Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft Beta Impressions

First impressions: Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft is an impressively crap name.

Fantasy games with terrible titles have a long and noble history, but Blizzard’s Warcraft collectible card game boasts a particularly wonderful example. The classical NOUN COLON SOMETHING AND/OF SOMETHING structure is adhered to, but this is an almost gleefully bad noun. You have to go some to find a word they could have used that could be worse, without obviously taking the piss. I keep on checking it to see if my word-blindness has got it wrong, and it’s HEARTSTONE or something, which while terrible, at least seems to be trying a little mythology. But no, it’s hearthstone. A stone, in the hearth. I mean, I presume it’s some very important part of Blizzard’s reheating of Games Workshop’s reheating of all the people who reheated Tolkien, but just because everyone in the world has played your previous game you can’t assume that anyone in the world actually read any of the quest text.

I’m being so childish for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m bored and somewhat arsey. Secondly, if you’re a hardcore Blizzardite, you don’t give a fuck what I’m going to tell to you, as you’re already aboard and it amuses me to pretend not to know what a hearthstone is. Thirdly, and most importantly, there’s a large contingent of the RPS readership who are evidently deep in an anti-Blizzard phase, and I suspect that if I just went straight into saying what I wanted to say, you’ll have your cynic-blinkers on and assume I’ve got a Murloc tattoo on my scrotum or something. By being a shithead, I buy a patina of credibility in your jaundiced eyes.

So, when I say this is one of the most beautiful little games I’ve played this year, it may actually sink in.

This really is a beautiful little game.

Hearthstone is a digital version of a collectable card-game, in the basic structure laid out in the 90s by Magic: The Gathering. You and your opponent play a dude, or a lady-dude in a crop-top (this is because magic comes out of your bellybutton when you’re a lady, and if you cover your midriff you just burn a hole in your fancy garments). You draw “cards” from your “deck” of “cards” (The plural of “card”. We will henceforth use the layman’s term for “card”, card). You get to play cards limited on resources, with some costing more and some costing less. The cards either directly whack the opponent, summon things to whack the opponent or (er) does something else. Eventually one player or the other is whacked so hard they have to sit down and cry. The (ahem) magical element is that the deck of cards you work through is designed by the player, from the ones you have available, giving the game a fascinating level of depth. The best games of the type are both about your abilities to design a deck that interacts in nifty ways and your ability during the game to make astute tactical choices upon the cards that turn up.

(Some of you may be wondering why I’ve just described the workings of a common game type that every true gamer knows about already. Hearthstone, to a lesser or greater degree, is aimed at people who don’t already know about this stuff.)

Hearthstone is a brutally stripped down version of the deck-game type. While other card games have an economic system with a bunch of different energy types, Hearthstone goes for a single one: mana. While other games lean heavily into developing an economic output, Hearthstone keeps it to your mana reservoir increasing by one each turn. As every turn passes, each player will be able to throw larger and larger spells (or more smaller ones) from their hand. On the deckbuilding side, it chooses strict limitations – you’re allowed to access the cards of your specific class (Paladin, Warrior, the fantasy box of chocolate assortment) and the neutral cards that are abstractly available to everyone.

In short, it focuses. There is no bloat. It knows exactly what it wants the game to be about, and what it doesn’t.

And it motors.

If you listen to Quinns (and you should, as he’s right), the current king of this sort of game (on the table, rather than the computer) is ANDROID: NETRUNNER. Netrunner is wonderful. It’s an asymmetrical game of hacker-versus-corporation, which uses the cards in a way that is actively atmospheric. The problem with most of these sort of games is that the conflict is so abstracted from an event its meant to be about that it’s never more than a pretty and geeky game of cards. The art on the cards is just flavour. This is just one set of numbers subtracting themselves from other sets of numbers. It simply bears no relation to the topic (heroes bashing the living hell out of one other) in the second-to-second play. NETRUNNER is different, because it’s simulating something that is stylised and abstracted, and so the cards end up feeling like the map of a computer system. One player fundamentally constructs these servers and their defences, and the other chooses where to try and intrude – and how to do it. That alone would be enough, but doesn’t even touch on the entirely separate joy of its oker-like aspect of bluff-and-counter-bluff that’s right at the core of the game. Utterly startling. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

There’s one thing I don’t like about Netrunner.

It takes between forty minutes and an hour to play a game. I’ve had games over an hour. It’s not even that the game plays slowly, with maths dragging everything down. This is all thinking and hard decisions and fencing. It’s great play for every second.

However, for a deck-building game, this is a flaw. When you design a deck, you have to play it to see if it works. And, due to the nature of a shuffle and random chance, you really need to play it several times. All this means that if I’ve got an idea for a Netrunner deck, I’ve pretty much got to put aside a whole evening to do even the most basic due diligence. As such, unless you’re willing to give all your time into it, you’re basically not getting even a fraction of what you should from the deck-building side.

