Discover more from Nat's Crypto Newsletter
Crypto Unicorns: How to Play & Crypto Analysis
Farming, Crafting, Gathering, Breeding... and even Pooping
Building a good game is exceptionally hard.
It takes years of work, often millions of dollars, and at the end has no guarantee of success. Even the games that do become hits often lose their popularity after a couple years.
Think about how few games have stayed popular for a decade. World of Warcraft, Runescape, FIFA, it’s a short list. If every video game that launched had a dedicated governance token with a five-year unlock schedule, 99% of those tokens would be completely worthless by the time they were done releasing.
So one of my strong theses with Crypto Gaming has been that the games which will succeed will be the ones where a base set of IP and crypto assets can be used in a variety of games. Instead of trying to manufacture a hit on the first try, create a strong set of NFTs and tokens and then use them in a collection of games so you get more attempts to build a hit using those assets.
Crypto Unicorns is a newly launched game taking exactly this strategy. They have two sets of NFTs: Unicorns and Land, with which they’re building a variety of games over the next year. And they have two fungible tokens to go with them: RBW (Crypto Unicorns Rainbow) the fixed-supply governance token, and UNIM (Unicorn Milk) the infinite-supply in-game currency.
Their roadmap is aggressive. The first game, an economic management sim, is already live and I’ve really been enjoying it the last couple weeks. And in the coming months they intend to launch more games like Jousting, Racing, and even a Unicorn 5v5 Action RPG.
Crypto Unicorns is already doing a lot of things right that I think the crypto gaming space desperately needs. But they also have a couple question marks I’m still unsure about. I’m particularly concerned / curious about their RBW token. So this was a particularly fun deep dive and should give you a lot to think about whether you intend to play the game or not.
I’m going to cover:
The Current Game
The Future Games
The Economic Loops
How to Start Playing
My Current Strategy
The Current Crypto Unicorns Game
The first game mode you can play right now is an economic simulator focused on a few core game loops:
Buying and selling resources
Each of the game loops relies on the others, so it’s hard to completely specialize in just one. Breeding requires farming berries as well as gathering UNIM. Crafting requires berries, UNIM, and other materials. Buying and selling requires creating things to sell, or finding things to sell on gathering missions.
The end state of the loops is either earning RBW / UNIM which you can sell for other crypto assets, or breeding more unicorns which you could sell on an NFT marketplace. So there are already multiple ways you can Play & Earn.
Part of the metagame on top of these loops is your land and unicorn management. Every loop requires land with buildings on it to complete the different activities. Every loop also requires a unicorn with energy to complete the task, except for farming. Unicorns only earn 1 energy every 24 hours, so even though some loops like crafting planks look like you could do them very often, you’re pretty heavily handicapped by the energy requirement.
You can also spend 10 berries to replenish a Unicorn’s energy before the 24 hours are up, but you have to do the math on whether that’s ROI positive or not. An activity like crafting planks is ROI negative right now, whereas sending your unicorn off in the gathering cart might be worth the 10 berries.
The last important piece of the unicorn management puzzle is that each unicorn has a class, and each land has a class. If you put a unicorn to work on a piece of land that its class matches, it will get some bonus. For Gathering, it will get more and better materials. For farming, more berries. For crafting, it’ll double the output. So matching your unicorn to the land is pretty important.
Most of the gameplay right now is based on finding the highest ROI activity for your unicorns, and setting lots of timers to remind yourself of when they’re done farming, gathering, breeding, and traveling to the market. If you’ve ever played Sim City Mobile or an Idle Miner game, it feels similar to that. You check in on it every few hours and do a few things, then wait for the timers to be done. And you can always spend money to speed things up.
The difference of course is that there’s actual crypto money involved here, so there’s a little extra pressure to figure out the most valuable things to do. Some parts of the market are also slightly inefficient since the game had some pre-seeded marketplace liquidity, so while farming is highly profitable for now, that will have to go away soon.
