Hearts of Iron: The Card Game Play and Review – Opening Impressions
Well, it’s definitely a Paradox game.
The game doesn’t seem to like my screen resolution. It’s not fitting onto one 4:3 screen at once. For a F2P browser game, which presumably is going to be played by thousands upon thousands of terminally bored students and office workers on normal office machines instead of actually working, it working on 4:3 and on normal resolutions like 1280×1024 seems critical to me. This is what I’m seeing on the “collection” page:
As you can see, it’s not what I’d call ideal. This is typical Paradox. I think they hire people to make obtuse interfaces deliberately, to weed out the weak-minded.
Anyway, after getting to the screen which displays your booster packs, the interface became very simple. Here is a booster pack, containing goodies. Do you want to open booster pack? Yes? Well, here you go! This would probably be more climactic if, well, I knew what any of these cards did.
So how well does the game teach you to play itself? This is one of Paradox’s major issues with many of their games. Hearts of Iron 3 did include a tutorial – but it was in the classic wall-of-text style when a more modern speak-and-do would have been far more superior. This game does the opposite of that approach, and has a short series of Youtube videos explaining the game. Here’s the first one. One problem strikes me, though, because at present I can’t use these tutorials. I’m on a public workstation (where, as I mentioned earlier, I forsee most of HOITCG’s traffic eminating from) without headphones, rendering them useless. This is certainly very ironic. The news panel informs me that a beta tester has written a beginners’ guide on the forum – but fails to provide a link. This is, again, classic Paradox. The tutorial’s here. I’ll be reading through it, and the 6mb PDF manual, before I can really talk about the game itself.
You get access to three basic decks, one for each of the sides in WW2 – Axis, Allies and, pleasingly historically, ‘Comintern’, the name of the USSR’s faction that was more of the ally of the Allies than a member itself. The best kind of starter decks are ones that work to both define a particular deck style as well as give you a launching point for building more interesting decks, so fingers crossed these are good examples of that philosophy.
Moving on to the other options I can actually talk about without knowing how the game works; it looks like the ability to trade cards is either down or non-functional on my connection. The “game” section gives hints about the game modes on offer – casual, head-to-head and 8-man tournaments, with draft play either available later or only available if I hadn’t already opened my three booster packs. The latter three are competetive, and you play to win booster packs, but cost “tickets” which is the game’s money-making scheme.
When talking about F2P games, it’s pretty essential to get this out of the way as soon as possible. In games like Age of Empires Online, for example, you can talk about many of the good things about the game for several articles before you get to the point where you have to inform your readers that it’s actually not a F2P game at all, but a demo. In other games like Echo Bazaar, you can talk for hours about it’s narrative skill, but then disappoint your readers by informing them that you will get slightly harrassed to buy virtual currency to unlock certain useful or really neat story arcs, or to be able to play the game more than the F2P artificial limit.
So, what does Paradox want you to spend your money on? Firstly and primarily, at 50 “ducats” each are the tickets required to play competetively. The inclusion of booster packs at 200 “ducats” each is unsurprising. In a refreshing clarity, each “ducat” seems to be equal in worth to one US cent, meaning that each ticket costs fifty cents (31p) and each booster pack two dollars (£1.24). Given that we’re used to, in our poxy “real world”, booster packs costing upwards of £2.50 in Britain, this is outstanding value in comparison. However, on the flip side is the ticket mechanic. As a new player I have ten of these tickets, which means I have enough for five head-to-head games or two tournaments. After that, it looks like I’ll be digging into my wallet to enjoy playing competetively, and it strikes me as very expensive to do so, at $1 (62p) a pop. If the games last as long as the average Magic: The Gathering game, I’m worried that it could well end up costing quite a bit just to rack up any gametime whatsoever.
In any case, that’s all I can really talk about without really diving into the game properly. Once I’ve done so, be prepared for another of these posts, and then, perhaps, followed by a formal review.