Hearthstone is a free online trading card game, developed by Blizzard Entertainment. You may have heard of Blizzard--they're the guys who brought us World of Warcraft, Star Craft, and Diablo.
Tabletop trading card games (known as TCGs) have been around for many years, and they have also been seen online in various forms, such as the mini-game Cardjitsu in Disney's Club Penguin, and Magic the Gathering. So, what makes Hearthstone so special?
A large part of what makes Hearthstone shine is the fact that it is developed by Blizzard, but not just because Blizzard knows how to make great games, but because they were also able to create Hearthstone using the characters of World of Warcraft.
If you're like me, WoW sucked up a pretty substantial portion of your life for a long time. I've since moved on to other games, but WoW still holds a special place in my heart. There are so many unforgettable moments that my wife and I shared with our friends and guild-mates in WoW, and playing Hearthstone brings so many of those memories back; I find myself smiling all the time as I play.
So, what's it like to play Hearthstone? As the saying goes: it's easy to get into, but difficult to master. The game does a good job of easing you into things, though.
You first go through a few rounds playing against computer-controlled opponents, each one getting progressively more challenging. Once you get through those, you are pushed out of the perverbial nest and forced to fly (by that I mean you play against people). That's also when the game gets really interesting, as it's almost always more entertaining to play against people than computers.
Now, to the actual mechanics of the game. At the beginning of a game each player picks the Hero that they want to use from a selection of nine different classes that the Hero can be (things like a Mage, a Warrior, etc), and they are dealt a random set of cards from their deck (see more about the deck below). Each Hero has 30 hit points, and the objective of each round is to kill your opponent's Hero by reducing their hit points to 0.
To play a card on your turn, you spend mana crystals. At the beginning of the game each player has one mana crystal, and for each turn you gain another mana crystal, up to a maximum number of 10. Generally, the better the card you want to play, the more mana crystals it costs to play it.
All of this is, as they say, deceptively simple, but the real fun is in building your deck.
About the Hearthstone Deck
In Hearthstone, you live and die by the cards available in your deck. The more and better cards that you have to build your deck, the better off you'll be.
What is this, "building your deck" business, you ask?
When you first start playing Hearthstone, you are given a batch of starter cards that you use to build the deck from which your cards for each round are drawn. Each Hero has a unique selection of cards available, and you can buy cards from the shop, to add to your decks, in two ways: using cash, or using points earned through playing the game.
You may be wondering if being able to buy cards for your deck using cash makes the game "pay-to-win", but rest assured that it does not. The cards that you buy with cash are the same as those you buy with points you earn by just playing the game.
The other way to get new cards is by playing in Arena mode. To get into this mode you have to pay an entry fee using either gold that you earn in game, or with real world cash. In Arena mode, the playing field is completely level between all players. To begin with, you pick one of three Heroes that are selected at random. After that, you pick out 30 cards to use during your arena session. The cards you pick from are not affected by your own deck, but rather are randomly drawn from all the cards in the game (that's why arena mode is a level playing field).
Once you have your Hero and your cards chosen, you are pitted against other players of about your skill level. You compete in this mode until you have either won as many as 12 games, or lost 3 games. The more wins you get, the better your awards are at the end of your session.
Learning the Game
As you play the game, you will begin to understand various tactics and approaches that are used by people, and you will begin to understand how to counter them too.
Really, though, the best way to learn is to play! The game is free, so just do it!
Good Recommendations Summary
Hearthstone is an amazing well done game, which is deceptively simple to play. For the great price of free, there really is no reason to avoid it.
The only drawback to the game is that it is not yet available on Android (though Blizzard has promised that they are working on that version), but you can play it on PC, Mac, and iPad.
Here are some download links:
Hearthstone for PC
Hearthstone for Mac
Hearthstone for iPad
Hearthstone for Android