By Kate Thompson
Last time I posted, I started talking about digital implementations of card games, and I’m going to continue that today by talking about Hearthstone. From my perspective, Hearthstone is already quite popular, so I hope you have already played it. But, if you haven’t, I hope you’ll check it out after hearing why I love it!
Hearthstone is one of my all-time favourite games. It’s slightly different than most of the other digital games I will be discussing in that there is no paper version of this game -- it’s fully digital. However, I have found it to be an extremely engaging card game, and I believe that it is a really great example of what a high-quality game app can be like.
How Does it Work?
There are a variety of play modes (described in more detail below), but the gist is that Hearthstone is a two-player card game. Each player has a deck of 30 cards and starts the game with 30 life. Each player also has a hero power that can be used once per turn. Each turn, you gain a new mana crystal, allowing you to cast more and more powerful cards. You can summon minions to attack your enemy, or cast transient spells that can affect the game in many ways.
Based on that description, you can probably tell that Hearthstone has a lot in common with many other card games. However, the thing that sets it apart is the way it takes advantage of the fully digital nature of the game. Because there is no paper version of the game, the mechanics that work can be a lot more random and/or complex than a traditional card game. For example, it becomes a lot easier to deal damage randomly. They have also created some very fun cards that summon a random minion or spell when they are cast. I have found the randomness in Hearthstone so enjoyable… and I do tend to be a bit biased against randomness in games, so hopefully, that says a lot about how they have implemented these mechanics.
What’s to Love?
First of all, if you ever played World of Warcraft for any amount of time, you will find some enjoyment in Hearthstone based solely on its link to that game. That is what drew me into it (pun intended), but that’s not what has kept me playing all these years.
You can play Hearthstone on any device or computer you like. Not only that, but when you switch devices, you card collection, decks, and other stats come with you because all of that information is tied to your account, which you log into on your various devices. This is a really important feature in a collectable game. No one wants to build their card collection over and over again.
I started playing Hearthstone before the game was available on mobile devices, and I was very impressed when I first tried out the mobile app upon its release. The user interface is very intuitive, and not too small or crowded. I frequently play on my iPhone 7, and the screen does not feel too small at all. This isn’t always true of mobile gaming experiences.
The main selling point of Hearthstone is that the game itself is great. It’s rich and diverse, with many different play modes to suit various play styles. My personal favourite modes are arena and standard ladder. In arena, you draft a deck and then play against others until you have won 12 games or lost 3. Based on your performance, you get prizes like card booster packs, in-game gold, and dust (which you can use to craft specific cards you are missing from your collection).
In ladder mode, you build a deck from the cards in your collection and then put it to the test against other players. You get matched up with someone at the same rank as you, and every time you win a game, you progress further up the ladder, improving your rank. You start at rank 25, and once you make your way all the way through rank 1, you enter the Legend category. Until the end of the month that is… the ladder resets at the beginning of each month. It’s a fun challenge to see how high up the ladder you can make it, but the nature of the matching algorithm ensures that you will always be playing against an opponent who is well matched to your skill level… So the games are not often too easy or too difficult.
Another popular play mode is Tavern Brawl. Every week or so, a new Brawl is released, and it’s always a unique an interesting challenge. Sometimes you need to craft a deck specifically to use in the Brawl, and sometimes the decks are premade. In the picture below, I was playing a Tavern Brawl where the vast majority of the cards in all decks are Unstable Portals, which add discounted random minions to your hand… Whether or not you win the match, something strange is sure to happen!
Finally, there are also solo adventures released periodically that pose unique and interesting challenges. In these games, you aren’t playing against another person. Instead, you are trying to solve a puzzle. These solo adventures can be really satisfying to solve and provide a way to play solo for those who prefer that.
I could go on and on about Hearthstone, but I think it’s best if you just go try it out. While there are ways to spend money on the game, you can play completely for free… So what have you got to lose?
If you already play Hearthstone, let me know what your favourite card is in the comments. I opened a golden Nat Pagle last night... check it out:
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