HearthStone: Heroes of Warcraft Is a Fun & Free Beta Romp

Screenshot from game-play. image taken by: Tim Post
Screenshot from game-play. image taken by: Tim Post


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…

Which area do you want to play in? Screenshot of game play: Tim Post
Which area do you want to play in? Screenshot of game play: Tim Post

-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.

-Other Stuff-

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.

What is your quest? How many games have you won? What level are you with the different classes? You can see all of this information on the Quest Log screen. Screenshot of game play: Tim Post

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).

-Game Play-

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.

Does Legislation Guarantee our Children Online Safety?

SB242 is currently making its way through the California legislature and according to SFGate.com:

“Under the proposal, social networking sites would have to allow users to establish their privacy settings–like who could view their profile and what information would be public to everyone on the Internet–when they register to join the site, instead of after they join. Sites would also have to set defaults to private so that users would choose which information is public.”

For those of us who are long-time Facebook users…that might sound vaguely like a return to the terms of use we initially agreed to when we created our accounts, before Mark Zuckerberg redefined privacy. I, for one, would prefer greater control over my personal information than I currently have using Facebook. At the moment, it feels as if I am buying my monthly social-networking access by giving away small pieces of my self in the form of soul-shaped personal anecdotes, childhood photos, and “likes.”  As time goes on, I am wondering if this degree of access into my personal landscape is equitable or advisable…

According to NBC Bay Area, there is a second component to this bill that has even further-reaching implications, in that it would essentially give parents editorial power over their children’s Facebook accounts:

The bill’s language also states that social-networking sites would have to comply with parental requests to remove information or photos from their children’s pages or accounts. The new bill “would require removal of that information regarding a user under 18 years of age upon request by the user’s parent, within 48 hours upon his or her request.”

Ironically, I had a problem with that portion of the legislation. It took me a little while to suss out exactly why I felt it was misguided, though. Sure:

  • It puts the greatest responsibility for a child’s online safety with the entity least-invested in the interests of the child: that is, the social networking site; and
  • It creates a false sense of online safety in which parents may feel that they don’t have to discuss the sometimes scary or uncomfortable pitfalls of social media (and can opt to simply protect their children) because they are “in control” of their child’s accounts; and
  • It has nothing to do with lowering gas prices, controlling health care costs, or creating jobs–which, as far as I’m concerned, are the only things elected officials should be working on right now–all of them (I don’t care WHAT committee they sit on…)

But those points weren’t my issue.

The big question I came away with after reading through this legislation is: In the world where this bill passes, what happens on the day after a child’s 18th birthday? Will he automatically emerge into adulthood hard-wired with the skills necessary to negotiate the online world safely and effectively? How?

In a possibly-related news story, a recent Pew Research Center survey found that:

“A majority of college presidents (58%) say public high school students arrive at college less well prepared than their counterparts of a decade ago; just 6% say they are better prepared.”

What (I immediately wondered) has changed in the last decade? Is it possible that in the wake of the financial crisis and the World Trade Center attacks we have responded culturally to a justifiable feeling of physical and economic vulnerability by becoming more protective of our children? If so, is the resultant protective response actually serving us or our children well?

Do not believe for a second that I am instead advocating to allow children unfettered, unguided access to social networking sites–the news is too full of tales of social media use gone awry. Children need to be taught appropriate online behavior just as they need to be taught the etiquette of “please” and “thank you.” The people best equipped to accomplish this, though, are their parents, teachers, librarians and all of the other trusted adults personally-invested in their well-being–not someone trying to sell them something.

I realized as I thought on this that I subscribe to the type of solution that Dr. John Duffy proposes in his new book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens. Like Dr. Duffy, I believe that my primary job as parent is to provide a safe environment for my child to learn, explore and make mistakes.

In the chapter entitled “What Never Works,” Duffy had some logical suggestions regarding social networking and teen development:

[Regarding] updates on social networking sites like Facebook…there is an element of public domain here. Inappropriate or overly revealing messages can absolutely present a safety issue, especially for younger children…Trust your instincts to know when your child is ready, and keep an eye on your child’s Facebook page. For the first couple of years, you should share her password so that you have access anytime.

The challenge, of course, is to be involved in your child’s online life while simultaneously keeping the following in mind:

If we choose to rescue our teen from every potential pitfall, we unwittingly disrupt her process and take some critical opportunities away from her. First, we take away any opportunity for learning from the experience. We also take away the satisfaction and pride that come with a problem well-solved. While we’re at it, we take away her ability to prove her competence, both to herself and to you, the parent. In doing so, we give her the false impression that we will always be there to pick her up when she falls. We create a wholly unnecessary dependency. Now, this may provide us as parents with a role to play, parent-as-hero, but it robs your child of the opportunity to ever feel like a hero herself.

What Dr. Duffy seems to be saying is that the best strategies to guiding children into the online world involve “scaffolded support” where the child is only helped in the areas where he cannot flourish independently; as the child gains proficiency, adult support is “faded out.”

When I think about it, I can see the allure of SB242–it sounds so simple and definitive in comparison.


(I received a copy of The Available Parent for review purposes.)