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Overall Review

Angry Birds Transformers is a great fusion of the Angry Birds franchise and the golden era of Transformers. It also makes an awesome run and gun game. The game play is very different from the other Angry Birds games in the series and that is a good thing. You control a bizarre Angry Birds themed Transformer as you run at a set pace and tap on the screen to target the standard blocks in the background. The goal is to hit the delicately balanced towers in just the right spot so they will collapse and explode under the pigs.

When I first saw my youngest son play Angry he was excited and yelling at all the action on the iPad and I scratched my head at the unique game play, there is a lot going on with this game. Your robot runs left to right with his blaster gun flashing away trying to topple the familiar block formations. All the while piggies fire back and statues fall while friendly robots drop in to help and blow everything up. Of course as it is a Transformers game you get to transform and roll out past the dangers of the stage.

Family Gaming Assessment

This game is exciting enough that parents won’t mind playing this with their kids. The cartoonish violence is turned up a few notches here as all of the Transformers  are using energy blasters all of the time. If you don’t allow your children to play with toy guns or experience gun violence in your games then you will have to pass on this game. Lasers aside the action is not graphic and nothing even really gets visibly wrecked other than the blocks.

Of all the Angry Birds games this was the only one my son and I worked out a way to play together. After I got a few levels under my belt and called my son over and at first he was cheering me on then he jumped in and then we were both tapping the screen. With no real communication other than just cheering at the excitement we worked out a pretty good team and a lot of robot pigs were brought to justice

Play-ability Assessment

The controls are easy to use and only take a few games to get the hang of. Once you have the basics together none of the levels will be too hard if you can use your powers correctly.

This game may get too difficult for the kindergarten and under crowd very quickly, so keep an eye out for frustrated children.

Conclusion

A stylish and gorgeous mash up of Angry Birds and original Transformers needs to be experienced no doubt. This game is fun and everything I need out of a mobile game short levels simple gameplay.

Angry Birds Transformers is free to download and as far as I’m concerned it deserves a spot on the family tablet. I give it a full recommendation.

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Publisher: Disney

iOS, Android, Windows Phone

Overview:

Disney Hidden Worlds, a free-to-play and official release, takes players to the sky island of Inkspire, home to the Inklings, who craft Disney worlds out of magical ink. Each themed level represents a well-known Disney film. The game includes classics like Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast, but also modern releases such as Tangled and Frozen.

As play starts, a mischievous ink villain has sabotaged the various kingdoms, threatening to alter their plots. To save them, players must work through each world, scene by scene, repairing missing pieces and righting the story.

Obviously, this set-up serves as an excuse to revisit familiar Disney favorites, which is always fun and nostalgic. However, it doesn’t feel gimmicky at all. Inkspire and the Inklings have a quirky style and personality unique to themselves. They fit well among the Disney characters and universes we already know, and I found myself genuinely interested in their story on its own. There’s also a particularly positive emphasis on creativity, art, and imagination that really shines.

Regarding gameplay, Disney Hidden Worlds is a hidden object game. It presents players with a still image taken straight from the film and a list of objects hidden throughout the scene. The player must find and tap these items, gaining bonus points for speed and accuracy.

It’s a test of observation that’s surprisingly varied and challenging. Players will find some objects in places that make sense but may be easily overlooked, like a bird’s nest in the trees, while they will also have to look carefully for other items hidden in just plain silly places, like a cheese wedge supporting the roof beams. To mix things up, particular scenes contain timed challenges that unlock bonus rounds.

When completing scenes, players collect bottles of ink and other materials used to repair pieces stolen from the story. Every piece requires specified materials and takes a certain amount of time to complete. Once finished, these can be used to unlock new scenes and advance the level.

Since these crafts require multiple ink bottles, players must replay scenes before it’s possible to obtain the items necessary to move on. To maintain a challenge, the list of hidden objects changes, even when the scene remains the same. Only the list changes, however. Objects remain fixed; previously listed items will be found in the exact same place as before. This quickly starts to feel tedious. Yet, at the same time, it becomes a great test of memory and helps strengthen recall skills.

 Family Assessment:

As you’d expect from Disney, content is appropriate for children of all ages.

