What comes to mind when I say hearthstone? Do you picture a fireplace, or are you teleported (see what I did there) to the lands of Azeroth? I got the chance to talk (yes, actual phonecalls talking!) to some of the guys at Blizzard about a new digital card game called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Now before you run for the hills to avoid me discussing complex card interactions or tricks, hear me out.
Hearthstone is extremely easy to start playing. According to Ben Brode (Game Designer) and Hamilton Chu (Vice President of Strategic Initiatives), the game has been made to be “super approachable”. One game generally will take 10 minutes of your time, making it perfect for when you are waiting for your Mrs to get ready to leave the house.
Now you might be familiar with the already existing Warcraft TCG, and wondering why they are making another TCG? They aren’t. Hearthstone is a collectible card game (CCG), with the focus being more on collecting cool cards instead of delving into a volatile digital market. Because the cards aren’t a trade-able commodity, Hearthstone is not as stingy as other card games. By playing the game and winning, you earn packs of cards. This means you can play Hearthstone for $0! This appeals to my hoarding nature, meaning I can earn more cards just by doing something I enjoy: playing games. This also means I will have a card game to play with friends that doesn’t involve them laying out a large amount of money or feeling like they need to go to university to learn how to play the game.
If there are cards you really don’t like, you can disenchant them for some arcane dust. You can then use this dust to craft the cards you do want! Yeah, I can’t get over how cool this feature sounds to me. That reminds me of my Tauren Warrior Armoursmith. Those were the days. Wait, this is all just to get me back into WoW, isn’t it?!
Being completely digital also means you can focus more on having fun, because the game will manage rules for you, giving you time to enjoy charming environs and spell effects on the battlefield. Or you could play with that catapult in the corner. Sure it does no damage, but it’s fun. Arcane missiles arc across the battlefield, totems get dropped on the playing field, an entire myriad of sounds, sights and voices that are familiar from WarCraft and WoW are here. Hell, even the class you choose to play as has a few lines of smack talk for the battlefield. Ben mentioned that Lord Jaraxxus will grief you if you try to do something wrong, instead of reminding you of what you should be doing.
There are already three game modes in Hearthstone: Unranked play, where you can practise, fiddle with your deck and just have some harmless fun. Ranked mode, where you are ranked every week, your wins and losses affecting your medal and your rank. Now you can prove how much better you are at games than your friends. The third mode, the Forge, is what I think will be somewhere I spend a lot of time. You build a deck from a random pool of cards and do battle against someone who has just done the same. Winning means earning new cards, leading you towards even bigger rewards. However, the higher you get, the worse it will feel when you lose, along with leaving that specific round in the Forge.
This is a game you can play as much as you want. Of course you can buy packs of cards if you feel the need. However the current beta has a few players who have spent no money on the game so far, and they are not only doing well in competitive play, but they are having a lot of fun at the same time. This really is starting to sound like drugs to me.
There are currently over 300 cards in Hearthstone, with basic and expert sets of cards. Hamilton pointed out that basic cards can be earned in practise games, while the expert cards are from killing others in glorious battle! No wait, I said that. Silly bloodlust is getting to me.
Thanks to the design team being pretty small (Team 5 only has 15 members), they are pretty keen on trying new things based on what the community wants. Will the game evolve an eSports angle? Do players prefer tourneys or single player?
Personally, I am really excited about this, and I can see myself spending way too much time playing another card game. Maybe I can learn how to clone myself, that will help. Oh, it will be heading towards tablets too, so expect to spend even less time sleeping; and more time playing games in bed in the dark.
Last Updated: April 10, 2013