In my predictions for BlizzCon 2019, I was skeptical of what can would come next for Hearthstone, the deck building card game that uses Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, and if it would be compelling enough to warrant hype. Next expansion, new cards, and new card abilities were essentially a given but then Blizzard announced their new auto battler game mode. Auto battlers are slowly starting to become as popular for game companies to pump out as battle royales. Blizzard looks to throw its hat in the ring to compete against other auto battlers like Auto Chess, Underlords, and Teamfight Tactics. Having played the aforementioned staples in the genre, Battlegrounds may be the perfect kind of different to capture players in this market.
Full disclosure here, during my play of the demo I got dead last. That said, the game appears easy to pick up and adapt to IF you have knowledge of Hearthstone. The game started with selecting one of three heroes. Each had their own unique hero power that undoubtedly have their own synergies with different cards. There weren’t any duplicate heroes between the eight players so there must be a large pool to draw from.
Once each player picked their hero, we were put into the recruit phase to buy cards. The cards that were available were the same cards playable in Hearthstone. Cards can then be placed on the board, as well rearranged, and carry out their actions or receive their buffs before the combat phase. Players can get access to higher star level cards by upgrading the tavern.
During the combat phase, players will worry about less RNG than they do in Teamfight Tactics or Auto Chess. Cards randomly attack starting from left to right, alternating between players until there are no minions left on board. If one player has minions left over, then the number of remaining minions plus their cumulative star level equals the amount of damage the opposing player takes.
After that, the recruit phase starts again. Players can sell minions on board for additional gold. Further, minions that have been buffed by other minors maintain their buff even if the buffing minion is sold later. Gold is currently capped at 10 but players can spend that gold on minions, upgrading the shop, refreshing the minions being offered and freeze the currently board of minions being offered to be bought in the next shopping round.
The biggest thing that sets Battlegrounds from other auto battlers is its connection to its parent game. While I enjoy playing both Teamfight Tactics and League of Legends, the two games really don’t have too much to do which each other mechanics wise. Battlegrounds is different. Battlegrounds uses cards that are in the game so the minion synergy is still present.
Players who follow metas or even have a basic understanding of Hearthstone will have a leg up on newcomers. While upgrading minions with three of a kind offers stronger minions and rewards, there is certainly an emphasis on getting cards that work well together. The economy mechanics are simple but I have no doubt with less RNG in combat phase and the established synergy between different cards, I am sure there will be plenty of room for calculated plays.
Open beta starts next week on November 12 for Battlegrounds but BlizzCon attendees and virtual ticket holders can start to play the beta on November 5. If this new auto battler seems to be up your alley, then be sure to look out of the beta next week. The beta will come with a tutorial so even if you are new to Hearthstone, you can still get ahead of the curve before its full release.