Hearthstone is introducing it's first new Game Mode, in a very long time: Battlegrounds. This post will attempt to bring you all the information you need to understand how they work.
When can you start playing this game mode?
Closed Beta starts 5th of November for people with a Virtual Ticket or who preordered Descent of Dragons. Open Beta starts November 12th. Open to everyone!
What is Hearthstone Battlegrounds in short?
- Combination between Hearthstone and the popular Auto-Battler genre.
- Free to play, no entry cost.
- No rewards, except prestige and fun.
- Player vs Player.
- 8 real life players queue in, no bots.
- Accessible from a new button on the main Hearthstone menu, simply labeled "Modes".
The basic idea is that you choose one of 24 Heroes, who start with 40 health, then pick minions to fight for you from the offered selection in a Recruit Phase and afterwards have those minions fight for you automatically in a Battle Phase. Battle lasts until one side has no minions left. At that point the power level of the remaining minions gets totaled and turned into points, added to a base number of 1 (which scales) and applied as face damage to the opposing Hero. When both sides end up with no minions left, it is a draw and no damage gets applied to either Hero. You go back and forth between the Recruit phase and the Battle phase on a fixed timer untill there is only 1 player remaining.
What is Battlegrounds in more detail?
So what does this look like in practice? You start the game off on a launch menu with your rating, the number of top 4 finishes and a launch button. Once queued and accepted you get a choice of 3 Heroes with different Hero Powers, all unique to this game mode. You can see all the available Heroes HERE.
After this you hit the Recruit Phase. Which looks like this:
- A: This is the current standings, 1 through 8. Your portrait has a blue outline. The red portrait highlighted and sticking out is your next opponent. You can hover over these portraits for information about this opponent like you see HERE
- B: This is the button that lets you "Cheer" which upgrades Bob's awesome Tavern and allows you to Recruit a higher quality minion. As you get a higher level you also get a larger number of Minions to choose from growing from 3 at the start. Very importantly the Tavern level also increases the damage you do at the end of the Battle Phase when you have defeated your opponent. As indicated it currently costs 5 gold pieces to use this button, but that price does go down as the game goes on, 1 gold per turn.
- C: This is the button that let's you freeze the selection of minions that Bob has on offer till your next Recruit Phase. As indicated it costs 0 gold pieces to use. This is always the same price.
- D: This is the button that lets you swap your selection of available minions for a new selection. As indicated it costs 1 gold piece to use this. This is always the same price.
- E: This is the current timer on this round, indicated in seconds. It goes red when the timer is nearly run out. This timer is fixed for everyone and there is no way to get more or less time or give up your turn early.
- F: This is your amount of Gold available. It starts at 3 and goes up by 1 each round. You do not take gold with you to the next round if you have any unspent.
- G: This is your Hero Power which in this case costs no gold but is a passive. Otherwise a cost is indicated. When the Hero Power is active it can only be used in the Recruit Phase and only be used once per Recruit Phase.
During the Recruit Phase you can augment your board by:
- Buying a minion for 3 Gold. The selection will be random, with the maximum quality of the minions offered depending on your Tavern's Level. Even with a higher level Tavern you will still get lower tier minions offered. You can see all the available Minions HERE.
- You can easily see minion quality and corresponding tier by the number of stars it has as seen HERE.
- Getting 3 of the same minion will fully automatically combine them into 1 golden minion with increased stats and abilities. You then also get a special card that will let you Recruit 1 of 3 minions of a higher quality free of charge, to make up for the fact you just lost board presence.
- Selling a minion back to Bob for 1 Gold in return. This is the same for every minion, no matter how good or bad, no matter if you never used it or have used it since the start.
- Swapping the selection of minions for 1 Gold. You will do this frequently in later turns hunting for special minions that compliment your build.
- Use your Hero Power for it's associated cost.
- Cheer to upgrade your Tavern and get higher quality minions offered, get larger number of minions to choose from, and do more damage at end of Battle Phase. The Tavern can be upgraded to level 6 this way.
- Change the order of your minions to maximize their impact. In the Battle Phase minions will attack from Left to Right, and they will respect Taunt.
After the Recruit Phase timer runs out you immediately get moved to the fully automated Battle Phase:
In this phase there is not much to actively do, except watch and pray to Yogg for good RNG. You will need this because although the attack order is fixed from Left to Right, and the minions will have to respect Taunt, the target selection is otherwise random. This can lead to just the wrong (or right!) minion being attacked on your board and nuking (or enhancing!) your carefully laid out strategy. Play is quite fast, even though there is often quite a lot to resolve between deathrattles and buffs, so you will need to pay careful attention to spot where or why your planned tactic worked or didn't work and what your weak spots in your line up may be.
At the end of the Battle Phase, if one side ends up defeating the other side's minions, while still having minions remaining, there will be a hit calculated that will hit the loser in the face. This calculation starts with a base damage of 1 (scaling with Tavern level), and for every minion points get added. More minions, more points. Higher quality remaining minions give more points than lower quality remaining ones.
After the Battle Phase is over the ranking on the side board gets updated and players will get moved to the Recruit Phase, unless they died, in which case you see the end of game screen with your placement and your ranking change and you return to the main Battlegrounds screen. If you are the last one standing you will also get the placement screen and get returned to the main Battlegrounds screen.
Hearthstone Battlegrounds is a tactical game, much like the normal Hearthstone card game. There is a lot of interesting game play to learn and master that is very different from the normal Hearthstone game play. At the same time players who have been around the card game for a bit will easily recognize and understand parts of this new game mode because the familiarity with the cards and keywords will be useful throughout. Synergies between cards and card tribes matter a great deal. Using and abusing buff cards of various sorts is key to getting a line up that will carry you to the end. Placement of minions matters, probably even more so than in the normal card game. And all of these things will come as no surprise to people who have played the normal card game.
Blizzard seems to have created a fun game mode that can easily change with new expansions of cards coming in and easily be changed up and augmented with new unique cards and Heroes as time goes on. We cannot wait to get our hands on this game mode ourselves!