2014 4 1 HearthTitle

Hearthstone is a twist on the traditional collectible card game that offers both depth and simplicity enough for players of any level. Developed by Blizzard, the card game is based on WarCraft lore. The tutorial eases the player into the layered gameplay while the free to play business model gives all players access without spending a penny. 

The base game is a head to head battle between two players who each have a health of thirty and are vying to whittle the opposing player’s health to zero. The simple but multiple gameplay mechanics – from using the hero’s power to managing the available mana – are introduced one mechanic at a time through a short tutorial.

After the tutorial, players can choose between three modes – Practice, Ranked or Casual Play, or the Arena. The game contains nine playable heroes who are WarCraft archetypes from the Mage to the Paladin with nine accompanying slots for creating customized card decks. With 382 cards, cards are divvied between hero specific cards and general cards that any deck can use.


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Each hero plays differently. A Warrior deck is often more aggressive in the early turns by playing hard hitting minions and bulking the hero with additional armor. Whereas a Priest has a more defensive deck that deals damage after successful defensive turns that exhausts the opposing player’s in-hand cards.

The Practice and Play modes are where players level up their heroes and test their carefully built custom card decks against other players. The Arena is a play on the traditional drafting format of collectible card games. In the Arena the player battles others who are all fighting with a random hero and a randomly generated deck. Players’ time in the Arena ends with three losses and they are awarded prizes based on their number of wins.

The Arena keeps with tournament standards by requiring an upfront entry fee in order to play but twists the traditional rules by not requiring players to play the entire run at once.


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Gold is the in-game currency and is used for two purposes, buying card packs and for the entry fee into the Arena. Gold is acquired by completing in-game tasks such as “Win 2 games as Rogue or Warrior” for 40 gold. Or gold accumulation can be bypassed with direct purchases. In comparison, $1.50 buys a card pack and $2.00 buys an Arena run or 100 gold buys a card pack and 150 gold pays for an Arena playthrough.

Hearthstone’s use of the free to play business model is largely successful. Sinking actual cash into the game makes more cards available to the player but doesn’t guarantee winning matches. Winning requires strategically building a deck while playing a match based on the cards drawn. While cash grants more chances of netting rare cards, the money doesn’t win against smart tactics and good card draws. Additionally, extra cards can be destroyed into dust within Hearthstone’s crafting system for creating the player’s missing cards rather than hoping for a lucky card pack.


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Maintaining Hearthstone’s competitive but welcoming gaming environment are monthly “Seasons.” Seasons separate players by skill in order to invite newcomers while rewarding the veterans. Players who complete a Season ranked higher than the lowest level, level 25 (named Angry Chicken), earn stars that allows the player to start the next season at a higher rank. This structure allows new players into Ranked matches at the base level of 25 without being dominated by the old-timers early in a new season.

For disabled gamers with fine motor disabilities, Hearthstone’s gameplay consists entirely of point and click gaming. The player scrolls over their cards which individually highlights the currently picked card, selects a card and places the card on the tabletop. Some cards require additional cursor movements such as positioning the cursor atop the card targeted for the intended effect or selecting between a played card’s two available spells.

The card play is turn based, each player clicks an “End Turn” button to turn over control of the board. Each turn is on a 90 second timer. The timer is not visual except in the last thirty seconds at which time a burning rope appears onscreen with time extinguished and the player’s turn automatically ended when the rope is completely burned.


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For deaf and hard of hearing gamers the game provides text for gameplay explanations but not all voiced content is subtitled. While the game is entirely playable without subtitles the omission is unfortunate. The short tutorial, heroes, and cards have blurbs of voiced dialogue that contributes to the game’s atmosphere that’s not subtitled as well as no text for the ambient sounds. However, the player to player communication is entirely by text. Each player has a preset of six text messages that range from “Hello” to “Well Played” to “Threaten” to use for communicating with the other player. No voice communication is available which allows deaf and hard of hearing gamers to fully participate in the in-game dialogue between players.


2014 4 1 HearthCardDeck

For visual disabilities the game features good contrast between the light yellow tabletop and the darker cards. The played cards are easily visible on the tabletop. The cards’ numeric values – the mana required to play the card as well as the attack and health – are easily readable in a white, bold text. Similarly readable is the title in a bold white text with a black outline on a gold background. However, the description of each card is a small black text on a beige background that’s not quickly readable. Enlarging the text for easy reading would be particularly beneficial when the player’s opponent uses a card unfamiliar to the player but the text describing the action suddenly disappears without the opportunity to read the description.

Additionally, for colorblind gamers, the rarity of the card is communicated in a colored flame and/or jewel at the card’s center. Especially given that rare cards are blue and epic cards are purple, the colors are difficult to distinguish based on color alone. While other types of card rarities, such as golden cards, are displayed with an animated picture and a more “armored” art style distinguishing between rare and epic cards is particularly troublesome based on the color coding.


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Despite a couple of video game accessibility omissions, Hearthstone is an overall accessible gaming experience for disabled gamers. Additionally, the free to play business model allows all disabled gamers free gameplay to assess the game’s accessibility before committing real world cash. Currently, Hearthstone is only available on PC but iOS and Android editions are in development.

Maybe I will see you soon in the Arena.


Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Visual Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Released For: PC

ESRB Rating: T

GameInformer Score: 9.00


Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @dagersystem. 






Disability Pros Cons

– Basic information on cards is easily readable.

-Good contrast between the tabletop and the played cards.

– Easy readability is lessened in the smaller text for the cards’ description.
– Rarity of cards is communicated by color. 



Fine Motor

– Gameplay is turn based as well as point and click.

– 90 second timer for each turn. 


– Communication between players is entirely text based. 

– No subtitle option for voiced dialogue and ambient sound that is not visually communicated..
















Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Visual Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Released For: PC

ESRB Rating: T

GameInformer Score: 9.00


Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @dagersystem. 


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