The Hearthstone Tavern Brawl RNG Scale

This is probably going to devolve into a rant with no actual point(hint: it did not), but damn if I’m not tired of every Tavern Brawl being “Hey, let’s make the game so random you can’t plan for anything, and there’s basically no strategy whatsoever! HAHA TURN ONE RAGNAROS, THAT’S SO FUN!” We don’t need that level of randomness. For fudge’s sake we’re playing a card game, there’s enough RNG burned into the core gameplay already.

Don’t worry, I found a point to make, now I just need to get there, and it’s not going to be “Every Brawl should be Top 2 so there’s a serious metagame and many different levels of thinking.” I admit I liked that one, but really I liked reading about the meta and how it shifted more than actually playing it.

Why do we play Hearthstone?

Answering this simple question is the secret to good design in both set construction and Tavern Brawls. Unfortunately, this question has few simple answers, and I say few because it’s a little different for everyone. For example, I play Hearthstone for two main reasons. One, I enjoy the Warcraft universe, and especially enjoy the way Hearthstone manages to both incorporate elements from that universe and place its own whimsical spin on them. I think the phrase “keeping with the fantasy” has been thrown around alot when talking about the Legion class changes, and that also applies to Hearthstone. My other reason for playing is to satisfy my need for competition. I played Magic: The Gathering for about 20 years, and used to do a fair amount of traveling to play in big events. My life now doesn’t really have room for that sort of stuff, and Magic Online is a money pit, so I play Hearthstone.

The point is, no one’s answer to our simple query will be simple at all, at least not if they thought about it for more than a few moments. But our collective answers all share something in common, even if we don’t include it in our answers. I didn’t even include it in my own, because its not how we consciously think about how we enjoy games, but that reason to play is there. It’s the same reason why people watch television, or read books, or gamble- the idea that we are watching something awesome unfold and we don’t have the full story, there are just enough hints to make it interesting.

Is It That Simple?

Um, yeah, pretty much. We may curse RNGesus for how stupid the Firelord can be, or how Arcane Missiles might as well read “Deal all the damage exactly where your opponent needs it,” but the reality is that if we didn’t want randomness in our games, we would all be playing chess.

But how much is too much before we begin to lose agency over the ability to actually win the game? There’s a very fuzzy line that we don’t want to cross, and it so happens that it’s the least fuzzy when you examine the various Tavern Brawls.

If one were to quantify the amount of randomness in every Tavern Brawl and list them in order, one could accurately determine where their Goldilocks area is, where it’s not too much, not too little, but just right.

And hey! Look at that, a list from least to most depicting my own quantification of the RNG in Tavern Brawls, summarized because many Brawls are similar in nature. It’s almost like I’m trying to make a point here.

  1. Top 2
  2. Premade games (Showdown at BRM, Boombot v. Annoy-o-Tron)
  3. Base Game Rule Changes (It’s Raining Mana, Heart of the Sunwell)
  4. Decks Assemble
  5. Game Actions Trigger RNG (Idols of Azeroth, The Masked Ball)
  6. No, Really, They Trigger RNG (Who’s the Boss Now?)
  7. The RNG Swingset (Yogg Tryouts, Too Many Portals)
  8. Might As Well Flip Coins (Shiftcon, Randomonium)

The Brawls that stand alone, like Decks Assemble, are unique enough in terms of the RNG they generate that they warrant their own spot on the scale. Sitting at one end, the least RNG possible since you only have two cards in your deck and a hero power, and at the other end, the Brawls where you just play the best stuff you have each turn with minimal planning.

Personally, I sit somewhere between three and five. I want a little more than just a game rule change, but less than not knowing what five minions my opponent Unstable Portaled for. The occasional six or seven is fine if done right. The Servant of Yogg-Saron Tryouts was actually amazing, and I would play that Brawl a bunch again because the games didn’t feel super slow like Portals/Idols and I never felt like the game was over until it was, but really the fun behind that Brawl is an entirely different article.

Where do you sit on the RNG scale? Are you too serious for The Masked Ball, or are you not happy until you’re watching Shifter Zerus do his thing? Do you think my scale is accurate, and if not do you have your own? Let me know in the comments!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Hearthstone Tavern Brawl RNG Scale

  1. Actually I love *almost* all of the Tavern Brawls, even the super RNG ones. Maybe even especially the super RNG ones since they are fast. As a casual player I didn’t like the Clockwork Card Dealer, Shadow Towers, or any mode that lets people just play their usual deck. What’s the point of Tavern Brawl if people are just going to use the same old cards they use for ranked play? It’s also newbie unfriendly.

    • theolentangy

      I agree that it’s far easier to deal with the hyper-RNG Brawls when the games are decided quickly by the first giant swing. While they sit near the middle of the RNG scale, the Portal and Idol Brawls are probably my least favorite because they take quite a bit of time, and it feels awful when you keep Portaling up garbo but you also can’t concede because your opponent may have done the same.

      I also think that the Brawls you mentioned, and ESPECIALLY the Clockwork Card Dealer, are interesting mental exercises in deckbuilding (reminds me of a different version of the Amaz Vs. The World stuff going on right now), they are actually not that fun outside the first time you see an opponent do something interesting you didn’t think about.

  2. direstbear

    Right on! RNG plays an important role but too much is definitely a bad thing! How have you been doing on ladder lately? And hit me up on Bnet!

    • theolentangy

      Well, I farted around till I got to rank 10 or so, then I had one solid streaming session (twitch.tv/theolentangy) that got me to rank six after about 20 games, and I lost a game that would have put me at rank 5. I didn’t get to play again after that, so sadly I finished at 6.

      • direstbear

        Not too shabby!

        • theolentangy

          Well, I missed out on a golden epic, which would have been nice I guess. Hearthstone really doesn’t have much in the way of rewards that are meaningful, so I go through these cycles where I’ll get to a decent rank, and then I’ll get bored of playing ranked and just get to 20 for the card back until the meta changes.

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