*This review has been edited multiple times with updates because I am a glutton for punishment and don’t know when enough is enough. Original article was written in Jan 2022.

** Spring 2022 update: While some issues have been fixed, others have not.
PLUS – Servers going down for maintenance WAY too often. It’s a weekly occurrence, often, during critical ‘end of season’ periods and weekends.

***May 2022 update: DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME!!!! The number of ways it is broken and will rip you off is mind-numbing. The newest ‘scam’ is renting cards to get to higher tiers for season ends, only to see those rentals ‘cancelled’ in the hours leading up to the season end, thus… screwing you out of season rewards and any other money spent on rentals that are now worthless.

A typical Splinterlands card battle. You get to watch.

NFTs are all the rage and Splinterlands was one of the first out the gate with the concept in 2018.

First known as “Steem Monsters“, the collectable battle card game officially became “Splinterlands” in April of 2019.

The game is quite successful, in fact, at the time of this writing in early 2022, the MOST successful game of its genre. And that is a genre that is filling up quickly in the wake of the 2021 NFT boom.

Players who were lucky enough to have gotten in at the beginning of Splinterlands got access to some of the early run cards, some of which, are priced upwards of 10’s of thousands of dollars. There are (currently) 283 unique cards with 46 different abilities, with a built-in game mechanic that lets players ‘mint’ new cards by combining multiples of the same card together to form one upgraded card, complete with improved stats that help win battles against other players. The game just celebrated surpassing the ‘1 billion battle’ mark in January 2022.

And then there is the ass-clown who tries to sell his for over 1 million dollars because… why not… if someone is dumb enough to pay that… most high end cards run in the 10’s of thousands, but cards are sold for a few cents on up.


So why would they be worth SO much money in such a short period of time?

Because Splinterlands awards crypto for winning. That is their hook. Plain and simple.

Because the ‘game’ of Splinterlands isn’t fun. At all. It only becomes fun when you know you are winning money. Even if it’s just a little cash, the idea of getting paid to grind any game is attractive. It becomes even more so when you start to understand top players can earn upwards of $100 a month in just crypto awards, not to mention the value of the occasionally awarded new card (that has a very small chance of being rare and worth some serious money).

There are aspects of this ‘game’ that are downright brilliant, as I’ll explain, but again, ‘playing’ Splinterlands is rarely a joy.

The core idea of Splinterlands is this:

For a $10 ‘Spell Book’, you will get entry into Splinterlands and a deck of playable cards (NOT NFTs, and not owned by you) and be allowed to POTENTIONALLY compete for crypto and other awards. That starter deck will allow you to play at the entry levels of Splinterlands. The game has a multiple tier level system that determines how much crypto you will win per match, and how many loot chests you will be awarded at the end of each two week season. To compete at the higher levels to earn that crypto, your deck will have to have a certain amount of ‘power’.

And here is where the game really loses a lot of points in this review.

Card power. It’s a whole thing in Splinterlands. Without understanding it, or more importantly, how to acquire it, you will forever be stuck in the lowest levels, earning zero crypto… or at best, fractions of a cent. So what is card power? It is the mechanic by which the game determines how ‘strong’ your deck is, and that is determined by a cards ‘power’. Cards have varying degrees of power based on… hell… I don’t even really have that figured out yet and I’ve been playing for over a month now. The cards rarity and its abilities (again, higher minted cards increase in their stats making them more powerful) typically increase the amount of power a card has.

These are gold foil cards. They are worth a lot. You will not get a gold foil card.

**But here is where Splinterlands drops the ball. Hard. Good luck understanding ANY of that in game. There is nothing, and I mean ZERO information about card power, how to find it, how to determine how much power any card has, information you NEED… none of that is in the game. You are left completely out of the loop. You will have to go to YouTube and other external fan sites, sit down, and basically take a class. Because the devs can’t/won’t do their jobs… and why bother? They’ve already got your 10 bucks by this point.

[UPDATE: So I pitched at bitch at their Twitter guy about why it’s ridiculous that one of the most important aspects of the game… isn’t explained in the game. A week later… *poof* – cards in the marketplace all now have power listed. MUCH easier.]

Here is a great example of a 10 MINUTE breakdown of how card power works. That someone outside of the game had to make. Because at least 42,000 people (video count at time of posting) paid for the game that was so piss poor at explaining how it works, they had to go find someone else to help them understand. And there are hundreds of these videos out there. I guess that’s one way for Splinterlands’ developers to save money. Just lean on your game’s fanbase to produce all the support that the game, that is making millions, should provide, but does not.  [Again, this has thankfully been fixed].

