Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played. For starters, it’s free (my favourite four letter f-word). Essentially it’s an electronic card game you play against the AI or human beings on the Battle.net. Your chosen hero from the World of Warcraft universe faces off against an opponent, armed with a deck you’ve created. You each have thirty health points and the first one to zero or less is the loser. The cards represent creatures and monsters called minions that fight for you on the board. There are also spells that augment your minions’ capabilities or wreak havoc against your opponent’s forces.
Each of the nine heroes has cards that only their character can use in addition to those in the Neutral category that can be used by anyone. All cards have damage (gold) and health (red) points. If you attack a hero directly then your minion doesn’t take health damage. However if you attack another minion then their damage points will affect your minion’s health points. At worst this can result in both cards eliminating each other from play. You’re only allowed to choose thirty cards per deck which may seem like a lot but play is fast-paced and you can burn through them pretty quickly, especially since you can only hold ten cards in your hand at a time The AI can help you choose but half the fun is tweaking the deck from your collection.
Cards are discarded once used but you can have multiple copies of the same card in your deck. Now you can’t just play any and everything in your hand. Each card is “powered” by Mana crystals. The number required for each card which varies what is written in the top left corner, and the card’s powers. You get one additional mana crystal every turn until ten maximum is reached. Then you have ten to play with until the game ends. So now you have to make sure that the chosen cards can be played at every turn.
The heroes also have unique powers that can only be activated by using two Mana crystals. Sometimes when you’ve run out of useful cards in hand, a hero power can save your neck. However the power can only be used once in every turn. Just like with minions, spell cards can pump up hero powers and weapons, but remember that they too cost mana crystals and you don’t want to drop the proverbial hammer at the wrong time. Your opponent won’t hesitate to blow you off the board if the opportunity presents itself, or worse yet, if you missed the chance to destroy them.
Money talks in Hearthstone, whether gold rewarded for completing quests or real-life money. You can buy decks (with no guarantee of receiving high value cards) and access new content. Now it’s entirely possible to excel in Hearthstone without spending one red cent, but it means you’ll have to play the game a lot. I’m talking hours and hours of gameplay. There are videos of pro gamers opening scores of Hearthstone card packs but they’re doing this for a living (yes, really) so you might want to think twice about spending your hard-earned dollars on cards that only exist on your computer.
Yet when you boil down the bhaji, Hearthstone is a lovely way to pass time if you’ve got it. The graphic quality is good and the only crashing I’ve ever experienced is when the game couldn’t connect to Blizzard’s servers. In all fairness that was usually because my internet connection can be dodgy at times. The soundtrack features lively music, each card has special animations and the characters on them mark their entrance with dialog and sound effects. The beautiful artwork on the cards reminds me of Magic: The Gathering, the quintessential table top game of mana, spells and fearsome creatures. (I really, really want to start playing that someday.)
As aforementioned the games are quick and you’ll want to play more to increase experience, get new cards (in the beginning) and make that gold. You get experience points even if you lose, so you’re still winning in a way. Then when you’ve had enough practice, you can venture into open competition with other players. If you’re worried about safety in the community – don’t. Player interaction is limited to specific dialogue in the heroes’ voices. It’s still possible to be a git to somebody but at least you’re not getting cursed out by some bratty kid. You also can’t add anybody to your friends list without both their name and Battle.net number. Only the competitor’s name is displayed in the game window so you can’t get added randomly to someone’s friends list either.
It’s fun, fast, you play, win, lose, tweak your deck, play again and win…or lose and go back to the drawing board. Regardless of if you play on your computer or iPhone, Hearthstone is crack for the casual gamer and I should know because I’ve been hooked for months now.
All images featured in this article are screenshots from Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment