At BlizzCon 2019, Blizzard had several announcements, including Diablo IV and Overwatch 2. Included in those announcements was not only a new expansion for Hearthstone, but a new mode was also revealed. Getting into the up and coming auto-battler genre, Blizzard was happy to reveal Hearthstone Battlegrounds. Having a chance to play during the beta, and being my first auto-battler experience, saying it’s addicting is an understatement.
Hearthstone Battlegrounds pits eight players into a match where they recruit minions and battle a single player each turn. This process repeats itself, rotating battles against the other players until one remains. Each turn, players will earn an extra gold coin to use until they cap at ten coins. It’s a simple process but it has a surprisingly deep strategy to it. Despite the minions attacking randomly, there is a lot of thought in picking your minions. Even choosing the battle order can give players an advantage if they play their cards right (excuse the pun). The choice of the players hero also plays a part in the strategy, though it’s also pretty random.
In the beginning of a match, players will be given three random heroes to choose from. Each hero has a unique skill, some more useful than others, though even the lesser skills can be good with the right cards. These skills range pretty drastically too, like Pyramad’s ability to add two health points to a random minion or Nefarion’s ability to deal one damage to all enemy minions at the start of a turn. Each of the 24 characters offer something a little different, though the random element makes it difficult to win consecutive matches.
After playing dozens of matches, I have yet to win a single time. The closest I’ve gotten was second place, where my army of minions were no match for my opponent. I managed to survive a round against them, being left with a single sliver of health. It wasn’t enough to improve my army though, and I still took the loss. Even though my track record is full of losses, I still found the game incredibly fun. It always made me want to go one more match, even when my hero wasn’t an ideal choice. The chance of luck being on my side could always turn the tide, and I’m always game to try.
As mentioned before, this is an auto-battler, so minion selection from Bob’s Tavern is key. Many of the Hearthstone elements are still here. Minions have Battlecries, Deathrattles, Taunt, Divine Shields and more to strategize with. There are also minion categories, including Beasts, Murlocs, Demons and Mechs. It also appears that Dragons will join the ranks at some point, though currently, they are not in this mode. Since minions and skills are basically all the player has, they have to choose their cards wisely to make them work together. Sometimes it may be best to go all Murlocs and let them power each other up. If you have a hero with Mech related skills, it might be better to do an all Mech team. Either way, powering up your minion team is vital.
There are a few ways to power up minions in Hearthstone Battlegrounds. One of the simplest ways is to buy three of the same card, which automatically upgrades a Minion to a more powerful version. This will not only make them stronger, but it will often improve their abilities too. Another option is to use other minion cards, as many have Battlecries or abilities to power up other minions. Some will do it when the card is summoned while others will do it automatically once per turn. A little luck can change things too, like having a minion with a Deathrattle die, potentially summoning other minions or powering up others.
Some of the real strategy comes in the way the player uses gold to buy their minions. Buying a minion will typically cost three coins, though there are a few exceptions with certain skills. Selling a minion will earn a single gold coin back, and many skills require gold. Players will have to be smart with the currency, optimizing their money to maximize the potential to their turns. Sometimes this can be buying an extra minion, or even rotating through to find a more ideal option. It may also be best to use coins to rank up the minions in the tavern. Luckily, freezing the minion selection is free, which can make it possible to save a purchase for the next turn. Playing with these mechanics will help players understand the way the game works fairly quickly.
While I haven’t won a match, I do a little better each time. Learning new strategies, finding new options with different heroes, and even discover new exploits. The experience is addicting enough that I can enjoy the match, even when I’m losing. It may be the random element that makes it this way, as I’m not in direct control of my fate. Either way, this may be the exact thing that Hearthstone needs to freshen things up. The good news is that Hearthstone Battlegrounds is now in open beta, so you can try it yourself. No card pack purchase necessary. Feel free to give it a shot and see what you think of the new mode.