Originally built on the Steem blockchain, Splinterlands moved to Hive after the fork from Steem in 2020. Though not completely free to play, Splinterlands has a low entry point and offers play to earn opportunities relatively quickly for active players.
Read on in this game guide to learn the Splinterlands basics, some info about their tokens, and how you can play and earn in this collectible card game / auto-battler
Splinterlands is an auto-battler card game where every card is a collectible NFT. Built on the Hive blockchain, Splinterlands features daily quests, seasonal rewards every two weeks, guilds, a tournament system, and an in-game marketplace that includes secure card rentals!
Players can earn card and token rewards just by playing. Land gameplay is expected to arrive in late 2022.
Splinterlands Gameplay Overview
In Splinterlands, players face off in one on one battles. For the match, each player selects a summoner, and then chooses a selection of creature that are either neutral or that belong to the same element as the summoner. IE, Water Summoners can use Water Creatures and Neutral Creatures.
Summoners and Monsters have an associated Mana cost associated and every battle has a limit on the amount of Mana available. This can range from as low as 11 all the way up to 99! Also, at the higher ranks, battles come with one or more special rules. These rules are many. Some examples are, only melee attack can be used, every Monster starts the battle poisoned, or no Monsters with Magic attack can be used. These rules provide variation from match to match and force players to think strategically about every fight.
Once a battle begins, it’s all resolved automatically. However, choosing cards that work well together and that hopefully counter your opponent is not a simple task.
Positioning matters, as most creatures only attack the enemy card in the front position. Cards with Melee attack can only attack from the first position. Ranged can only attack when NOT in the first position and Magic creatures can attack from anywhere, as well as ignore armor.
Most Summoners provide some sort of bonus or opponent debuff. Many Monsters have abilities as well. In fact, there are a several dozen different abilities! Some effect that card only, while others are team buffs, or enemy debuffs. Examples include Sneak (attack enemy Creature in the back), Reflection (return half of magic damage received back to the attacker), and Bloodlust (gain stats whenever this creature gets a kill). Some Monsters even have multiple Abilities, especially at higher levels!
Leveling Up cards
Splinterlands features an interesting mechanic allowing cards to level up. This is done by combining multiple copies of the same card. As Monsters level up, they gain stats and abilities, which can often make a difference in battle. The number of cards required for combining increases with each level. Commons max out at level 10, Rares at 8, Epics at 6, and Legendaries at 4.
This feature not only provides additional incentive for players to continue purchasing packs, but it also creates an eternal, deflationary mechanism for cards once their print run completes. Every time someone combines cards, those extra cards are burned and the total supply for that card decreases!
But perhaps more important than Monsters leveling up, are Summoners leveling up. Summoner levels limit the Monster level you can use. For example, level 1 Rare Summoners can only use Monsters of level 1 and can’t use Legendary cards at all!
You can see from the chart that each league also has limits on the maximum level of Summoner that can be used. You can still use cards that are higher level, but their stats will be auto de-ranked to match the maximum allowed level for the fight.
Splinterlands Play-to-Earn Mechanics
Splinterlands boasts a strong economy, with meaningful rewards, an in-game rental system, leaderboard rewards, and tournaments for those who like an extra challenge.
Splinterlands is technically free to play, though to earn rewards, you must purchase a Summoner’s Spellbook for $10. This Spellbook is not an NFT and is not tradeable. It is an upgrade to your account allowing you to access all facets of Splinterlands.
Splinterlands Rewards System
Players receive a reward of Dark Energy Crystals with every match they win. There are also daily quests, and end of season rewards. The number of chests received in both depends on your current rank. Reward chests contain reward cards, Dark Energy Crystals, Potions, and sometimes even card packs!
Potions come in two flavors, Legendary and Alchemy. These increase your odds of finding a Legendary or Gold Foil card respectively. Potions only work when opening card packs, though, not reward chests.
The game features a built-in tournament system. Weekly tournaments are hosted by the Splinterlands crew, though there are many more run by the community. Everything is handled via the in-game interface. No need for tracking the tournament on a secondary website. Players can also join Guilds, allowing them to participate in twice weekly team competitions against other Guilds for special Guild-related rewards.
Cards and card packs can be sold or traded. In addition to the standard reward chests, the top 30 players in each Tier receive a bonus payment of DEC at the end of a season.
