The latest Chinese knock-off to grace Wild West-style online retailer Taobao is something a few of us Blizzard fans had been dreaming of for a while—a real-life, physical Hearthstone set. The choice between getting a copy for myself or eating more than soup noodles for a week was clear, and so (after some help from two local Hearthstone enthusiasts) I’ve written up my impressions with the product for you below.
In retrospect, maybe a more varied diet might have been the better option.
The set actually impressed me with how thorough an adaptation it was. Included were two sets of every class’ cards was included, four copies of every normal and legendary card, and more for those that can spawn in greater numbers (like the Unleash the Hounds’ eponymous doggies).
There were also numerous tokens to place on your minions to show status effects like Taunt, Silence, and Deathrattle; health and attack wheels, enough for each player to have seven minions on the board at once; tokens to count bonus spell damage; and a mechanic for drawing random cards like you’d need to for the Priest’s Mind Vision.
The only real disappointment was the lack of an actual coin to flip at the start (the game recommends rolling the included dice), though the Coin card itself was of course included.
But while the cards did seem a faithful replication of their pre-Naxx versions, that did bring up a perhaps-obvious flaw with the game: even without the Naxx cards, some of the cards that were included are no longer the same as their current in-game versions.
If playing this physical version (and watching it be played) taught me one thing, it’s this: the digital game is incredibly good at streamlining. Blizzard has taken full advantage of the game being digital-only to include some complex, interesting mechanics that are awkward or just tedious to resolve in a physical copy.
Of course, the game does require both players to be far more on-the-ball than the digital version. You need to remember to place your status tokens, adjust damage and health sliders when needed, and so on. Everything that is automated and convenient in the digital game now requires you pay close attention to the game mechanics at all times. For some, this might help keep them engaged, but for most I suspect it’ll just be a hassle after the initial novelty wears off.