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Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Public Beta First Impressions

“There’s a new card game in town!”

Hello there, Magic: the Gathering veterans and Hearthstone digital card hoarders. I’ve got some good news for you! CD Projekt RED has just put Gwent: The Witcher Card Game on public beta. You know what does that mean? Yes, you’re right… That means we will spend hours to get the digital versions of shiny cardlike thingies and have fun in the process… Sounds impossible? Well, try this game and you’ll see that you’re mistaken…

It has been quite a while since we first met with the idea of digital versions of trading card games (TCG). The first TCG experience I had was with Pokemon: Trading Card Game which was a pretty interesting game and it was really fun to play. And, since the release of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) – Duels Of The Planewalkers 2012, many developers started making their own special TCGs. Blizzard, for instance, introduced us Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft which was a big success for the franchise and since then, digital TCGs became an epidemic.

Cards… Cards Everywhere!

But, what is so special about these TCGs? Well first of all, they are pretty simple to play  – excluding Magic: The Gathering  – and second, the content is much easier to obtain than getting the real cards.

The general idea of these games are to get as many cards as you can to be able to create a deck for different play styles and different strategies to beat your opponent. MTG and Hearthstone are the two examples that we will be comparing Gwent with, in order to make it easier to see which aspects of this game is new and interesting in the cruel TCG world…

Introduction to Gwent 101

First of all, I can easily say that Gwent is in the middle of these two games that we’ve mentioned. It is not as complicated as MTG, or not as simple as Hearthstone. What Gwent offers is a different kind of a TCG where you don’t kill your opponent, but you try to get as many points as you can. This idea might sound a bit confusing for people who are used to go all face in Hearthstone (Yes, I’m talking to you pirate warrior!) as it requires a more strategic approach to the game to be able to win and have fun.

What makes Gwent special is this approach. In games like Hearthstone and MTG, the main goal is to kill the opponent with resources like land cards or mana crystals where the player should wait for a certain amount of turns to be able to play a specific card or to be able to “do something at all”. In Gwent, we don’t have any resources other than our cards.

So what does that mean exactly? It means that you can play whichever card you have in your hand without “paying” anything at all with a limit of one card each turn. This restriction makes the game unpredictable and therefore more complicated to play as the game itself tells you that sometimes you’ll prefer “Losing a battle in order to win the war”. And believe me, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your opponent winning the first round by playing all the cards in his hand while you have a full hand with many precious cards and you end up winning the next two rounds simply with 2 cards each round. This makes Gwent a game which requires more brain force than other games. (Ehm!)

All hail the mighty RNGesus!

What fascinated me in Gwent is that you can’t expect to win by “vomiting” your cards on the board and hope to get that one specific card the next turn.

Like that “one” time when you found yourself in a position where the card you’ve been waiting for is a card which has a random effect, and from it you get the “only” card you can’t use from a sea of cards where any other would be better than this one, and you want to scream “Damn you RNGesus!”… Remember that? Well, you can forget about it in Gwent (to some extent of course).

Minimum RNG, maximum strategy

To be honest, what I’m trying to say is that even if you’re playing a card game where luck is always a factor, you don’t feel like being punished or crushed by it. It’s not like using 4 random effect cards to end up with nothing useful while your opponent (or even you in some cases) gets the game winning cards randomly.

Since the first minute, I’ve never felt that the RNG (Random Number Generation) was a deciding factor on any round I’ve played. Gwent kept showing me that it was me who had a problem and it was not the game or my luck who had an effect on my gameplay.

It is not fun or exciting when it is not you or your opponent who decide the result of a game with talent, but it’s the random effects that keeps ruining your play or your opponent’s play. And either way, even if you win because of RNG, it’s not fair or fun to play a game with tons of randomness.

Another interesting fact abot Gwent is that you don’t have a health-pool and this makes the game more interesting as the term “aggro-deck” doesn’t really fit in Gwent as it fits in other TCGs. It still doesn’t take too long to finish a round, but you don’t see (thank god!) an opponent smashing his emote keys to annoy you while you’re almost dead on turn 3 just because he wants to rank up fast and doesn’t even care about having fun…

Ready for a new start?

So, if you want to take a break and try another card game which requires you to think while playing, you should absolutely try Gwent. Start playing it and you will see that even if you don’t have any idea about TCGs, it’s pretty easy to understand the basics of it. First, I’d suggest checking this page for basics of the game and watching the Offical Gameplay Trailer.

Then, finish the Tutorial and the Challenges mode which is kind of the Scenario mode of the game where you play against AI and can get some cool cards, or rewards to get more cards from the store.

The main mechanics in the game are explained briefly in the offical gameplay trailer. And believe me, it’s simple to understand. Each card has its own qualities, keywords and mechanics which affect the whole play style of a deck and force both players to adapt their play styles according to the deck compositions.

For more information about the gameplay and the mechanics, or if you want to improve your understanding of TCGs in general, I suggest you to check out the videos of two YouTubers: NoxiousGLHF and Lifecoach, who participated in the Gwent pre-open beta tournament earlier this month and mainly focus on TCGs on their channels. Also, I strongly recommend checking out Gwent Database Website to get an idea about deck building and to see the latest fan made deck lists.

So…What about economics?

The card pack system is exactly the same with Hearthstone. From daily achievements, you can earn ores to buy card kegs from the store, or you can get scraps to craft the cards you need. In addition to that classic idea, Gwent offers another currency, thus another option for its players: Meteorite Powder. This currency allows you to upgrade your normal cards to the animated versions which are called the premium cards.

Normally, in other TCGs, you use the main currency to upgrade something and you have to think carefully before doing so. But, the seperation between the currency you use to create the cards you need and the one you use to upgrade them is just a brilliant idea for both free to play and pay to play. And, as a player who always ignore the cosmetic aspects of a card game, I can easily say that you won’t be able to do that in Gwent. Because the animated cards are awesome!

As for the pricing and the store, you can either pay 100 orens for one keg which includes 5 cards, or you can pay cash to buy as many kegs as you want without having to spend hours on the game.

Any last words?

As a free to play maniac myself, I can honestly say that Gwent offers a new and interesting experience. Even if the pricing is the same and even if you either have to spend a lot of time or a lot of money in order to get “artificial cards”, you don’t get the feeling of being betrayed by RNG / random effect cards or the community. Which, I think, is sometimes more important than the game itself.

The animations, sounds, musics and the general artwork is really good compared to the other TCGs. UI is pretty simple to understand, and it doesn’t hurt your brain or your eyes. And the feeling you get after each game, even if you lose, is priceless. Go ahead, visit the website and create your account to give it a try. It only takes 10 minutes to install the whole game anyways. Also, don’t forget that the game is on beta right now. So in the future, we can expect more content and/or more interesting cards and new play styles.

So stay tuned, and I hope to see you the next time we face RNGesus in Gwent and say: “Not today bro!”


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Written by Umut Uyurkulak

Full-time FRP/RPG freak, part-time wannabe musician and a dedicated member of "Nameless MMORPG Addicts Association"

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