As an economic sim game though, it’s quite fun! It feels similar to mobile econ sim games while also bringing in the crypto breeding elements. And while the loops are somewhat similar to Sunflower Land, it’s more robust and offers much more active gameplay. The potential earnings are also higher, although still quite a bit lower than STEPN.
To give you a sense of the earnings, you could have 9 plots of land with 5-6 farms each, for a total of 50 farms. On those 50 farms you could plant 50 seeds every ~8 hours, and get an average of ~6 berries from each of them (300 total) assuming you upgraded your farms a few times.
50 seeds costs ~100 RBW and you can sell 100 berries for ~40 RBW. So you spend 100 RBW to make 120 RBW in 8 hours. 1 RBW is about $0.70 right now, so you make $14 every 8 hours, or $52 a day from farming.
Breeding is more profitable, and you can do it at the same time as farming. Your first round of breeding costs ~30 RBW (between RBW and Berries) + 600 UNIM, so about $57. The baby unicorn you hatch from it is selling for ~$500 right now, so that’s an insanely good ROI. Though it is pretty tempting to keep all your babies to put them to work on the farms and later evolve them into adults.
Also given that huge ROI, we have to assume the costs of unicorns is going to come down dramatically in the next few months (or the tokens will appreciate significantly) so take that into consideration when buying into the game. Though the breeding cost does increase dramatically with successive breedings, following the chart below. So you can see a second round of breeding would cost the 30 RBW and 1400 UNIM, so $105. Then the next one is $201, and so on.
Given the current costs, it seems like if Unicorns are currently around 1 ETH they should drop to at least 0.5 if not lower, unless people diamond hand them and use them to accelerate their farming gameplay. To be honest that’s probably what I’m gonna do. It is very satisfying to be able to farm more.
The Future Games
The current economic sim is just the start and lays the foundation for all the other games. You’ll need unicorns for the different game modes launching in the future, and I presume you’ll need some of the other resources as well.
Jousting is the first game they’re planning on launching, which from the looks of it will be a mostly RNG based competition between unicorns influenced by their stats. Each unicorn has various stats which you can influence during the breeding and evolution process, so if there are good prized for winning Jousting tournaments you can imagine there being some value to having particularly high-stat unicorns.
The next game their planning on releasing will be racing. It’s not clear if this will be an automated horse race like ZED RUN, or more of a controlled race like Mario Kart. I assume automated, since they’re planning on releasing it this year, but maybe there will be some control elements as well.
Once again, the Unicorn stats come into play for who wins the race, so there could be some selective breeding for the best racing stats.
Finally they’re planning on releasing a Battle Game which sounds a lot like an Action RPG or MOBA like League of Legends.
The details are the most sparse on this one, but it looks like you’ll have a full range of 5v5 classes like you would expect from other MOBAs. And I honestly love the idea of breeding a competitive MOBA Unicorn team, it’s ridiculous and awesome.
They haven’t announced any others, but I have to assume that with three games planned there will be others they experiment with as well.
I alluded to this in the intro but this is one of the things that sets Crypto Unicorns apart from other games in my mind. Your assets will be usable in a variety of game modes, so if you just want to farm and do automated jousting, you can do that. If you want to buy a team to win Battle Games, you can do that too.
They get to experiment with building many different crypto games, and you don’t have to love a specific type of game to want to invest in and join the ecosystem.
Let’s talk a bit more about how you can make money playing the game right now though.
The Current Economic Loops
I typically only cover games that have a live Play & Earn component to them, so let’s go through some of the economic loops that exist in Crypto Unicorns right now, their strengths and weaknesses, and different ways you could play them.
The main economic loops are:
Farming is special since it’s the only one you can do without a unicorn. A farm is one of the buildings you can construct on your land, and you can have up to 8 farms on one piece of land.
As you level your farms up, they get bonuses to their Berry Output and Farming Speed. The default time for farming is about 7.5 hours, but depending on your adjacency bonuses and farming speed bonuses you could reduce that by as much as 30%.
