I’ve honestly written this article so I can tell myself I did something else other than play today.

Dis be the good stuff, mon!

Christmas has come and gone, which meant we all mostly spent it doing one thing and one thing only – Spending time with your relatives. Sometimes a wonder, sometimes a chore. We’ve all been there. So, the next time a social family event rears it ugly head, are we looking for something nice to distract us? Something to curl up with on the sofa while your grandmother explains her views on Brexit over her fifth glass of wine?

I wager we are. Oh, and by the way, this content is in no way sponsored – This is my genuine recommendation.

Welcome, to Rastakhan’s Rumble!

‘Rastakhan’s Rumble’ is the latest expansion for ‘Hearthstone’, Blizzard’s fabulous card game adaptation of the Warcraft series, set deep in the jungles of Strangethorn, where nine teams of Gladiators have gathered to fight for the glory of their Beast Gods. With each team offering their own champions, it’s a fantastically fresh new addition to the series and a great follow-up to ‘The Boomsday Project’, which I wouldn’t have rated as Hearthstone’s highest point.

So, how does it match up? Well, for those of you who are already Hearthstone veterans, I won’t bore you with a woefully overcomplicated – and likely dull as all hell – analysis of the metagame. Instead, let’s just go over some of the highlights.

Well, for one, it’s a totally fresh new addition to the game which twists each new class in a brand new direction (Discard Warlock is finally playable!) and it interacts fantastically with last year’s expansions as well as providing a great point from which next years’ expansions can build. Legendary cards like ‘Jan’alai, The Dragonhawk‘ and ‘Zul’Jin‘ fit in perfectly, offering short quest-like requirements around which your deck must build in order for a big payoff – Zul’jin literally re-plays every spell you’ve already played, effectively doubling the value of every spell card you’ve played thus far. Jan’alai, on the other hand, brings back a fan-favourite card, ‘Ragnaros, the Firelord’, with a new coat of paint – A great way to pay homage to Hearthstone and Warcraft history while still creating a fresh new gameplay experience.

Meanwhile, cards like Griftah and Snapjaw Shellfighter add a brand new challenge to the mix, approaching the game with some of the crazy design thinking that custom hearthstone card-makers have been tinkering with for some time.

The gameplay, to put it simply, is at a very high point, especially following the neutering of the Druid class this week, with ‘Ramp’ decks now exacting a far heavier mana cost to force them out of common use. In their stead, odd mage and handlock are back in a whole new form.

But the gameplay, as with any Hearthstone expansion, is only half of the story.

No, Rastakhan’s Rumble’s true strength is thus; No expansion this year has come even close to having this much personality.

Each class has two legendary minions (A champion fighter and a ‘Loa’ beast god), as well as Class identity is no longer just about what kind of playstyle you prefer – It’s a living, breathing sports team with a personality and catchphrases. I even caught myself after a few pints shrieking “HIR’EEK, GRANT ME WINGS” every time I played my Discard Warlock deck.

But, I get it. don’t want to spend money on card packs? Fear not, as once again the best content in the expansion is the Single-player component, the Rumble Run. On paper, it looks like a more pared back version of the Monster Hunt and Dungeon Run modes from ‘Witchwood’ and ‘Kobolds and Catacombs’, but I wasn’t prepared for how much new this game-mode adds.

Firstly, in lieu of a wide range of opponents, there is only a pool of nine, and you’ll fight all but one each time you play – One, of course, for each class, and therefore one for each team. Each champion for each team appears as a fully-fledged character, complete with a large pool of dialogue and comments they throw out during the fight – Some, like the mage Malacrass, revel in the glory of the arena, yelling that the crowd goes wild, relishing the drama of the competition. Others, like Zentimo, come across with a brilliantly smug demeanour with nothing more a talented voice performance. It’s amazing how much personality a still image and a deck of cards can convey with the Hearthstone team behind them.

And seriously, Captain Hooktusk is a treat. Her voice actor deserved a medal.

File:Captain Hooktusk full.jpg

‘Der onto us, bois!

Put simply, ‘Hearthstone’ remains one of the most accessible card games out there, and ‘Rastakhan’s Rumble’ is the perfect time to start. You’ll laugh your way to the top of the tournament, I promise.

Oh, and it’s available on Mobile and PC. No excuse not to sneak in a round or two between tedious conversations with your kid cousins.

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