even more so if I want to experiment with a new card set.
Now that I'm settled comfortably in arena 5, it's also getting harder for me to afford to upgrade my cards. That's offputting too, as the players I keep encountering seem to be under no such restriction.
It's all thanks to the game's greedy, grasping profit model. It's designed squarely to make you log in as often as possible and tempt you into paying to make sure you can maximise your play rewards.
That in itself puts me off the game. Which is tragic, really, because the play is so enjoyable.
Doubly tragic is the fact that there's no reason at all that Clash Royale shouldn't run on a much fairer model. Like, for example, that employed by the poster child for equitable free to play game Hearthstone.
Here's seven ways in which the pretender ought to be aping its idol.
Add an unranked play mode
This is the biggest barrier to my playing Clash Royale more often. I don't expect much. I wouldn't imagine that playing matches without contributing to your trophy score would earn you rewards of any kind. After all - nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But I would love to be able to experiment without fear. My current deck is struggling toward the top of arena 5. But I daren't change it, because takes time to master a new set of card combinations.
Time that would see me slide to the bottom of the arena. So there's little choice but to keep plugging away.
Plus, it would mean that, just like Hearthstone, I could play whenever I liked without missing out.
Create a more level playing field
In Hearthstone, everyone gets a whole bunch of free cards just for getting through the tutorial. And then both the ranked and unranked algorithms do a good job of matching you against players on a roughly equal footing in the card race.
Clash Royale's arena system has no such pretensions. In arena five, I regularly see player levels between six and eight, which is a huge gap in terms of the number of card upgrades they have.
So when you win, or lose, it's almost impossible to tell if you did something wrong, something you should learn from, or whether you were just mismatched.
Without that, it's hard to improve your strategy. Which, in turn, reduces the amount of skill there is in Clash Royale. It'd be easy to do, too. Just add a card level cap based on arena level.
Let players benefit from unwanted cards
Any card you have in Hearthstone can be reduced to dust, a currency which can be used to create more cards. Simple, and fair.
Clash Royale, by contrast, only allows you to get rid of cards you don't want by trading them with members of your clan. So if no-one's collecting Fire Spirits, say, you can't get rid of yours. The least desirable cards are thus doubly useless.
No doubt SuperCell wanted to give players more reason to interact with their clan. But, again, there's a simple fix - let players cash in any cards they don't want but for a reduced reward compared to trading. That would keep the best of both worlds.
Implement a quest system
Clash Royale's reward for winning games is the Crown Chest system, which offers free loot for every ten enemy towers you manage to knock down.
Except, this being Supercell, it's on a timer system. So you have to keep checking in to see when it's available again.
By contrast, Hearthstone gives you a new quest at a fixed time every day. And the nature of those quests encourages you to experiment with your cards and classes, forcing you out of your comfort zone.
A similar addition to Clash Royale would need the unranked play mode we started with, but it'd be a lot more fun and flexible than crown chests.
Offer cosmetic upgrades
Not all cards in Hearthstone are created equal. You've got your basic cards and then you've got golden versions of them. They're much rarer than their standard counterparts, but feature cool animations and cost more dust to craft.
Casual players mostly ignore them. But for die-hard fans they offer the opportunity to stay with the collectible aspect of the game long after they're obtained the most useful standard cards.
A Clash Royale equivalent could be units with visual or even aural embellishments like costumes or funky animations.Give the option to surrender
A simple one, this. It's quite possible, especially if both you and your opponent are playing aggressive decks, to pretty much lose the game in the opening exchange of units.
Both of you slap down your initial minions and, when the dust clears, one side has an overwhelming number left standing. They're going at your tower, and you've got no elixir left to counter with.
At times like that, you just want to throw the match and try again. So it seems bizarre that it's not an option, and you instead have to endure the humiliation of watching them pull down your crown tower. It'd be a lot faster and less dispiriting just to click a white flag icon.
Fundamentally, there's no reason that Clash Royale couldn't operate on an almost identical model to Hearthstone. Winning games (or paying cash) earns you gold, and gold is exchanged for chest/packs full of cards.
So long as there's a daily cap on how much stuff you can get for free, there's still plenty of incentive to spend.
Hearthstone makes plenty of money on this model, $20 million per month at one point.
So it's hard to see all extra the hoops you have to jump through in Clash Royale - gem collection, wait timers, in-clan card swapping - as anything other than adjuncts to greed. Unnecessary systems designed to wring every last drop of cash from the punters.
Please, Supercell. You've made one of the best mobile strategy games of all time. Can't you be better than that?