You need a Seed to plant, and then when the farming is complete you can harvest however many berries your farm produces. You can see on this one I’ll get 6-8 berries. So as long as berries are selling for more than ⅙ the price of a seed, it’s worth using a seed on this farm.
You can also enhance your farming yield by assigning a unicorn to it. The unicorn bonus is only 3-10 berries, and it does cost an energy, so it’s never worth doing unless you’re using a baby unicorn since this is really the only thing baby unicorns can do:
So the farming loop is quite simple:
What’s the price of berries and seeds
Does this farm produce berries at a ROI positive ratio
Sweet let’s start farming then
The simplest economic loop that requires a Unicorn is gathering. This happens in the Gathering Cart, where you send a Unicorn off on an up to 24 hour adventure to hopefully find you some good loot.
If you match the Unicorn you send to the Land the Cart is on, you get a bonus to your gathering rewards. If you also give them 10 berries that matches their class, you get the BEST rewards. It’s not 100% clear what those differences mean, but it does seem to be worth always trying to go for the “best” rewards.
The rewards are also determined by the level of your cart, similar to the farming bonuses from leveling your farms. Most Gathering quests bring back a large amount of UNIM (I’ve gotten anywhere from 50 to 700), as well as some seeds, crafting materials, and even boosters.
This is currently the only way to get UNIM in the game, so if you don’t want to buy any on the open market you’ll have to do some amount of gathering to pay for breeding and crafting.
Next we have crafting, which is how you create the rarer materials needed for leveling up your buildings, and perhaps for some other uses in the future.
Crafting is kind of a strange beast right now because it’s not really worth doing. For example the simplest thing you can craft, Raw Wood Plank, takes 1 unicorn energy and 25 minutes.
But you can buy Raw Wood Planks from the marketplace for about 0.14 RBW per piece. Since we have to value 1 Unicorn Energy as 10 berries, and 10 berries costs about 40 RBW, you’re spending 4 RBW to make 0.14 RBW. Not good!
What about the harder recipes? Let’s look at these two, Pollen Powder and Sugar Sprinkles:
Pollen Powder costs 10 berries (1 energy) + 3 berries + 15 UNIM + 6 Milled Wood Planks. If we convert those costs to RBW, they’re 4 + 1.2 + 1.5 + 8.6 = 15.3. And you can buy 10 Pollen Powders for 101 RBW. So it seems like this is ROI negative, but if you assign a unicorn who matches the land to do the crafting, you get double the output, so you’re actually getting 1 Pollen Powder for 7.65 RBW which you can sell for 10 RBW. That’s pretty good!
The math on Sugar Sprinkles is about the same, but you can only sell them for 9 RBW. Still a good ROI though. So Crafting does have some ROI positive activities right now, you just have to get to the higher level crafting stations to access them.
The final thing you can do on your land is breed your unicorns. This takes 24 hours, two unicorns, and 1 energy from each unicorn, plus the breeding costs. So it’s fairly expensive, but given the current prices of RBW, UNIM, and what the unicorns are selling for on OpenSea, it’s still insanely profitable.
There’s less to say on this one since the math is basically:
Is it ROI positive based on how many breedings you’ve done?
Sweet, make a baby
If not, go back to farming & gathering
The one thing worth mentioning is that there are three “secret” classes: Star, Rainbow, and OmNom, which weren’t available at launch but you can create through breeding. These special classes are cool since they can get the matching land bonuses from both of the lands their parents match with, so they’re a little more versatile than normal unicorns. Plus they’re just so darn cute.
The last part of the economic cycle that’s worth highlighting is the marketplace. You can buy anything on the marketplace instantly for RBW, but if you want to sell anything, you have to “send” a unicorn to the market to sell that one item.
A sale takes 8 hours and 1 unicorn energy, so selling is expensive and slow. You have to bake that extra cost into any ROI calculations, since you can’t immediately sell stuff as you get it. And it means you want to consolidate your efforts a little bit, since you have minimum quantities you can sell the different assets in. I’m not sure how I feel about this added friction to the market, but it does make things more interesting.
