With so many bite-sized elements in today's video games, most players have a daily casual game. I'm not talking about a players daily grind on the game they are currently aiming to beat, but that one game a gamer plays for maybe 30-60 minutes a day; that daily dose of gaming be it a few rounds of your favorite fighting game or a quick match or two on your favorite shooter or even a few levels of your favorite puzzler. Currently for me, and essentially making my current gaming experience a tad biased (in addition to also playing Heroes of the Storm, Diablo 3 and Overwatch) is Blizzard Entertainment's free-to-play collectible card game - Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
I was first introduced to Hearthstone through the Yogscast weekly stream Dad Decks (watch it above), back when it was known as Deck Rippers. With the game featuring a daily challenge, I log in every morning to complete said challenge and grab a new deck of cards if I have enough gold, Hearthstones in-game currency. I am not an expert at this game, I barely rise above level 20 in ranked play and I never play in the Arena or in the 'Wild' play set. I would consider myself to be of average competence in the game, neither pro nor noob, but I have never and will never use 'Net Decks', as in my opinion they are essentially cheating; net decks are decks built by someone else and shared over the internet, and are usually built around an exploit or weakness that can be used to dominate a match. Personally, I prefer to learn the game myself through trial and error, and experience.
Released 11th August was Hearthstones latest expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne (pictured above), which as with every expansion added new elements to the existing game while also adding 135 new cards to the collection. The new keyword Lifesteal and the new Hero Cards make for an interesting mix with the current state of the game, although they have not balanced out the somewhat overpowered Quest Cards that were introduced in the previous expansion Journey to Un'Goro (pictured below), which was released back in April. Knights of the Frozen Throne also gave us a new single-player ladder and the new Paladin Hero Arthas, with the new Warlock Hero Nemsy Necrofizzle to be added in the near future, though to unlock Nemsy players must participate in registered public games known as Fireside Gatherings, which as one can imagine are few and far between.
While I do enjoy playing Hearthstone, there is no denying that the game is, in its current state, is broken and unbalanced. Despite frequent updates and 'nerfs' from developer Blizzard some of the cards remain vastly overpowered, while others feel greatly underwhelming, including some of the recently introduced Quest Cards. That said the Adapt keyword, introduced with Journey to Un'Goro can make for some interesting power plays.
Hearthstone may be simpler to play than its leading competitor Magic: The Gathering, and newcomer Gwent but its inferred simplicity hides a deep and very strategic game that is quite difficult to master. This is likely why a good percentage of Hearthstone players depend on 'Net Decks'. While such decks can prove to be very powerful, thankfully due to developer Blizzard's foresight they can usually be nullified with relative ease. However, despite Blizzard's wisdom, each new expansion is essentially broken, with some cards proving to be too powerful. One example of this the Jade Golem's, introduced in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion, with each Golem played being incrementally stronger than the one before, which can be played for as little as one mana crystal using the Jade Idol card. Although Blizzard will sometimes apply nerfs to the game in the most severe of cases, such broken elements are never truly addressed until a card set is cycled out of the rotation.
Today, I am going to suggest a few ideas for the game, outside of the games Meta, focused around the games' Heroes. With Arthas (pictured above) and Nemsy's addition to the game, it looks as though Blizzard is gradually moving towards giving players a choice of heroes for each class. While this is a good move, I have always held that video games should embrace the ability for players to customize their playing experience. As such for Hearthstone, I propose the ability for players to use one of the cards in their collection as a decks hero. After this, a player would choose from one of the nine available classes, choosing from a selection of predetermined hero powers; two or three available per class, before creating their deck from the cards available to the class chosen. It would be up to Blizzard whether or not to add emotes for each and every card, though with the feature being purely cosmetic one could argue such an extensive audio overhaul is ultimately unnecessary. If added, this feature would make decks much more personalized to the individual players, which is always a good thing.
Playing the game as frequently as I do I have realized that one way in which the game is broken is the random nature of how players draw cards during a match. While I understand that this has been done to make matches between players as fair as possible, it does remove from the strategic element of the game. However, I believe adopting Gwent's deck mechanics, whereby their whole deck is visible to the player, would tip the balance too far away from Blizzard Entertainments vision for the game. A suitable alternative instead would be an adaptation of Hearthstones own 'discover' system in which at the start of each turn the player is given a choice to pick one of three cards randomly drawn from their deck, with the chosen card being added to their hand and the other two cards returned to their deck. Thus players would get a slightly more strategic yet random choice of their next card.