Hearthstone: It’s in the Cards

Have I mentioned that I’m participating in this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative (NBI)? No? Well, say hello to your resident newbie. I feel like Zach Braff during the first season of “Scrubs”. Any minute, I expect one of the blogging vets to go all Dr. Cox on me. Of course, I kid – the folks involved in this effort are the classy sort. Short story, the NBI is all about teaching and encouraging folks like me (“newbies”) and helping us get semi-established and comfortable in the game blogging/podcasting/streaming environment. Long story, click here.

At any rate, one of the things that the NBI is encouraging this year is some group events involving (what else?) gaming. The first such event is going to be a Hearthstone tournament. Since I’d never played the game before, I did something yesterday that I never thought I would do: created a battle.net account. Ha! Just kidding, #WOW players. You’ve got to understand, #LOTRO is my home, and it’s kind of like being the perpetual “little brother” in the MMO space.

I’ve never really been much of a #card player. Ask my kids, they’ll tell you that the most complex game I usually participate in is “war”. If I’m feeling especially frisky we might break out the UNO deck, but only when speaking a single Spanish word doesn’t require too much brain power. Euchre is also a possibility, thanks to the limited deck size. I think I take after my dad in that respect. We both tend to take a while to process information, and doing so within the framework of a card game with others impatiently tapping their fingers while we evaluate the best possible move doesn’t really strike us as fun. Not to mention the gloating. Ok, I understand that some skill is required, but the phrase “luck of the draw” came about for a reason. Congratulations on being the luckiest person at the table, mr/mrs gloater.

Needless to say, I’ve never even touched a game like Hearthstone before. Pokemon? To kiddish. Magic: The Gathering? looks complicated. And expensive. I always pictured myself in the “Penny” role in the following clip:

 

Back to battle.net. I signed up, downloaded the game and launched right into the tutorial which felt just like the game. In fact, it took me a couple of rounds to realize that all of my moves were pretty much fixed so they could teach me different aspects of the game. After the tutorial, I did a few practice rounds in order to unlock some different classes. After the practice rounds, it was off to the races against other players deemed “worthy opponents”. Although I’m not sure what algorithm is used to determine who is “worthy”. Some of those “worthy” folks wiped the floor with me, and some I cut through like a wet paper bag. Occasionally, the match was fairly even which set up an exciting finish.

I admit, I really enjoyed playing. It reminds me a little bit of the old Battle Chess days. Chess is a good game, but insert pieces that actually fight each other on every move and it’s an awesome game. The simple sound effects and animation in #Hearthstone were enough to pull me in and keep me engaged through several rounds. There were an awful lot of “one more game”‘s before I finally hung it up and went to bed. It also occurred to me that this would be a great free game for kids to play, since there is no real chat feature when playing other people. There is a list of about six or seven things you can say, but that list is pre-determined with things like “well played”. Certainly removes any nervousness I may have had about letting my children interact with others online.

Somebody on Twitter asked what was appealing about the game, and I answered that I think it was the fact that it was very easy to learn, and yet had some complex strategic elements to it. Not to mention the Flappy Bird addictive element of “I can do it this time…I can beat this next guy. I was so close!”. I also learned that Hearthstone is now available for the iPad. I’m assuming that you use the same battle.net account, but I’m going to have to test that out. This can’t be good for what little spare time I currently have.

So, to all you card players out there – I was wrong, you were right. Well played.

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One thought on “Hearthstone: It’s in the Cards

  1. Crell April 28, 2014 / 8:26 am

    I’ve never seen that #BigBangTheory clip. Loved it I think as a player who feels like they need a while to strategize and process the current turn, you might just need a friendlier and patient opponent, or perhaps just time to get familiar with it. Apart from Uno I can’t imagine that the other games didn’t speed up somewhat as you grew familiar with them. CCGs or anything of the sort are the same way. Ditto more complex boardgames or things like Munchkin, which isn’t a CCG but has a similar level of strategy and possible teamwork. A good CCG is more about the ability to make a good deck to counter your opponent. Yes, there’s an element of luck in the draw, but its primarily a matter of skill and reacting to the moment. In the physical game-world that tends to involve lots of $ but. In a number of virtual settings it doesn’t have to cost a dime. Nor does it have to be a legal grey area. A few companies even explicitly sanction the process with some small caveats about how recent the content can be that is included for use. What would you say to remarks that Hearthstone makes the means of ‘card acquisition’ make it ‘pay to win’? If its a fair concern, it has the very same real problem that physical CCGs do. Looking forward to giving Hearthstone a try, and hoping the Android port is sooner rather than later.

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