First off, introductions are required for those of you who do not know me. My name is Blinky and I have been playing Scrolls ever since Mojang kindly gave out keys in the October issue of PC Gamer. Since then I have played thousands of games of Scrolls and risen to the top of the Scrolls rankings. Throughout my time playing Scrolls I have been spending a lot of my time on Scrollsguide.com and consider it my Scrolls home.
So to start things off I thought that I would explain in depth an answer to one of the more common questions that I receive,
"What is the best tip you can give me to make me a better player?".
The answer that I give has and always will be something along the lines of,
"Protect your middle idol and take out theirs".
Although this is true I have never been able to explain exactly why. This article is my attempt at answering this, I have also expanded it to incorporate unit placement and movement strategy which is the key to really getting good at this game.
The first piece of strategy that I want to introduce is more of just plain common sense. For your opponent to win they must destroy three of your idols, so to ensure that they do not you must keep at least three of your idols alive, simple isn't it. What we can take from this piece of logic is that you are better off focusing your defensive efforts on three of your idols than in trying to protect all five. Keeping your units together will lead you to be much better off than spreading your defensive efforts across the board.
This now brings forward the questions of what idols you should defend. If we are prioritizing the defense of three idols then there is a total of six ways (there is actually 10 but I have removed four as those formations are the same but mirrored) or combinations for you to accomplish this.
The following images show one side of the board (your side) with three idols protected by a full row of units (represented by the hexagons coloured red)
Rows one, two and three protected
Rows two, three and four protected
Rows one, three and five protected
Rows one, two and four protected
Rows one, two and five protected
Rows one, three and four protected
What you want to try and avoid when placing your units is creating gaps in the ranks. All but the first two diagrams have gaps in the formations of units. The advantage of keeping your units together is that you will be able to always respond to any attacks that your opponent makes to your creatures.
For example, in the image below the opponents creature is attacking our unit on the middle row, we can immediately respond to this assault by moving our creature on the 4th row up and attacking our opponents creature.
So from this we can clearly see that the most desired formation is in diagram two. However, this formation can only usually be formed late game when you have pretty much won anyway. So, what you should aim to achieve is filling up your middle row first and then playing your next units on the opposite side of the board to where you opponent has played theirs as demonstrated below (I have numbered the spaces to place your units in order of priority). The end result that you are after is the formation shown int he 1st diagram, where you are able to threaten 3 of your opponents idols and your opponent can only threaten 2, 1 without threat (the top or bottom idol) and 1 with the threat of being attacked by you (the 2nd or 4th idol).
If you succeed in doing this then you are halfway there to winning the game, of course your opponent will be attempting to pull off the same strategy so ensure that you win the battle for the center. Win the center, win the game.
We have established which row we should aim to start on, however we need to understand where we place our unit on said row. When you start a game you should always place you first creature in the middle hexagon as highlighted below in red, the best place for your first structure is at the front of your middle row highlighted in blue.
By placing your creature on this spot you have the maximum number of options for movement the following turn (i.e. you can move into 1 of 6 spots). Your structure or a creature that you do not intend on moving (such as a Gravelcock Outcast enchanted with Dryadic Power) should be placed in the very front as this serves three puropses.
If you placed your structure on the very back tile of the middle row and had a creature placed at the back of the 2nd row then it will take an extra turn for you to move your creature around your structure and get to the 4th row.
Also by placing your creatures on the middle row you are able to threaten any unit placed on row 2, 3 and 4. Say your turn two play is to place a Gun Automaton where I suggested, your opponent then wants to play their first creature somewhere safe on the board, say a Sister of the Fox. Clearly they will be unable to play it on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th row as your Gun Automaton will be the first creature to attack and in doing so will kill the Sister of the Fox. So, your opponent therefore must place his creatures on the 1st or 5th row. This then allows you to build up your board presence on the field in the center and threaten the rest of the board and in doing so restrict your opponent to only placing creatures
One of the key strategies that I like to employ is to allow my opponent to come to me. What I mean by this is that by taking control of the center and forcing my opponent to play their units on the bottom or top they will be unable to move without getting attacked from the creatures placed in the center.
Here we have our units (in red) on the left and our opponents units (in green). It is our opponents turn and they have destroyed our idol on row 5. They now have 2 options, the first it to move their units up and attack the idol on the 4th row.
This however is a very dangerous move as this allows us to attack all of our opponents units that they have just moved.
The 2nd option is for our opponents units to remain where they are. They may remain safe if they stay where they are however their attacks will be wasted and we will be able to further our position on the board by placing more units elsewhere (aiming for the 1st unit formation) and in doing so stopping our opponent from placing their units anywhere on the board without being threatened from out units.
Remember, as tempted as you may be to take out your opponents creatures you will be better off sitting still on the middle row. By moving down you allow your opponent to get the jump on you and attack your creatures first so sit still and wait it out.
So far I have covered the pros of placing your units on the middle row, one thing I haven't mentioned is the difficulty you will face if you lose it. As I had established earlier, keeping your units together is much better than keeping them apart. If you lose your middle Idol then you are being forced to separate all your units into two groups, one protecting the top two idols and another protecting the bottom two. Usually you would only be able to protect one half properly, this would then result in your opponent being able to establish a board position as shown in the first diagram about protecting idols.
Although it is still possible to win if you loose your middle idol it will be 10 time harder and will take some lucky draws or your opponent to mess up for you to come back.
Anyway, that just about sums up everything that you need to know (accept maybe a few things, well, I've got to keep a few secrets). Future articles I write wont quite be like this all the time (hopefully) however If you have anything that you wish for me to cover or take a look at then I would be glad to.
And with that we are done, congratulations if you have read the whole thing and apologies if it is a bit all over the place or is unclear at times, writing has never been my strongest point and everything that I am trying to convey is really hard to put into words.
All the best and I hope what I have written will help improve your game.
A guide on where to place your units and why this is important
How to deal with the hard trials in Scrolls when you have a small library.