Editorial: Home Is Where the Hearthstone Is

I'm a hunter though, I need an army of pets!
Decks are built from exactly thirty cards with no more than two of the same.

This past weekend at PAX East, Blizzard had a new game to announce. No, this was not the long awaited unveiling of the game codenamed ‘Project Titan’, but was instead a new game set in the Warcraft universe….. kind of. Their new game is called Hearthstone, a collectable card game for both PC and Mac, with an iPad version coming at a later date. Sign-ups are open for the beta due this summer, but attendees to the expo could play the game on the show floor.

Anyone who is familiar with World of Warcraft will know that Blizzard already support a trading card card game which is licensed to Cryptozoic Entertainment. The existing card game will continue on as it always has, but the new game will be digital only. The mechanics of the new game will be similar to the existing game, only simplified slightly. The digital battlefield allows Blizzard to convey information to a player without the need to move pieces of paper around to show which cards are yet to be used. Gone also are the resources that need to be played in order to cast spells. Instead, player acquire a new crystal each turn which are depleted to play cards. At the beginning of each turn all depleted crystals are replenished, ready to be used to cast more spells.

The setup of Hearthstone is designed to allow quicker games than other CCGs. The gameplay demo video floating around shows a game that lasted eleven minutes. This seems to be a similar thought process to the pet battles added to Warcraft in its most recent expansion. In each game a player can be randomly matched with another for a battle. Neither allows communication between the players, although Hearthstone contains a number preset taunts/emotes to share with opponents over the course of a game.

Why do all my cards cost six crystals to cast?
In the forge, players make choices from randomised cards to build their deck.

So how does the game actually work? Well, players start with a deck of basic cards built around one of the original nine classes found in vanilla Warcraft. Each deck contains a number of iconic abilities for its class as well as a number of ‘minions’ – faces both famous and mundane from all around the Warcraft universe. Players take turns to play cards for their crystal cost, then proceed to attack with any minions that are ready to do so. To keep the game from favouring a lucky player, each class has an ability it can play. The warlock, for example, can draw an extra card or the rogue can summon a dagger to attack with. Both players start with thirty life and the game ends when one player is reduced to zero. The rules are quite simple, but with 300 cards to chose from at launch, there will plenty to keep players occupied.

In addition to the starting decks, players can purchase booster packs of five advanced cards for $1 from their Blizzard wallet. The price may change before the game is released, but any player who purchases cards during the beta will get the same dollar value in unopened booster packs when the game goes live. This will not be a pay-to-win game though, as Blizzard have a crafting mechanic for players who do not wish to spend money on the game. Additional basic cards can earned by practicing against a computer controlled player. Any cards that a player has that they do not wish to keep can be disenchanted in arcane dust, a material than be used to craft any of the cards in the game. Cards can also be earned through achievements and in the forge – a battle against another player where both have randomised basic decks with the winner claiming the cards in their deck.

At launch the game will be self-contained – no interactions with any of the other existing Blizzard properties. In the future though, who knows? The team have been focused on getting the game finished, but once they are free to be creative it is possible that items earned in the game, possibly through achievements, that could be redeemed for pets and mounts in World of Warcraft. Blizzard are keeping quiet about their plans for the future of the game, but with two additional classes to be added into the mix in later waves of cards, there is plenty of scope for the game to expand.

Do you like CCGs? Have you signed up for the beta? I certainly have, and I will need people to play against when the invites start flying out. Let me know in the comments!


  1. I’m actually rather excited about Hearthstone, especially to see how it’ll work in practice. CCGs are one of the few types of games in which the “rules system” makes sense to me (in that, I can play them with the same rules fixation and understanding that other people play MMORPGs or games like LoL), so the chance to see how this one plays and reacts is going to be pretty cool.

    Perhaps a Lusipurnament is in order once this bad boy drops…

  2. Well Tim, we can always arrange to play some games. I enjoy playing CCGs myself and I’ll be interested in seeing how complicated the full rules actually are.

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