By contrast, you’ll burn through a game of Hearthstone in 10-20 minutes. Within an hour of conceiving a deck, you’ll have a good idea of how it works. You’ll be probably moving onto tweaking the thing. This is a genre of game that rewards that tinkering, and Hearthstone does everything it can to form this meaningful cycle of interaction. You learn a lot, and you learn quickly. You can try absolutely lunatic decks, just to see how they work, without sacrificing an evening of real play.

While I have nothing but love for and evening-length monster session, a game that gets the majority of what that a game of its type appealing and compresses it into a smaller space, is a thing to be cherished. A game you can have a quick game of – and have that play be meaningful is a great thing. And a great game that you can play a quick game of? Well, if you have those 2-3 hours, you can play 18-30 great games. That’s good numbers.

Does it sacrifice depth? Possibly, but at this stage I wouldn’t be willing to bet on it. I’m not even sure I care – what is gained from speed and precision become big ticks in the pro column. With the nine character classes, Hearthstone actually reminds me of 1-on-1 fighting games in its structure. There’s even something about the attack/negate way combat tends to worth, though that’s more of a reach. A lot of the game is about trying to make your opponent spend their resources less efficiently than yours. If you can kill a creature he summoned which cost 3 points with a monster that cost you 1 point, you’re probably ahead.

Probably. Go with me.

It’s in closed beta right now, but will be free-to-play, so when it goes public, you’ll be able to give it a shot. You should. It’s monetised primarily through the model of Magic: The Gathering. You can buy card packs, which expand the variety of ones you can pick from. Basic packs are six cards, at least one of which will be something a bit fancy (i.e. rarer and more exotic).

In the world of paper-games, I’m not particularly interested in this model. There’s been a movement towards what’s called LIVING CARD GAMES, where rather than having this randomised process, you actually just buy booster packs whose contents are entirely known. So rather than it being luck, you buy a pack and know what you’ll add to your collections. In actual practice, it’s not much cheaper if you want to stay up to date with the release of new cards, but it is cleaner. With Netrunner – one of the aforementioned Living Card Games – you know if you buy the packs as they come out, you’ll be competitive with what everyone else is doing. I’ll admit, I’d prefer that model. It’s just fairer, and doesn’t involve treating me like a five year old collecting football stickers. I like to know what I’m buying, and why.

That said, so far, I haven’t been stomped by some Hearthstone ultra-card that I haven’t seen yet. With Blizzard’s (pretty damn good) matchmaking, I’ll be interested to see how much of a problem this will be. I’d be hopeful that it means that people who want to be competitive buy cards and gravitate higher up the rankings, and those who are playing for shits and giggles end up being pushed against one another.

(Shame there’s no card swapping too, obv, which is one of the major parts of collectible stuff in the real world, though there’s obvious reasons why Blizzard have decided not to do this.)

Oh – as an aside, I’ve talked a lot about its accessibility in design, and it’s worth stressing how that carries on throughout its design. You can only emote rather than text chat with random strangers, for which – in the year of DOTA2 – I can only express thanks. Unless they add a emote for telling me to die in a fire, in which case I frown.

The other main element of Hearthstone differing from a physical card game is the elements made possible via being computerised, such as the more random elements. Obviously, there’s always the random element of the order the cards arrive from your deck, but this is more in the way some cards could operate. So, for example, there’s a few cards which do an amount of damage to a random enemy. Or cards which summon a random creature from a small list. Or a card which is a tower of flame firing enormous damaging stuff everywhere. It’s the sort of thing that would bog down real world game if you tried to simulate it with dice, but just about fits in here. I suspect whether it subtracts from the pleasure of the game is a matter of distinct taste. At least so far, I’ve been fine with the finger of fate.

The structure of hero-led design, while also keeping the deckbuilding in a confined space, also proves a useful device in terms of focusing on conceptual elements of the game. Each of the nine heroes, even with their starter decks, starts suggesting strong opening tactics to build upon – and, from that idea of what their unique strengths are, allows you to play against them. For example, I’ve been playing the Druid a bunch. Some of the most striking early possibilities of the Druid are the ability to up your mana production a little – there’s one card which gives you an extra crystal, and another that is a one-shot of two extra mana. That’s four cards that boost mana production significantly in a deck of thirty cards, with the ability to reject any of your starting cards if you like. Add to that a few things to help you churn through the deck, and a druid will have an early mana lead on the opposition.

