Thoughts on Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Last week, Blizzard announced its newest addiction game at the Penny Arcade Expo East called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.  Basically, it’s an online collectible card game set in the Warcraft universe that is going to be free-to-play for the PC and Mac, and later for the iPad and other tablets.  The initial set will have 300 cards and you can earn a booster pack of five cards by winning matches or you can purchase them for $1 a pack.

You play as one of nine “Heroes”, representing the some of major classes in WoW.   By using spell, ability and minion cards, your goal is to bring your opponent’s life points to zero.  From some of the gameplay I’ve seen, you can play as such characters like Garrosh the Warrior or Jaina the Mage.  The game board and cards are 3D and animated, giving the gameplay experience a lively feel.  Even the opening of a new pack is made to feel exciting, just like the real thing, lol.  I think the game looks great and hopefully I can get into the beta to test the real thing out.

So what does this mean for the WoW TCG?  Probably nothing, I haven’t heard that it would affect it in any way.  I think Cryptozoic has done a great job of keeping the TCG alive ever since they took over the reins from Upper Deck Entertainment back in 2010.  With 20 expansion sets and several raid decks out, the TCG is moving along quite well and the fan base is still strong.  The Hearthstone trailer contains artwork from the TCG and I think some of the cards in the set may have come from there as well.

So am I worried that Hearthstone will replace the WoW TCG someday?  A little, but I think it’ll take a while for it to happen, if it ever does.  It all depends on how the players take to Hearthstone and how popular it gets.  With everything going digital these days, there is a possibility that the TCG goes virtual and becomes Hearthstone or part of it.  We’ve seen it before with other WoW media like the manga and the comic book and even the novels could go eventually go digital.  I think the WoW TCG will be here for a while though, especially if they keep churning out the Loot cards that most WoW players covet.

So what about you? Thinking about joining the beta?  Will you give up playing Angry Birds or Bejeweled during non-WoW hours to play more Warcraft?

The REAL Darkmoon Faire

Darkmoon Faire Jacksonville 2013

For those who are not familiar with what the REAL Darkmoon Faire is, it’s the monthly World of Warcraft Trading Card Game tournament held around the world to locate the best players.  The winners from each Faire then compete at the end of the year to see who becomes the World Darkmoon Faire Champion for 2013.  There are lots of prizes to be won, including Macbooks, iPads, iPods, rare mount loot cards, travel vouchers, playmats, deck boxes, boxes of cards, card packs and much more.

The first Darkmoon Faire event for 2013 happened this past weekend in Jacksonville, Florida, from Friday, January 11th to Sunday, January 13th.  This is the first time that the Faire has arrived in my city, so I was pretty excited to check it out.

The last TCG event that I attended was a Sneak Preview tournament at a local gaming shop for the Drums of War expansion back in November of 2008.  Back then, the TCG was owned by Upper Deck Entertainment (UDE).

Since that Sneak Preview, that local gaming shop stopped hosting WoW TCG events due to lack of attendance/interest.  The game itself went through a big change and was acquired by Cryptozoic Entertainment (CZE), who has done a really good job with it.

Chewy and I used to play the TCG quite a bit when it first came out, but we couldn’t find others that were interested to try it, so we quit playing.  That hasn’t stopped me from collecting it though, lol.  I have near-complete sets since the first set, Heroes of Azeroth, to the most recent, War of the Ancients.

I asked Chewy if he wanted to check out the Faire and he said sure and we decided to go Saturday afternoon.  We planned on hanging out there for a couple of hours, as it was NFL playoff weekend and our teams were in the hunt (Go Ravens/Niners!).

So Chewy arrived at my house around 1pm and after gathering my stuff, we went outside.  We stood in my driveway for a couple of minutes when Chewy turned to me and said:

Chewy:  What are we waiting for?
Arvash:  I’m waiting for the portal to appear to take us to the Faire.
Chewy:  …
Chewy:  This isn’t Mulgore…
Arvash:  Oh, you’re right…

So instead we hopped into my epic Honda mount and headed towards Downtown Jacksonville, where the Faire was located.  The event was held on the third floor of the Hyatt, with numerous signs directing us to our destination.

Conference Sign

Once we arrived at the front gates, er, doors, we were greeted by some familiar faces, Silas Darkmoon and Burth.

