HEARTHSTONE: Out of the Frying Pan

The basic "game board" set up.
The basic “game board” set up.

It seems that one of the more recent business models of the gaming industry Giant Blizzard is that phrase from the old musical number, “Anything you can do, I can do better.”

And this brings us to Blizzard’s “surprise” launch of: Hearthstone, which is now officially out for PC, Android, and iOS.  Hearthstone is Blizzard’s answer to, well, digital collector card games games such as Magic the Gathering: Online (2010-current) as well as a handful of other physical-to-online collectible card games (including Yugio and Pokemon).

On the whole, it plays pretty much like you’d expect.  Players buy booster packs, unlock cards, put them together in a sensible manner, and then battle each other for points, leader-board ranks, and in-game rewards.  One of the smartest things that Blizzard did, that other competitors did not, is that they simplified the game rules and mechanics to make it as streamlined as possible.

Most online and physical card games are bogged down with complex rules and effects that have been piled up over the years.  Blizzard, having learned from their ill-fated previous collection based card game, World of Warcraft:TCG, realized that the key to players having fun with their card game is to have quick matches and overall smooth play that covers not only pros, but entry level players as well. And they need to make sure everything flows together nicely and makes sense rather than be overly rules heavy.

So far Blizzard has been using a sort of “reward event” every month to get players interested in the game.  If you play and get to rank 20 (out of 25) in a single month season, then you are rewarded with that month’s “card back”, which is a fun little design that your deck will have on the back of all your cards, visible to both you and your opponents.  Getting to level 20 is rather simple and just takes a few bouts in ranked play as you don’t lose any levels for being defeated until a little bit later.

Although I am generally not one for CCGs (Collectible Card Games), mainly because they have a bad habit of ensuring that those players with USD to burn to always come out on top by being able to buy the best cards, I do have to say, Hearthstone is pretty solid.  You can buy all of your cards with the in game currency that you generate buy completing “daily quests”.  These quests can be anything from “cast a bunch of spells” or “win a few games”.

That being said, I encourage everyone to at least try their hand at Hearthstone.  It’s a unique experience that is quite delightful.   There’s also an expansion in the works to introduce more heroes and features with Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas. There’s always some interesting surprises that happen throughout each game (click around the playing boards too, there’s random little boredom killers all over the place).

As a side note: Blizzard is now releasing the first full expansion to Hearthstone: Goblins Vs Gnomes.

My one complaint is that the only “heroes” you can play as are Elves, Humans, and Orcs.  Where are my Undead, Taurens, Worgen, and Pandaren heroes?

Caution: The game is quite addictive.  Oh! and there is a mobile version of it out on the iPad (and Android at a later date) too.


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