Hell, if you’re actively lucky, you could be dropping a six-point card on your first or second turn, which will pretty much make your opposition yelp. This is basic stuff for the druid, and your opponent will know that there’s a chance you’ll be trying to speed up your economic development, and trying to get in the way. Other characters are able to do that more easily than others. Take the Mage, whose speciality is big single-shot blasts that can kill pretty much anything (or, insult-to-injury-ing turn your massive ogre into a somewhat less threatening sheep). In that case, as a Druid, even if your mana cards are turning up, you can’t help but suspect that if you bring one of your big guns out early, it’ll get stomped by one of the fireballs lurking in her deck. In which case, maybe you’ll try and get more of smaller cards out, trying to waste the mage’s zaps. Once those two fireballs and two polymorphs are gone, you know a basic mage isn’t going to be able to take out your demons and, etc, etc bloody etc.

You get that idea.

I use that fairly basic example just to show the sort of thought process going on with two interactions. That the character classes are defined enough to at least have a swift understanding of how they could play, you move swiftly into making smart choices rather than blundering around. You’ll learn immediately that almost all creatures can only attack the turn after they’re played. You’ll get used to that rhythm, until someone breaks it. And then you learn quick. It only takes a Warrior to once pull a demon out of their back pocket, enhancing it with a charge (i.e. can attack the turn it’s played) and letting it tear away half your health for you to realise “hey – I need to watch out for that stuff. I like that half of my health attached to my face.”

In short: it’s well judged in how it both rewards, encourages and enables good play.

In terms of where the dynamic is less interesting… well, at least in the current low level play, there’s a tendency for players to exhaust their hands and be reduced to simply drawing a single card per turn. That’s the least satisfactory end to a battle, with victory often going to whoever turns up the nastiest monster in their deck first. That, for most characters, there’s only limited options to burn through your deck means that if both players fight to a stand-still, that’s how a match will end. However, that’s low-level. Already you see players being a little more careful about spending their cards and trying to keep some in reserve. It’d be interesting to see there’s anything anyone can do to mitigate it design side, or whether the solution will come from the players. These dull endings aren’t the games I remember of Hearthstone, however. The ones that linger are where you’re wrestling all the way, down to the last health-point, or ones where you Rumble-In-The-Jungle it, exhausting all your opponents cards, letting yourself collapse to your last few health points, and then come back with some ludicrously devastating late-game combo when they’ve nothing to stop it.

Good play is clean and beautiful. Bad luck is bad luck… but games are far more lost by bad play.

As well as play against human beings there’s the option to practice against the (acceptable, but sub-human) AI, and giving them expert level decks to even it out a bit. There’s also the Arena mode, which involves entering for a good chunk of in-game gold (i.e. probably out of game cash) and fighting it out with a bunch of random cards. Winner gets stuff back, basically. Stuff and things! Oh, I haven’t played it.

In short, for all the fey fantasy trappings, this feels a lean, mean game – the sort of motorbike that’s little more than the biggest engine you can attach to a couple of wheels, then pointed at the open road. Except that kind of ur-motorcycle designed with a world-class safety record to prevent you crashing. And…

Oh, this metaphor is bad as that name.

Hearthstone is in closed beta.


  1. hitnrun says:

    “just because everyone in the world has played your previous game you can’t assume that anyone in the world actually read any of the quest text.”

    Not to say it’s not a crap name, but in fairness, “Hearthstone” is only slightly less identifiable to anyone who has ever installed WoW than “Attack” or “gnoll.” The proverbial girlfriend knows what Hearthstone means in the context of WoW.

    Of course, that’s what makes the name so stupid. Naming your game about fantasy battle after the thingy you start with that teleports you back to town to rest, just because it’s one of the only proper nouns in the game that absolutely everyone recognizes is, well, stupid.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Gnoll is a great word. More games should be called Gnoll.

      • hitnrun says:

        It does have its advantages. I mean, when you name a game “Goblin” or “Orcs!” people think meh, this is just a budgetware take on Dungeon Keeper or Warcraft or something. But name a game Gnoll…there’s a bit of mystery there.

      • Low Life says:

        Quite a woody word, that. Gnoll. Very satisfying.

        • apocraphyn says:

          Perhaps you’re thinking of the lesser spotted Grassy Gnoll. Terrifying beings.

          Also, KG – there’s a name I’m glad to see. Also somewhat surprised at the overwhelming positivity; I had admittedly dismissed this upon seeing the name, despite having played most things Warcraft quite ardently in the past. Might just have to give this a gander.

        • emertonom says:

          Not at all like Blizzard. Dreadful, tinny sort of word.

      • mrwout says:

        Hmmmm I’m wondering why you would say that mr. RossiGNOL(L) ….

      • Gap Gen says:

        Didn’t that game they made ages ago about shooting Kennedy have a gnoll in it?

      • Kieron Gillen says:

        I am also pro-GNOLL!

        SHOOTERS ON THE GRASSY GNOLL is my next indie game. I have decided.

        • Mr.Snowy says:

          What’s wrong with Hearthstone? ‘A device that automatically transports you to your pub of choice’, fuck me that is what the combined intellect of the world should be focusing on making a reality. Actiblizz in visionary shocker!

