It’s been a rough couple of years for the family game market. While tabletop gaming is experiencing a huge spike in popularity (which is absolutely swell, and I mean it), it’s been rough finding a good kids’ video game lately. If your kids finally do find a game they can play over and over, it’s not really something you want to play (or listen to, or watch) for very long. Well friends, I think you just may have a solution coming your way in the form of Blizzard’s free-to-play card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
I had my doubts about this game at first. Actually, I had some pretty sizable doubts, to be honest. I’ve had closed beta access for awhile now, but I just couldn’t bring myself to start playing it. I didn’t want to learn a new card game with a new set of rules that was probably way too hard for me to master. It’s free to play, and I knew there would be some pay-to-win scheme involved. The biggest reason of all, however, is that I just don’t have time anymore for long and involved video games. It’s sad, but true. If something recreational isn’t doable in twenty minute chunks, I can’t bother.
Thankfully, I ended up trying Hearthstone in the end. It wasn’t too hard to learn, everything purchasable with money can also be bought with gold earned by completing ‘daily’ challenges or unlocking achievements, and matches can take as little as ten minutes. All of my doubts were completely unjustified, and I couldn’t be happier.
What is Hearthstone?
In a nutshell, Hearthstone pits you and your carefully cultivated card deck against either a random real person or A.I. NPC’s. You get into the game, play a quick tutorial, and begin battling opponents. You gain more points to spend each turn, and consequently gain the ability to play more and more p0werful cards from your deck to take down the hit points of your enemy or their minions. It’s crazy simple.
As an adult, you’ll find this game to be addictive, challenging and entertaining. But we’re not here to talk about you, we’re here to talk about the little guys. What’s in it for them?
1. The Graphics
Just look at those big, cartoony, kid-friendly graphics. Even just clicking in the corner springs an animation. When it’s your turn, the board becomes super responsive to your mouse-overs. When you cast a spell, fun effects occur. When you get new cards, the screen explodes into awesomeness. It just feels bright and fun.
2. The Game’s Accessibility and Simplicity
While deck building can take a good bit of intelligence, patience and mastery (along with a little luck), getting starting with this game could not be easier. You don’t need a custom deck to have a good time, and you don’t need to know a whole lot to luck out and win a few matches. The menus and rules are simple to understand, and no matter what the player’s experience level is there are several ways to have a great time.
3. The Game’s Humor
Snuck in along with the ranks of famously stoic WoW NPC’s like Jaina Proudmoore, Garrosh Hellscream and Thrall are fun cards with neat buffs like the murloc “mrrrglaargl.” The loading screen occasionally elicits a giggle as it flips through different types of people you could battle against before landing on “worthy opponent” like coffee addict or perky priest.
All of the humor is clean, but definitely subtly silly enough to make kids (and their hardcore gaming parents) smile without an eyeroll.
Why Parents Will Be Pleased
As if wanting to battle against your kids for hours isn’t enough reason to want to play this, there are a few reasons parents can relax when their kids end up loving this game.
Unlike other social games, there isn’t any way for opposing players to chat with each other. Your kids are completely safe from profanity and Internet trolls.
Much like chess, giving kids choices in a game that uses a bit of strategy and pitting them against real people can seriously improve their critical thinking and logic. As they become more adept at the game, they’ll become better and better mastering the nuances of the logic and tactics needed to create decks and win against opponents. They won’t be able to help but to come away smarter and more cunning, but they’ll never know it.
Hearthstone is currently in open beta, so you are free to download away. You’ll need to get a Battle.net account from Blizzard, download the desktop client, and select Hearthstone to begin downloading the game.
A few months following Hearthstone’s official release, Blizzard plans to unroll iOS and Android versions of the addictive card game, so you’ll never be without your Warcraft Heroes.