Hearthstone is an upcoming F2P digital collectible card game from Blizzard   Enterntainment that revolves around turn-based online 1vs1 matches between two opponents. Players start the game with a substantial collection of ‘basic’ cards, but can gain rarer cards through purchasing packs of additional cards, or as reward for success in the Arena. Hearthstone is set withing the Warcraft universe.

Since I have played numerous physical card games back in the days, the game highly resonates with me. As it is done by Blizzard, despite the large amount of bugs, it is still very polished for a game still in beta phase. The game successfully imitates real cards (it has the right ‘feeling’), is very well balanced, and has a nice learning curve. As expected from the company that brought World of Warcraft, the graphics are slightly cartoony, but a pleasure to look at.


  • The success of one’s game relies heavily on one’s skill
  • Skill can be shown in
    • Creating playing decks out of cards in Constructed Mode
    • Creating playing decks out of cards in Arena Mode
      • Each arena run you are given a random choice of 3 cards iteratively until your pack of 30 cards is full, which shows your understanding of the game mechanics and trends
  • Playing the game
    • It is paramount to know how to react to opponent’s plays
    • Knowing when and how to play defensively/aggressively
    • Approximating the probabilities of you drawing ‘that special card’ you need
    • Controlling the game board – dictating your opponent’s counterplays
  • It does not happen often such that a higher-skilled player dominates the lower-skilled player as an internal ranking system of players has been implemented (see section Balance)


  • The most important aspect of chance comes in drawing cards from the deck of 30 cards
    • The correct or incorrect order for one’s success defines the outcomes of many games
  • Every time one buys a new card pack, he/she gets a random set of 5 cards out of 382
    • Different rarity class cards have different chances of appearing
    • Every card revealed can become a Golden vanity card with a small chance
  • Every time one finishes an Arena run, he is rewarded with a random amount of packages that may include in a predefined range a random amount of
    • Gold (in-game money), Dust (for crafting new cards), Card packs or a random card
  • Every day each player receives a new randomly selected quest with a gold reward
  • Chance is not as important to a player’s long-term success as skill
    • With extended knowledge of the game and intelligence, one can work around the lack of synergy between cards and the unluck of drawing the wrong cards


  • Can easily be compared with chess, which is considered one of the most elegant games
    • The game is between 2 people with relatively equal chance of winning
    • Uses mindgames and countering
  • Each match is a short-term goal for a player with the purpose of winning it
  • Each match contributes to long-term goals
    • Gaining experience both in-game and mentally
    • Levelling up the characters
    • Unlocking new cards
    • Ranking up in the global ladder and ranking system
  • The game is elegant in the freedom and simplicity it gives the player in the ways he/she can construct the deck and play it


  • Game has in-game matchmaking ranking system that matches players according to their approximated skill level based upon former success or the lack of it
  • Everyone has the ability to acquire the same cards through the same means, thus being completely fair
  • As some in-game classes are sometimes inherently stronger than others, the community counters these classes automatically by building decks that work against them, thus weakening and giving other class decks a higher chance of winning
    • So although Blizzard does nerf the cards that are so good that are used in almost every deck, no explicit balancing is needed on their behalf

The Nameless Quality

  • Has very natural design and feel to it
    • A lot of emphasis is put on such that the cards feel physical as in real life
    • Although possible to implement the game in 2D, the game takes advantage of 3D effects to make the feeling of the game more realistic
    • Many apparently static ‘beauty’ elements of the game are interactable as you wait for your turn
      • E.g. clicking on roof tiles of a decorative house to break them off
      • E.g. petting a lying-down gryffin from the Warcraft universe
  • From the Alexander’s Fifteen Properties of Living Structures has
    • Boundaries – strict enforced game rules and limited cards per class
    • Alternating Repetition – drawing a card from the deck
    • Deep Interlock and Ambiguity – The cards played might have different effects given their position on the board and based upon which cards it is on the board adjacent to
    • Gradients – as you get better in the game, you also get more skilled opponents
    • Echoes – there are 3 types of cards: minions, spells and weapons
    • The Void – the game board is initially empty and can be emptied, leaving a big space
    • Simplicity and Inner Calm – self-balancing game as time progresses
    • Not-Separateness – high emphasis is put on the synergy between cards and is paramount for success