    • Christo4 says:

      They could have just called it Warcraft: Card game

    • John Funk says:

      I think it works perfectly in the context of the game. You’re not out adventuring, you’re back at the inn having a drink and playing a game with your friends. When you log on the voice is all “Hey, look who it is!” “Come on, grab a seat!”

    • Lacero says:

      When I vaguely heard about this I was totally sure it was going to be about fireplaces and cooking, some kind of survival based digital CCG with you building a cabin in the woods. Not that cabin.

      I’m inevitably disappointed.

  2. dangermouse76 says:

    Been watching Total Biscuit on this one and yes have to say looks awesome ( I have never played this type of game before ). The layout and sound and speed of play look great, and it seem the balancing in the deck is strong…. so yeah may give this go.

    It’s great when a game sells itself to you even though you have never tried the genre before.

    • Smashbox says:

      I’ve been watching people play it, too, and I’m really excited to give it a try. If only they’d give me a key!

      • NyuBomber says:

        This and Wildstar have had me sticking random keys I find on the ground into my computer’s various ports in hope of unlocking something.

        The keys.
        The keeeeeeys…

    • The Laughing Owl says:

      Actually the class balance is pretty broken as of yet. Rogue is by far the most overpowered, it has the best killing and damage spells also the most mana efficient creatures by far, followed by Druid who is pretty overpowered as well, then you have Priest who is in the opposite side of the spectrum, who is the absolute weakest class in the game.

      This game needs to correct some major balance issues before it launches.

      • dagudman says:

        While I do agree that rogue is overpowered, I would say that druid and mage are the second best. The amount of removal the mage has is ridiculous it is good for both puny and powerful decks meaning that you could play more than half of your cards one turn and have them wasted because the mage used a few spells. I would say that the priest is plain average and that the warrior is the worst right now… Or at least until someone figures out a good strategy to play him.

      • realitysconcierge says:

        That sounds like WoW when I was playing!

  3. Wednesday says:

    When are you going to stop writing comics Kieron and come back here and do your proper, god intended work?

    I miss epic, rat-men-American-footballer narratives.

    • RedViv says:

      Rat-men? Don’t be ridiculous.

    • Keymonk says:

      Madness, that’s what it is.

    • Gap Gen says:

      This Kieran Gilman, is he new? He is strong with the words, and meets my approval.

      • CMaster says:

        She used to be on Doctor Who.

        Also yeah, come back KG. You’ve had your fun with comics, now entertain and inform us daily again!
        Cara tries to be you sometimes, but she’s manic enough it just isn’t the same.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Right, that was when Quintin Smith was the Doctor. I remember now.

  4. OctoVine says:

    There’s also the Arena mode, which involves entering for a good chunk of in-game gold (i.e. probably out of game cash) and fighting it out with a bunch of random cards. Winner gets stuff back, basically.

    Arena is my favorite mode, by far! Constructed is just something I do to kill time until I get enough gold for the next Arena.

    In terms of money — a pack of cards costs 100 gold. Entering the Arena costs 150 gold but you are guaranteed to get at least one pack of cards no matter your score in Arena. And wins give you more gold. If you get 7 wins you are guaranteed to always get an extra 150 gold. It’s a much better deal than buying cards!

    • darkChozo says:

      How expensive is Arena in terms of time and/or money spent? I’m a weird person who likes card game mechanics but dislikes proper deck construction, so I could see a draft being my primary gamemode, but I’d rather not have to play a bunch of constructed games and/or get nickeled-and-dimed to death to play what I want.

      • OctoVine says:

        I haven’t put any money into the game.

        On average, a daily quest yields 40 – 100 gold a day, for winning anything from 2 – 7 games. Arena costs 150g. So if you go 0 – 3 in every Arena, and you randomly also get zero gold, you can at least play twice a week if you doing daily quests.

        Realistically even going 0 – 3 usually yields some gold, and getting a more average score even more, so it will be more than that.

        • darkChozo says:

          Hmm, okay, that’s not terrible.

          Still, seems a bit odd to lock it behind a paywall, real or fake. I understand where they’re coming from (they’re probably trying to keep the feel of a draft tournament), but, well, it’s the kind of thing that would be nice to just have access to on a permanent basis for people like me or people who want to work on their deck building skills. Seems a bit like a MOBA locking ARAM behind a paywall for one reason or another.

  5. MobileAssaultDuck says:

    I haven’t been a big fan of Blizzard since Vanilla WoW, but this game looks like a nice, quick play Magic: The Gathering variant I could definitely get into.

    You could even modify MTG to play using Hearthstone rules fairly easily, just have to determine a system for assigning hit points to non-creature permanents.

