Blizzard unveiled a new online Collectible Card Game this weekend: Hearthstone. This video illustrating gameplay has been making the rounds, and pretty much all my gameplay observations in this post are based on it:
The gameplay looks like a very stripped-down Magic: the Gathering. There is only a single type of resource, mana crystals. The resource is a net-gain resource like land in magic, in that the total resource available increases each turn. However, the increase looks automatic, and there are no land cards. So there's no such thing as being mana screwed or mana flooded. There also looks to be an ability to trade a card on the initial draw, leading to even smoother draws.
Creatures and the player seem to be the same type. A spell that can hit a creature can also hit the player. You can attack a creature just like the player. As well, like players, creature health does not regen to full after each turn. Instead it looks like you can whittle down a creature over several turns.
Combat seems different as well. There doesn't seem to be a single combat step, exactly. Instead your attacking creature can attack another creature or player, and that combat is resolved. Then you can attack with another creature. It looks like you can attack any creature or player. The only exception appear to be creatures with Taunt, which I guess means that they must be attacked first.
However, that leads into what looks like the biggest difference. There does not seem to be a "stack". In Magic, you can respond to abilities. "Coriel Shocks (deal 2 damage) Elisandra's Elf.", "In response, Elisandra Giant Growths the Elf, making it big enough to survive." This ability to respond to actions is in many ways the core of Magic.
In Hearthstone, it looks like there is no option to respond. Instead each ability is cast, and then it immediately resolves. This does solve one of the major problems with Magic Online. 90% of the time when you can respond, you don't really want to. But 10% of the time, that response is vital. In physical play, you just speak up when response is important. But in computer play, it becomes a lot more complicated. You have to pass manually every time, or set up "stops" when you want to respond.
Hearthstone doesn't look to have this issue. Gameplay should be smoother as a result. But responses are what makes Magic interesting. I wonder if Hearthstone will end up being first side punches, then second side punches, and each player's turn will essentially be a solo affair, without interaction from the other side.
Hearthstone definitely looks interesting. The colors and graphics make it look fun and colorful. I will happily try it out. But I wonder if, in their attempt to smooth out all the inconveniences, Blizzard will fail to capture the strategic richness of a game like Magic.