Hearthstone: What the heck is going on?

By April 11, 2018 Hearthstone

As someone who was incredibly intimidated by Hearthstone at first glance, I understand how complicated and confusing the game can be at times. That’s why I wanted to write this article to write a basic guide for people who don’t play Hearthstone but want to know what it’s all about.

What the heck is it?

Blizzard’s conquest of the gaming industry continues with their card game – Hearthstone. With a large competitive following, it has built a strong reputation and competitive community that puts it near the top of the Twitch Directory with games like Fortnite, League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Competitive tournaments, like the 2017 Hearthstone World Championship, have payouts that top out at $1,000,000 while most flutter around the $300,000 mark.

Modern card games, like Magic: The Gathering and Gwent, can also be known for their complexity, with certain restrictions on cards, various card effects and conditions of use, it can be intimidating to pick up a popular game like Hearthstone. The first time I watched my best friend play a match, I was beyond confused. 

The screen is busy with artistic elements, floating cards, glowing crystals and the occasional dragon, so it’s incredibly intimidating to new players. However, one of the game’s slogans is “Deceptively Simple. Insanely Fun.” and it could not be truer.

A screen capture of gameplay from Blizzard’s Hearthstone.

So how does it work?

Hearthstone, at its core, is a turn-based card game with the end goal of reducing your opponent’s health points (HP) from 30 to 0 using cards in your deck to deal, heal or stop damage. Before the match starts, each player constructs a deck of 30 cards, no more or less, and selects one of nine “Heros” as their in-game character. Each Hero has access to different sets of cards and a different ability, called a Hero Power, that work with different cards and play-styles.

This is a typical card layout for a Spell.

Within each player’s 30 card deck, there are three major types of cards: spells, minions, and secrets. Spells are cards that are typically one time effects that can deal, heal or stop damage; destroy other cards; or limit your opponent’s actions. Spell effects often last until the end of your current turn or your opponent’s following turn. 

This is a typical layout for a minion card.

Minions are creatures that have various effects on gameplay and can be helpful and/or hurtful. These cards are often times the main source of damage to the opposing player and can have valuable effects that can limit or force your opponent’s moves. Looking at the card, you can determine the card’s attack power, health points, effect and mana cost. The attack power is in the bottom left and represents how much damage the card can do when it attacks. Health points represent how much damage the card can take before being destroyed, and this can be found in the bottom right corner. The card’s effect is the main body of text on the lower half of the card, and it explains if the card’s special abilities if it has any. Finally, the top right corner has the card’s mana cost which is the amount of mana that is required to use the card.

This is a typical card layout for a Secret. Its defining picture is the bold text that reads Secret.

Finally, there are secrets which function similarly to spring traps, in that they activate in response to something that you or your opponent does.  When a secret is cast, a colored question mark appears above the Hero that cast it. Every secret works differently with different effects and different activation requirements.

Each of these cards has a mana cost, found in the top right corner of the card, ranging from zero – ten, but the costs can be below or above that range due to certain other card effects. Mana is a key element to the game because of this. At the start of the game, each player starts with one mana crystal. From then on, at the start of each player’s turn, the respective player gains one mana crystal per turn up to ten. The mana pool can be expanded temporarily, but it will be returned to the original number at the end of the respective player’s turn.

If you want to learn more about how to get started with Hearthstone, I would check out the Hearthstone Official Website’s Game Guide and this Kotaku article that includes tips on how to expand your knowledge on the game. Additionally, I would explore the game’s subreddit and Wiki Page.

Bailey Brown

Author Bailey Brown

Bailey is an advertising major, nonprofit studies minor in her third year at the University of Oklahoma. She was given her first gaming device at the age of 9 and hasn't put it down since. She enjoys the exploration and puzzle solving of The Legend of Zelda and claims she can "beat anyone" in Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers. Follow her on Twitter @MissBaileyKay

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