Earthcore: Shattered Elements

So, it’s been a month.

Alright, so it wasn’t my fault. Every weekend this month, I’ve been out of my house. This just so happens to be the first weekend I’ve had in my house for ages. So we’ll have less of that judging, alright? I haven’t had time.

And it just so happens that time is the theme of this post. Turns out that with a full time job, space for gaming is pretty scarce. I’ve squeezed it in where I could, but its nowhere near as much as I wanted. So this is largely a digest of mobile games I’ve played in the last month, and the occasional bit of actual PC gaming. Because mobile games aren’t real games, everyone knows tha– OH GOD I’VE BECOME WHAT I HATED!

The fate of elitists

In penance, I’ll tell you about a mobile game I played this last month. Earthcore: Shattered Elements. I heard about this on the Co-optional Podcast, and it sounded interesting enough to keep me entertained on the loo while at work; the effective gold standard of mobile games.

Earthcore has an interesting mechanic. The game is played out on a 3×2 board where you and your opponent take turns laying out cards, and the battles are resolved after the board is full. The twist? Each card has an inherent element which interacts with other elements, rock-paper-scissors style. Fire beats grass, grass beats eater, water beats fire. Each card fights the card directly opposite it, and the dominant element wins the duel. Stalemates result in both cards getting flipped over onto the board. The loser takes damage equal to the “risk factor” of the losing card, represented by a number on the card. Stalemates mean that risk stacks, and whoever loses a matchup on that stack, takes all the accumulated risk on your side. The general idea is that higher risk cards have more influential abilities, but also pose more of a risk if played badly.

A fourth element also exists, known as dust. This element loses to any other element, except other dust cards, and a handful of card abilities can turn cards into the dust element, in exchange for changing another card’s element in another row, or some other advantage. Very few cards have dust as their inherent element, and those that do usually have an ability that makes up for it, like element mimicry. You’ll most often come across dust cards via card abilities, which can change your cards, or your opponents, into the dust element.


 There are three classes: Mage, Rogue, and Warrior. Playing Mage involves using a lot of cards that change the elements of your own cards, Rogue cards move around the board at will, and Warrior deals in direct damage to the opposing player. There are no class specific cards, but if your cards are aligned to your element then those cards have a discount on their risk.

There’s also a hero card system, which involves creating unique hero cards by sacrificing other cards to gain their abilities. But I didn’t really delve into that. Why didn’t I?

Earthcore: Shattered Elements board
It looks simple. So simple. That’s how it gets you.

Because it turns out that Earthcore makes me angry. Very, very angry.

The game has a single player mode, which follows a storyline. Something about coming back to your city and finding it overrun with goblins or something. I didn’t spend a lot of time reading, because of the rage.

This game is fucking hard. Like, really hard.

I got my arse handed to me on several different occasions by the first enemy. First AI enemy, mind you.

Playing Earthcore well is about balancing several different factors. Firstly, you have your own cards. You’ll want a generally even split amongst the elements in your deck, to give you a good reaction against any element your opponent might play – so being able to build a good deck is a must. Next, balance the risk factor of the cards you have against what your opponent is playing, whilst keeping in mind your cards abilities and the abilities of your opponent. A well-timed ability can turn the entire board against you. Irreversibly, usually.

And at the end of every round, victorious cards return to the hand, so make sure you remember what cards you saw from your opponent’s four card hand.

And it turns out that I can’t do any of these things. I’m a terrible strategic gamer, and a poor loser. It wasn’t unknown to play a few games on the bus and arrive home in a foul mood, simply because it felt like the card draw screwed me over. It hadn’t, but god damn it felt like it.

So I uninstalled it for the sake of everyone around me. I’m a much nicer person without Earthcore.

But if you’re the type of person who enjoys really deep strategic gameplay, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The free-to-play model is well balanced, and it’s easy to get a good collection of cards just through the single player.

Well, I say easy. “Possible” is probably a better word.

It’s a good game, if you’re any good at this sort of thing. I’m not, so I utterly despised it. Still, like any free game, it’s worth a punt, and it’ll burn a few of those paid loo breaks away.

(Just a note: if you happen to employ me, I totally don’t spend ages on the loo playing games. That would be very unprofessional.)

(Please don’t fire me.)

What I’ve been playing: Solitaire.

There are games that cause your processor to groan with pure pain. There are games that absorb you and refuse to let you go. Games that thrust you in to a living, breathing world like none you’ve ever seen before. life unfolds around you and the game makes you a hero, a wizard, a villain, an explorer of the vast expanses of space.

And then there’s Solitaire.

It’s a card game.

And I can’t seem to stop playing it.

I used to play Solitaire when I was a kid. I think most people did. Either with actual cards, or as one of the inbuilt games on Windows I used to sink hours into the game and I like to think I got pretty good at it. I wasn’t, since I only used to use the draw one rules, rather than the devilish draw three, but I still had fun.

And so, I decided to get a Solitaire game on my phone. What could be the harm? The little processor could handle it easily since I can now play the Pokémon games on it. It’d be a harmless distraction during times of boredom.

I’m reliably informed* that this is the way Satan works. Convince you that such a small and tiny thing can barely make a difference… and once you’ve let it in BAM – you lose days.

Solitaire certainly does. Almost every spare moment has been consumed by this horrific beast from below. Sometimes it’s gotten so bad that I see the board when I close my eyes. The compulsive little whore whispers ‘just one more… go on’ at 4am when I really need to sleep. Modern games boast about a playing experience that goes into the tens of hours, or an infinite number of quests, like Skyrim.

Well fuck those guys. Solitaire has a different playing experience every single time. And they say that every game can be solved. Bollocks. There are times that, with my bloodied and now useless stumps of fingers, even I am forced to admit defeat. And then the black seven, sitting atop a covered red eight, laughs at me across the virtual dimensions. It knows it’s won. But only this time.

You may think it’s just a seven. But all I see is a giant ‘FUCK YOU’.

And that’s the reason that I’ve managed to get my record time for completing a game down to one minute fifty seconds. Because I need  that sweet hit of numbers.

I thought World of Warcraft was the worst for heady number compulsion. Oh, but I was so, so wrong.

Someone, please help me.

*No I’m not.

It’s Solitaire. You have it. But if you’re really lazy, click here to play a game. Oh god, it’s automatically started a game! Noooooooo…