Gwent pre­view

Is there life af­ter The Witcher 3 for CD Pro­jekt Red’s card game?

PC GAMER (UK) - - Contents - Phil Sav­age

Phil looks into the Nil­f­gaard fac­tion in Gwent, which is cur­rently in closed beta.

Play too many cards and your opp onent will have the ad­van­tage

Card games aren’t my thing. I don’t en­joy

Hearth­stone, and Magic: The Gath­er­ing makes me sleepy. Gwent is dif­fer­ent – not in func­tion, but in con­cep­tion. It’s the Tro­jan Horse of col­lectible card games, hav­ing al­ready in­fil­trated my con­scious­ness through its pres­ence in The Witcher 3.

Gwent is the per­fect minigame for an open-world ad­ven­ture – an en­ter­tain­ing pas­time that en­cour­ages you to seek out fel­low en­thu­si­asts in or­der to ex­pand your deck. I played it ob­ses­sively.

This stand­alone in­car­na­tion is more com­pli­cated, but not over­whelm­ingly so. At its core it’s a best-of-three bat­tle in which play­ers take turns play­ing a sin­gle card. At the end of the round – ei­ther when both play­ers pass, or when ev­ery­one has run out of cards – the player with the high­est at­tack score wins. Un­like

Hearth­stone, with its mana pool, your only re­source is the num­ber of cards in your hand. When a round ends, your hand isn’t re­dealt. Play too many cards in the first round, and your op­po­nent will have the ad­van­tage over the next two.

At a ba­sic level this is good de­sign. When to pass be­comes a cru­cial de­ci­sion. Play­ing high value cards and pass­ing early might tempt your op­po­nent into overex­tend­ing – giv­ing you a card ad­van­tage in later rounds. Or they could ac­cept the loss, leav­ing you with lower value cards for the rest of the match.

To fur­ther com­pli­cate mat­ters, cards can have spe­cial traits. Each rep­re­sents a unit, per­son or spell from the Witcher’s world, and is played on one of three rows – melee, ranged or siege. Ger­alt, for in­stance, is a melee card. He doesn’t do any­thing fancy, but he’s a leg­endary – mak­ing him im­mune to most types of dam­age and de­buff. He’s also pow­er­ful. Keep him around and his 12 at­tack score can tip the bal­ance when both play­ers are low on cards.

The Poor In­fantry is a melee fighter with only three at­tack points. When played, he spawns a copy of him­self. Strate­gies form as you play your cards in a spe­cific or­der to max­imise their im­pact. I stum­bled on a pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion that paired the Poor In­fantry with the Blue Stripes Scout, a mid-value ranged unit that adds four at­tack power to a card of your choos­ing. I’d play the In­fantry, which would cre­ate a copy of it­self, and then use Scout on one of the two cards. I’d then play Foltest, a leader card avail­able to use once per match, re­gard­less of your hand.

Foltest will clone any ba­sic unit. Play­ing him on the Scout-ad­justed Poor In­fantry cre­ates a copy of that card, which, when played, trig­gers its own in­nate abil­ity and spawns yet an­other copy of it­self – both at the buffed at­tack value. Two cards with a com­bined six at­tack power be­come four with a to­tal score of 24. I felt like a ge­nius for fig­ur­ing that out, even if my win/loss ra­tio would sug­gest oth­er­wise. Trag­i­cally, this strat­egy has al­ready been nerfed. As be­fits a closed beta, CD Pro­jekt Red is fre­quently tin­ker­ing with the bal­ance. re­gional vari­a­tions There are lots of ef­fects, all or­gan­ised around the ba­sic theme of each fac­tion. The North­ern Realms is all about sup­port and re­in­force­ment. The Mon­ster fac­tion can mul­ti­ply rapidly, and is im­mune to weather ef­fects. The Scoia’tael is a guer­rilla force, caus­ing dam­age to op­po­si­tion units. Skel­lige is all about res­ur­rec­tion, and be­ing strength­ened by dam­age. The fifth fac­tion, Nil­f­gaard, was only re­cently in­tro­duced into the stand­alone game. Each fac­tion func­tions sim­i­larly to its

Witcher3 coun­ter­part, but Nil­f­gaard was con­sid­ered too sim­i­lar to the North­ern Realms and so de­layed to re­ceive a top to

bot­tom over­haul. For CD Pro­jekt Red, it’s a chance to prove that Gwent has the ca­pac­ity for fur­ther ex­pan­sion, and a life be­yond TheWitcher3.

