Introduction to Hearthstone

Since the debut of the Hearthstone beta this January, this new addicting collectible card game has been gathering significant attention in the gaming community. With incredible graphics, sound effects, and enjoyable gameplay, it’s no wonder that this game has become so popular in the past few months. Since this March, Hearthstone has officially been released by Blizzard Entertainment and is currently offered free of charge through the company’s Battle.net.

The gameplay features 1v1 battles in various modes. For each game, players can choose to assume the role of nine heroes including: Mage, Priest, Hunter, Warrior, Warlock, Rogue, Paladin, Shaman and Druid. Each hero has a special power that can and a specific set of cards that are used during the gameplay. After choosing the hero, the players build a deck of 30 cards, which they draw one by one at the start of each turn in a random fashion.

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Half of the battle in Hearthstone is fought even before any cards are drawn. Building a strong deck is the first challenge presented to players. There are three types of cards: minions, spells and weapons. Each card has  the mana needed to play it labelled on the top left hand corner. In addition, a minion card also shows its attack and health. Weapons are equipped by the heroes and can be used at any point in the game. Spells have a wide variety of functions such as dealing damage, secrets that are only triggered when the opponent commits a certain action, such as drawing more cards, adding health or attach to friendly minions and many more. Some minions have special abilities that make this game more complex. A strong deck includes cards whose special abilities can be played synergistically to achieve a magnified effect. For instance, if a minion has an attack equal to its health, playing a card that doubles the health of the minion would also double the minion’s attack, making it incredibly strong.

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At the beginning of each game, the player gets to hold a certain amount of cards in their hand. The player that goes second gets to hold an extra card as well as a coin that can be used anytime in the game to gain an extra mana. The initial hand is drawn randomly, however, the players get a chance to discard or keep each card as they wish. The discarded cards are then returned to the deck and new cards are drawn at random. Once the starting hand is chosen, the battle officially begins. During each turn, players gain an extra card and can take any action that is allowed by the amount of mana crystals. Starting from turn one with only one mana crystal, players gain an extra mana crystal each turn. The players not only must calculate their actions based on what they can do with the allowed amount of mana in this turn, they also have to take into consideration the amount of mana they have for future turns. Each player’s hero begins the game with 30 health. The first player who successfully reduces the other player’s hero to 0 health wins the game.

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The game involves a significant amount of strategy. The idea is to use the least resources to deal the most amount of damage to the opponent. If a player kills an enemy minion with a weaker minion, then they have made a good trade. There are also area of effect spells that can deal damage to multiple enemies at once, a great move if you happen to find enemy minions lined up across the board. During a turn, there usually are many possible combinations of actions that can be played. The expert players are the ones who can find the best combo out of all the existing ones.

But it’s not all strategy; the random draws in the game introduce a component of luck. A player can have the best deck and most strategic moves, but if they draw badly then it becomes significantly more difficult to win. Hence, the best players are not the ones who are invincible, but are the ones with the highest win/loss ratio.

To add to the fun, the game can be played in three different modes: play, practice and arena. In the ‘practice’ mode, players can hone their skills without having to face a real opponent. The practice mode also offers basic and expert bots depending on the level of difficulty desired. The ‘play’ mode is further divided into casual and ranked modes. In the ranked mode, players are matched against components at the same level, but each win and loss is recorded. As players win more games, they rise in the rankings. In the casual mode, their wins and losses will not be recorded, however players can face opponents from any level. For both the practice and the play modes, players can build their own desired decks from their collection of cards. Besides the basics, cards are largely obtained from expert packs that can either be bought with in-game gold coins or real money. Since the game beta release, there have been rumours of players who spent thousands of dollars on expert packs. Perhaps this is the reason why Blizzard can still offer the game to players for free. Yet, no matter how good a player’s collection of cards are, the playing field is levelled out in the ‘arena’, where the deck of card is drawn at random regardless of what’s in the player’s collection. In the ‘arena’ mode, players get to choose their deck one by one from a list of three cards. Since all existing cards in Hearthstone can be drawn, the arena mode gives players a great way to get acquainted with cards that are not in the player’s collection.

 

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But what I have described so far seems pretty standard to a collectible card game. What makes Hearthstone stand out is its incredible graphics, awesome sounds effects, and other extra stuff that makes it more than just the usual card game. First off, each card has amazing graphics that makes it a piece of art. In fact, right-clicking each card in the collection reveals the name of the artist who drew the graphics along with a quote, which is related to the name of the card and generally worth a read. There are many allusions to legends in the Warcraft world. One particular example is the card Leeroy Jenkins, named after the legendary WOW player. As each minion is played, there is an accompanying sound effect from the other games of Warcraft. Though the game does not allow players to chat with each other directly, there is an option to communicate through emotes. The emotes convey simple messages such as greetings, thank you’s and threats. There is also an option reserved for “squelching” the most annoying opponents. Sometimes players find themselves waiting a long time for the opponent to finish their turn. No worries, since each corner of the game board has a small “scene” that players can interact with to pass the time.

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Lastly, Hearthstone is a very easy game to learn, and this has attributed to its success among both old and new gamers. Even the most elementary gamers who have never touched collectible card games before will be able to pick it up in a few hours. The game features an awesome tutorial that goes over all the basics, and there aren’t many rules to remember.

Altogether, Hearthstone is enjoyable, easy to pick up, and above all it’s free. So now that the summer is out, what are you waiting for?

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