Crypto Unicorn Tokenomics
Crypto Unicorns is using a two token model:
RBW is the fixed supply governance token
UNIM is the variable supply in-game token
There are quite a few caveats though, and their model is a little confusing. Let’s go through them individually then talk about the overarching structure.
RBW: Crypto Unicorns Rainbow Token
Their fixed supply governance token is called RBW. It has a total supply of 1,000,000,000, with a circulating supply of only 6% of that. If you’ve read my Tokenomics article on Supply, that might send off a few little alarm bells.
But what should really alarm you is the 24 hour trading volume. How the hell is there only $47,604 in volume? I almost feel like the tracking must be broken or something, and it turns out it is broken. If we go look at Balancer where most of their liquidity is, you can see the actual volume is about $8m. Phew.
We do still have to worry about the coming 1,667% inflation though, and given that inflation you probably don’t want to hold this token. Just earn, spend, and trade. Though I said the same thing about STEPN’s “GMT” token a month ago and it went up 3x within two weeks of my article so what do I know.
How quickly is all of that inflation going to happen? Well they actually give you a handy chart for it:
This should probably concern you a little bit as an RBW holder. At launch, 5% of tokens were in circulation, and by squinting at the chart it looks like around 20% of tokens will be in circulation after 1 year.
So the supply is going to 4x in one year, which means the value of the game has to 4x for it to sustain the current token price. So while staking RBW on their site seems like a great deal because you’re getting up to a 170% APR, you would really need a 400% APR just to make up for how much you’re getting diluted:
So I definitely won’t be staking or holding it. But what good is the RBW token then? You get governance, but I don’t think people are going to hold thousands of dollars of rapidly inflating tokens to vote on aspects of a game. Especially since a game can’t really give token holders true governance or it will die. Governance is mostly a meme to avoid calling tokens securities.
The one thing you can use RBW for that’s a legitimately good use is for certain in-game activities. Specifically breeding new unicorn babies, evolving babies into adults, and buying materials in the marketplace. So you do need some for these activities, but not a ton.
One topic I touched on in my “Crypto Gaming is Broken” article is how if a game is going to have a fixed supply token, that token should be burnable for certain in-game activities in order to give those activities long term value. E.g. if the tokens that are spent on breeding and evolving get burned, then the supply trends down over time and unicorns get more and more valuable as the game gets more valuable, even though there isn’t a cap on breeding.
While Crypto Unicorns is charging RBW for breeding and evolving, they’ve said they’re going to recirculate this RBW into the market:
So while it’s a fixed supply token, they’re going to be constantly re-selling it into the market as people use it in the game. So not only do you have to deal with 200-400% inflation per year, you also have to deal with the treasury dumping spent tokens. So it’s kinda like an infinite supply token, especially since there’s almost no reason to hold the token long term. They’re not accruing any value to it since they don’t burn it, it’s inflating at a very high rate which staking doesn’t make up for, and it doesn’t provide any cash flows or other value.
I could be missing something, but it seems like the RBW token needs to be reworked for it to have value over time. Unless you’re one of the investors who starts unlocking in a year, then this model is great for you.
Anyway, on to UNIM!
Crypto Unicorn Milk (yum?)
UNIM is the variable supply token that is used more commonly in the game. You need it for breeding, evolving, and for crafting the more advanced recipes.
Unlike RBW, the UNIM that’s spent in the game gets burned, but it’s an infinite supply token they can mint more of anytime so burning doesn’t really mean anything in this context.
There’s not much reason to hold UNIM either. You can buy it if you need it, or just earn it and use it, but since the price will probably be quite variable it’s not necessarily something you want to sit on. I’m actually cashing mine out and adding it to the USDC pool on Uniswap to earn some trading fees from it.
