Mojang’s Scrolls Looks Like a Collectible Card Game All Right

At last: Mojang's Scrolls card-trading game has a release date and a price, though it was originally supposed to have those in April.

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At last: Mojang’s Scrolls card-trading game has a release date and a price, though it was originally supposed to have those in April. Barring a TARDIS you can ride back in time to fix that, I’m sure you’ll settle for June 3, because that’s when it’ll launch, next Monday, in “open beta” on Windows and OS X for $20.

Wikipedia, the site where anonymous people say stuff and sometimes source it, notes Scrolls was conceived and developed by Mojang co-founder Jakob Porsér. Furthermore, Wikipedia reports Porsér and cohort Markus Persson wanted Scrolls to represent “a game that was currently missing from the market.” Thus: a collectible card game!

Oh I know, there’s probably more to it (or maybe that Wikipedia claim’s just wrong). It’s hard to tell from the launch trailer, released on Memorial Day, which depicts a game that looks a lot like the tactical battle sequences in Heroes of Might & Magic (or any other hex-mapped, turn-based game) folded into a Magic: The Gathering card-collecting package and tied with a  Pokémon bow. “Build your deck,” commands the trailer, which certainly doesn’t sound like the sort of game that’s currently missing from the market.

Mojang’s Scrolls site has a bit more info on the gameplay, describing Scrolls as “a world where the essence of conflict is stored on a parchment.” It looks relatively straightforward, card types divvied into familiar categories (e.g. creatures, enchantment, structures and spells, all doing more or less what you’d expect them to). Cards have attack values, health points and other tactical attributes. There’s a deck builder and a store where you can use gold earned from matches to buy items or — yep — spend actual money to pack your coffers. You can play friendly “challenge” matches against the A.I. and friends, or “ranked” ones for bragging rights. And there’s ye olde paper doll view with a dress-able avatar to show off your game bling.

It’s interesting typing “Scrolls wiki” into Google Search. The first result is for Mojang’s Scrolls, but it’s for the game’s Gamepedia page courtesy Curse, which makes an eponymous add-on manager, mostly for MMOs (Curse sees itself as the de facto pro-gamer site and claims to bring in over 23 million monthly viewers, no doubt mostly search engine hits from gamers scanning for tips). The second through fourth results are for Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls games, and finally, fifth up, Wikipedia’s entry for Mojang’s game. If I said “Scrolls,” would you think fantasy roleplaying sandbox and “accidentally” buy the game expecting that? Bethesda worried you might back in 2011, to the extent it took Mojang to court, claiming the name “Scrolls” would confuse gamers, you know, because gamers are always mixing up stuff like that. Remember the time everyone signed up for FarmVille because they thought it was SimFarm? Mojang and Bethesda eventually settled out of court, with Mojang keeping the name for its game but agreeing not to trademark it.

Lest you think $20 too steep for an incomplete product, I’m pretty sure that’s what Minecraft ran while it was in beta (out of beta, the latter now sells for $26.95). The question’s going to be whether, if this project takes off (and given its pedigree, it probably will), it’ll have earned its plaudits on its own merits as “a game that was currently missing from the market,” or as “the game that came after Minecraft.”

Click here to read editor-at-large Harry McCracken’s full magazine story on The Mystery of Minecraft  including an in-depth trip to the developer’s headquarters in Sweden — available exclusively for TIME subscribers.

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