Unless it’s intentional for some scam-like business reason… how dim are the devs of this game to make the players have to go to outside sources, just to understand how their game works? I’ve NEVER encountered anything like this, in any game, ever.

And yet… it’s hugely popular.

So we’ll get back to ‘card power’ again in a bit.

So how does the actual game play out?

There are 6 different elements, (this will sound vaguely familiar to anyone who has ever played Magic the Gathering), Water, Death, Earth, Fire, Life, and Dragon, plus some neutral units that can be used with any element. Each round battle begins with matching you against another random player. A mana cap, typically between 12 and 30 is given for each round. Using the allotted mana, each player then chooses up to 6 cards and a ‘Summoner’ to send into battle. There are rule sets in place for how each creature attacks, when, how many times per round, with what abilities, etc. Players do not ‘play’ the battles. Once the cards have been chosen, they are displayed on the screen, you hit ‘play’, and then watch how the battle plays out. It has already been decided, you are just watching the replay.

Battles take less than a minute. Here is an example…

And what is so messed up about this game and its rulesets… rarely can I tell you who is going to win just based on the cards on the table. You just hit play, sit back and watch, and then swear up a storm when someone beats you with the same color and the same cards. Repeatedly. Over and over and over. It does matter the order in which you place the lineup of your cards, but it’s still, at best, just trying to guess the best counter deck. There is a certain degree of ‘luck’ in how the monsters hit or miss with a percentage role, but as for you deciding the battle on your clever choice of cards, it often comes down to a multi-level game of rock, paper, scissors. You are allowed to see a few of your opponents previous rounds, and what element they chose, so you might be able to play against that, as some colors are stronger or weaker against other colors at certain mana points… but mostly, this is an educated guessing game. Once you have a deeper understanding and a wider exposure to different cards, certain combinations will start to leverage you an advantage. Same with leveling your cards (or renting already leveled cards).

SPS is the Splinterlands crypto token. But you won’t be seeing any of that for quite awhile.

But that’s it. Pick some cards and cross your fingers. Choose wisely, win a little crypto (if you’ve managed to decode the whole card power cypher). Choose poorly, slide back down the ladder, losing both the amount and opportunities to earn crypto. The only ‘skill’ to be developed, is watching what cards kicked your ass and using those same line-ups against other people.

Otherwise, the game is designed to sort of give you a roughly 50/50 win rate if you are ‘good’ at picking card lineups. But that won’t get you into the higher leagues to earn crypto.

Card power does that.

So back to card power. It’s one of the MOST important things to understanding and playing Splinterlands successfully… that the game doesn’t explain at all. [Has been fixed]. But once you understand you need it to get to higher levels… then one must now take a whole other class in YouTube videos and tutorials explaining how this all works. Again… really, Splinterlands?

Without diving into a tutorial here myself… you can either buy cards directly through an in-game market (more money spent)… or you can rent them. *But that’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get them for the full rental period. There is nothing preventing the renter from cancelling the rental, thus screwing over the player. The game devs are aware of this, but do not care to fix it, because they line their pockets with fees every time no matter what.

And this part is quite brilliant.

Players who possess high value cards can put them up for rent in-game. And many of the lower power cards can be rented for pennies a day. The game does award you ‘credits’ in some loot drops, and these can be used to rent cards. Once the player starts to connect these dots, the most important aspect of Splinterlands is finally understood.

Those that got cards early, or have invested the time and money to level them up, are making bank by renting them to new players.

You need to acquire higher power cards, either through purchasing them outright, or *renting them for a set duration, in order to win enough matches with a high enough winning percentile to sufficiently advance to the tiers that are going to pay out any kind of rewards. Otherwise, you will grind and grind and grind for very little.

*[Renting: Does NOT guarantee you get to use the card for the rental duration. Apparently, the owner can cancel the rental at any time. You will get refunded any remaining rental fee, but when you are renting for deck power, to finish at a certain higher rank for end of season rewards… only to see your ‘rental’ get canceled and now you don’t qualify for that tier… is pretty lame.]

The game does not, in any way, at all… explain any of this to you.

