There is a new online trading card game in town. HearthStone, by Blizzard Entertainment, is now in beta-testing and promises civil game play along with some of our favorite World of Warcraft classes.
I swore I would never sip the Blizzard Kool-Aid again. World of Warcraft left a bitter taste in my mouth when my husband and I were ganked off the scene almost eight years ago. We played with a circle of friends who turned out to be not very good friends-in-real-life. We were on PVP servers that they picked which seemed to be filled to the brim with players, like themselves, who found it to be more fun to kill low level characters and then camp over their corpses and wait for them to return only to immediately be killed again before being able to compose themselves. The kicker would always be the taunting and general bully attitude.
Never say never. Enter HearthStone. It’s a trading card game (TCG) that is online and free-to-play. Like so many apps and recent games, there is purchasable in-game content. So far, it doesn’t seem to be necessary to enjoy and progress in the game. The game is currently in open beta—it’s still in development, but it’s open to anyone who wants to try it.
Here is what I have seen so far…
-Types of Game Play-
Practice: Practice mode allows you to go up against the computer to gain experience and class specific cards as you figure out how the class abilities, mana, and other game properties work.
Regular Play: This comes in two forms: casual and ranked. Play mode places you against another player of similar skill. You gain experience and cards like in practice mode, but you are against a real person instead of the machine. Ranked mode is similar except that it gives you a ranking from 25 to 1 (being best). Each win earns you stars towards the next rank, while each loss (once you get past a certain rank) loses a star. Beyond that, I haven’t played enough to see if getting higher rankings earns you anything special, though apparently there are rankings ladder “seasons” to see who can climb to the top.
Arena: Arena is an area where you draft cards to build your deck and then go up against other people of similar ability. In the arena area, you start by paying 150 gold (we will get to ways to earn gold in a bit, and the first time you play in the arena it’s free) for an entrance fee. Then you draft your cards, and are paired with an equal-ish opponent. If you win, your treasure is increased. If you lose, you go on to the next battle until you have lost three times. After your third loss, you earn prizes (at the least a “pack” of cards). If you win any games while in the arena, you also win more cards in addition to the pack.
No bullying!!!!: Remember why my husband and I stopped playing WOW? This game has solved that problem. My absolute favorite part of playing this so far is the chatting: Unless you are friends with the person you are playing, you can’t talk to them. Instead, by right clicking on your character, you are given several generic statements that your character can say. These include: Thank you, well played, oops, sorry, greetings, and threaten. If what you want to say doesn’t fall under those, too bad. If you don’t want to hear the other player’s emotes, you can right click on them to squelch any communication, and just play the game.
Make your deck: When you view your collection of cards, you can look at each class individually to build custom decks. Each deck must contain exactly 30 cards. You get a basic set of neutral cards that work for every class, as well as some class-specific cards. Beyond the basic cards, you can buy or win “Expert” packs and cards, which come in common, uncommon, rare, and legendary.
Classes: The classes are straight out of World of Warcraft and will be familiar to anyone who has experience with the MMORPG. My favorites to play so far have been the Paladin and the Druid. There are nine classes total.
Abilities: Each class has a special ability in game that takes 2 mana but does not require a card. The ability in combination with class specific cards make playing the different classes quite a bit of fun.
Real money in game and quests: You can buy cards with real money in the game. But you don’t have to. If you complete quests, or win three games with a class in a mode other than practice, you win gold. The gold can be used to buy a pack of cards (100g) or get into arena battles (150g).
In similar fashion to Magic: the Gathering (which can be played with physical cards and online, but the online premise is the same), you build up a type of energy in order to play your cards. Each turn you gain one mana (up to ten total) and draw a card. You pay the mana required on the card to play it and the card does stuff—either casting a spell, summoning a minion, or equipping an item. You can either fight the other player’s minions or attack the other player. If you get the other player from thirty health down to zero, you win. There is a bit of skill involved once you start earning better cards, but it is not difficult to learn the basics.
If you are like me, and thought Blizzard could never get back into your good graces, HearthStone has done just that with civil play of a game that is sure to catch on in all age groups. If you haven’t played any Blizzard Entertainment games before, it is worth the time to set up a login to download and play HearthStone.