Blizzard revealed that they would be announcing something at PAX East not so long ago, but very few actually expected their announcement to be an actual game. Nevertheless, introducing Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, an online strategy card game in the vein of Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers. Best of all, Hearthstone is free-to-play and entirely digital. Its release date? Entirely unknown.
Wow, okay, yeah, a Blizzard card game setting in the Warcraft universe. That can be pretty cool, right? And it seems (not 100% here) that all of the cards in the game will be acquirable digitally. That doesn't mean buying power in the strictest sense -- players can purchase card packs or unlock them through gameplay, where each pack has five random card of different rarities. There's common (white), rare (blue), epic (purple) and legendary (orange), and each pack is guaranteed to have at least one rare. As with any card game, it's not what cards you have, but how you use them.
How will Hearthstone work? Well, first off Blizzard is making it clear Hearthstone is for everyone -- no previous experience with Warcraft or other collectible card games required. There's three gameplay modes, "Play Mode" matches players online against a real opponent with their own unique decks, allowing them to fight for cards or medals. Training mode is a battle against the AI, either on Easy or Expert difficulty. Finally, Forge mode allows player to choose from a small subset of cards to form a deck they may not otherwise have, and then battle against another person who selected their deck from the same cards -- an equal footed battle, if you may.
The actual details and complexities of battling cards themselves are still rather vague. Blizzard makes it clear you'll choose from one of nine Warcraft heroes (deck types?) and then using spells, weapons and minions to defeat your opponent. All Blizzard has really said is it's easy and accessible -- five minutes and you'll be addicted. Battles can take as short as ten minutes. It's meant to be a quick, fun game that can be super casual.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is currently planned for PC, Mac, and iPad with no scheduled release window. Beta is said to start soon, so expect tons of extra information in the months ahead.
Anyone else want actual cards to go along with the digital game? It'd be like the Magic revolution all over again. Check out the announcement trailer, an introduction video, and a dozen screenshots and pieces of concept art below. And of course, feel free to check out the official Hearthstone website for more information and beta sign-ups.