How to get the most out of your game review

Many strategic games like Go, Chess, or Poker put game review at the center of their training programs. The student and the teacher go over the games they have played (or over games played by other strong players) to understand what mistakes were made, why they were mistakes, and how to correct them in the future.

Go game review

When I moved to Hearthstone, I found that no one really did this. Or more precisely, that the people who analyzed their games were doing this on their own or with their training partners, keeping the practice confidential. There were no community dedicated to helping players improve their game by pointing out their mistakes and helping them correct their plays.

I’ve decided to build Zero to Heroes to fill that gap and provide a platform for players to submit their games and get advice from experienced players in a cooperative way.
It’s been running for a few months now, and even though some people have gotten real value out of the comments that were made, most players get less value than they could from the reviews.

The reason is pretty simple: they simply upload their game, read the comments, and move on.

Thought process

When I was preparing for university entrance exams, I remember one of our physics professors telling us a story. He was testing a student on the blackboard, and once the student had solved the problem, the examiner told him he had made a mistake. He went on to correct him, showed the proper reasoning, and in the end arrived at the exact same result. “That’s exactly what I said!”, said the student. He left the room with a disqualifying grade.

The point here is that the reasoning you use to choose your play is way more important than choosing the correct card or the correct trade. It shows you understand why it’s correct, and so will be able to play correctly in a thousand future similar but different situations.

And yet, most of the games that are usually posted only present what happened, without the thought process behind it. So we comment on the plays and try to guess the reasoning behind the actions. But some plays may have been correct for all the wrong reasons, and so go unnoticed.


Review your own game

To be able to explain your thought process, you need to review the game yourself first. This is a very important step, and you need to apply a few rules (taken and slightly adapted from a page on how to review your Go game):

  • Control your emotions. If you’re tilted, raging, or simply would rather be doing something else, better wait a bit to have a clear head
  • Be objective and honest. Sore losers are often tempted to prove that they “should” have won the game. This is called trying to “win the review”. A review will only do you good if you honestly seek mistakes and not if you seek to justify yourself. We all know some games are lost or won through chance. What we’re looking for here is “did you play the best you could?”. Winning or losing is secondary.
  • Think ahead. When suggesting possible moves, or going over your moves, don’t stop at the current turn. Ask yourself “if I play that, what are the responses my opponent is likely to have? How will the game develop from then?”. HearthStone being heavily RNG-dependent, thinking about your turn, your opponent’s next turn and your next turn is probably as far ahead as is reasonable.

TL;DR: the checklist

  1. Include basic information like your decklist, your rank/skill and the archetype if it’s not obvious
  2. Review the game yourself first, turn-by-turn, play-by-play.  You’re not on the clock, so don’t hesitate to look guides. Every time you’re not sure about a play you make, note it. When plays are not obvious, write your reasoning process. I can’t emphasize enough how knowing the reasoning that lead you to a specific play is even more important than the play itself. The play is just the manifestation of your thoughts. It’s also a mark of respect to your reviewer – you show them the review is important enough for you to spend time on it
  3. When you get comments and suggestions, make sure you fully understand them. Always ask yourself “why”. What is the reason coining out my 2-drop t1 is better than passing? What’s the rationale? If you aren’t 100% convinced by a comment or suggestion, ask them to clarify the reasoning behind it. Do so politely, in a way that shows you’re curious and willing to improve and open-minded. Sometimes reviewers make mistakes too (we all have things to learn) – just be happy you’ve helped them improve their thinking today
  4. Always thank a reviewer for their time. They could have been outside enjoying the sun, or spending time with their loved ones, but instead they took time to help you. Be grateful.

And then, take some time yourself to help out other players, like you yourself got help. It will make someone else’s day a little better, and help you get stronger in the process.

Zero to Heroes ranking algorithm

We are currently experimenting with a ranking algorithm to help reviewers put the focus on where their help will be the most useful. It rewards:

  • The points mentioned above (doing a pre-review, filling all useful fields)
  • Quality over quantity. It favors having a few reviews open at a single time, and we now have an “I’m satisfied” button you can click on the reviews when you think you don’t need more advice. This will close the review (not show it in the Help Others page) and make your other open reviews rank higher
  • It gives a small bonus to losses, as from our experience over the past year, these are almost always more interesting than wins.

Further reading

(this section will be expanded with readers’ advice)