New Hearthstone Expansion Is Gnomes vs. Goblins

Panel over, all the info and some thoughts below.

The new Hearthstone expansion, some details of which were already reported, has been revealed as Gnomes vs. Goblins in the Blizzcon 2014 opening ceremony. It contains 120 new cards, increasing the current pool by about 25%. The focus is on the explosive developments of the Warcraft universe’s two diminuitive races, introducing Mechs as a creature type and with a focus on more random effects. Battle.net’s got the details including some new card previews and the announcement trailer is below.

Coming with the first expansion, described as such since the Curse of Naxxramas was a single-player focused complete package that wasn’t purchased through boosters, is spectator mode. There’s some small detail on the announcement post, which mentions you’ll be able to jump into friend’s games if they have it enabled, but no shots of how it looks yet.

The new cards have a variety of new abilities, including “Mega-Windfury” which allows them to attack four times in a single turn. There’s also a new game board, shown off in this screenshot. I’d expect there to be more reveals at the panel happening right now. We’ll keep you updated.

Designer Eric Dodds introduced the expansion properly at the panel. He explained that the goblins were focused on direct damage and killing things, while gnomes will often turn other cards into different stuff. This is showcased by two minions: a goblin who comes into play and deals damage to a random enemy and a gnome that turns another of your minions into a random one of the same cost.

He then moved onto mechs, saying they wanted them to become a viable choice as something to build a deck around. Different classes will have their own mech cards and the modifier will also be applied to some older cards. While there will be a number of regular minions, it’s a theme for them to have the ability where, upon death, they’ll spawn another minion. As Eric pointed out, this is a very powerful effect as Hearthstone games often revolve around removing all minions from an opponents board as often as possible. The three cards shown as examples of this escalated in power of produced minion as they increased in cost: a random 2-cost, a random 4-cost and then a random legendary.

Dodds then mentioned that Goblins vs. Gnomes will be distributed through special packs that are earned or bought in the same way as normal packs. They’ll also be craftable with the same arcane dust that base set cards are made with and disenchant into.

Producer Yong Woo came to the stage to chat about other changes coming to the game, such as spectator mode. It attaches to one player’s perspective, so can’t be used to help friends out with some advance knowledge of what’s happening in an opponent’s hand. You’ll be able to see what that player is doing and what cards they’re focusing on. For the professional scene you’ll be able to spectate both players simultaneously and stream everything through one client. This will be welcome news to the long-struggling tournament organisers who have so far been jerry-rigging it via recording players screens and should allow for online tournaments with casting.

He finished by saying the expansion will be out next month, before the end of the year.

Adding a lot of random effects to the game is an interesting choice. Game Designer Ben Brode actually came onto the stage earlier on to talk about randomness is games and how skill and luck interact. It was an interesting talk, pointing out that something like chess often comes down to rote memorisation rather than reactionary skill, while Noughts and Crosses has no luck but no skill either. However, while those things are true, it won’t stop the immediate reaction to every poor coin flip being enraging for players and potentially drive them away from the game. It’s also a balance worry – you don’t want these cards with random effects to show up too much at times when that randomness can’t be manipulated. It will be interesting to see how the Hearthstone community, particularly the pro scene, reacts come December.

16 Comments

Top comments

  1. LTK says:

    Some of these cards are insane. Mega Windfury is one example, but there's also a Warrior spell called Bouncing Blade which costs 3 and does 1 damage to a random minion, then to another one, until one dies. Another card is a minion that gives all your other minions taunt, divine shield or windfury, at random.

    Here's a video of a game being played with the new cards.
  2. BockoPower says:

    Here is a link to some of the new cards: http://imgur.com/a/wgONI#0
    Also a video presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkdaUxWn3tE

    The randomness is gonna make everyone rage/cheer everytime...
  1. LTK says:

    Some of these cards are insane. Mega Windfury is one example, but there’s also a Warrior spell called Bouncing Blade which costs 3 and does 1 damage to a random minion, then to another one, until one dies. Another card is a minion that gives all your other minions taunt, divine shield or windfury, at random.

    Here’s a video of a game being played with the new cards.

    • Jokerme says:

      That Windfury card is actually a summon which gets summoned only if you have three mechs on the board and play a legendary card which then kills all the mechs and summons Voltron. In a sense it’s just a win more while winning card.

      Bouncing Blade actually does damage to your own minions too and it can kill your own minions, so it’s a double edged sword, but still good against huge control boards.

  2. BockoPower says:

    Here is a link to some of the new cards: link to imgur.com
    Also a video presentation: link to youtube.com

    The randomness is gonna make everyone rage/cheer everytime…

  3. theslap says:

    I don’t mind a little bit of RNG but this is getting out of hand. It seems that just about every other minion has deathrattle now. Where’s the fun in that? If you’re going to make a new expansion then add some new mechanics. Each MTG expansion seemed to add at least one small new mechanic that changed the meta a lot.

  4. Koozer says:

    Well, this seems like exactly what noone wanted. Why would you want more randomness? Some of those cards are never going to be seen outside of the arena – for example that ‘turn random minion into another of the same cost’ one. Instead of using that, why don’t I just use the best minions for that cost in the first place, and save 2 slots from this weird card?

