Given my love of Magic: The Gathering, I was surprised I didn’t happen upon Hearthstone sooner. The Free to Play World of Warcraft card game seems to be an exact replica of Magic, but at the same time adds its own uniqueness to the formula. With its recent release on the iPad, I decided to give the game a go, firstly for the amount podcasts have been talking about it, and secondly as its free and I needed an excuse to use my iPad.
The game starts out by slowly introducing you to the games mechanics via some tutorial matches which will make you actively partake in the game before setting off and versing other players. Here, you’ll learn that every turn you take gives you 1 more mana than the last which you can use to summon minions or cast spells. The objective of the match is to dwindle the enemy players health down to 0 from its starting strength of 30. You can use your minions attacking power to attack the enemy player, or the individual minions the enemy summons. After a few matches, you’ll learn that you can use some cards to summon powers for your player themselves, such as weapons that allow them to attack, and after a few more fights you’ll finally learn about your own heroes ability, which always costs 2 mana and differs depending on the character you choose to play as.
The games mechanics don’t take long to learn, but its the cards themselves you’ll have to master, as building a desk here is just as important as it is in Magic. Your decks are allowed to hold 30 cards in total, with only 2 duplicates in any given deck, meaning that you can’t rely on one amazing card for the whole game. The desk builder does contain a nifty companion, that will ask you to pick from one of three cards at a time, ensuring you have a decent amount of cheap cards and expensive ones for the long game.
Cards are earned whilst you build your chosen character up to level 10, and after that its a case of buying card packs or forging individual cards using the deck builder. In the case of purchasing card packs, Blizzard have done a good job of making sure you get good value in your purchases, with an individual pack costing 100 coins (the in game currency earn by winning games or completing challenges), and other packs costing the following: 2 packs £1.99, 7 packs: £7.99, 15 packs: £13.99 and 40 packs costing £34.99. Each pack comes with 5 random cards, which, considering how much game you get for nothing up front, and how generous the cards are at the start of the game, I see a lot of people purchasing these packs in the hope of getting great cards they could use in their next deck build. The crafting mechanic I mentioned requires destroying your cards to create “dust”, which is then used to create a fresh new card. You can pick from any card that exists at the moment from within the game, which offers a fantastic amount of flexibility for a game like this, but it comes with a cost: destroying cards for dust gives half as much dust as it requires to build a card, meaning you’ll need to destroy a lot to get the cards you want.
Games play out rather predictably at the start of every match, with both players not able to do much with the tiny amount of mana they both have. Thing start to ramp up soon, with different opponents using different, unique cards to really turn your world upside down when battling one another. I’ve had infuriating games where my only hope is set on a strong minion with, just for the opposing player to steal it away thanks to their unique card I’ve never seen before. I’ll then have games where I manage to deal 27 damage in one fel swoop, meaning the other player never stood a chance. I suppose like other card games, it all comes down to the luck of the draw, and how and when you play certain cards, because not everything is left to chance.
I’m enjoying my time with Hearthstone, and its needless to say that I will continue to play the game well throughout the next few years as a nice time sink. It’s a brilliant game to play for an hour or whilst on lunch, or not doing much else, and somehow, whether you win or lose, you always feel like you’re bettering yourself as a player, which is always empowering when it comes to gaming. For a Free to Play game, you really cannot go wrong with picking Hearthstone up and giving it a chance. I give this recommendation with a warning though: you may get as addicted to the game as me with time.