Gwent is CDProjektRed’s foray into the digital collectible card game arena. You assemble a narrative deck of your favourite beasties and warriors then you go head to head with another player’s deck. These kinds of games are insanely fun, they are tactical, thoughtful, strategic and really force you to look at the logical ruleset given to you in every way, I highly recommend playing not just Gwent, but any CCG you can get your hands on.
So let’s get right into the meat of the game, it’s based on The Witcher franchise and boasts all your favourite characters from the games in five different factions, all distinct and interesting with their own playstyles and unique heroes. The most striking thing about the game when you first play it is that it doesn’t quite play like any other card game. In Hearthstone or MTG, you build or obtain a secondary resource with which to play your cards, be that “Mana Crystals” or “Land” respectively, this mechanic forces you to constantly juggle and manage what is essentially a separate minigame that ties into the action on the game board, well the devs at Gwent did away with such frippery! You get to play one card each round and you’ll like it!
The cards themselves play massively into that stripped out, barebones feel too, they have one number and some mechanics, add to that the fact that you’re not managing the other minigame that most card games force upon you: hitpoints! No, sir; in Gwent, you play your cards and add their number to your side’s total, you both keep playing cards in this way until you both pass, at which point the player with the higher total wins. That’s it! There’s no armour, no transforming into daemons to bring your life back up to full, no extraneous, tacked on mechanics, all the gameplay is based on the board and the work they’ve done to make that simplistic base feel deep in strategy and cunning, last-minute plays is admirable.
The real magic behind it is the idea that the game utilises a ton of back-end mechanics concerning the cards that are in and out of play, many of the cards manipulate other cards of the same type in ways that would be impossible or tedious to represent in an actual cardboard game, there are cards that constantly spawn new cards or allow you to pull others out of, or into your discard pile but the real surprise is how seamlessly the game does this and how the board, decks, discard piles and your hand go through so many transitions in one turn without you noticing unless you try, in fact I’d bet that playing one game of cardboard Gwent would take ten times longer.
There are no manual interrupts or ways to disrupt your opponents turn, except passively and the way the factions are set out promotes long chess-like plays where you have to plan three or four turns ahead, waiting and trying to judge what your opponent will do and forcing you to have a plan for those situations, couple that with the fact that you only get to draw a fraction of the cards you do in other games, makes you have to consider every move carefully as one link in a long chain.
In short, Gwent provides some much needed innovation in a genre that continues to grow stale and with CDProjektRed at the helm, you can be sure they’re going to treat the game right and support it’s development for the future.
Oh, and it’s free.