“I win, but it’s a hollow victory”
Beating AI in GWENT : THE WITCHER CARD GAME
I’ve been keeping tabs on Gwent by watching Gwent Masters—a year-long series of tournaments to determine who’s the best in the world at turn-based fantasy card warfare. It’s a bit intimidating. I was pretty good at The Witcher 3’ s version of Gwent. It was a simple game in which you tried to earn the most points by playing spy cards until your opponent couldn’t win. That, it seems, was considered unsporting for competitive play, and so in the standalone Gwent, spies were nerfed. Then, every card was remade and the rules were changed. Now, pro players do absurd things I don’t understand—constructing elaborate decks for a small advantage.
While I’ll never be at that level, watching pros has armed me with a basic understanding of how to play this version. It’s crucial to know when to pass, for instance. In a best-of-three, how many cards you have left is crucial. Even a lost round can be advantageous if it means your opponent has fewer cards.
I figure it’s time to put this knowledge into practice, and familiarize myself with this version of the game ahead of Thronebreaker, the standalone singleplayer campaign due out late-October. Unfortunately, the decks I’ve seen require cards I don’t own. Fortunately, I find an option to play singleplayer challenges using prebuilt decks. This feels like a good way to learn the basics.
Heart of the cards
Challenges reveal the gulf between watching and doing. In my first attempt, I win the first round against the AI, but somehow go down by two cards. This is the exact thing I was trying to avoid. Against a competent opponent, I’d be at a huge disadvantage. Luckily for me, the AI is not a competent opponent. By figuring out some basic combos, I’ve built a significant point lead by the time I run out of cards.
The AI has two remaining cards, but both are dead—designed for specific situations that aren’t applicable to the current board. I win, but it’s a hollow victory. I have learnt nothing. But even a hollow victory is enjoyable when you don’t know what you’re doing. Bring on the singeplayer campaign.
I’ve definitely got this. (I think.)