I don’t think I’ve written about Hearthstone yet, even though it’s become my go-to casual game of the year. Hearthstone is basically an online card game, which means there aren’t any real cards, and works like Magic: The Gathering except with a slightly more RPG element to it. It’s funny how cards have become so synonymous with certain connotations that even in an online game, they are used to represent things that are in your hand that can be played for certain effects. I mean, they could well be tokens, or icons, or commands, but having them look like cards somehow gets one into a particular mindset.

What is this RPG element that Hearthstone has? Well, for one, you get to play as a Hero, and you can even fight with a weapon, or use an ability. Secondly, when your creatures take damage, the damage is permanent. That reminds me of RPG games where creatures chip at each other till one dies. Other than that, it’s mostly like Magic, where the objective is to beat the opposing player by getting him to 0 life.

There’s a lot less flexibility in Hearthstone. For one, certain cards are “class-specific”, meaning only a particular Hero can play them. I’ve long dreamed up great card combos like Innervate + a whole bunch of Rogue combo cards, but nope, impossible. Secondly, you can only have 1 deck of a Hero at one time. You can’t have 2 decks of the same Hero simultaneously. Thirdly, you have a maximum amount of mana. In the early game, you’re relieved that you can play all your cards without worrying about drawing into mana. In the late game, you’re just frustrated that you’ve got to count the mana costs of your cards and the moment they hit 11 it’s just impossible. And fourthly, the most stupid of all, you can’t play with people on a different server without wiping out all your data. I mean, why do they think people will play on a different server if they’ll lose all their cards there?

And compared to Magic, Hearthstone has much fewer win conditions, and by that I mean just 1. You chip away the dude’s life. There’s no way out of it. No alternate win conditions, no X-mana cards (I mean if X is at most 10, there’s not much you can do), no enchantments or artifacts. And of course there aren’t funky cards that say “you don’t lose if you have 0 or less life” though there is a Mage spell that renders you immune for a turn, I believe. That said, I do believe the coolest part of Hearthstone is probably Arena.

Arena banks on the fact that Hearthstone is strictly a computer game. In Arena, you choose a card from 3 randomly generated ones of equal rarity, 30 times till you form a deck. RNG is what Hearthstone boasts that Magic cannot. The most Magic can do about RNG is mandate coin flips like in Pokémon TCG, but it won’t have the same impact as an Arena Draft. Magic Drafting is also rather random, thanks to the randomness of booster packs, but it is totally different from Arena and can never be anything like it.

Of course, another advantage is that you can play Hearthstone anytime, whereas for Magic you’ve got to head down to a physical shop and find a stranger willing to play with you. It’s usually not a problem, but for shy people who would rather hole themselves up at home, Hearthstone is much less social than Magic, and you get to play with people anytime of the day, always completely different (though I do see a few names repeatedly).

What do you like or dislike about Hearthstone? Tell me!


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