And again… playing the actual ‘game’ of Splinterlands is rarely enjoyable. Watching yourself get beat up over and over again isn’t really that much fun. And that is what’s going to happen to a new player. For quite awhile. Until they self-motivate, self-educate, watch a bunch of YouTube videos and read a bunch of breakdowns on card power and THEN start to figure out the subtleties of how to earn in the game.

And even when you catch on, get some more powerful cards and start beating up on the other idiots who haven’t figured this out yet… Splinterlands is still not ‘fun’. It’s mildly amusing at best.

I guarantee if you took away the possibility of earning crypto… no one would bother playing this game.

The ONLY motivation to play Splinterlands, is the idea that somehow, someway, you are going to profit from your time.

And that is possible. Just not the way you imagine it, and not without some considerable time invested in both playing the game, and teaching yourself the core mechanics… THAT THE GODDAMN GAME SHOULD EXPLAIN.

[The following rant, while still relevant to my personal experience and review of this game, has been mostly fixed]

Here is a GREAT personal example how frustrating this game is to wrap your head around when it comes to card power. So after reading, watching, and losing too much, I did all the research I mentioned earlier. I had a pretty good grasp of card power, what cards had it, how to rent it, and how much I needed. This was mostly accomplished from this chart… WHICH I HAD TO GOOGLE AND FIND OUTSIDE OF THE GAME.

The first paid level of Splinterlands requires you to have a deck with 1000 power. The power of each card is determined by its rarity and to which set it belongs. But the take-away from that chart is, using the gold foil cards, I would need any two gold foil cards to equal 1000 power (or more, because the least gold foil cards have 500 power each).

So I did just that. Rented two gold foil cards. And since the game has a terrible user interface when it comes to renting cards, THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CARD RENTAL AREA THAT TELLS YOU WHAT A CARDS POWER IS!!! [This has been fixed.] So… the main reason you are there… the game doesn’t include that information. Once you rent the card and it’s in your inventory, THEN you see its power displayed. So imagine my dismay after paying to rent two gold foil cards, only to see each one had a power of 125. I searched forums, googled ‘Splinterlands card power changes’. Nothing.

*There is no ‘help’ from within the Splinterlands game. [This has been fixed]. Their Twitter did respond within three days with a most helpful reply. But as they pointed out, they aren’t really there for customer support. I reached out to a marketing/press contact, and got an EXTREMELY nice, super helpful individual. He did inform me that Splinterlands is building a live support chat (which they desperately need – just haven’t found time with the millions of dollars they’ve made to make it happen yet). They also have the obligatory Discord and Telegram channels if one wants to solicit help from the general public. Again, the fact Splinterlands needs all this external support system instead of handling it all in game speaks to either a) How fast the game grew past what the developers could handle or b) There is some intentional thought-process behind making the game hard to understand, difficult to navigate, and next to impossible to buy cards unless you want to pay top market value per single card. (Or they are leaning on their Discord channel to provide support… but I don’t think they realize that Discord isn’t as mainstream and easy to navigate as traditional ‘help’ channels).

But after explaining my dilemma with the chart versus what was happening to me… I was informed there is actually a NEWER chart that looks like this.

Something you’d think would be in the game. ESPECIALLY since it gets updated.

See that last ‘Chaos’ column over on the right there? Yeah… that information would have been great BEFORE I got out my decoder ring, sifted through Google, and deciphered the riddle of Splinterlands card power… and spent money on cards that were not what I needed.

You’d think this chart would be FRONT AND CENTER in game. You’d think there would be a tutorial in-game explaining this. You’d think the devs gave a shit, sitting on their mountains of money… but when a game is making as much bank as Splinterlands is… you can afford to really not care about the smaller details as long as the overall model is shifting cash from other people’s pockets into their own.

So let’s say you want to avoid the whole marketplace of buying or renting single cards. Let’s say you’d like to approach this like any traditional collectable card game and buy some booster packs and roll your luck. Maybe you’ll get one or two of those high power, worth a ton of money cards for yourself, right?


*They are ‘sold out’ of ALL their sets. Of digital cards. I get it. The limited number is what gives them their worth. Only made even more limited by the process of ‘minting’ multiple cards of the same type, into a single, new, more powerful card. I’ll admit this is a brilliant mechanic to ensure those old cards go up in worth, because the supply is naturally decreasing. But I’ve been playing for a over a month, and you can’t buy new card packs even if you wanted to. There are some coming down the line, wrapped up in some overly complicated airdrop requiring you do this and stake that and buy this and hold that and maybe be eligible for this and this and this… blah blah blah. Does the game want to sell me any cards or not? No? Fine, there are other games to play.

