My current prime gaming addiction is Hearthstone. It is an on-line collectible card game put out by Blizzard themed on Warcraft. It is free to play though of course Blizzard would love if you bought some digital cards using your hard earned money. 🙂

You truly could play the game entirely for free if you are patient and don’t mind taking some lumps on the way up. I played it free for a couple months and finding myself thoroughly pleased, decided that paying for some cards would be money well spent to accelerate my ability to build exotic decks.

I’ve tried a few other digital card games and so far hearthstone has by far been the most satisfying. It is well balanced and well conceived. It takes advantage of being a digital card game in subtle ways but stays true to the play and mechanics that make a card game feel like a card game. Perfect for a fellow like me who loves such games but tires of the business of sorting and managing physical cards.

What’s good about it

1. There are no resource cards as in many other games. Each player starts with one mana and gets one more each turn. This both ensures a nice smooth progression for both players and takes the impossible starts problem out of the game. This also makes for smaller more focused decks.

2. When you collect cards beyond what you can play with you can turn them into “dust” which can be used to make other cards. The ratio is about 4:1 given the rarity of the card, though special golden cards can trade 1 : 1 with regular cards of the same rarity. This feels fundamentally fair and fun.

3. The game strikes a good balance most of the time. Many games can be close calls with key decisive moments where good play can make all the difference, yet there is still a good deal of dumb luck to cope with and to make things exciting. Mind you there is always complaining about X being too strong or Y being too weak but after many years of such games I can say confidently Hearthstone is about as well balanced as they come without being boring (which is often the result of too much balance).

4. It is fairly fast to play and each turn almost always involves a card play or action of some kind. Each hero has a built in power so even if you don’t have the mana yet for a play, you can probably activate that and get some small milage from it. At 30 cards even a long game is pretty tame by Magic or L5R comparisons. 10 Minutes is about average with a long game perhaps taking 20 and a short game 5. Turns are timed so folks can’t just stall you out.

5. The UI is nice and there are lots of cute graphics and sound effects to keep you amused. It has a kind of play mat with animated toys on it you can fiddle with while an opponent considers their next move. All very clever stuff.

Things you might not like

1. It is almost all played against other people. There are some AI practice decks and you get cards for beating them at first, but very quickly they prove no real challenge and you must play other people for any kind of competitive game. The matching is decent but many players are well trained and equipped thanks to videos and guides on the internet.

2. Some people are jerks. Fortunately you can’t really talk to them unless you decide to be friends. I’ve friended a half dozen that send me requests and so far 1 jerk off and 5 nice people.

3. It lacks the grand combo’s of some of the more complicated non computer CCGs. They want to keep it approachable so there are few multi card infinite combos and to keep things simple you only play cards when its your turn. That means there is less meat for deck builders like me to play with and synergy sometimes plays a back seat to simply playing cards that have good value.

Anyhow if you play and want to spar of chat you can find me on in the game as SigTrent at least a little most nights.


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