Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, 8.5 out of 10 based on 29 ratings

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free-to-play digital collectible card game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. As a long-term fan of Blizzard’s games, I was lucky enough to be granted access to the closed beta of Hearthstone when it was first released on PC. Hooked right from the beginning, my only complaint was that I had to sit at my computer to play a game that would be perfect for the iPad. Now it’s finally here, does Hearthstone for iPad live up to expectations? In short, yes! Download it right now and get playing. Not convinced? Then read on, or skip that and watch our video review instead.


Sporting nine different classes, four game modes and an abundance of cards, Hearthstone provides casual and hardcore CCG gamers alike with hundreds of hours of gameplay. For a freemium game, I was astounded by the amount of decent cards you get for free. Winning games and completing quests gain you more cards as well as gold coins, which you can use to buy even more cards. If you play well, and the gods are on your side, you need never spend a penny of real money. However, in-app purchases are available, should you wish to build your decks faster.

Hearthstone IAP

Both players choose a class for their hero, who starts with 30 health. Each match lasts no more than 15 minutes, and the object of the game is to be the first to reduce your opponent’s health to zero. Armed with 30 cards each, both players take turns casting cards from their custom deck. However, the cards are dealt randomly, and casting them costs mana. Mana increases by one point with each turn and is replenished at the start of the next. A maximum of ten mana points are available, and any unused mana points on any turn are lost.


The key to winning is knowing the cards and building a strong, balanced deck. Whilst there are a lot of neutral cards available for use by all classes, each class has its own specific cards and some of these can deliver game-changing blows when used at the right time. Learn the best strategies of each class, tinker with your decks to find the right combination of cards, and you can rank up rapidly.

A customised Priest deck

A customised Priest deck

Practice mode starts with a mini-quest as a one-off tutorial in which you are pitted against the AI, who is personified as the Innkeeper. What’s more, practice mode allows you to play as any class you wish, and set the AI to be whichever class you’d like to duel against. This is an extremely useful feature, as it allows you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each class, from both sides of the table.


Play mode randomly matches you against another online player of a similar skill, and you can choose between casual (friendly) or ranked play. The latter allows you to rank up and gain special rewards, usually in the form of new cards. To be honest, this mode is ideal for most players, as it affords the best all-round pick-up-and-play experience. For every 3 victories, you will earn 10 gold coins, but you can earn more by completing daily quests. You can also play your friends in duels mode. Whilst this works exactly the same as play mode, there’s little reward for the winner other than the pleasure of defeating your friend.


Arena mode, whilst available to all players, is extremely challenging. Unlike the other modes, players don’t get to use their own decks; instead, you have to forge a new deck from a random offering of cards. An additional consideration is cost. Whereas you can play all the other modes for free, entry to the arena costs 150 gold coins per ticket, which equates to £1.49 / $1.99 / €1.79. Once you lose 3 matches or win 12, your ticket expires, and you collect your rewards.

Arena mode

Arena mode

Adventure mode isn’t currently available. However, Blizzard recently announced an upcoming single player adventure at PAX East, titled “Curse of Naxxramas: A Hearthstone Adventure”.


Hearthstone delivers individually crafted, high quality artwork and a user-friendly interface. Gameplay is intuitive and the opening tutorial makes light work of getting you up to speed. The ability to buy card packs using gold that you’ve earned by winning games means you’re not going to get ripped off by costly IAP. A great feature is the ability to craft cards you want for free. Duplicate or unwanted cards can be destroyed and turned into Arcane Dust – a kind of pseudo-currency – which can then be used to create specific cards.

Disenchanting unwanted cards lets you create new ones.

Disenchanting unwanted cards lets you create new ones.

Admittedly there’s no offline play, but this is more than compensated for by the wide choice of game modes, considerable online content and addictive ranking system. Once you register your Battle.net account, you can play Hearthstone on iPad, PC or Mac and access all your cards and account on any of these devices. My only complaint is the occasional crash and frame rate issues. Thankfully neither seem to happen very often, so hopefully they’ll be ironed out in the first patch.

Hearthstone decks

Parents can rest assured; Blizzard has done a wonderful thing and ensured that in-game chat is restricted to a handful of pleasant emotes, thereby preventing the haters and trolls from ruining your kid’s game. In short, Hearthstone is a feature-rich game experience that ticks all the boxes.

Family-friendly emotes prevents trolling.

Family-friendly emotes prevents trolling.

VERDICT: 9.5/10

Blizzard has once again managed to achieve the holy grail in game design by creating a game that is easy to learn but difficult to master. Hearthstone is an addictive game that’s approachable for card game newcomers and veterans alike, with its ease of access and depth of strategy. Highly replayable with fairly-priced IAP and tons of free content, Hearthstone is the fairest freemium game I’ve ever played. Once they fix the occasional crashes and lag, Hearthstone will be a perfect 10/10 game. Don’t hesitate to download and try it out for yourself.

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  1. Nachtfischer

    The depth that’s to be found in Hearthstone is really quite amazing. You just don’t expect it at first. The “funny” thing is, though: the better I get, the more the randomness of the system gets to my nerves. Okay, maybe when I started it was even worse. When I played for the _first_ time, I saw little BUT randomness. Then I was in that neat learning phase (and there clearly is a lot of skill involved), where it was somehow bearable, because it was mostly not clear if I made mistakes or drew badly. Now that I’m reasonably good, I think, it’s turning to awful again. I mostly know whether I did everything right. And when the game then gets decided by card draws or incredibly lucky RNG card effects, it’s nothing but infuriating. So, I think I’m officially done with this. Which is a shame since it’s now
    on iPad (and I might still play a couple matches on the couch for that
    It’s not uncommon with digital strategy games, I guess. You play a few hundred matches, and get to a point where you’ve not exactly solved them (I’m not just talking about componential complexity through the hundreds of cards by the way, but primarily about _systemic_ intricacies), but play well enough so that further learning would require too much effort for too little reward. But the amount of randomness stays the same, so it takes the decisive upper hand at some point.
    Well, to be fair, that’s far more than you get out of most games, especially _video_ strategy games. It’s still not exactly what I’d call “deep”, but certainly deeper than most. And all that for free, so I’m not complaining.

  2. SilasKnight

    I enjoyed this game, but the lack of asynchronous play completely killed any sustainability for me. I play games at work during breaks or at home when I’m watching my 22 month old and need to be able to set something down at a moment’s notice. I found the game really fun, but really surprised it didn’t have the ability to play asynchronous, especially since others like Solforge manage so easily, and it doesn’t seem like it would be extremely prohibitive with the programming requirements and card abilities currently offered.

    They have said that asynchronous play is an eventual possibility. If it ever comes up, it’ll definitely go in my active queue.

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