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Clash of Clans for Android: What is it, and why is it so popular?

You've seen the commercials (especially if you watched the Super Bowl), you've scrolled past the Facebook ads, and you probably have at least one friend or child playing it right now. The animations offered in the commercials are cute, and being threatened by Liam Neeson is always a good time, but there's a lot more to Clash of Clans than micro-transactions and battling strangers.

It's a game that pulls from some of the oldest forms of tabletop gaming and mixes in always online and quick-glance mobile gaming to create an experience that will quickly suck you in even if you never spend a dime.

Consider this your crash course in Clash of Clans, everything from what to expect after installing to what device is best for maximum enjoyment.

At its core, Clash of Clans — available from Google Play (opens in new tab) — is a strategy game whose primary objective is to be the person with the most trophies. You earn trophies either by successfully attacking someone else's village, or by successfully defending against an attack from another online player. As you earn more trophies, you climb the ranks and are matched against opponents of equal or greater skill. The ultimate goal is to work your way to the very top — the Champion class. To get there, you'll need to spend either quite a bit of time or quite a bit of money to upgrade your village, train your soldiers, and develop the best strategies for both offense and defense.

Clash of Clans Build

The Build Phase

Like classic tabletop games, Clash of Clans is basically broken out into two phases — Build and Action. The game isn't explicitly broken out into these two modes, but it doesn't take much to see where the boundaries lie. The build phase is all about setting up your village in the best possible way. Your builders build, using gold coins and purple elixir as currency.

As your village grows and improves, you have the ability to build new buildings that give you access to new tools for offense or defense. Village growth typically focuses around leveling-up your town hall, which means your village will grow in stages. You store up enough resources to upgrade your town hall, and spend the next little while re-organizing your village to take advantage the new things you have available to you. Like any level-based system, this happens quickly at first but becomes orders of magnitude more difficult with each level up.

Defending your village is a big part of the build phase, as attacks from enemies don't happen in real time like a Tower Defense game. You get a notification after the fact telling you someone has attacked you, and there's a replay of the assault available for you to watch. As a result, you have to set the appropriate defenses and do your best to anticipate what your opponents are most likely to do. (Every now and then you're able to catch someone in the act, but this is the exception rather than the rule.) If you've been destroyed by an opponent, the village will rebuild itself once you tap on the graves that appear on the screen, but you'll have lost both trophies and resources in the process. You'll also have a shield on your village that stops other people from attacking you for a while, which usually gives you time to re-think your current layout or upgrade your defenses.

Clash of Clans Attack

The Action Phase

As hands-off as the build phase is, you'll need a couple of minutes with nothing else going on in order to enjoy the action phase. You have two options in this mode, single player and online. If you choose a single-player attack, you'll be pitted against one of the many Goblin bases that are baked into the game in order to challenge you and help you learn to play. The bases get significantly more difficult to defeat as you move along, and requires a lot of thought in order to score the Elixir and Gold that you get as a reward. The online mode pits you against a village that another player has assembled, and when you start that fight you have three minutes to do as much damage as possible.

Attacking another village is all about placing your soldiers in the right places and watching as they do the most damage possible. Once you've placed a soldier, you have no control over it. Most of these characters will attack the closest thing to them, unless there's a defensive tower attacking them. Some troops offer special features, like the ability to detonate and explosive to take down a wall or a ranged attack instead of an up close physical attack. Your ultimate goal is 100% destruction, which gives you the most trophies and some extra Gold and Elixir for your stores back home. If you can't manage total annihilation, you only take home a portion of the spoils.

Clash of Clans micro-transactions

Micro-transactions are not the same thing as 'play to win'

Clash of Clans has a third currency type on the screen, under the Gold and Elixir. Gems can be used to speed up the construction of buildings, the creation of troops and spells, and the rate at which Gold and Elixir are produced. You can even use Gems as Gold or Elixir if you've run out of one or the other, but you can't use excess Gold or Elixir to replace Gems. You start off with a couple hundred gems, and can earn more for free by completing objectives in the game. It doesn't take long to burn through that initial offering once you've gotten hooked, and if you run out you'll find you can purchase more for cold hard cash.

That's how that Super Bowl ad got paid for.

But at no point during Clash of Clans are you required to spend any money. In fact, the very first thing you see when you load this game the first time is instructions on turning off the ability to pay for anything. The game is amazingly upfront about what you could spend money on, and in order to make the game as kid friendly as possible lets users make that decision from the beginning. It's a decision everyone can make for themselves, but the only thing you lose out on if you choose not to spend money is the ability to speed things up when you're not a fan of waiting.

This may cause some concern, especially with so many "play-to-win" games out there today. (And so many kids with access to their parents' devices.) The truth is, you're still only matched against people who have roughly the same number of trophies as you. Someone who spends a ton on Gems is going to quickly move up to the next difficulty level, as though time is moving faster for them. While someone who has spent money on enhancements is in your level bracket, they have access to the same things you do and can be beaten just as easily as anyone else with the right strategy.

Clash of Clans sync

What's the best way to play?