Splinterlands features two main tokens — DEC and SPS, a ‘Voucher’ token, and a stablecoin called Credits. The only way to buy packs and potions in-game is with Credits. Luckily, Splinterlands features a swap mechanism, allowing players to easily acquire Credits with Paypal or a number of different cryptocurrencies.
Dark Energy Crystals (DEC) are the main game currency. Players earn DEC by winning matches and from reward chests as part of the daily quests and seasonal rewards. This is the currency used for buying, selling, and renting cards.
Splintershards (SPS) are the game’s governance token. They are currently being airdropped to anyone and everyone holding onto Splinterlands cards, various Splinterlands NFTs, DEC, and Splintertalk tokens! This airdrop is a year long and ends in late July of 2022. Players also earn Splintershards via an in-game staking system. Currently, Splintershards are only good for acquiring more Splintershards and Vouchers, but the team plans to lean heavily on this token in the future. They’re mentioned purchasing packs with Splintershards only and locking up tokens in validator nodes as a couple of options. Expect Splintershards to also have a role the upcoming land gameplay.
Vouchers only exist on the Hive blockchain and are used for special events and promotions. Owners of staked SPS receive daily airdrops of VOUCHERS. These have previously been required for early purchase of Chaos Legion packs and the recent Waka Spiritblade promotion.
All of these can be traded on Hive-Engine market. SPS and DEC tokens can also be transferred between other blockchains such as Ethereum and Binance Chain.
How to Get Started in Splinterlands
The game provides a basic set of level 1 cards that you can use, though don’t own. These include Summoners and Creatures. The game also features a short tutorial, which new players should follow to learn the basics. After that, the best way to learn is just to dive in and try out different Summoners and card combinations.
Splinterlands does require a Hive account. Luckily, they are free to create and the Hive Keychain app works well for logging in and handling transactions. If you don’t have an account, Splinterlands helps get one setup when you purchase a Spellbook.
Tips for Playing Splinterlands
Summoners are often the gateway to reaching higher rank. Rent higher level ones as needed. Pick two or three to focus on if you’re building up your own set of cards.
Experiment. Don’t always just put in the highest value cards. Oftentimes, having a specific focus is better. Healing can make a huge difference. Don’t neglect adding a healer if none of your Monsters self-heal.
Look at the upgrades for your cards and decide which ones you like best. Sell or rent cards you don’t use. Upgrade cards that you use often.
Explore the rental market. It is entirely possible to rent a selection of cards that can carry you to higher ranks. If you’re willing to spend some time getting used to the more advanced interface, PeakMonsters is a great source for finding deals and seeing a better overview of the market.
Once you have an understanding of the game mechanics, be sure to check your opponent’s recent match history before you start your team selection. You can do this by mousing over their battle history icons at the top of the start match screen. Oftentimes, noticing a pattern in their playstyle can provide a significant advantage!
Work your way up. Bronze ranks don’t give out meaningful rewards. A few Credits won’t get you far. But once you reach Silver ranks, the rewards switch from Credits to DEC and you start receiving more cards. This means more battle options, a chance to level up repeat cards, and the opportunity to rent or sell for passive income!
Steady, daily play works better than marathon sessions. Each player has a ‘ Capture Rate’ factor that affects the amount of DEC they earn from winning matches. Each match lowers the rate, which regains slowly over time.
The game can seem bit boring at the start. Especially with limited card selections and the hands-off battle simulation. But once you have more cards to play with and reach the ranks where battles have special rules, the game becomes much more engaging.
As a player, you can approach this as a play-to-earn game or a play-and-earn game, depending on how much you want to grind out matches. But even if you’re just a casual player, don’t miss out on the chance to rent out cards for passive income or hold them for the SPS airdrop!
In some ways, the game is pay to win. Having higher level creatures can make a huge difference in regards to the match results. Winning more equates to more rewards and higher ranks and even more rewards! But the rental market does a lot to equalize that imbalance. It is very possible to rent your way to the top of the lower tier leaderboards while building up your own collection.
In the fall of 2020 Splinterlands held a land sale. Land owners have been patiently holding onto their land NFTs since then, waiting for the first iteration of land gameplay to appear. The Splinterlands team now has a group devoted to developing land features. Expect to see more details and a possible beta later this year. The team holds weekly Town Hall meetings with updates, news, and questions from the audience.