 Playability Assessment:

Since the game only requires tapping, controls are easy. However, there’s quite a bit of simple story text, so reading comprehension skills are a must.

Regarding difficulty, some objects are easy to find, while others purposefully blend into the environment and are actually quite hard to spot. This tests patience as much as observation. Luckily, there’s a hint button that will highlight any remaining objects. This keeps everything accessible for younger children, though I admit that even I needed a hint now and then. Since an object’s location within a scene never changes, the challenge becomes more about memory once it’s been found.

 Conclusion:

Disney Hidden Worlds creates a new adventure out of the joy of revisiting classic Disney tales. The game appeals to Disney fans and provides a fun alternative to watching that DVD “just one more time.”

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Publisher: Supercell

Release Date: August 2012 for iOS, October 2013 for Android

Overview

It’s been out for a few years now, but Clash of Clans still boasts an active community of players. With a special Halloween-themed update released last week, it’s not too late to give it a try.

Clash of Clans is an easy to learn, if a bit simplistic, entry in the strategy genre. As town chief, players spend their time building up a village and assembling an army of fantasy creatures. Players take on both roles of protagonist and antagonist as they defend their home from attack, while also raiding and plundering the villages of other players. To survive, they need to master both an offensive and defensive strategy.

Gameplay starts with the village. It collects and stores resources used for building projects and army training. Collectors harvest gold and elixir on their own over time, though the player determines their efficiency through upgrades. Once constructed, buildings require little oversight and the player focuses energy on village defenses.

Villages remain vulnerable to attack by other players’ armies, which steal any unprotected resources. Walls and cannons provide a simple defense in the beginning, but higher levels grant access to an advanced arsenal including a variety of guard towers and booby traps. Upgrades to existing defenses increase protection and refine their appearance, transforming a sticks-and-stone village into a robust fortress.

The game’s simplicity works very well here. Each piece’s use is straightforward and easy to understand, but it’s in how they’re put together that they become more sophisticated. This makes it accessible to the player who wants to hurry up and go fight goblins, while presenting plenty of tools to players who enjoy analyzing and tinkering with every element of their defensive strategy. This is where creativity comes into play. With imagination and planning, tactically-minded players can directly manage everything, perfecting their village layout to surprise invaders in new ways. It’s as simple or complex as you want to make it.

Protecting the village only makes up part of the puzzle. Players must also muster a diverse army if they want to rise in rank on the leaderboard. In the single player campaign, players raid the Goblin King’s villages for gold and elixir, overcoming unique defenses and traps each time. In multiplayer, players can also raid the villages of other players, either gaining or losing victory points according to the outcome.

Multiplayer raids form a major component of the game, especially after joining a clan. Clan members take part in two-day “wars” against opposing clans. On the first day, members exchange troops and ready defenses. On the second day, they raid the enemy’s villages. At day’s end, the clan with the highest score wins, and its members enjoy the spoils.

Offensive strategy in Clash of Clans entails less hands-on control. Players choose which units to deploy and where, but cannot issue any additional orders. Troops act autonomously, bashing an obstacle to dust before attacking the next object in sight. This means that sometimes a warrior starts destroying a stone wall even if he’s standing right beside a gleaming heap of coins or is being blasted by a cannon corps. However, advanced unit types prefer to strike specific targets like walls or treasure, balancing this.

Therefore, strategy relies less on control and more on making smart decisions about who to send, where, and when. As a spectator to the chaos, players may feel helpless at first, but lost troops replenish quickly, making it easy to learn from mistakes. The unpredictability provides a challenge, especially as the maps become more complex. This may frustrate players who want to interact directly during combat or enjoy micromanaging tactics. On the other hand, it makes combat–strategy aside–incredibly simple to control. It only takes a tap. For younger players, that means a large enough army will eventually smash through anything. It’s fun to watch and exciting not to know exactly what will happen next.

Family Assessment

On the surface, the game is cute, colorful, and bright. Depictions of violence remain benign and cartoonish. Characters only attack buildings and objects, not each other. Characters that die turn into ghosts and vanish.