    • LTK says:

      If you have a minion that has a strong battlecry but a weak body it has a good chance of being worth it. Say you play a Gnomish Inventor and then try to morph it into a Yeti or a Senjin Shieldmasta. But there’s too many variability in low-cost minions; things start getting fun if you use it on expensive ones.

      If you have a Sea Giant, you can turn it into Deathwing 100% of the time. If you have an Ancient of Lore, it can turn into an Ancient of War (worse), Ravenholdt Assassin, Baron Geddon, Prophet Velen or Archmage Antonidas (all better). If you’re like me and have a crappy 8 cost legendary like Gruul, you can turn him into Ragnaros, Grommash, Tirion or Al’Akir.

      Damn, I suddenly really want this card!

    • satan says:

      In a game where chance/luck is such a big part of it, I take as many random effects as I can get, and look forward to a hero with a random ability. The closer I can get every game’s outcome to hinging on essentially a coin toss, the greater my chances of winning (because I don’t like building specific decks or using complex strategy in a game where you could play forever without drawing the cards you need for your strategy to work).

  5. Scurra says:

    Just out of interest, why not cover e.g. Magic the Gathering in the same sort of exhaustive detail that Hearthstone is getting? I mean, they are both online card games, are they not? I grant you that Magic still has a paper component, but that’s hardly relevant. And, likewise, Blizzard are a video game company, but that’s hardly relevant either.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      If Duels was good this year I would have written more about it. If I played more MTGO I’d probably write about it, but I haven’t for a while because the client’s crap and it’s expensive. When these things are fixed/no longer an issue, it’ll maybe happen.

      I expect the main reason is that not a lot of people play Magic and do games crit, certainly not avidly enough to write about it. There’s so much content out there already written by competitive players and the hardcore-casual crowd alike that it’s not exactly an under-served group. I’ve poured far too much time and money into it as a game and hobby and I still don’t feel confidant writing about it when StarCityGames, ChannelFireball, TCGPlayer, et al are out there doing it.

      It’s cool that you want more though. I’ll keep it in mind.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      We wrote a similar story about Magic 2015’s expansion being out just a couple of days ago: link to rockpapershotgun.com

  6. Shardz says:

    I played the Hearthstone beta while learning Ascension on Android. The results: Ascension won hands down in fun factor and Hearthstone got deleted. I do like the last Blizzard game that was released quite a bit…Diablo II Lord of Destruction. Anyone play that? [bfg]

  7. Quirk says:

    The failure to understand the impact of randomness is depressing.

    Define skill, first, as the ability to perceive the best action to take.

    – In a game in which actions are not affected by randomness, there exists a best action, and that best action is guaranteed to deliver you an optimal outcome. (I simplify, there could be actions tied for best action, but selecting between those does not require skill).
    – In a game in which actions are affected by randomness, there also exists a best action – the action with the highest probability of a successful outcome – however, taking that action does not guarantee you that you get a successful outcome.

    Skill therefore in the latter case has less effect on the game – optimal choices do not necessarily lead to victory – and is harder to obtain, as determining whether your actions are optimal is much more difficult when you are not necessarily going to be rewarded for the right move.

    We run into a situation in games such as chess, though, where because the starting position is static, pre-calculated sequences of “better” moves exist, and it is possible to simulate skill by learning what a very skillful player would do. Fischer suggested a simple and effective way of defeating this: randomise the starting position in a manner that does not advantage either player.

    Adding randomness after this point however merely dilutes the effects of skill and the rate at which skill is gained. This may actually be desirable for a game designer who wants to encourage the worst players to keep playing, but it is poor reward for a strategist.

    Any time a game designer bangs on about memorisation in games of skill, and wants to introduce randomness throughout the game as a counter to this, there are two possibilities to consider: either they have a poor understanding of what constitutes skill, or they perceive that they have a vested interest in reducing the impact of skill on the game. In this case, as there is potentially a financial incentive to keep poorer players feeling rewarded, it is hard to entirely rule out the latter.

    • rcolin says:

      A “catering to casuals” argument? About Hearthstone? Really?

    • timzania says:

      A much more likely possiblity is that they have a different understanding than you do of what “skill” is. I think your definition is far too restrictive.

      In chess, as you say, there is always a best move (or a set of equivalently best moves) and so forth. But selecting the best move is not the interesting or skillful part! Skill isn’t dispassionately calculating the best move, it’s understanding the strengths and weaknesses of board positions (either actually existing or possible). Skill is manifested through the choices of moves, but it exists in the understanding of states, an important distinction.

      What makes chess fun is that we don’t have the computing power (in our brains or otherwise) to calculate all the way to the end. For even the best players, eventually we have to make a choice based on emotions, a feeling that something is better; some sort of unknowable large-scale meta-analysis conducted by the whole of our brains, not by a straightforward algorithmic argument (until the endgame of course). Since the exhaustive analysis is sort of boring anyway, it’s really more interesting to abstract it away as dice rolls or whatever (hence modern board gaming).

      The counter to your chess example is Texas hold’em, where the series of random rounds quite clearly creates more opportunities for skill (and more importantly here, fun) than a simple 5-card flop would.

      • xaphoo says:

        timzania, your comments are incredibly incisive: because our intuitive sense of game wisdom, or skill, is based on a sense of states rather than a computation of outcomes, randomness often enhances our enjoyment and heightens rather than flattens the skill curve.