DMF Sign

Inside were other Fairegoers, already competing in events such as Sealed Deck tournaments, Swiss Round Packs and of course, the main Darkmoon Faire event, the pre-constructed deck tournament.

DMF

I wanted to enter into the Beginners Tournament, cause it was a long time since I last played, but we had just missed it and the next one didn’t start until Chewy and I had planned to leave.  Cryptozoic had demos of their other games on hand, including the Big Bang Theory and The Walking Dead.  We decided to try their most recent release, the DC Comics Deckbuilding game.

from Cryptozoic

from Cryptozoic

This was our first time trying out a deck building game.  You’re given a small starting deck of 10 cards and you basically “purchase” cards from the playing field using the valor points found on said cards.  These purchased cards then get shuffled into your deck, where they can be later used as you draw more and more cards as the game progresses.  The game ends once all cards on the field has been purchased or all villains have been defeated (purchased).  You play as one of several DC heroes and the object is to earn as many Victory points as you can.  Each card is given a Victory point amount based on the type of card.  Equipment and Allies are worth a moderate amount, whereas Villains give out the highest point value.

We played with a Cryptozoic employee, who explained the rules of the game as we went along and another Fairegoer.  They played The Flash and Wonder Woman, respectively, with Chewy playing Green Lantern and me as Superman.  I ended up winning our demo game, racking up the most Victory points, thanks to all the villains I defeated.  I mean, it’s Superman, who’s gonna really beat him, right?  =)

DC Game 1

DC Game 2

Afterwards, we went around and checked out what else the Faire had to offer.  Lucky for us, we stumbled upon a familiar face, Aegwynn, the Guardian of Tirisfal!

Christina Sims as Aegwynn

Lol, actually, it was Christina Sims in an amazing costume.  You might remember Christina for her other awesome outfits, like Alexstraza and the female Monk from Diablo 3.  She is also a great TCG player, I witnessed her taking out poor, hapless Fairegoers who thought they had a chance of defeating her.  Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t bring my own deck, to save myself the embarrassment, lol.

from Cryptozoic

from Cryptozoic

from WoW Insider

from WoW Insider

from WoW Insider

from WoW Insider

After watching Aegwynn/Christina pound noobs into the ground, I spotted another familiar face, can you guess where this person is?  Hint: It’s the person in the far left in red.

DMF3

Can’t see it, huh?  Well, it’s none other than Michael Sacco of WoW Insider fame!  I believe he was doing press coverage of the tournament, updating the website with results and making additional commentary.  I remember an old article on WoW Insider, where he talked about working with the TCG.  He’s got a pretty good gig going on there, working for two of the biggest WoW-related products that I enjoy.  Here’s a close-up pic from the Cryptozoic website in case you can’t see him in my shot, lol.

from Cryptozoic

from Cryptozoic

And here are some additional photos I took of the event.

DMF2

Gobby Sign

Dranei Sign 1

Dranei Sign 2

DMF Table Sign

One thing I did accomplish while I was at the Faire was to update my league status for future WoW events and tournaments.  Like I said earlier, it was a long time since my last TCG that I was still rocking my UDE membership.

UDE Membership Card

So I went ahead and rejoined the league (for free) and got me a spiffy new card.  Moar dragons!

Cryptozoic Membership Card

Also for signing up, I got a cool new priest deckbox, featuring Dark Pharaoh Tekahn from the Tomb of the Forgotten expansion.

Dark Pharaoh Tekahn Deck Box

And that was pretty much it for the Faire.  I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I wanted to, but I also wasn’t prepared game-wise for it either.  Maybe the next time the Faire roll around here, I will have freshened up my skillz and will finally compete against others for a shot at the World Championship title.  Oh, and also take on Christina Sims in whatever character she shows up as next time, lol.

The next two Darkmoon Faires will be held in Venice, Italy, in February and Dallas, Texas, in March.  Check it out if you live nearby those two areas.

Oh, there is one person I wanted to meet that I didn’t see at the Faire, though.  I wish Jeremy Feasel was there so I could Roshambo him, South Park-style, for that freakin’ Darkmoon Eye!  That bastard!

What’s your favorite Blizzard cinematic or cutscene?

