Hearthstone Battlegrounds early access is live, as is a free legendary for everyone

Hearthstone Battlegrounds, the new autobattler announced over the weekend at BlizzCon, is now live—or at least it is for those who attended BlizzCon in person, or as a virtual ticket holder, and players who have pre-purchased either of the Descent of Dragons card bundles. Luckily for everyone else, you won't have to wait too long to get in if you don't fall into one of those categories, as the full open beta will kick off in a week.

Battlegrounds will launch with 24 heroes, each with a unique power that impacts how they'll recruit and play their minions. Players will select a hero, then toddle off to Bob's Tavern to sign up some willing flunkies. These units can be upgraded, buffed, and even sold and replaced over the course of the game. Once your squad is set up, you'll arrange them on the board, ideally in a way that will maximize their abilities and compliment their teammates, at which point it's time to throw down.

Combat will pit eight players against one another in one-on-one battles to the death. Attacks will be launched from left to right against a randomly selected enemy, unless they're presented with a Taunt minion, who always gets jumped first: Taunt and other keywords work the same as they do in regular Hearthstone. Once the round of combat is complete, everyone heads back to the Tavern to recruit, upgrade, and modify, and then back to the board for another brawl. Heads get knocked until only one player left standing.

The good news for prospective players who find my explanation lacking is that the game includes a full tutorial, narrated by none other than Bob the Barkeep, which will give you the full lowdown on what's going on. You can also check out all the bosses and cards currently available in Hearthstone Battlegrounds at playhearthstone.net, and here are some tips from Kripp. Who I'm told one should never skip:


(Image credit: Blizzard)

The Hearthstone Battlegrounds open beta will go live at 10 am PT/1 pm ET on November 12, but if you don't want to wait that long (and you slept on BlizzCon) you can get in anytime prior to that by pre-purchasing Descent of Dragons, the concluding part of Hearthstone's Year of the Dragon that will settle things between the League of E.V.I.L. and the League of Explorers once and for all, which will go live on December 10. 

Descent of Dragons is available in two bundles: The $50 standard, which includes 60 card packs, the Shattering Card Back, and a random Descent of Dragons Golden Legendary, and the $80 Mega Bundle, with all of the above plus the new Deathwing Warrior hero.

Ahead of that, all Hearthstone players are getting a free copy of Sathrovarr, an expensive neutral demon card that should get players' deck-building juices flowing. It's certainly a powerful Battlecry effect—placing a copy of a friendly minion into play, your hand, and your deck. The obvious meme potential, so I am again told, is using it to spam 0-cost Shirvallahs in Holy Wrath Paladin. Sounds nasty!

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.