Ultimately, though, the game is about war. Specifically, destroying other players’ villages to steal their stuff. Despite this, the game is very forgiving and fair. There’s no permanent destruction or loss. Buildings remain intact, and lost resources quickly renew. It feels more like a competition than a war, but the central themes may concern some parents, especially of younger children.

As with many free-to-play games, Clash of Clans features countdown meters on its building projects, and allows players to spend real money to speed up progress. The system feels fair and isn’t exceptionally prohibitive. However, parents will want to check their device’s pay lock.

Parents should also be aware that there is an in-game chat feed. Most chatter regards joining clans and shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

Playability Assessment

The controls don’t require any more reflex, speed, or precision than it takes to navigate the device itself. Playability mainly concerns the ability to strategize.

Though advanced players can find ways to make strategy more complex, the game remains simple enough that it’s accessible to a wide range of ages and skill sets. Players need to manage resources, but the system also manages itself. Though problem-solving skills will benefit players as they figure out what troops are best against which defenses, a big enough army will eventually get the job done no matter what. Frankly, it’s fun to watch the army destroy things, whether they win the battle or not.

Conclusion

Clash of Clans is a delightful and simple introduction to the strategy genre, while giving players the tools to get creative and imaginative. Players who need fast-paced or hands-on combat will be disappointed. While it may also disappoint those looking for an intellectual challenge, it provides light and whimsical entertainment without a steep learning curve.

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Publisher: Gameloft

Release Date: September 10, 2014

Android, iOS, Windows Phone

Overall

Which Spider-Man is in Spider-Man Unlimited? All of them—or close to it. The makers boast that the game contains more playable Spider-Men ever. How do they manage that? Handy narrative magic, of course. Spider-Man’s nemeses, the Sinister Six, have opened an inter-dimensional rift, threatening to destroy the world as we know it. Spider-Man must recruit alternate versions of himself from across the dimensions and defeat each member of the Sinister Six one by one. Unfortunately each member is recruiting his own dastardly alternates, meaning the road ahead will not be easy.

Spider-Man Unlimited plays like an infinite runner, but isn’t endless. You spend missions collecting vials, avoiding obstacles, and punching enemies. The courses also have segments of web-slinging across buildings and freefalling from rooftops. It’s lively and responsive, perfectly capturing the feel of Spidey’s acrobatics.

The comic book art style looks clear and vibrant on touch screen devices. There’s impressive detail in the various environments. Regarding gameplay, the variety of enemies and obstacles prevents missions from feeling tedious and repetitive.

The game’s three modes accommodate different types of players, letting you play how you want. If you prefer to focus on ranking on the leaderboards for unique prizes, there’s event mode. If you want to rack up a high score to dominate your friends, there’s unlimited mode. If you’d rather collect as many Spider-Men as possible and complete each issue of the story, you can.

The Spider-Man recruitment mechanic will be familiar to anyone who plays collectible card games. The random summoning process means you never know who you’re going to get. Each version of Spidey has a distinct look, unique bonuses, and a ranking based on rarity. There’s also a description of his place in Marvel lore. This appeals to longtime Spidey fans but remains fun and informative for newcomers.

The game brings a bright and energetic experience. This remains consistent throughout, but the more the game advances, the more constricting the developer’s money-making tactics become. It’s a shame because there’s nothing to complain about when considering the game itself, but these restrictions soon start to spoil what’s otherwise a pleasure.

There isn’t much in Spider-Man Unlimited that the free-to-play model doesn’t limit. It’s possible to play without spending any real money, but if you’re looking to advance the story mode with reasonable speed it’s not realistic. In-game currency is readily obtainable through play, but not in helpful quantities when facing the costs necessary for advancement. The price in real currency isn’t much better. It takes just under $5.00 to summon a rare character and about $10.00 to increase a rare character’s level cap. But if you enjoy just being able to play, the non-story modes provide rewarding challenges without the prohibitive level requirements. I particularly enjoy the competition of event mode and find it entertaining on its own.

