Gwent Hands-On

Gwent Hands-On

It was fairly late during the second day of E3, and my energy was flagging. I’m not sure if you’ve ever covered a media event dear reader, but the majority of it is isn’t very glamorous. It’s a lot of rushing between appointments, and never breaking for food. It was hot, and I was exhausted.

I had a CD Projekt Red meeting next on my schedule, and I was – rather unfairly – hating the idea of attending your usual E3-styled meeting: “here’s this game, here’s why you should like it, here’s when it’s coming out – now take this over-sized tote bag full of plastic garbage.”

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Thankfully, CD Projekt Red broke the norm in several ways. Firstly – they had a playable build of their upcoming digital card game Gwent. Secondly – they had cold beer.

If you’ve played the minigame in The Witcher 3, then the core of Gwent will be familiar to you: play cards in three different rows (melee, ranged, or siege) and combine their scores. If your army’s score is higher than your enemy’s, then you win the round. Certain cards can change the weather of particular zones, augmenting the final score of all cards in that row.

What’s changed is that Gwent has undergone several balance tweaks to make it palatable for competitive play. Some cards have been added, removed, or changed, and certain factions/leaders have had their abilities tweaked, or completely altered.

For example, the Northern Realms doesn’t have an ability to clear the board of weather effects anymore. Now whenever you play a certain type of card, you’ll automatically play a second one. I noticed that the majority of changes meant more cards were on the board at any one time, capturing the game’s army-building metaphor more accurately than in its previous incarnation.

One nice twist is that I didn’t know I was playing a human opponent until I finished my demo. Most E3 demos are single player affairs, simply because having test builds running network code is another hurdle that most developers don’t want to (rightly) deal with. I thought I was fairly OK at Gwent – at least until I was thoroughly trounced by the journalist sitting across from me.

The game is more like its source material than you’d think though – at least, in the broad strokes. Choice-and-consequence will play a large part in the story mode, and will dictate how your deck is built, and the types of foes you’ll encounter.

In the hands-off mission I was shown, Geralt was exploring a simplified overworld with some companions. While you can follow the quest tracker to your main objective, you can also break off from it and explore. Geralt came across some ancient elven ruins, and through a series of voiced dialogue choices, he acquired some Elven Fire – a particularly volatile explosive. This added the corresponding card to our previewer’s deck. In fact, all interactions in the story mode will dictate what cards will enter (and leave) your deck.

Moreover, branches in the story will determine what foes you face, or how you face them. In one particular quest, Geralt was tasked with optionally bringing an injured peasant to a nearby town. On the outskirts however, she transformed into a strange tree-looking beast, and attacked. This lead to a standard Gwent-styled fight, but with some conditional modifiers – namely, the monster was a unique faction hero that could summon a special card.

I’m looking forward to the finished Gwent product. While it took some mental work to re-learn some of the changed mechanics from the base game, everything from its slick appearance to its new story mode had me falling in love with the fantasy card game all over again.

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
+ Captures the army building metaphor well.
- Re-learning some gameplay twists took some work.
"Gwent's lovable base rules, now with more pop and flair."
- Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
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Comments Comments (8)

Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Monday 20 Jun 2016 5:18 PM
Never played an actual card game yet.
Posted by darklordfoamy
On Monday 20 Jun 2016 6:24 PM
Definitely looking forward to this the more I hear about it.
Posted by Bank
On Monday 20 Jun 2016 7:29 PM
20 June 2016, 05:18 PM Reply to ThatUndeadLegacy
Never played an actual card game yet.
I love your work homie.
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Tuesday 21 Jun 2016 12:13 AM
Looking forward to playing the beta (hopefully). Keen to see how they fleshed it out because the in-game version was too easy by the end.
Posted by Bunnny
On Tuesday 21 Jun 2016 7:23 AM
20 June 2016, 07:29 PM Reply to Bank
I love your work homie.
Full of so much "what"
Posted by guido
On Tuesday 21 Jun 2016 9:04 AM
Can't wait for this but am still mystified by the fact it's PC and console only when we can already jump into The Witcher and play Gwent on these platforms. Sure it might bring it to a wider audience of people that aren't playing The Witcher but a tablet / mobile version would surely do this on a much bigger scale??
Posted by dark_hadou1
On Tuesday 21 Jun 2016 2:02 PM
Agree with guido (even though the name makes me shudder) - Mobile variant would be a perfect fit for the franchise
Posted by ActualTats
On Wednesday 22 Jun 2016 12:15 PM
Love playing Gwent in the Witcher 3, so I'm definitely looking forward to playing this!