Hello PVPD! Today’s discussion will be about children’s card games! Yes, GWENT has finally arrived to PC, Xbox, and more importantly my e-mail address as the game is still in closed beta and coming out in waves. So what exactly is GWENT? It’s more or less an amalgamation of Magic: The Gathering meets Hearthstone, and while that may initially put you off from the sound of it, it is DAMN FUN. The creators of the game is CD Projekt Red, responsible for The Witchers 1, 2, and 3, as well as the future Cyberunk 2077 which, if it’s anything like what they’re saying it will be, and it often is, will be nothing short of a sublime gaming experience the likes of which is only equivalent to this insane run-on sentence. Moving on. GWENT was first introduced in The Witcher 3, as a sort of game within a game if you will. Those who aren’t entirely familiar with RPG’s, allow me to elucidate. Ever since the 2000’s RPG’s have had side games in them in some form or another. It’s always super cheesy and kitschy, and I’m not entirely sure why this trend ever caught on in the first place, since some of the first famous examples of this was Triple Triad back in Final Fantasy 8, and it was the mental equivalent of playing Minecraft with your keyboard on fire. Regardless, GWENT initially started off in the game as one of the many sidequests, which was essentially to try and complete the collection of cards. As it turned out though, the game was actually extremely fun, and the studio decided to expand on the concept and make an entirely new game out of it.
So what is GWENT in it’s current iteration, and what’s actually changed? Quite a lot as it turns out.
The game is essentially a war simulation. You get to choose out of 5 playable decks, or factions, each with their own individual cards.
There are also neutral cards which are shared among all of the decks. It’s very similar to Hearthstone in this sense, so players of that game will feel right at home. Each faction has a passive ability, as seen here, and an active ability, which can be used at any point during a game similar to a hero power in Hearthstone. The difference being that you can only use your active ability once per game, so choose wisely!
The board itself is split into 3 different rows, which are melee, ranged, and siege. I prefer to simply call them close mid and long range though. Clarity! Each of your cards fit into one of these 3 rows, indicated by the icon on your card. Some of your cards can go in any of the three rows, which is definitely useful since some of the removal and damaging effects your opponent can use can target a row where you have a bunch of creatures and summarily destroy your strategy.
Each of your cards has an assigned “power” value, which adds to your overall military might. At the end of each round, the player with the highest military strength, or power, wins that round. It takes 2 rounds to win a match of GWENT, and each match can have up to 3 rounds, leaving you with the ability to lose a round, which can be a unique strategy depending on your deck type. At the beginning of the first round, you’re given 10 cards and the ability to mulligan up to 3 cards and draw something else. At the beginning of the second round, both players draw 2 cards, and at the beginning of the final round, both players draw one. There’s no other kind of drawing in this game, so unless one of the cards you’re using has a draw mechanic built in, you’re never going to draw outside of the 2 cards in round 2 and the last card in round 3. This, in combination with the rather large hand size compared to other games, means that you have far more control over the game and can devise and execute a strategy from start to finish rather than being under the gun and hoping that you draw into an answer for your opponent’s threats. And threatening they are, I’ve seen some cards get up to 60 power by themselves, and if you’re not using a prime removal card such as Scorch in your deck to remove said threat, you’re simply going to be out of luck for that round.
The game itself is also much more complex than something like Hearthstone, while maintaining a lot of simplicity. Each player only has one card that they can play per turn, which leads to short turns and overall quick games, while the cards themselves have more than enough variety to give you plenty of options – almost every single one of my lost games came down to a critical mistake that I personally made during the match, rather than simply being out valued cardwise. And that’s the beauty of GWENT. Even the most powerful cards in this game can be felled with a single counter strategy, and keeping note of this will lead to your inevitable success when it comes to the game. One more rule I didn’t mention earlier, is that you must take an action every single turn. That means every turn you play a card, reducing your resources, or you can choose to pass. Passing isn’t so forgiving, however, as passing at any point during a round means you will permanently pass all future turns for the remainder of that round. This leads to so many mind games with using your opponents resources, making them fall into a false sense of security and passing, or passing too early on your part and losing an ultimately winnable round.
GWENT is a beautiful game, and it simply oozes with art and care, a definite continuation of CD Projekt’s Witcher series. Each of the cards is beautifully crafted, with borders and 3D effects, even on the plain 2D cards. The animated versions are an absolute delight to look at, featuring art animation that I’ve honestly never even thought possible. It looks like they borrowed some of the people who worked on the loading screens for the Witcher 3 to make a lot of these arts become animated, and when you zoom in on the cards to inspect them, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that they even come with sound effects and voice lines. There’s a troll in the shop that is just the cutest thing I’ve ever heard and he remarks on your actions in humorous ways. I think they should definitely expand on this little guy’s voice lines because they’re an absolute pleasure to listen to.
As for the economy of GWENT, I can’t speak too hard on this because, simply put, it’s beta. That being said, the company is extremely generous with their rewards system, giving you a “keg” which is the card pack of the game, every day you play and win just 6 rounds, or 3 matches if you win them all. You’ll also get scraps, which serve as the currency to create cards you don’t have manually by levelling up, on top of rare cards or ore, which can be used to buy more kegs. At the end of each game, you can also gift your opponent a “well played”, giving them a free 5 scraps or ore, which is an awesome addition and really makes you feel more camraderie towards your online matchups!
The beauty of GWENT lies in its simplicity. It takes several well known mechanics across different card games and melds them into a beautiful fresco of player reward, exciting gameplay, and quick enjoyment. GWENT is absolutely the game to play when you don’t have so much time or energy to play heavier titles, while simultaneously allowing generous room for growth with the card complexity, all wrapped up in a beautifully fully voiced package of glittering card art and magical board effects. GWENT is shaping up to be a huge contender for some of our current pickings when it comes to online PvP and card games, and the more I play the title, the more excited I am to see what’s in store from the developers at CD Projekt Red.