Hearthstone, the card game that you can play on your iPhone, iPad, Android device, PC, or Mac, is basically electronic cocaine. It delivers an addictive rush that no other game can quite match. The game, which for now can only be played by two opposing players, begins with two opposing hero characters. Each hero has 30 life points and a deck of 30 cards. The goal of each player is to lay his cards down the table in such a way that he is able to lower his opponent’s life points to nothing. At that point, his opponent is considered dead, and the game ends.
Most games take between five and 20 exhilarating minutes, and are played against either a computer AI or a human opponent. You’ll probably start out by playing against the computer, and graduate to playing against real, live enemies in less than a week. Each day, Blizzard provides you with a goal. For example, you may be required to win three games as a hunter, which is one of the hero classes available. If you achieve this goal, Blizzard will award you a set amount of gold coins, usually 40 or 60.
There are nine hero classes. Each is unique and has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you elect to play as the warrior, you can add a two-point shield to your character each turn. The mage, by contrast, is able to inflict a single point of damage on any target on the board during her turn.
Hearthstone Game Play Mechanics
Play proceeds when the player that won the coin toss places a card down on the table. Cards come in two main flavors: minions, and spells. You can think of Hearthstone as a miniature battle. Minions are cards like dragons, wolves, and knights. Each has an attack value of between zero and 12 points, and each has a life score, which also ranges between zero and 12 points most of the time.
When you lay a minion down the table, you may use it to attack on your next turn. When it attacks an opposing minion, both of the minions will inflict damage equal to their attack value to the other minion. For example, imagine a “Northshire Cleric” with an attack value of one and a life score of three attacks a “Dire Wolf Alpha” with an attack score of two and a life score that is also two. The Northshire Cleric will inflict a point of damage to the Dire Wolf’s life score, lowering it to a single point. For its part, the Dire Wolf will inflict two points of damage to the Northshire Cleric, reducing its life score to a single point as well. When a minion’s life score has been reduced to zero or less, it is considered killed, and is removed from the board.
Spell cards can be used for a variety of purposes. Some harm the enemy hero directly, others enhance your minions by adding to their attack value life score, while still others allow you to draw additional cards.
Since you are likely to be playing the game on an iPhone, iPad, Android or other device with a touch-responsive screen, you’ll typically lay cards down on the table by simply swiping them from your hand onto the surface of the table. To attack, rest your finger on a minion and drag to the minion you intend to target. Note that the game will place a skull over a minion if the attack will kill it.
Hearthstone involves both strategy and luck. Strategy, because the damage dealt by each minion can be calculated precisely. Luck, because the cards appear in your hand at random, and you must make do with what you are dealt. The element of luck means that an unskilled player will sometimes defeat a player that has considerable experience.
Making Your Own Deck
Much of the fun, as well as Blizzard’s profit-making potential, lies in making your own deck. As you play, you accumulate gold coins. You can use these coins to purchase packs of five cards from within the Apple or Android app. The cards contained in each pack can then be used within the actual game. As you might expect, Blizzard allows you to purchase gold coins with actual cash money, like the money you wasted today at McDonald’s. You can buy two packs for $2.99, seven packs for $9.99, 15 packs for $19.99. Finally, Blizzard, out of the goodness of its heart, will allow you to purchase 40 packs for $49.99.
However, you don’t need to spend money to enjoy the game. You’ll gradually accumulate gold coins simply by winning games and accomplishing quests. The initial download of Hearthstone is free on all platforms: the PC, the iPhone, the iPad, and both Android phones and tablets. Spending money on packs is strictly optional.
Warning – Hearthstone Is Addictive
It is impossible to overstate the surprisingly addictive nature of Hearthstone. Nothing is quite as satisfying as throwing down a card that annihilates your opponent’s army in a single blow. If you’re the victim of a well played and executed sequence, you’ll find yourself shaking your head in both admiration and regret. Hearthstone combines the competitiveness of a sport with the strategy of a board game. Strategists and casual gamers alike will find it offers a satisfying blend of thrills and surprises.