By Chris Picone, 04 April 2022
Skeleton Scramble is exactly the sort of game I love – easy to learn but difficult to master! It’s full of subtle nuances that you probably won’t notice at first glance and the game never gets boring because you have to constantly react to the metagame – there’s no single strategy that always wins.
In no particular order, here are some tips to get you started.
• If you’re looking to play couch mode against a mate, you’re good to go, just set the controllers up and hit the button.
• If you’re looking to play an online game, it’s unlikely there will ever be a lobby or any in-game to manage this, but never fear! Steam has a built-in screensharing feature that also accepts input. This will let you link up and play couch mode remotely. Happy gaming!
• Don’t gloss over this option, check it out! You can use it to give one or the other player a handicap – useful when you want to play against your kids or a new player.
• Has loads of other optional features to keep the game interesting after you’ve beaten the campaign and all your mates – things like randomised maps, ranged skeletons, decaying trees, and aggressive modes.
• If you’re up for a real challenge, give gauntlet mode a go. It’s insane.
• You’ll quickly work out that you need to not only plant trees to grow mana but also that you can upgrade these into auto-collectors and beehives. You will instinctively want to upgrade lots of these but don’t! Every tree you upgrade now collects mana but no longer produces any, so you need to get the balance right.
• Also, you want more collectors than bees. Collectors are instantaneous and will maximise your ability to build quickly.
• You will still want some bees, though – first, they’ll fly around and collect any mana missed by your collectors. Their real strength, though, is bypassing the mana limit. Once your mana bar is full, you can’t collect any more, and this will happen quickly once you have a few collectors. But if you spend some of that mana quickly, the bees will then float around filling your gauge again with leftover mana while you wait for the next tick.
• These guys are awesome. If you can sneak these in the very early game, you can capture the enemy’s starting turrets and it will either start shooting him or force him out into the open.
• Ghosts are great for giving you something productive to do between ticks when you’re out of mana.
• Summon a cleric! They not only heal your critters, they also heal you. This is particularly useful because it lets you summon more ghosts.
• You need to be fast! While controlling your ghost you can’t control your necromancer or spend mana. It can be powerful but also leave you vulnerable.
• But be cautious. The enemy’s axe will kill them if you get too close to their necromancer and if you aren’t careful you might accidentally capture something dumb like a tree.
The Necromancer (You!)
• I’m sure you’ve noticed by now but all movement in the game is automated –enemy critters are magnetised toward your necromancer. You can use this to your advantage, by guiding the enemy toward your strongest defences or away from your home to give your skeleton portals a chance to tick over. This also means you can focus on fortifying a single area rather than trying to spread out your defences or to point them toward your backup defences if your main got wiped out.
• You can also use this to your advantage by guiding enemy attackers away from your own attackers, to give them a better chance of getting through the enemy’s defences. As long as your own defences can handle them, of course.
• Use your axe! It’s easy to just hide behind your defences and forget about it but it’s useful defensively – if the enemy is swarming you, use your axe to thin them out so they don’t get close enough to damage your turrets. It’s also useful offensively; follow your skeletons into battle! Be careful though – if you get too close and suddenly find yourself alone, you’ll get wiped out pretty quick.
• Most importantly, the axe can kill ghosts!
• The default is to attack in waves but you’ll note it’s pretty ineffective. The skeletons on both sides are equally powerful so they wipe each other out and the turrets are very effective at whittling your forces away. To deal any damage, you really need to attack with a concentrated force so you have enough skeletons left to climb over the bones of their mates to actually land some damage.
• You can supplement this by loading your mana gauge up and then spawning as many skeleton troupes as you can afford – try to time it so they join the main force on the tick.
• Consider sending a few clerics also – aside from being relatively strong on their own, having them heal your skeletons on the march goes a long way to helping them survive enemy turret fire long enough to close in and do some damage.
• If the enemy has lots of turrets, you might want to create a cultist by sacrificing a pyramid (make sure it’s built in advance because they’re expensive!) but the chant doesn’t last long so you’ll need to get your timing right. If they don’t have lots of turrets, you’re better off adding more skeletons, clerics, or forest spirits.
• If you summon forest spirits early enough, you might be able to quickly knock out the enemy’s starting turrets and close in for the kill.
• Don’t just summon forest spirits willy-nilly. The trees they spring from become barren and you can’t rebuild on those tiles.
• The forest spirits can be a very strong end-game move. They do a lot of damage in their own right but their real strength is soaking up enemy turret fire, which will allows your zerg rush to close in and overwhelm the enemy’s defences.
• Follow your forest spirits! They drop mana along the way, which you can collect to keep summoning more skeleton troupes while you charge into battle.
• Build a pyramid. They’re useful for slowing the enemy down, making your turrets more effective. It’s also a good idea to have one built ahead of time so you can quickly summon a cultist if you find a window of opportunity. Finally, having one ready to go lets you summon phoenixes on demand!
• Don’t build lots of pyramids. They’re expensive and if the enemy zerg rushes you under a cultist’s chant, they’ll be destroyed in no time. That’s hard to recover from.
• Turret Collectors… I’ve never really bothered with. They’re just as vulnerable to cultist chants and it’s easy enough to just build more turrets or skeleton portals.
• On a side note, you can get a bit cheeky with your turrets. Since you can build them anywhere, there’s nothing stopping you from building them on an enemy’s undefended flank.
• Skeleton portals can do double duty – the skeletons can obviously be used to attack but if you guide the enemy into them, they definitely double as defenders. Sometimes they can be even more effective because they aren’t affected by the cultist’s chant.
That’s it! I’m probably missing absolutely loads but that’s okay – it wouldn’t be any fun if I didn’t leave anything for you to find yourself. I’ll close by saying if you are a total beginner, work your way through the bots. Unlike most games where difficulty is the only variant, each of these bots will use totally different strategies against you, so you can learn by watching them.
Good luck and have fun!
You can buy the game here.