Unfortunately, even those looking just to play soon hit another limit hard and fast: the Spidey Energy Meter. No matter the mode, every round of play consumes an energy point. Even successfully completed rounds deplete the meter, which maxes at five points. A point renews every ten minutes. An average round of play lasts about 30-60 seconds, so at best you’ll be waiting almost an hour for five minutes of play. This may be a common feature in free-to-play apps, but a game unforgiving of split second slip-ups is the worst place for a mechanic like this. While you can purchase energy refills for the equivalent of a few cents, you’ll hit the same problem five rounds later. Prepare to be frustrated.

Spider-Man Unlimited villains

This game has “Unlimited” villains too!

Family Gaming Assessment

As you’d expect, the game contains plenty of comic book style violence. It’s the bloodless punches and kicks typical of the superhero genre, nothing you wouldn’t see on a similar children’s cartoon. Dialogue is geared toward a young audience, so there’s nothing to worry about here either.

Playability Assessment

Storyboard sequences require reading comprehension skills but can be skipped easily.

The controls are simple to learn and intuitive. However, the fast pace calls for quick reaction speed and precise motor skills. Combined with the skimpy energy meter, this makes the game nearly impossible for younger children to play since they can’t just get up and go again.

Parents, please make sure to activate your device’s pay lock. It’s incredibly easy and tempting to rack up in-app purchases in a matter of minutes.

Conclusion

The game itself is fun, fast-paced, and addictive. Spidey fans will appreciate the sheer amount of lore. There’s not much to lose since the game is free. But the money-making tactics are incredibly obvious, obstructive, and overshadow an otherwise well-made game.

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The fifth and final wing to be released for the Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas expansion is the Frostwyrm Lair. If you have not seen our reviews of Hearthstone or any of the expansion wings to this point they can be found here.

Frostwyrm Lair is the reward for defeating the four wings of Naxxramas. Inside you will not only face off with the giant Frostwyrm Sapphiron, but also the mighty (and terrifying) Kel’Thuzad!! Defeating these final bosses will unlock multiple epic cards and the legendary card Kel’Thuzad!

First up is the previously mentioned Sapphiron. This fight is all about placement. World of Warcraft players will recognize this from the game mechanic that had to be used to keep your party members alive during the raid encounter. Here it keeps your minions immune to Sapphiron’s heroic power. The fight becomes simple once you figure that one. The reward for defeating this encounter is Echoing Ooze. This card has a lot of potential in decks that that focus on buffing (improving minions through spells) as this creature copies itself at the end of the turn and includes any temporary effects that were on it.

Once Sapphiron is defeated you will be able to face off with Kel’Thuzad himself. Be aware that he has two different phases and each has a different heroic ability. A key to this fight is getting through his ten points of armor as soon as possible as his second heroic ability costs eight mana. Two strategies that I have found successful have been using a fast deck like a hunter or a druid deck that helps build armor while still keeping up the pressure on Kel’Thuzad. The reward for is the Shade of Naxxramas (my favorite card in the entire expansionPlayers are also rewarded with the legendary card Kel’Thuzad. The potential to build around this one is vast, and I would not be surprised to see a lot of “deathrattle” themed decks in the near future. This will be a must own card in everyone’s collections as time goes on since he can help build some excellent strategies.

The final class battle is the Paladin who faces off with Kel’Thuzad. I have not defeated this challenge to this point, and have found the deck provided for this challenge is vastly underpowered. If you have found success with this please comment below as I am eager to see how everyone does it.

The Heroic modes of the final bosses will certainly challenge even the most veteran players. Once all heroic modes are defeated a special card back is rewarded (Enter it here). So you will see it displayed proudly by players who have defeated this vastly challenging task.

Overall I enjoyed the expansion a great deal. I found it to be fun for players of all skill levels, and the cards added certainly add a new flavor to the game. Personally I would have liked to have seen the normal mode be a bit more difficult, and the heroic modes toned down just a bit. But that is a minor criticism. I very much look forward to what the future of Hearthstone holds. What did you all think? Sound off below with any thoughts on the final challenges and the expansion as a whole.

Until next time have fun, and stay tuned to Engaged Family Gaming for more gaming reviews.

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The fourth wing to be released for Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas expansion is the Construct Quarter. If you have not seen our reviews of Hearthstone or any of the expansion wings to this point they can be found here.