    Then you either ditch coloured mana all together or you have the player be allowed to choose the colour of a crystal as he gets it each turn.

  6. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    double H oh double U

    I guess calling it something like Cardcraft would be stupid.
    WarDeck sounds kind of cool, but too easily turned profane.

    Heroes of Warcraft is better without Hearthstone: really. Maybe go for a better acronym and call it Sofa: Heroes of Warcraft.

    • Sam says:

      I think The Elder Scrollscraft would have been a good name.

      Actually it’s a terrible name. But it makes a reference to Mojang’s Scrolls trademark issues, and how Minecraft is named after the Warcraft / Starcraft Blizzard properties, and therefore is mildly amusing.

    • Choca says:

      I honestly do not think that CardCraft would have been that stupid a name, especially if you consider how tongue in cheek funny the WarCraft universe can be.

  7. Auru says:

    This is the kind of article I love to see on RPS. :)

    Besides that, been enjoying the beta myself.. love the wow flavour without actually having to play wow. The beta, even with a couple minor issues here and there is super polished as many can see from all the streams etc.. I guess it’s just a balancing thing now, will be interesting to see how they nerf the rogue after announcing changes.

    Will be fun to play for real i’m sure, right now collecting the cards is a little meh.. since they will all disappear :)

  8. pupsikaso says:

    Hey, look! It’s Kieron!
    But… something’s not right… he doesn’t write how he used to. Could this be a usurper??

    • Setroc says:

      Tell me about it. he didn’t mention Che Guevara, Catcher in the Rye, Andy Warhol or Japan once.

    • Gap Gen says:

      He’s been writing entirely in Nordic runes and X-tongue, so give him some slack if his English is a little rusty.

  9. Moraven says:


    Is a place of deck building, luck and being able to see new cards you do not have yet.

    Costing $1.99 or 150 gold (Boosters are 100g), you are given a choice of 3 hero decks. After that you go through the deck builder mode, where you choose 1 of 3 cards at a time. The difference between this and doing Suggest a Card with your own cards is that the 3 choices are from their own separate pool of cards and give you a balanced amount of rare, epics, and typically one legendary card. Do you focus on class abilites as they come up? Spell Power minions? You see a pirate early, do you take the pirate and assume you get other pirate cards later? Same with the Murlocs? (There are Pirate and Murloc cards than buff other Pirate and Murlocs).

    You keep playing Arena until you lose 3 games, or win 9. Once you are done you get a Key, which opens a chest with 5 boxes. You are Guaranteed 1 Booster pack (which cost 100g on their own) along with a mix of additional boosters, gold and dust. Dust is used to create cards and is obtained by disenchanting extra cards you get from boosters and from Arena. Never get that Legendary you need to complete you deck from boosters? Create it with the Dust you saved up.

    Arena is pretty fun and its nice to see new cards you do not own yet.

    • Moraven says:

      So it comes down to you at least or get close to your 150g buy in rewards. if you can get 6+ wins you have a high chance of making more than your 150g payment.

      5wins is my best Arena so far. There are numerous videos of people getting 9 wins and their rewards along with guidelines in picking Arena decks to help get 9 wins.

    • Nurdell says:

      Also should be noted that normal deckbuilding rules don’t apply to arena (not more than 2 non-legendary and not more than 1 legendary in one deck) So if you are extremely lucky you can end up with something ridiculous like 3 polymorphs + 4 pyroblasts (10 damage more than needed to kill a hero)

  10. Moraven says:

    I hope they add other content such as different portrait/emote packs for each class.

    Maybe new playing boards.

    Also which I suggest on their forums, a Rage Quit button that causes you to table flip before the game quits for you.

  11. deabreu says:

    paying money for digital booster packs is offensive and should be shunned

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Really, why does it matter if it’s digital or a physical card? Sure, physical cards you can hold and keep forever, but you also have a ton of binders/boxes if you keep investing. As long as you aren’t put off by the fact that one day the game will probably shut down, I don’t see the issue. And by that time you’ll have grown tired of the game anyway. So if it was a physical card game, you’d just have tons of cards stashed in your closet taking up space.

      • Christo4 says:

        BUT after 50 years when your grandchildren discover you stash of cards they can sell each for 1000$!

        • The Random One says:

          to the former coal plant, who thought plant-based products had been extinguished. Your sacrifice will keep the village warm for almost a whole hour.

    • MobileAssaultDuck says:

      I don’t see it as much different than buying a hero in LoL or a mech in MWO with real money.

      It’s an option for those with more money than time.

      I only have a problem if objects can be purchased that affect gameplay and cannot be purchased through ingame currency.

  12. Commander Gun says:

    Looking forward to playt this for months. Incidentally, that is how long i am waiting for a beta key as well :(

  13. Horg says:

    As a raging Blizzard detractor, I am quite pleased to admit that this game has my interest. You see Kieron, some of us are capable of judging each title on its own merits.