Just about anything with a screen and access to the Google Play Store can handle Clash of Clans, but it's not hard to see why this game would be more fun to play on tablets. The larger screen lends itself to more thoughtful village layouts, as well as snap judgments when attacking the enemy. That said, it's not always easy to bring a tablet with you everywhere so you can check in on your village every few hours (and yes, that is something you're going to want to do). Fortunately, you can sync your village across multiple devices with no problem. All you need is your Google Play account, and you can check in from any Android device.

Clash of Clans is fun, and not the mindless sort of fun that so many mobile games offer up. It's carefully designed so you want to play it every time you have a couple of minutes, and the game is friendly enough that parents can easily play with their kids. We've only just scratched the surface here, as there's still a whole word of gameplay that comes available once you join a clan and start participating in clan wars. If you've been on the fence about giving this game a shot, there really is no better time than right now.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

58 Comments
  • I like tribez better Posted via the Galaxy Note 4
  • Thanks for the recommendation I'll give that one a chance. Posted on my Sexy Note 4
  • I refuse to go near games with micro-transactions. I don't even like console games with DLC you need to pay for now, but its impossible to avoid.
  • I already play it fit a couple of years now? And i have only spend a small amount in the beginning because i wanted to pay for a game that i like. No need to really pay for anything. It just goes a bit slower but you don't miss anything. Except maybe a bit more satisfaction because you build it al you're self. It also doesn't matter if another pays. They are not better.. They only go a bit faster time wise Posted via the Android Central App
  • Why? I've played a whole bunch of free to play games where I haven't spent a dime. PvZ2 is the best example of this, and Clash of Clans isn't far off. There are a ton of pay to win games that are awful, and those should be avoided, but for a game like PvZ2 or Clsah of Clans that do it right, They are worth the time. Clash of Clans might actully be the deepest and most thoughtfully designed game I've ever played, on any platform. And in all honesty, after playing the game every. single. day. for 5+ months, I spent $10 on gems to get a 4th builder. Since, you know, I've probably invested more time in that game that I have any other in the past 5 years thanks to the fact that I can pick it up and play when I have a few minutes. So, after spending every day for half a year playing it, sure that's worth $10 to me. that value for money proposition is probably the best in any kind of entertainment I've consumed in a long time.
  • I was skeptical about this game too but I am 5 months in 3 levels away from max town hall and haven't spent a dime article neglected to mention free gems in bushes so you can save up with enough patience that way
  • with respect,
    you are either a liar or you literally NEVER stop staring at this game. I actually spent a little cash when i first started playing in the beginning, played a little longer than you, and only got to level 8 before i uninstalled it a couple of months ago. At that point, everything costs millions of resources and takes full business weeks to upgrade, while in the mean time, some random Asian kid at a WAY higher level than you (who purposely dumps trophies so he can rip off lower level players instead of going at guys his own size), comes through every night and raids my village and takes about 80% of everything i gained the previous day...making the whole thing officially way more trouble than its worth. Maybe if the devs enforce some integrity instead of encouraging you to give them fistfuls of cash to make up for the (built in) flaws in their game, i might go back to it.
  • When I am in a building phase I will put my town hall outside of my walls. Most of the time someone will just take that out to get some quick trophies and it leaves me with a 10 hour shield. Posted via Android Central App
  • That and a well thought out raiding strategy can net you a few million gold and elixir in a few hours. Also some people rush the town hall and if you just want to upgrade that and forget about walls and defenses you can raise your rank quite quickly. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Heh, I'll play games with microtransactions and refuse to pay anything just out of spite. It's how I'm playing Family Guy Quest for Stuff.
  • Did you stay away from coin operated arcade games when they were popular years ago? In my opinion, those were the original micro transaction games, paying real money to play a game you will never own for a few minutes.
  • I love that AC is writing these "_ _ _ _ _ " ( fill in the blank) for dummies articles because they are brilliant and much needed info to get people up to speed. My biggest complaint about all ecosystems IOS or Android (cough Window, Blackberry) is that the lack of "know how" prevents people from fully utilize their device or even understand other ecosystems. (cough IOS user to Android). Lastly be careful which Google account you set up Clash of Clans on because it can not be changed later.
  • Never had any interest in this game, and still don't, mainly because I KNOW it's a huge time sink without much payoff. And, only the people who joined early and/or pay real money have any real chance at being #1, so why bother.
  • Your opinion is duly noted.
  • Roger that. Can I get a receipt?
  • exactly.
  • But... But you wrote that you played this game for more than 5 months.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Huge time sink" is right. It's a major reason I don't "game" at all. I'd rather get outside and do something than sit on my ass in front of a screen. But to each their own. :)
