After a brief period of early access tied to Descent of Dragons pre-orders, the Hearthstone Battlegrounds beta is now available for free to all players. If you're curious about Blizzard's answer to the burgeoning auto-battler genre spawned by Dota Auto Chess, now's your chance to give it a try. You don't need to buy or craft any cards to play, as Battlegrounds is its own self-contained mode. You can access it from the main menu - just select modes and then Battlegrounds.
If you're unfamiliar with auto-battlers, here's an exceedingly quick overview. Basically, you purchase and upgrade units in-between battles which are fought - you guessed it - automatically. Your dudes and the enemy dudes trade blows at random until one side loses, then you prepare for the next battle. You get access to stronger dudes as the game progresses, and battles repeat until somebody wins the whole thing, usually by running their opponents out of life.
In the case of Battlegrounds, this boils down to an eight-player free-for-all. Everyone chooses a special hero and starts drafting minions using gold coins instead of mana. Most of the minions are taken straight from Hearthstone's main card pool, with an emphasis on tribes like Beast and Murloc, but there are also some special Battlegrounds-only minions. Additionally, you can spend gold to upgrade your Tavern and get access to higher-tier minions (from tier one to tier six), or on the active hero powers of some heroes.
Each minion costs three gold and can be sold back for one gold each. Minions respawn at the end of each round with all their buffs intact, so you just keep building and upgrading your dudes as you go along. It's a cool new way to use familiar Hearthstone minions, and the core auto-battler loop is every bit as compelling as when the genre initially exploded. You can learn more about the rules of Battlegrounds here.
Battlegrounds has its own learning curve, but for the regular game, here are the best Hearthstone decks for beginners. If you're looking for Black Friday tips, check out our roundup of the best Black Friday game deals.