    Card balance seems pretty good so far, it needs work in a few areas though. Stealth as a card mechanic feels a little under developed and slightly too strong. More good counters are needed, e.g. some cards carrying true sight, or allowing AoE cares to cancel the stealth. Class balance is a little out as well; Rogues are flavor of the month thanks to multiple combo cards and many cheap spells, while Priests are down at the bottom thanks to a high dependency on specific card synergy. Its not quite there yet but i’d say its not far away from launch worthy.

    For the business model, paying players do unquestionably gain an advantage over non-paying players thanks to accessing rare cards and simply having more options. However RNG of the draw and matchmaking will mitigate this somewhat, getting a good game as a free player will not be impossible. If you want to be at the top of the ladder though, you will need to invest a decent amount of money. The starter deck cards are not weak, but they don’t have much synergy, so eventually you will hit a progression pay wall if you don’t buy some packs or run arena.

    The in game prices are a bit divisive right now. At £1.25 and arena run you can very easily sink a lot of real cash into the game if you aren’t careful. You can win some or all of your entry fee back, but even that is RNG so you can get nothing but crafting dust from a good win streak. A guaranteed card pack is a fair trade for the entry price, but that will lose some value over time as people fill out their decks. Personally I hope they revise the arena entry price down a bit and make the card pack a drop chance based on performance. Putting a play mode behind a pay wall isn’t something i’m too keen on so making it more accessible would be great.

    Gold gain (in game currency) is quite slow right now, and relies on completing specific daily objectives such as ”Win 2 games as Priest”. Depending on how good your deck for any given class is, this can take 20 minutes or several hours. Gold gains for wins is very slow (1g per win) and arena drops are unpredictable. To put arena into perspective, you need at least a 7-3 win ratio to have a chance at getting your entry fee back. Most times you will fall short. This does need to be addressed or it will leave free players getting bored of the grind.

    For depth, I think its good enough to keep me interested. Once you have played a bit you will find that in any given hand there is frequently only one obvious play per round, but that could be said of any card game. A lot of the strategy comes in deck building, and with a 30 card cap + 2 identical card limit you have to be very tight on what you take. Arena lets you break the 2 card limit but the cards offered are a semi random selection, 3 cards at once, pick only one each draw until you have 30. There are enough card mods right now to keep the game from getting stale and I am in no doubt that they will add more.

    Finally, aesthetically it’s superbly well realised. It gave me a great sense of nostalgia for the old days of WoW. It needs more music. The acoustic guitar will draw you in at first but eventually it will drive you insane. Particle effects, the finished ones at least, look great. Sound assets (aside from the music) are satisfyingly tactile. Board smash effects, and the accompanying crowd cheer, from a legendary card drop or massive hit will never get old.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Earl-Grey says:

    Who is this Kreion Gellin?

    …we miss you.

  15. Houd1n1 says:

    I have been waiting so long to play this game. If anyone has a spare beta key please feel free to share it with me via: mesanovic.emir@live.com.


  16. SilentWinter says:

    sounds quite similar to duel of champions tbh (which is not a bad thing), i’m looking forward to play this

  17. Jez2 says:

    Sees article about game with a silly name.

    ctrl + F “WARFACE” -> 0 results


    • Gap Gen says:

      World of Warface?

      Wait I am trademarking Spaceface right now. I call dibs, people. Hands off.

  18. Syphus says:

    I am just gonna say, I will beat you (and anyone else) in 10-20 minutes in Netrunner.

  19. lordfrikk says:

    I don’t even care about card games but got interested after watching a preview on Giant Bomb. Damn Blizzard and their impeccable polish.

  20. PlaneShift says:

    I wonder if RPS ever reported on the CCG Shadow Era. Considering that I cannot find it with the search engine I will assume that you didn’t. It is a pretty fun CCG as well, and the only free to play game I have ever spent some money on. I has already been out for a while, and had plenty of time to mature.

    link to shadowera.com

    • Commander Gun says:

      Fully agree with this. Shadowera is a good game, and the Free-to-Play mechanic is handled well. You can buy every card you want in the shop, with in game money that is relatively easy to earn. The only part i don’t like about SE is that it takes very long to launch a new set. The game is out quite some years and only has 1 expansion.

  21. Apocalypse says:

    2-3 hours are 120 to 180 minutes, if a game takes 10-20 minutes you can have in those 2-3 hours not 18 to 30 games.
    You can have 6 to 18 games.

    I am not even sure if am nitpicking, because I think this makes quite a difference in the impression you get from the game. If you add than some time to actually tweak your deck, because after all it does make sense to do so after a few games you have to spend some time on that as well. It is still a lot faster than your netrunner example, at least I hope you have not exaggerated into the other direction, as I have not played netrunner, and magic for example seems to have a similar pacing than hearthstone that leads to deck tweaking on the same session you started to try out your deck.