The Construct Quarter is the last bastion of defense for Naxxramas before entry to Frostwyrm Lair can be earned. The most difficult bosses await a player as Kel’ Thuzad throws everything but the kitchen sink in your way! The final boss for this wing is Thaddius, and like the Military Quarter will challenge you in every way possible.

The bosses within the Construct Quarter will challenge a player to think their way out of trouble as opposed to just throwing powerful cards at them. The rewards for victory are also more powerful and plentiful. First up is Patchwerk who actually has no deck of cards, and is just a brutal force himself. The reward for victory is The Undertaker. Defeating Grobbulous next will reward you with the Mad Scientist. The next boss Gluth’s reward is Zombie Chow. World of Warcraft players may find humor in this reward as it harkens back to the Raid Boss fight. Finally defeating Thaddius rewards players with the Wailing Soul and two legendary cards Fuegen and Stalagg.

The two legendary rewards can potentially summon Thaddius himself for a player if the conditions are met. This has the chance to turn the tide of any game to a player’s favor.

The two class challenges that are unlocked within the Construct Quarter are Priest and Warrior. Defeating these challenges will unlock the Dark Cultist and Death’s Bite respectfully. I found these challenges to be the most difficult to date.

Much like the Military Quarter previously the Heroic bosses within the Construct Quarter pose a significantly enhanced challenge for players. Building a deck specifically to defeat these challenges is highly recommended.

Overall the Construct Quarter did not disappoint as the final wing within Naxxramas. Playing through certainly felt as if the fights were building to a crescendo. Veteran players will find many new challenges awaiting them and will put a player’s deck-building skills to the test. Did you find the Construct Quarter to be as challenging as I did? Do you have an idea of what may lie next in Frostwyrm Lair? Sound off below with any thoughts and comments! Until next time good luck as Frostwyrm Lair opens on August 19th!

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Activision is really going crazy with the news recently! They have already announced a tablet version of their upcoming game Skylanders Trap Team. This time around we have an announcement for a new line of figures.

Activision’s One of Swords PR account has announced the Skylanders Minis line. Players who have been around the block with Skylanders will recognize some of these characters as mini-figs that have been included as promotional items through a partnership with Frito-Lay. In previous iterations these figures were simply mascots that would follow you around. That is all changing now. These mini-figs are full blown characters with their own upgrade paths and levels.

There are sixteen different characters that are available in the line and they will be available in packs of two for $13.99. (Yay! Who needs a savings account right?)

The list of playable minis is as follows:

Water: Gill Runt, Thumpling

Earth: Terrabite, Bop 

Fire: Small Fry, Weeruptor

Life:Whisper Elf, Barkley 

Tech: Trigger Snappy, Drobit 

Magic: Mini-Jini, Spry 

Air: Pet-Vac, Breeze 

Undead: Eye-Small, Hijinx

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Are you excited about this new line? Sound off in the comments.

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Activision has made a major step in bringing its Skylanders franchise to the masses. They have made billions of dollars so far, but all of their games have been limited to the console market. I had never looked at this as a “limitation,” but apparently they disagreed. As a result Skylanders will be coming to tablets this fall.

The “why” is simple to explain. Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing said in the press release that they “always want to be wherever gamers want to play.” This is a pretty straightforward answer. The tablet market is HUGE. Go ahead and think on this. When was the last time you went somewhere and didn’t see someone using one? Probably a long time. How many families do you know that don’t have one in the house? Probably not many. The reality is that the tablet market is a massive and companies that CAN take advantage of it should do so.

The Skylanders Trap Team Tablet Starter Pack is going to release on the same day as the traditional console versions. It will include a Bluetooth Traptanium Portal; a Bluetooth controller; a built-in tablet stand; two Skylanders characters; two Traps and a display tray.

The most interesting feature of this package is the Bluetooth controller. Players have been struggling to find a controller that works with their tablets for years and it has not gone very well so far. If Activision likes it enough to package it with one of their premier franchises, then this has to be at least “’alright.” A lot of people will be looking at the performance of this new controller as the game is released. What do you think? Do you know anyone who will be picking this up?

