Critical Play: Is this game balanced?

Hearthstone is a strategy game created by Blizzard Entertainment and available on mobile and PC. The target audience is people who enjoy playing card games, and the game is accessible to many different types of players. The game has various modes of play, and I will be focusing on the mode called “Battlegrounds”, a mode where eight players purchase and upgrade “minions” to compete with each other in one-on-one rounds.

Regarding the formal elements, this is a player v. player game, and the objective is to be the last player standing as the rounds progress. The player can either face the outcome of winning when they are the last player standing, or they lose if their health is reduced to zero and are eliminated. The procedure and rules of the game can be summarized by the following: Each round starts with a phase where players can buy “minions”. Players are allotted a certain amount of “gold” each round for buying “minions”. At the end of each round, the player is paired with another player, and their minions automatically attack each other until all the minions from one of the players are destroyed. Then, the losing player’s “hero” is attacked based on the status of the winning player’s remaining minions. The rounds continue in such as fashion that players can buy, exchange, and upgrade minions. They are also able to upgrade the level of minions. This process continues until the player loses when their hero’s health is depleted, or until they win by being the last player standing. The player faces conflict when they are limited by the resource of “gold” each turn they take and by the choice of minions they are presented with. The player is also limited by only being able to have seven minions at one time. Thus, the player must make strategic decisions within the boundaries of the choices they are given.

The main type of fun in this game is challenge. As a strategy game, the player must make effective decisions to compete with other players. The game could also embody fantasy due to the artwork embedded in the game.

This game is successful because there are many possibilities due to a large number of choices in minions and heroes that the player has access to. So, there is a large amount of replay value as players test out the effectiveness of different strategies. However, a failure is that the game can be somewhat difficult to pick up because of the complexity of the mechanics. A change that could help with this is by adding more visual reminders throughout the game indicating the function of different elements.

The game balance is responsible for a large part of the game experience. The four types of balance are challenge level in single-player games, asymmetry in multi-player games, multiple strategies within a game, and balance with game objects. Hearthstone Battlegrounds is a multi-player game. It handles challenges with asymmetry by giving each player mostly the same starting position. Each player starts with the same amount of gold and the same number of minions to choose from. Although there are differences between each of the different “heroes”, the game is balanced such that the abilities of each hero generally do not give an unbeatable advantage to any one player. There is also a mix of strategies and paths to victory. Players are presented with numerous choices of minions to buy each round and each choice leads to different strategies. There is no one strategy that is dominant because of the randomness of a large number of choices and because there are several effective ways to win against other players. Regarding the balance between the game objects, the game objects can be balanced in a transitive, intransitive, or fruity way. This game mostly uses “fruity” comparisons with the balance between the “minion” game objects. This is because the different minions and categories of minions are different from each other and it’s hard to make direct comparisons. There is not one category of minions that overpowers another due to these differences.

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