If your kids have been telling you about a game called Hearthstone, you might be wondering why they’re suddenly so interested in stone lined fireplaces. Hearthstone is a new turn-based card game that has become extremely popular. As someone who has been playing the last couple of weeks, I hope I can explain why this game is so interesting.
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Price: The game is free to download, and can be played on Mac, and PC, as well as iOS and Android devices.
Rating: T for teen by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes.
Concept: Hearthstone is an online card game that was inspired by the immensely popular game World of Warcraft. The game features nine characters all from the Warcraft universe, each with their own special ability and class specific cards. Each player chooses a hero that starts with 30 hit points, and chooses a deck of 30 cards that consist of spells and characters. You can only have two of each card in your deck at a time. The aim of the game is to use your cards to attack the enemy hero until their hit points reach 0.
Is it Educational?
Yes the game can be educational on several levels:
- Math: The game requires you to continually make calculations in a time sensitive environment. Each card has a ‘mana cost’, you start the game with 0 mana, and gain one per turn until you reach 10. Figuring which cards to play at the right time to maximize effectiveness requires skill. Each card also has attack and health. During your turn you must calculate how much mana you can spend, and how much damage you can deal to keep your enemy off balance, while making sure your hero is protected and you won’t run out of cards.
- Strategy: Players are responsible for building their decks, which means choosing 30 cards ranging in cost and abilities. As a player you must think about what kind of player you are going to be: Aggressive or defensive? Will you rely on traps? Can you make it through the beginning rounds to use your stronger cards? All these factors come into play when building a deck.
- Adaptability: Your opponents have put just as much thought into their strategy as you have, so you need to stay on your toes. Just because you can play a card does not always mean you should. Part of the game is anticipating what your opponent will play next, and being prepared for it. Not to mention certain cards have abilities that will change the battle field, adding buffs to allies or negating an enemy’s defense.
- Management: There are two resources to keep track of: Gold and Crafting Powder. Winning battles and completing challenges rewards the player with gold. This gold can buy new card decks, or allows you to compete in the arena where you can win a variety of prizes. Crafting powder is one such prize you can win, which allows you to ‘craft’ a card of your choosing as opposed to randomly getting them through card decks. If you have more than two of the same card you can ‘disenchant’ them to obtain more crafting powder.
Is it okay for kids?
In my opinion, yes. I understand the game is rated T for the reasons above, but the only ones I think really apply are:
- Mild suggestive themes, because some of the cards feature female characters with cleavage showing
- Fantasy violence: some of the cards feature a battle scene, but the images aren’t animated and the characters don’t battle one another; it would be like having a King of Hearts and Jack of Spades card, and throwing them at each other and calling it a fight.
‘Alcohol references’ is included because a character is holding a mug of mead in a few scenes, and some of the cards have the word ‘blood’ in them but very few actually have the visual of blood. If you want to look at the cards yourself here is the full list.
What about Multiplayer?
You can play against a PC in Hearthstone, but like other card games, it is meant to be played against human opponents. It is a standard in multiplayer games to be able to communicate. Usually this is through text or voice controls. This tends to be the most notorious part of multiplayer games in that you don’t know what the person on the other end is going to say.
Hearthstone avoids this in a very simple way. The only option to communicate with the other player is through six preset options:
- Well played
All of these are spoken through the character and examples of ‘threaten’ are: ‘The Elements will Destroy you’ or ‘I will crush you’, overall it’s very PG. The only way to chat with a player is if a friend request is accepted. Because the game uses the Blizzard’s Battle.net system it does link any game registered with Battle.net.
Overall this game is a ton of fun, and is a great challenge for any age. If your child is old enough they will have a great time playing with friends all over the world, and using their critical thinking skills to overcome challenges. If you have two devices this is a great game that can be played between you and your student. Not to mention this is a very polished game that has a lot of resources behind it, and you get all of this for free.