Hearthstone(HS) is Blizzard's free to play mobile game featuring characters from the Warcraft franchise released in 2014.
HS allows you to pick one of nine hero classes and build a 30 card deck around it. Neutral cards and class cards are both available. Three main types of cards are weapons, spells, and minions. The objective is to get your opponents health total from 30 to zero. Players take turns playing cards that cost mana. Players both start at one mana each and typically gain mana at a rate of one per turn.
Game modes available include Standard, Wild, Ranked, Arena, Tavern Brawl, and Solo Adventures. Standard and Ranked allow players to battle other players using a specific set of cards. Ranked games give you a numerical score that decreases with wins and increases with losses. Wild allows players to use any and all cards in their collection. Tavern Brawl imposes special rules and restrictions that change on a weekly basis. Players can enjoy this mode with a limited collection(sometimes). On some weeks you will have to build a deck of your own cards, which could prove difficult for new players.
Solo Adventures have always included a mode to play normal matches against the AI. With the release of Curse of Naxxramas in 2015, Hearthstone introduced "Adventures", which were specially designed encounters with famous bosses from the Warcraft universe. These included a smaller set of cards which could be earned through completing the adventure.
Adventures were discontinued in 2017 with the release of One Night in Karazhan, and at the end of the year Blizzard released the Dungeon Run mode. Dungeon Run is a series of eight bosses fought in succession with a smaller, basic deck of cards. After beating each boss your deck gains buffs and extra cards, allowing you to craft a unique deck. This game mode is always available and doesn't depend on your card collection. However, there are no rewards.
Strategy in Hearthstone is highly complex. However, there is a heavy reliance on cards with "random" effects. As a digital trading card game, Hearthstone can allow interactions such as picking a random card out of the entire collection. However, this randomness can limit player interaction and allows for unexpected wins/losses.
There is a huge amount of varied content available for Hearthstone players of all experience levels. Veterans of the game will have a gigantic lead in card availability, but new players can enjoy game modes that don't depend on the collection.
HS does not have a premium currency. You can purchase packs of cards for $2.99 for two, or a maximum of 50 packs for $49.99. You can purchase a "Welcome Pack" once that guarantees you a legendary class card. You can also purchase exclusive heroes to use instead of the default ones supplied for the game for $9.99 each, which spices up your characters animations and offer no gameplay advantage.
Gold is the only currency in Hearthstone. It's used to pay for a pack of 5 cards, one guaranteed to be rare or better, at 100 Gold each. You earn Gold through completing quests, which are gained at a rate of one per day. Gold rewards are typically between 40 and 60 gold, with rare 100 Gold quests sometimes available. You can only hold three quests at a time, and can "reroll" one quest per day.
The best value you can get for your gold is their Arena format. At the cost of either 150 Gold or $1.99, you can enter the Arena by drafting a deck of 30 cards. The arena always rewards you with one pack of cards. If you can win seven out of a maximum of 12 games, you gain your entry fee back as well as the pack. Players can theoretically gain infinite packs by being good enough at the game. It is challenging, but very possible and there are many guides available to assist.
The area that Hearthstone fails at is their distribution of cards within the packs. The card rarity distribution is unknown, but recent estimates put the cost at over $400 to complete one expansion set(of which there are up to three). Guaranteeing you the cards you need is impossible as well, and you need to destroy four cards of equal rarity to create a new card. For decks that rely heavily on legendary minions, this cost is exorbitant.
While there is a game mode that offers a lot of value, players of their most popular game mode are heavily restricted by the rarity system in HS. The cost of a complete collection of HS cards costs as much as some consoles. There are a few bonuses such as infrequent giveaways and a weekly pack earned through Tavern Brawl, but ultimately it is unsustainable for a casual player.
Blizzard has a distinct art style that has wide appeal. The card art is detailed and golden cards are slightly animated. Every minion has voiced lines for actions such as attacking or being played. Cards of legendary rarity usually have unique animations to go along with them. Heroes are fully voiced (including emotes), and game boards have fancy interactive set pieces. The game has a ton to see, and if the art style doesn't actively turn you off, you'll have a ton of fun.
One quest that can earn you between 40-100 Gold is the only daily reward available in HS.
Playing the game weekly allows you to collect the free pack awarded every time a new Tavern Brawl releases. After one month of play is over, the leaderboards reset. If you are above Rank 20(of a possible 25) you are rewarded with one or a couple "golden" cards(foil copies), and an exclusive card backing. There isn't much to speak of when compared to other card games like Shadowverse.
HS entered its beta in late 2013. Since then there have been 11 batches of new cards released in a span of four years. The game is consistently in the top ten most viewed games on Twitch. Newcomers to Hearthstone will find a completely different game from the one Blizzard initially released. It shows no signs of slowing down.
It's easy to understand why Blizzard was successful with a game like HS. Millions of people familiar with the Warcraft universe found it easy to download and try for free. The production value of the game is astronomical, gameplay is compelling, and there's a healthy player ecosystem. But it's not without its flaws. The cost to keep up with the current sets isn't practical. Rewards compared to other mobile games are sparse. Also, while Hearthstone is also playable on PC, the mobile app has been known to have issues with latency and file size.