  22. particle says:

    This is a pretty cool game for someone that couldn’t give a flippin damn about tcg’s like me.

  23. Apocalypse says:

    “Oh – as an aside, I’ve talked a lot about its accessibility in design, and it’s worth stressing how that carries on throughout its design. You can only emote rather than text chat with random strangers, for which – in the year of DOTA2 – I can only express thanks. Unless they add a emote for telling me to die in a fire, in which case I frown.”

    In a gaming work with anonymous matchmaking and bad netiquette I would have rather been told to die in a fire sometimes than further alienate the community from each other and embrace dehumanization of your fellow players.
    By the way, why do I find it strange that there seems to be no word in the english language similar to teammates that include the opponent players?

    • Jack Mack says:

      You’re worried that there’s no word for “Guy on my team” that applies to people who aren’t on your team?

    • Nevard says:

      Isn’t the word you are looking for “opponents” ?
      You know, the one that you used in your very post.

      Alternate words: Rivals, Challengers, Competitors, Adversaries, Opposition, Challengers

  24. Ketzerei says:

    I’ve tried out Hearthstone some recently, and I’ve got to say that it is super well presented. Everything is so shiny and all the animations are beautiful and it’s always clear what you can be doing and when you need to be doing it. Also the lack of in-game text chat is, as you say, brilliant. I do have some problems with the design, however! I guess it’s mostly missed opportunities. I love how they’ve done away with the lands from Magic to keep you focused on spells that actually do things; what I don’t love is that they’ve kept the “you get one card a turn and you better hope it’s something you can use.” In Scrolls, another Computer CCG (CCCG?) I’ve been playing recently, you get also draw one card per turn. However, each turn you can also sacrifice a card from your hand – any card, not just the one you drew that turn – to either give you a permanent mana increase or two new cards. That means that instead of Hearthstone’s constantly increasing resources, in Scrolls you have to actually make the decision of what you need more this turn: mana or cards. The mana is usually a better long-term investment, but can you afford to wait? This has the neat side effect of allowing you to play cards in your main deck that you won’t use in 90% of games – you can just turn them into 2 cards or some cash instead! This mechanic means that you’re constantly making decisions about what to do with your hand, decks can have more interesting situational variety, and late-game you’re drawing two cards per turn instead of one (unless your first draw is something so good you can’t bear to sac it for cards – another interesting decision).

    Scrolls also has grid-based combat, which I prefer to Hearthstone’s taunt-centric system, because it means that you can defend yourself via careful positioning instead of just having to put down a fat taunting guy. it also means your opponent can screw up your defenses by moving your guys around instead of having to kill them outright, which can have all kinds of lovely consequences. And you can have an enchantment that drains your life as long as the creature it’s on stays still, but kills the creature if it moves. Can you afford to leave that creature there at the risking of having it kill you!?

    Scrolls also has a nicer business model, where you buy it once and then buy card packs with plentiful in-game currency instead of the extortionate prices that Hearthstone is (currently) set at. You can even trade with people.

    That’s not to say that I’m just sitting here plugging Scrolls as the greatest thing ever, of course. They have some pretty serious balance problems, the presentation is nowhere near as clean as Hearthstone, and the card selection is still pretty lacking. But if you’re finding late game Hearthstone a total drag culminating in someone happening to draw a Deathwing, well, I’d recommend you give Scrolls a try.

    • Jorum says:

      Scrolls definitely more depth and less luck-based and has some interesting mechanics.
      But requires quiet a lot of thought and the matches can drag on a bit so HS will be nice “lightweight” and fun alternative. Also like you say the balancing seems a bit off to me as certain cards seem way too cheap for their power (I’m looking at you Energy)

  25. RSeldon says:

    “You can only emote rather than text chat with random strangers, for which – in the year of DOTA2 – I can only express thanks.”

    Oh hey, I might actually be able to play this. Cool.

  26. luckystriker says:

    Mr. Gillen, I applaud you for a very clever and amusing introduction. Wish you would write more.

  27. sicilianomatt says:

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  28. Kemuel says:

    So, is it just me or does this sound more or less the same as Magic but without coloured mana?

    The creatures’ power/toughness, the summoning sickness/haste (charge?), the focus of blasty mage decks (red) on direct damage and creature damage spells, the focus of naturey, druidy decks (green) on mana ramping.. the examples Kieron describes of enjoyable interactions, like having to decide whether to summon a creature and risk it being nuked or hold on to it until they’ve wasted their spells elsewhere, or of dropping a buffed-up, “charging” creature for surprised damage, or of reducing opponent’s creatures in size with spells before combat, make moment to moment gameplay sound identical to Magic’s.

