Gwent: A Different Sort of Card Game

At the start of this week CD Project Red opened the beta for their new card game to the public and I got my grubby little hands on it to have a try. I’ve played Hearthstone for a while now and I thought I knew what to expect of the game. You play minions on the board and then smack your opponent in the face, first person to hit zero life points loses. This is where I should point out that I have never played a Witcher game before and so have not been exposed to the minigame or how it works. I loaded up the tutorial and was very surprised with what I was met with. Rather than being a single rounded death race the game is a best of three tug of war between two players trying to control the board. Board control here means having a higher score than your opponent at the end of the round.

This is where the game shows how it is different to the other popular entry in the genre, Hearthstone. This is really a major plus for the game as so many clones of Blizzard’s card game have popped up over the years which is basically just a copy of Magic the Gathering. Because you have to use your deck over the course of three turns you need to think more about the game as a whole rather than rushing forward with tempo to win a single round (not that tempo decks are not viable). Sometimes it can really pay off to concede the first or second round to then come back later for the victory. There is a lot more planning and strategy needed when playing your deck and if you rush in without planning ahead you will likely not do well. This game is about knowing when you’re behind and realising that it’s ok to end the round to reset the board in your favour for next turn. This is a real strength for the game moving forward. I can see myself wanting to spend more time with the game to perfect these strategies when Hearthstone is content to just let Pirates ruin the game for players who prefer the slower meta game.

Something else different about this game is the leader card. There are five factions: Monsters, Skellige, Nilfgaard, Northern Realms and Scoia’tael. Each faction has three unique leaders with unique abilities. This ability can be used once per game to influence the course of a round. These leaders can make for very unique decks and each leader complements a particular deck type. For example there is Dagon for the monster faction, his ability is to spawn a weather card on a row (yes this game also has multiple rows rather than just the one) of your opponent’s side of the board which will damage their minions and reduce their overall score.

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Due to the setup of the game it definitely suits decks that fit into the control archetype and as I collect more cards and gain more resources to create these decks I will be able to experiment and explore different avenues to make a deck that I enjoy playing. Having sad this though, it doesn’t mean that decks that rush around trying to take the game before you can wont have a place in the meta game.

It is a Free to Play game and as we all know these types of games are infamous for trying to suck their players dry for money to get the better items etc. Hearthstone has this issue and is seen by a lot of people (myself included) to be pay to win. Resources for card creation can feel few and far between. When you’re just starting out it can be a real slog playing against other people, who have a much larger collection than yourself, because you are only rewarded by outright winning each game.

In Gwent the new player experience is much more forgiving, you earn resources by winning rounds in a match. You don’t have to win the game, as long as you are able to make a positive impact in the game you are rewarded for it. You’re even given resources if you and your opponent say GG to each other after the game is over.  There are also multiple challenges for you to complete to earn Ore which is used to buy kegs of cards (why kegs? good question…) and unlock the other leaders for the factions. These challenges also give you the opportunity to introduce you to some of the archetypes of deck that you can build for each faction. What I don’t understand is why these challenges do not give you two copies of the cards that the challenge decks are built around (i.e two copies of the ekimmara card so that you can begin building a consumption deck. It sort of feels like the game dangles these decks in your face as something you might get to eventually but doesn’t offer much in the way of getting closer to that point that RNG by giving you Ore to buy the aforementioned kegs to try to get these cards.

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Destroy a non-Gold unit on your side and absorb its strength

Thats not me saying it’s a bad game, I personally think it’s a very good and unique card game that is available. I want to keep playing to get a deeper understanding of the mechanics and the decks that are waiting to be experimented with and perfected. Something I would like to see in the future is perhaps earning resources from rounds played against a friend. Something that no card game I’ve seen does is promote you to play their game amongst a group of friends. To me this seems like a very backwards thing considering that Trading Card Games communities were built on groups of friends meeting up and playing the game amongst themselves. I would like to see some support for this in this game because then it’s something that I can play, enjoy and progress through with my friends. I would have no issue if the amount of resources we earned was reduced as it is being earned from friend rounds. Just something, some reason to play this game against people I know because there isn’t really any incentive at the minute.

Check out this game to see if you enjoy it for yourself. The game is currently in still in Beta so it’s an exciting time for the game and anything can change.

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