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Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas

The third wing to be released for Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas expansion is the Military Quarrter. if you have not seen our reviews of Hearthstone or any of the expansion wings to this point they can be found here.

The Military Quarter, as is teased by the title, contains the generals in charge of training Kel’ Thuzad’s armies. The final boss(es) in the Military Quarter are The Four Horsemen. This wing will challenge you in ways you have never seen in Hearthstone!

The difficulty of the Military Quarter is again raised in comparison to the other two wings. Defeating these bosses will earn you some of the most powerful reward cards seen to this point. The three boss rewards are as follows; Instructor Razuvious grants Dancing Swords, Gothik the Harvester grants Spectral Knight, and finally The Four Horsemen grant Deathlord. All of these bosses on normal difficulty were beatable again by changing decks and cards to combat their specific abilities. This is very true for the Four Horsemen fight as you will start against an opponent with three minions already on the board.

Clearing the three bosses also unlock the legendary Baron Rivendare card which potentially brings entire new deck ideas to players based on his granted ability. I look forward to seeing how players utilize this card in particular.

The two class challenges that are unlocked within the Military Quarter are Warlock and Shaman. Defeating these challenges will unlock Voidcaller, and Reincarnate respectively. While these challenges were not as fun as the previous Hunter challenge they were enjoyable.

The greater challenge for the military wing again was heroic mode. Even in comparison to the Arachnid and Plague Quarters previously the difficulty has been increased. Even veteran players may find defeating these bosses to be a great challenge.

Overall the Military Quarter continues to build upon the success of its predecessors. Any worries I had previously about challenges for veteran players has now been totally dismissed. I eagerly await what challenges and flavor the Construct Quarter will bring when it releases on August 12th. Have you found the Military Quarter to be challenging? Have deck constructions that have worked in heroic mode? Sound off below and share your experiences! Until next time good luck and have fun!

Dancing Swords Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas card
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Spectral Knight - Neutral Card
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This article was written by: Stephen Haberman and was originally posted at thegeekyhusband.tumblr.com.

image

Let’s face it, gaming is not an active hobby and just about anything active takes you away from the games you want to be playing. If you are an iPad owner, you may have found a number of games that have allowed you to play casually while taking care of your chores.

Hearthstone has been one of those games for me. It has allowed me to continue to play when I want while still taking care of life’s other requirements. The player matches, however, don’t easily fit into a tight schedule. Sometimes a match can last a few minutes, and sometimes you are in it for almost a half an hour. It was the uncertainty of the game length (as well as the frustration of losing) that would make it difficult to know how much Hearthstone I would play in one sitting.

That uncertainty led me to pass on playing a match at all, rather than signing in. I did not want to have to quit a player match that was in progress.

image

It wasn’t until the release of Curse of Naxxramas that I really became aware of the distinct advantage this single player campaign option would offer me. Now I can say that my goal is to defeat the three bosses before I am done. I can either work towards that goal, or quit should something come up.

I have been able to play through the three bosses several times this week, and have put in anywhere from a 30 minute to a full hour long workout on the treadmill. It also solved my problem of looking at the distance I’ve traveled or the amount of time I’ve been working out for.

See?!?

Before:

Treadmill Workout

After:

The "Hearthstone" Workout!

The “Hearthstone” Workout!

How it hangs:

image

So, how do you do this?

Easy!

Log on to Hearthstone and choose your in-game goal (reach a certain level, beat a certain boss, or complete a certain achievement).

Jump on the treadmill and set it to a medium to quick walk so that your focus can be on the game and the walking and not have to worry about keeping a fast pace.

Once you’ve completed your goal, you’re done!

Now, sometimes you will find that you will have completed your goal faster than you expected. Well, you are already on the treadmill and already in your workout close so you might as well keep going for a little longer. I found getting on the treadmill was the hard part, so this worked for me. Maybe it will work for you too!

Cost: $20 for the 5 single player Curse of Naxxramas quests.

Also, there is the cost of a treadmill (or the cost of your gym membership). If you’re nervous about playing Hearthstone in public, think about it this way: the people who recognize what you’re doing will likely be into it and want to chat with you about the game. Meeting new people that are also gamers is never a bad idea.

Good luck!

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