    If all they’ve done is streamline that and re-brand it with WoW I won’t be interested.. Any Magic players who’ve been following this more closely that me got any further insight? Go ahead and point out why I’m wrong if I’ve misread this.

    • Jorum says:

      To a certain extent it is a bit “magic-lite” yes.
      Or I guess you could turn that around and say it captures a lot of the play and decision making of Magic without all the annoying complications like getting mana screwed or having to have knowledge of which of thousands of cards opponent might be holding and stuff ;-)

      Definitely not as “good” a game as Magic just because doesn’t have the huge depth and scope and the many different interactions and decisions and strategies that are possible.

      But it’s not rubbish either. Lots of very ardent Magic fans are playing it and loving it.

  29. Schiraman says:

    So how does this compare with the (really rather good) SolForge? Anyone?

    • Azmat says:

      This is what I also wonder about. Looking at Hearthstone videos on Youtube it sure shows it has the upper hand in presentation, ranging from the play area, effects, card visuals to simply the whole UI (deck builder for example). I just wonder about the actual gameplay. It looks interesting but I feel really put off by the card draw mechanic. I’ve grown really, really fond of Solforge and I honestly feel it is a well-balanced game, with only some luck involved. The 5 cards per turn works fine for me, and gives me plenty of options and never makes me feel starved. I see plenty of my deck and can build it so that it is adaptable since after all it depends on what cards you will level up (not that L1 cards become useless).
      I’d really like to play HS simply because it looks so slick, but am not sure if I’d be as satisfied with the play. Oh, if only the God of Keys would be beneficial…

      • jrodman says:

        This thread inspired me to install solforge and try it out.

        The lack of card starvation is .. i think mostly a plus. Magic can definitely leave you sitting there waiting for cards a lot of the time. But what you lose is the planning. The thinking through a series of 4-5 turns ahead in rough expectation. In solforge so far my decision making is shallow and unsatisfying. I don’t know what I’ve got coming, and I don’t know what my opponent has company so I do things mostly at random.

  30. sophof says:

    Up until reading this post I’ve been reading it as Heartstone, no joke. Oh no, have I become dyslexic?

    Also, the word hearth is really hard to pronounce for me as a non-native speaker :D

    Also Also, I think many people (or at the very least, me) are in their anti-Blizzard phase because they are simply disappointed. One of the nice things about that is that you want to be re-appointed again ;)

  31. cadwallader says:

    Hearthstone reminds me of suicide chess and referring to other (trading) cardgames as chess.
    It is somehow entertaining but unfortunately not more, and fortunately not more.

    I’m afraid of using the term, but it is for casual players.
    You can beat opponents with decks that require literally no deckbuilding skills.
    Just click the coloured cards until you have 30 in your deck, set, go, win…

    I really like it, when i’m in the mood of playing something without the necessity of strategic thinking,
    but i think it’s more a game that uses card to play with then it is a cardgame in the meaning of mtg, netrunner and so on.

    edit: At least i should remember the decksize correctly…

  32. Jorum says:

    Really looking forward to Hearthstone. As a big card game fan I like the idea of having something quick, fairly casual and well presented to play when I don’t have time or energy for netrunner, MTG online, or swearing at opponents bloody energy decks in Scrolls.

    Blizzard are doing with a CCG exactly what they did with MMOs – carefully remove every barrier to entry that a new player might bounce off or stumble at. That’s what made WOW such a bombshell – ease of entry, nothing to jar or put new players off, and super polished.
    And the polish on Hearthstone is pretty incredible – take for example building an arena deck.
    Show three cards and pick one. It would be completely fine and normal to have the card you pick slide off the the side and the other ones disappear or whatever. But instead before they disappear the card you pick dissolves into golden sparkly light and the two other cards crumble in smoldering fragments and embers.

  33. fish99 says:

    I’m kinda curious why the game only uses the middle two thirds of the screen, like it was developed for 4:3. Is it for casting/e-sports reasons? (i.e. leaving room for cams, logos etc)

    I’m also wondering why when it’s a computer game, it has to look just like playing cards. I mean you could have a virtual battlefield with animated 3D characters attacking each other after you move (as long as the animations were short to not slow the game down). Just seems like for the amount of money Blizzard are going to make from the game, they didn’t spent much on making it.

  34. poony says:

    This blog here is doing a free beta key giveaway today check it out got one from here too.

    • jrodman says:

      Seems a bit sketchy. Click to download a file ? Why do I need to download a file? Fill out a survey? I wouldn’t trust this.

  35. HeartstoneBetaKEY says:

    Hey all !! YLS with association with battle.net is giving out free keys.. The key inside the file is encrypted so not all noobs can play the game lol..
    Here is the download link for you all :
    link to yoursecondlife.net

    After you download the file use Base64 to decrypt the KEY and Enjoy the GAME !!!

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