The new Nil­f­gaard is based around in­fil­tra­tion and re­con­nais­sance. Dis­loy­alty is a theme, with cards played to your op­po­nent’s side of the board. In The

Witcher3’ s Gwent, spies in­creased your op­po­nent’s score in ex­change for draw­ing two cards to your hand. It was a pow­er­ful move, and one that had al­ready been toned down for stand­alone Gwent. Nil­f­gaard’s dis­loy­alty op­tions are more var­ied. Take Fake Ciri, who sits on your op­po­nent’s side, gain­ing power ev­ery turn. When your op­po­nent passes, she flips al­le­giance, adding her points to your score in­stead. That might sound like an overly com­pli­cated way of get­ting a few points, but only a few de­buff cards can tar­get a player’s own side of the board. For the re­cip­i­ent of a Fake Ciri, it can be a tac­ti­cal as well as psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­ad­van­tage.

One pos­si­ble Fake Ciri counter is Letho, a new leg­endary card. As an assassin, he’ll de­stroy ev­ery card on the row he’s placed on, ab­sorb­ing their strength for him­self. If you pop him next to a Fake Ciri on your side of the board, he’ll take her out, and ab­sorb any points she’s gath­ered. Or, play him on an op­pos­ing row, and you can dev­as­tate your en­emy’s strat­egy for that round. For all the tac­ti­cal sat­is­fac­tion, it’s also fun to see how spe­cific fig­ures of the Witcher’s world have been in­ter­preted for

Gwent’s rules. Letho’s sur­gi­cal car­nage feels ap­pro­pri­ate for his char­ac­ter.

Not ev­ery dis­loyal card is as in­tri­cate as Fake Ciri. The Am­bas­sador is a low-value dis­loyal unit that buffs the at­tack value of a ran­dom unit on your side, while the Emis­sary plays the top card from your deck. And a spe­cial card, Trea­son, lets play­ers coax back dis­loyal cards onto their side of the board. There’s po­ten­tial for an effective hand fo­cused around dis­loyal play – full of de­ci­sions about how many cards you can play to your op­po­nent’s side while still main­tain­ing an ad­van­tage.

be­hind the lines

Dis­loyal cards cover the in­fil­tra­tion half of the Nil­f­gaar­dian at­tack, but re­con­nais­sance can also lead to some pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tions. Vat­tier de Rideaux, for in­stance, lets you show up to two cards from your own hand. For each card that you re­veal, a ran­dom card from your op­po­nent’s hand is also un­veiled. The ap­pli­ca­tions here are twofold. Firstly, you can choose which of your cards to re­veal. Pick those that aren’t crit­i­cal to your cur­rent strat­egy, and you’re gam­bling for the chance to glean more use­ful in­for­ma­tion from your op­po­nent.

More ben­e­fi­cially, other card traits can trig­ger when­ever a card is re­vealed. Take the Man­gonel, a po­ten­tially ter­ri­fy­ing siege unit that re­moves two dam­age from a ran­dom op­pos­ing card when­ever some­thing is re­vealed. Given that Vat­tier can cre­ate up to four re­veals, and that mul­ti­ple Man­gonels can be played, it’s pos­si­ble to do se­ri­ous dam­age to any op­po­nent un­able to nul­lify the ef­fect. It’s po­ten­tially po­tent as long as you build your deck specif­i­cally for those traits, and as long as your op­po­nent doesn’t have a Letho wait­ing to roll up your siege row, or Man­gonels of their own. In the lat­ter case, the board comes alive, as mul­ti­ple abil­i­ties fire off and both sides take a bat­ter­ing. Vis­ually, Gwent is more muted and sub­tle than Hearth­stone, but it still knows how to sell such mo­ments of drama.

Re­veal­ing is a great early strat­egy thanks to an­other quirk of the Nil­f­gaar­dian play­book: re­source con­trol. Thier fac­tion perk lets you re­place cards each hand – dis­card­ing un­nec­es­sary cards and draw­ing new ones from your deck. Nil­f­gaard also has ac­cess to Xarthi­sius, a card that lets play­ers see the top two cards from their op­po­nent’s deck, and choose to send one to the bot­tom. It’s not a huge ad­van­tage, but the chance to poke and prod at both decks builds a feel­ing of con­trol and ma­nip­u­la­tion that seems ap­pro­pri­ate for the fac­tion.

It’s an en­joy­able deck, full of new op­tions that make sense within Gwent’s ex­ist­ing sys­tems. If any­thing, it makes some of the other hands – specif­i­cally North­ern Realms – feel a bit vanilla. The Nil­f­gaard fac­tion has a strong iden­tity built specif­i­cally around the ex­panded rule­set of stand­alone Gwent. A fac­tion like North­ern Realms, which re­tains its ties to the less am­bi­tious Witcher3 minigame, feels broader and less fo­cused. Cru­cially, Nil­f­gaard proves that Gwent can be ex­panded in new ways, which will be vi­tal if it’s to have any longevity in the crowded card game mar­ket. De­spite its ori­gin, I’m hope­ful that Gwent can make it on its own.

Cru­cially, Nil­f­gaard proves that Gwent can be ex­panded in new ways

It’s al­ways worth giv­ing troops the (Com­man­der’s) horn.

Mon­sters thrive in bad weather. Hu­mans? Not so much.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.