What I’d Change
I really don’t love the RBW token right now. There are very good reasons not to hold it, and not many good reasons to hold it. I think they could improve that if they added some burns for it into the game, or found a way to slow down the inflation rate, but right now the risk / reward is just too high.
If it were me, I’d make all the breeding and evolving burn the token so it can’t recirculate. And I’d add some high-level building upgrades that burn the token as well so the best land upgrades get rarer over time. Then people would have a reason to buy the tokens and spend them as early as possible.
But maybe I’m missing something, I’m open to any disagreement on Twitter.
How to Start Playing
The absolute bare minimum you need to play is one piece of land. But then all you can do is farm, and you can’t even sell the berries you’re farming, so you really do need a unicorn as well. And this is where we get into some of the cost concerns.
The cheapest pieces of land cost 0.1 ETH:
And the cheapest unicorns (that you can actually buy, some are bugged) cost 0.4 ETH:
Granted, those ones have already had their ROI positive breedings used up. If you want one with all 8 breeding points, you’re looking around a 1 ETH minimum:
Since you might want at least a couple unicorns for breeding, and you might want a couple pieces of land for farming, you get into the 2-3 ETH cost range pretty quickly to start playing. If you wanna go crazy and get a full set of 9 pieces of land and 6-8 unicorns to keep the land busy, you’re easily getting past 10 ETH. It’s a very expensive game to start playing right now.
Like I mentioned before though, these prices will have to come down. The Unicorn supply has already almost doubled in the last two weeks, and with how high the breeding ROI is, I don’t see any reason that expansion in supply would slow down. If you wait a few weeks the floor will probably drop another 25-50% and you can get in for much cheaper.
You will miss out on some of the lucrative farming opportunities that are currently in the game, but the ETH savings would probably make up for it. The game also doesn’t really reward time that much right now, since you can just pay to upgrade your land buildings as fast as you want. The only thing you’d be missing out on by waiting for a lower entry price is the current ROI on breeding.
But once you have some amount of unicorns and land, you can visit the game site and place your land. This has some important strategic considerations, since matching land gets a speed boost to all activities, earning a 5% boost for each piece of matching adjacent land.
Then with the land placed, you can start building on it. There are five types of buildings:
Farms for farming
Carts for gathering
Workshops for crafting
Nurseries for breeding
Stables for increasing how many unicorns you can have working
Since farms are your main economic tool to start, and you might not need to do some of the other things right away, you could start with just farms and a gathering cart. Then add one or two of the other buildings as you need them. If you have multiple lands you can spread things out too, e.g. I have my Stables on one of my pieces of land with the least speed bonus, since the Stables don’t have anything that needs to be sped up.
From there, you just start running the different economic loops from above! And the main thing you’d push profits into is upgrading your buildings so you can get better rewards from them. Or, you could keep cashing out your RBW as you go, it’s up to you how much you want to keep or reinvest.
My Current Strategy
If you’d like to know my current strategy for investing in and playing the game, you can read that in the paid subscriber addendum to this post.
I like almost everything about Crypto Unicorns. The one big question mark for me is how they’re going to make the RBW token valuable over time. I do think some changes could happen there to make it a more attractive investment.
It’s also worth highlighting what I’ve mentioned a few times: unicorn costs will have to come down. They don’t have strong limits on breeding, and since it’s ROI positive right now to breed 3-4 times, we could see the supply 10x quite quickly. Do not buy a unicorn thinking it will go up in value. These are gameplay assets, not buy and hold assets, and they will certainly get less valuable over time as the market gets flooded from breeding.
What I love about Crypto Unicorns is the depth of the economic sim. Is it still fairly simple? Yes, but it’s farm above the economic complexity of many other crypto games we have right now. Adn it’s fun! I love games I can spreadsheet out to find the highest ROI activity, and CU is perfect for that.
So I’m going to keep farming, breeding, crafting, and building my little unicorn empire. The next big question will be how fun can they make the other games they’re releasing to go along with it. For that we’ll have to wait and see.