If you combine the CCG and deckbuilding aspects of a game like Hearthstone with turn-based, tactical gameplay, you’d end up with something like … well, something exactly like Hero Academy 2. This sequel pushes things even further with more characters, modes and gameplay options than its predecessor.

It also includes a fairly robust tutorial to ensure you don’t wander into too many PvP matches until you have the core concepts of summoning characters, using them to move and attack, and casting spells all down pat. So our job here isn’t to hold you by the hand and fill you in on the basics — that wouldn’t be very becoming of a hero, after all — but simply to point out a few things you might overlook or not appreciate for their true potential.

In other words, these Hero Academy 2 tips, tricks and tactics can help bump your game up a notch, helping you win duels you might otherwise lose. And that is pretty heroic!

Remember your goal: Crush those crystals

Eliminating characters on the other team is nice, but except in Challenge mode where that’s the primary objective (and only in some Challenge levels), your objective in a Hero Academy 2 duel is to wipe out the opposing team’s crystals before they do the same to you. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

In fact, you’re almost guaranteed to find yourself in situations where simply allowing your opponent to beat up on one of your crystals is okay as long as you’re doing more damage to one of theirs at the same time. Not every enemy character needs to be wiped out, so identifying which ones are relatively harmless and which could lose you the game if they aren’t taken care of should be something you are constantly improving at as you play more duels.

Positioning is key

So much of the gameplay is based around being at the right places on the board to maximize the damage you can do while minimizing what you receive. At the basic level, this means understanding the difference between melee and ranged units, as the former can only attack from one space away while the latter can attack from two or more squares — and they also retaliate if attacked by other ranged units from the same distance.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget that diagonals in Hero Academy 2 count as two squares, one in each direction, so melee units can’t attack on diagonals, but ranged units can.

You can use these same concepts on defense. By placing obstacles with the right spells above, below and on both sides of a crystal, for instance, it means your opponent can only attack it from range unless it deals with the obstacles first, which could slow them down by a turn at the very least.

KO’d doesn’t mean dead … right away

When characters are reduced to zero health, they might be dead — but there’s still time to save them. Initially, Heroes are KO’d, and their body remains in the square in which they fell. They only die at the end of your turn, which means you still have time to revive them with certain spells or abilities.

Obviously, this is true for your opponent as well, so it might pay to move a character onto a KO’d opponent, which will eliminate them from the battlefield immediately and prevent them from coming back to haunt you. Heroes with the ‘Execute’ keyword and certain spells also send their targets to the great beyond right away with no chance of revival, so use these to your advantage when necessary.

The mana curve is a straight line

Perhaps the biggest difference between Hero Academy 2 and other card-based tactics games is that instead of each player receiving an ever-increasing amount of resources with which to play cards and abilities — Mana, in this case — you always get five Mana per turn. On one hand, this provides you some certainty that unless you have a very bad draw, you’re going to be able to play something in your hand every turn.

The flip side is that if you have heavy hitting cards that cost six or more Mana, it takes some advance planning in order to get them into play, since you’ll never have that much on hand unless you save some from a previous turn. That’s possible since unspent Mana does roll over, a nice feature that can come in very handy. That means it’s imperative not to spend it for no reason, as it might serve you better next turn after your opponent plays a particularly nasty surprise.