Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Preview

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As the name implies, Gwent is the card game you may already know and love from the game The Witcher 3. This is a stand-alone version of the game in which you build your own decks (separate to whatever cards you have in the Witcher 3) and play against other online.

The basic setup is still the same. You have a deck which is comprised of cards from one of five sets: Northern Realms, Scoia’tel, Monsters, Skellige and Nilfgaardian Empire. There is also a sixth type of card which is Neutral cards; these can be used in any type of deck. In the preview version of the game, Nilfgaardian Empire is currently unavailable. If you played the base Witcher 3 game, but not the Blood and Wine DLC the Skellige deck will be new to you.

Even if you’ve played with all the decks and gathered all the cards in the Witcher 3, there will be differences to take note of. Some of the cards have been revamped for the stand-alone game, and totally new cards have been introduced., so any strategies you used in the past will need to accommodate these.

There are other minor changes. For example, ‘Hero’ cards are now Gold cards. Some other strong cards of named characters, which were not Hero cards, are now Silver cards. Silver cards don’t have the same advantages of Gold cards, but some cards effects’ only work on Bronze cards, so this is an important distinction.

You now require a minimum of 25 cards in a deck, with a maximum of 40 cards overall. There is a limit of 6 Silver cards and 4 Gold cards in a deck.

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Despite the changes, many of the basic strategies remain the same. The only question is whether you will have access to the right cards to pull off those strategies. One of my favourite strategies, for instance, was to use the decoy card to play a high-powered card and bring it back into my deck to use later. So far I do not have access to the decoy card, taking my favourite strategy off the table.

To access new cards, you have to buy kegs. These give you 4 random cards, plus a selection of 3 random cards, in which you choose to keep one and discard the other two. You are guaranteed to get one card that is classed as rare or higher. Kegs are bought with ore, which you get from winning matches. Kegs cost 100 ore, and so far I’ve received 20 ore from each match I’ve won.

You also receive materials as you level up. When I reached level 2 after winning 3 matches, I was pleased to receive 100 ore; basically a free keg. However, as with many of these types of games, there is a lot of luck involved. I was lucky to get a Scorch card in my second keg, but that was the only particularly good card out of 3 kegs. I’ve yet to receive a single Gold card, aside from the Geralt you receive at the beginning.

Another option for new cards is under the collection menu option, where you can craft specific cards using scraps which are gained from battle. In the same area you can ‘mill’ unwanted cards for experience after reaching level 3.

As would be expected, the better cards come with a hefty craft price, with decoy costing a whopping 800 scraps, which after about 10 games I wasn’t even slightly close to. However, this does potentially give the game some longevity for the avid collectors out there.

To refine your skills you can choose to play a tutorial, against an AI opponent, or against a random online match. The main menu shows the online option as a ‘casual match’. This makes me suspect that at some point they will introduce other match types. I imagine there will be tournaments, for one. Perhaps they will even have competitive matches where if you win the match you also gain a card, similar to some in the main game. However, I’m not sure how that would be implemented, and it may be hard to make it balanced.

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I would hope in the full game they are able to set up some type of difficulty options or pairing; as it stands, those who have been playing for longer and have bought or crafted better cards have a distinct advantage, making it difficult for new players to win any matches to be able to level up. Losing a match doesn’t seem to get you any experience, so you can end up in a tight spot at first. No doubt they will introduce the option to pay for cards outright, through paying for kegs or materials, but perhaps it would be good if losing netted you even a small amount of experience.

You are able to slowly build up scraps for card crafting even if you’re on a losing streak, at least. If your opponent declares a ‘good match’ you will be awarded 5 scraps for your efforts. This doesn’t amount too much though, and you’d have to lose a lot of matches to be able to craft anything good.

How much use and enjoyment you will get from the game depends entirely on how much you enjoy card games. It is a mini-game from inside a large world turned into a full game, after all, so there’s only so much to do. Each match doesn’t last long; usually only around 5 minutes. You may just play a couple of matches now and then and be done with it, or spend hours trying to win matches to build up your level and collect new cards.

Overall, this game is a great option for those who loved Gwent in the main game, or those who enjoy card games but haven’t played the Witcher 3.

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