Symbolic Reasoning for Hearthstone

Andreas Stiegler, K. Dahal, J. Maucher, D. Livingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
159 Downloads (Pure)


Trading-Card-Games are an interesting problem domain for Game AI, as they feature some challenges, such as highly variable game mechanics, that are not encountered in this intensity in many other genres. We present an expert system forming a player-level AI for the digital Trading-Card-Game Hearthstone. The bot uses a symbolic approach with a semantic structure, acting as an ontology, to represent both static descriptions of the game mechanics and dynamic game-state memories. Methods are introduced to reduce the amount of expert knowledge, such as popular moves or strategies, represented in the ontology, as the bot should derive such decisions in a symbolic way from its knowledge base. We narrow down the problem domain, selecting the relevant aspects for a play-to-win bot approach and comparing an ontology-driven approach to other approaches such as machine learning and case-based reasoning. Upon this basis, we describe how the semantic structure is linked with the game-state and how different aspects, such as memories, are encoded. An example will illustrate how the bot, at runtime, uses rules and queries on the semantic structure combined with a simple utility system to do reasoning and strategic planning. Finally, an evaluation is presented that was conducted by fielding the bot against the stock “Expert” AI that Hearthstone is shipped with, as well as Human opponents of various skill levels in order to assess how well the bot plays. Evaluating how believable the bot reasons is assessed through a Pseudo-Turing test.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games
Issue number99
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2017


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cognition
  • Electronic mail
  • Games
  • Monte Carlo methods
  • Planning
  • Runtime


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