This was a question posted by WoW Insider in one of their Breakfast Topics last week.  The only one that come to my mind as the most memorable so far in my WoW experience would definitely be Thrall’s Kamehameha.

Lol, not really, but seriously the one cutscene that sticks out has to definitely be the Fall of the Lich King.

I still believe that WotLK is the best expansion so far and to finally put the Lich King to rest was a culmination of a lot of things for SR.  To see that cutscene after all the guild went through, the heartache, the frustration, the countless fish feasts, the sleepless nights…it was all worth it.  The vent chatter exploded with cheers, even as the cutscene was playing.  I don’t think I went to sleep for another two hours after I had logged off and boy did I pay for it at work the next morning, lol.  But you know what, it was all worth it.

So what’s your favorite Blizzard cinematic or cutscene?

Glory of the Firelands Raider

So last night, SR decided to finish up some Firelands achievements to get our purple birdies.  Most of us had a couple left to do, mainly Death From Above and the Brushfire part of Do a Barrel Roll!  We had 8 people on: Ado, Fahalala, Cayle, Liyhe, Lyssianna, Vanicus, Notari and me.

For Death From Above, I ended up tanking all three drones, not killing a single one, while the group burned Beth down.

It took us three tries for Do a Barrel Roll!, but we did work and got it done.

The achievements may have came late in the expansion, but we got some pretty sweet mounts for it!

Thanks guys for a great run and grats on the mounts!

Evolution of a Video Gamer

I’ve been a video gamer all my life, most of it on consoles.  I can remember the day when my parents bought us our first NES system.  My brother and I played the crap out of that.  We would play RC Pro-Am, Excite Bike, Mario, Tecmo Bowl and many other games all day along.  We played so much that we became Masters of Making the NES Game work, which included such techniques as the Slide-the-Cartridge-Just-Over-the-Lip-then-Push-Down technique, the Bang-the-Side-or-Top-of-the-Machine technique and the one the never seemed to fail for us, the Blow-the-Cartridge-Under-your-Shirt technique.  My first RPG was Final Fantasy and I played it with my strategy guide and map all out on the floor while my little sister watched, wondering what the heck I was doing.  Super NES, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Game Boy…you name it, I’ve pretty much played it.

Nintendo Entertainment System with controller

Computer games at the time were a small facet of my gaming but I always favored the console more.  I remember playing the Oregon Trail on those ancient computers in grade school, hunting endlessly for food, yet still ended up dying from starvation.  At home, I killed baddies in Commander Keen, completed all the levels in the original The Incredible Machine and mastered the skies and took down planes in Aces of the Pacific.

Commander Keen 5 title screen  The Incredible Machine
Aces of the Pacific Coverart.png

I guess it only made sense that I ended up working at a video game store and Best Buy throughout high school/college.  I accumulated a lot of old systems and games while working there.  I even still have the Sega Dreamcast with its Star Trek-esque controller (MvC2, FTW!).  I spent endless nights and early mornings, grinding out deathmatches in Golden Eye, Perfect Dark and Halo.  Definitely good times.

And then there was Warcraft.  One day working at Best Buy, I noticed a Collector’s Edition of Warcraft III on the shelf.  I read the description on the back the box and decided to give it a try.  Boy, did I have a blast!  You mean I get to command units and send them out into battle while fortifying my base?  Sweet!  I ended up getting The Frozen Throne expansion pack too when it came out, but unfortunately never finished either game.

I enjoyed the Warcraft universe so much that even though I had stopped playing the PC game, I kept myself immersed into the comics, toys and trading card game.  Then a RL friend of mine, Chewy (SR members will also know him as Stunnah), said if I had all this Warcraft stuff, why wasn’t I playing World of Warcraft?  I really debated against it; I wasn’t interested in paying a monthly fee for a PC game when I was more into the console stuff.  It took a while and lots of persuasion from Chewy, but I finally caved in.  So I entered the world of Azeroth in August 2008, got immediately hooked and the rest is history.

Today, I spend more time on the PC than I do on my Xbox  360 or PS3, mainly on WoW.  I love playing the game, playing it with friends, meeting new ones, exploring it on my own and yes, even pvpeeing, lol.  Looking forward to exploring Pandaria with my friends!