Over the break, since I had a little more free time – oh wait, no, I didn’t. You don’t know what it takes to sell a house until you sell a house. It’s been, well, bad.
But whatever. It’s got to be done, and I do still have some free time, which I put to good use. For one, I finally beat the celestial tournament! Hooray! I chose Chi Chi for my first pet (since I already have the crazy cat lady title), but I haven’t had time to take him (her?) out for a spin just yet.
More importantly, or at least more relevant to this post, was my toe-dip into Hearthstone. When I recently re-downloaded Diablo 3 (don’t ask), it gave me the Blizzard launcher instead of just the Diablo 3 launcher, which was a sneakily brilliant marketing and branding move on Blizz’s part. It’s been handy to have, too, since I can just log into it and leave it up, then launch whichever game I want to play. Since Hearthstone was right there and I’d heard it was quick to download, I gave it a go one night when my wife had gone to bed.
It was fun, to be sure, but beyond that, it was just about what I’d expected. I played a lot – A LOT – of Magic as a younger man (and more recently online just for fun), so the whole concept wasn’t new to me, but I enjoyed Blizz’s spin on the genre. I like the art a lot (which was always true of magic, as well), and I like the overall personality of the game; it’s a bit silly and gnomish while incorporating lore-relevant characters against which to play. The Illidan encounter, in particular, was very funny and enjoyable.
The key differences I noticed between Magic and Hearthstone involve mana generation and the attack phase. In Magic, you have to draw and play your mana at a rate of no more than one per round (with some card exceptions, of course). In Hearthstone, though, you simply generate one mana per turn. This has advantages and drawbacks; for one, you can’t have a mana short, but for two, you can’t ever have more than ten mana (which was rare in Magic, but certain decks, like green decks, could manage to have ten mana on turn 4).
The combat, too, is different. In Magic, there’s an attack and a block phase, letting the defender decide whether he’d like to take the damage or put creatures in the way of the attackers. With only a few exceptions, defenders have more power of choice in Magic. The opposite is true in Hearthstone; attackers have a vastly larger pool of choice unless, of course, there’s a “taunt” monster on the table, which must be dealt with first. That, too, is different; there’s one distinct attack phase in Magic, so all the creatures are adjudicated simultaneously, but in Hearthstone, you can attack early or late, do actions in between, and choose who your attacks target. The attacker has much more power of choice.
So I liked the little differences there between Magic and Hearthstone, and it certainly makes old hands think hard about the game lest they fall into old patterns and make mistakes (which, of course, I did on a few occasions). However, it still suffers from what I consider the biggest flaw in these types of games: they’re essentially just a gamble. Bad draws can ruin the best deck. Of course, in any card game, there’s going to be bad draws, but that’s why I can’t take those games too seriously. My NWN buddy gave me good advice, and since it was coming from a “math oriented” person, it makes sense: you can’t view each game independently, but instead all games as a whole. But, while I acknowledge the rightness of that approach, I’m a narrative person, and in the story of my game playing experience, each loss still cuts, especially when I’m just card screwed. A good challenge that ends with a brilliant play makes a great story whether you win or lose. A new strategy that opens you up to possibilities doesn’t sting. But when your own deck turns against you, well, that’s a bummer.
So I enjoyed the experience, but I’m not sure how long it’ll last. If you play, though, and would like a game, let me know! I’d be happy to add you as a friend.
Stubborn (and moving – slowly)