It’s annoying as hell to try and navigate a game’s ecosystem that is being purposefully designed to limit the very asset you need to play the game.

***This has recently changed. What I was referring to as the ‘overly complicated airdrop’ was how the game encourages players to stake (hold) the Spinterlands native SPS crypto. Buy and hold enough SPS, you will get ‘vouchers’. Those vouchers give you opportunities like getting in early on card buys and earning additional bonus packs… that you will get if you literally buy 100’s of packs to trigger the bonus. And at $4.00 per pack, you’d have to spend $400 dollars in cards before that kicked in. But that is how players amass a ton of the same cards, that they then combine into newer, more powerful cards, that are worth more money and have a higher in-game value. Would spending $400 in boosters result in getting over $400 worth of cards? If someone out there has done this, please let us know how that worked out.

[UPDATE: Since I’ve been playing the game for months, and building up deck power through cards I’ve earned along the way… I decided to pull the trigger and buy a bunch of cards so I could start competing at higher tiers and earn more crypto. Gotta spend some to make some, right? Well… that lasted about half a day before the server glitched out mid-game… then when I logged out and logged back in… ALL MY CARDS WERE NOW GONE. ALL the starter cards I got with my initial buy-in. ALL the cards I’ve earned along the way. And most disappointing of all… ALL the cards I bought that day… $60 worth. *poof* gone. I contacted support and was told ‘they have contacted the devs’. Yay. This was on a Saturday night no-less. PRIME gaming time. The problem resolved itself within the hour… and my cards were not gone (I knew they weren’t, it’s all stored on the blockchain), but it was still an unsettling experience… added to the already long list of negatives.]

Card runs are limited and usually sell out quickly. This creates scarcity, keeps demand HIGH over supply, and ensures (temporary) inflated worth.

So what does that mean for you, the new player who wants to join in on the ‘fun’? Fuck you. That’s what it means. Purposefully designed to deny you access to the higher tiers, forcing you to rent cards, and keeping an artificially created pressure to inflate their worth.

Just to grind away and get that crypto.

The longer you play the game, the more likely you will amass some cards and get a working knowledge of the (intentionally?) complicated card power system. This will all lead to EVENTUALLY, maybe… if you stick with it… earning your 10 bucks back.

Verdict: The game is not fun. Trying to educate yourself in the most basic mechanics of the game is not fun. Getting your ass handed to you by better cards is not fun. Getting ‘potions’ as rewards, that only increase chances of better cards IF YOU BUY MORE BOOSTER PACKS – *THAT ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR SALE is not fun. [This has been fixed]. Wasting money on cards you don’t need is not fun. Buying cards only to see them disappear later that day is DEFINITELY NOT FUN. Renting cards to finish at a higher tier for more rewards at the seasons end, only to see one of those rentals ‘cancelled’ in the hours leading up to season end, thus screwing you out of rewards and wasting money on other, now worthless rentals is SO not fun (and wastes your money). And the devs know this, but don’t care.

That’s a lot of not fun for $10 bucks. [+$60 more because I am an idiot.]

Winning is amusing… but ONLY because there is a promise of crypto involved. You can play the game for free all you want (but you won’t be allowed to level up to the rank that allows you to earn crypto). You will soon see the actual ‘game’ isn’t much fun at all. At best, it’s an educated guessing game. At worst, it’s an overly intricate play to present itself as a way to earn crypto, when they know damn well, most… will not.

And as far as what the cards are worth… they will only remain at that level for as long as the game remains popular. Between the lack of respect for the player in the way they present the game, server issues/maintenance CONSTANTLY plaguing functioning site time, and the core game-play being less fun than watching someone else play a game of Magic, I predict the days of Splinterlands being top dog are numbered. They might have a good year, maybe two… but I’ve already played some of the newer games coming out that will be occupying the same space and fighting for (and getting) the Splinterlands user base. Those with the cards will try to cash out and move onto something else before they become worthless. And as the player base diminishes, so will the opportunity to grind crypto.

And once that’s gone… the game is over.

Because Splinterlands is just not that fun. *Especially when you finally give in and blow $60 on cards, only to see them disappear later that day because the build of this game is so unstable. Buyer beware.