Sunday, 4 May 2014

Hearthstone thoughts

I think I have played about 60 games of Hearthstone by now, and I'm really enjoying it. This is the first time I got this far with a Collectible Card Game (CCG). I have never played this much of any other CCG's before, or LCG's (Living Card Games). Basically I have never gone in depth into any CCG or LCG. With Hearthstone I'm now tinkering with a bit of deck-building. I don't consider myself anywhere near being an expert, but I am enjoying the game immensely. I don't feel any pressure or urge to spend real money to buy cards. The game already comes with many free cards, and by simply playing as the 9 different characters you can earn more free cards, at least until they advance to Level 10. The daily quests (usually along the lines of winning a certain number of games using a particular character) award gold, which can then be used to buy card packs. I usually just play to complete these quests, and the gold I earn allows me to buy a new pack every few days, which I'm quite happy with. Here are my random thoughts about the game.

Having many cards in hand is important, and so is drawing more cards than the standard one-card-per-turn. More cards in hand means more flexibility to react to threats. Holding many cards in itself is also a threat, and makes your opponent think twice before making any move, because he will worry about whether anything he does will invite a deadly counter-attack. I have learned that it is not always a good idea to try to play as many cards as you can, fully utilising the mana gained during your turn. Sometimes it is better to just hold on to a card, and only play it when the effect is greatest. Some cards should be saved for more desperate situations. It is still important to keep playing minions and attacking your opponent, to maintain a pressure on your opponent. It is just that you must try to have a reserve so that you have some flexibility. I always get nervous, even if I'm winning, when I'm out of cards and can only rely on that one card draw per turn.

It is important to know your opponent's character - the general style of play as well as the specific cards for the character that he may have in his deck. Knowing these means you know what to watch out for, so that when you play you avoid making risky moves. For example, one of the characters has a spell which can turn any minion into a frog. So if you have enough mana to play two medium-strength minions or one-high strength minion, you may want to go with the two medium-strength ones. I'm just getting into this level of play, and I find it very enjoyable. When you get decimated by the same card a few times, you start to remember it.

If you want to have a coherent strategy, or a specialised strategy, you probably want to do deck-building. The game allows you to play with a random deck or with your own pre-built deck. I'm not sure how the system builds your random deck. It probably just follows some generic formula, like how many minions and spells of a certain cost, and how many character-specific cards plus how many neutral cards. The system-built random decks seem to work at a basic level, but if you want a bit more control and if you want to experiment with certain strategies, then you have to spend the effort to deck-build.

One opponent showed me a very impressive move. He didn't have many fancy minions, and during our game I felt I had a slight lead. Then suddenly within one single turn he killed me using his lone mediocre minion. He played a spell to increase the minion's health, then played another spell to double its health, then played yet another spell to increase the minion's attack value to be the same as its health. Suddenly, I was facing a 22-attack, 22-health monster grinning down at me. Game over.

Sometimes when I lose I whine that the other guy won because he had better cards. In the back of my mind, I don't think it's always true. I feel most if not all powerful cards have some way to counter them. Usually if you know your opponent may have a certain powerful card, you can adjust your play to mitigate the impact of getting hit by it. Of course there is still some luck, this being a card game. Even if you have the right cards to counter a certain powerful card, it doesn't mean you will draw them at the right time. I don't play very competitively. The game offers casual play as well as ranked play. At the moment I'm comfortable not spending real money to buy cards to boost my strength. Maybe later on, if I get very competitive, but at the moment I don't see it. I'm thankful that Blizzard offered this game free. I'm sure there will be players who decide to buy cards, and I don't see it as a bad thing. Blizzard has produced a great product and they deserve to make money from it. In fact I feel I should spend some real money. Maybe I'll buy some packs just to support them.

I get annoyed when an opponent can already kill me off but still wastes time summoning minions and casting spells instead of just getting it over and done with. When I know I'll lose, I don't just concede and exit. I give my opponent the pleasure of making that final kill. But if I see the guy still going around in circles trying to set up some elaborate and unnecessary master stroke, I get annoyed and feel like just leaving the room. When I win I'd just stab you straight in the chest and get it over and done with. Thank you and good game.

If my attempt to get into Android: Netrunner can be like Hearthstone I'd be very happy. I have been wanting to go in-depth with Netrunner, but am still not there yet. Allen has agreed to join me. I have passed to him all my runner cards for deck-building, while I fiddle with the corporate decks. However we have yet to start our regular plays. The idea is to play it as a quick filler each time we meet, before we move on to the main course.

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