  • It's not a huge time sink. Unless you call the 15 minutes a day I spend on collecting my stuff "huge". I did spend an hour yesterday building a new base from scratch to hopefully better protect my gold, but I am home sick in bed so I can afford that much time. I rarely spend that much time though. Can you spend all day attacking people? Sure. But the game is what you make of it and there is no need to do that. It's definitely a go at your own pace kind of game. Posted via Android Central App
  • It doesn't take up your time. It's the type of game you go in collect your stuff, upgrade something and do an occasional attack and get out. I've deleted plenty of good games that are as you describe. If I have to play for hours I don't want to play it. Posted on my Sexy Note 4
  • OH HOW i HATE YOU CLASH OF CLANS!!! STEALING ALL MY TIME AND MONEY!!
  • The only $ I spend on this is any I earn via Google Survey.
  • +1. No need to spend money on the game. The only reason why you spend money is if you can't get a handle on your personal patience. Google Surveys does nicely providing money to but gems though! Posted from the Nexus 5 or Xperia Z3
  • android games shouldnt require months or YEARS of "patience." if i ever want to put that much time into anything, I have a $400 machine with faster processors, WAY better graphics, and vastly superior and more fulfilling game play for that.
  • This game has taken over my life ! Stay away from Clash ! Anyway, join my clan - War Clan #1 (look for phyton as leader) Posted via Android Central App
  • This game is fun to play. OGAMAWAB
  • It's a fcking money grab and probably the #1 reason Google had to deal with the class action lawsuit. Try playing it on a restricted user account and see how far you get. Fck clash of clans.
  • I've been playing for over a year with no $ spent. Its not a waste. Posted via Android Central App
  • Join our clan: R Clanatarium we war twice a week. Best clan ever... OGAMAWAB
  • I thought Samurai Siege was better, but ultimately I tired of the entire genre. You quickly go from a "hey this is fun and casual" to a "must be online all the time" If you progress past the casual phase and enter the social phase there is just enormous pressure to participate on an obscene level. And they also hook you with the time you've already committed to your base, it's really difficult to hit that uninstall button.
  • Been playing for awhile and haven't invested any money. You don't really need to for you to be effective in the game honestly. It's fun when there's nothing to do and I personally don't spend more than 5 minutes on it every hour or so Posted via the Android Central App
  • My favorite mobile game.
  • Love their Superbowl commercial with Liam Neeson !
  • I've been playing for several months. Haven't spent a penny. It's a nice toilet type game.
  • I prefer their other game: Boom Beach
  • I simply don't get games like this. Within 5 minutes I'm bored and deleting.
  • I wonder if it is like Candy Crush where they throw in levels that are practically impossible unless you 1) are willing to play the same level 300 times or 2) are willing to buy cheats.
  • No. It's not like candy crush at all. You build you base and hopefully fend off attacks. Who you attack is up to you. Come across someone's base that is too difficult for your puny level one troops to handle? No problem. Just click the next base button till you find one you like. Easy peasy. Posted via Android Central App
  • I advise you all to stay away from this game if you enjoy having free time to spend on better things than this game. Yes I was addicted, but I quit on new years and am 33 days clean. Quit before it's too late ;) Posted via the Android Central App
  • I lol @ people who say they have to spend money on games like this. I've been playing for a very long time and only used Google survey money. Y'all are ridiculous lol
  • Stay away. HUGE timesink, and really, it's not even that fun. Go watch the South Park Episode "Freemium isn't free" and you will see the reality of how these games are designed. Again, as a former player, STAY FAR, FAR away!
  • not a fan of mindless, "cash-steal" mobile games but their SB Liam Neeson commercial was pretty good
  • I dunno anything about this game, but all I know is GoWiPe, GoWiWi, Balloonion, LavaLoonion, HoLoWiWi, HoGoWiWi, and barch.
  • Just so you know its "pay to win" not "play to win".
  • I had to re-read like 3 times before just to make sure... ITS PAY TO WIN! Right! At least if I'm going to pay to play I play a better game than this called Arcane Legends! At least it has fast real time action not some click and wait for hours bs.
  • Xmodgames... You'll thank me later. Don't bother spending money. Posted via the Android Central App
  • A "hack" APK hosted on shady sites? What could possibly go wrong?!
  • Russell I'll be honest and tell you that I didn't read this article but that's only because I'm already addicted to clash of clans. I would like you to keep these articles coming though. I do want newer games and even productivity apps but for some reason Google play doesn't read minds to know what I like so it's a hunting game to find something. Posted on my Sexy Note 4
  • Reminds me of the IASIP episode "Charlie Rules The World"
  • Clash of lash Posted via the Android Central App
  • Clash of clans Posted via the Android Central App
  • Even I can play this game on my PC: http://cocland.com/tutorials/play-clash-clans-pc-bluestacks
  • Just a note to the writer of this page. You are full of shit. You don't know jack about this game. The only objective is cups? Seriously? You don't know shit. Please do some research and stop flooding the Internet with articles that highlight your ignorance. Thank you. Fuck off.
  • I think Clash of Clans game is really amazing to play as I also like to play it on PC. I found this guide on web http://clashofclansforpcc.com
  • Nice one I am too enjoying playing this game on my pc. http://clashofclansmypc.com/
  • clash of clan is my favorite game i also play it on windows 8 using windows product keys.
    http://www.tech1up.com/
  • I just love this game..Really Amazing one...I tried playing it on my computer as well by following the guide @http://www.rushinformation.com/how-to-play-android-games-on-pc-bluestacks/ and it worked perfectly
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