Review

Gwent Review - Heart Of The Cards

  • First Released Mar 31, 2017
    released
  • PC

Setting light to the hearth.

Editor's note: After two years in beta, Gwent is now a standalone game. It released alongside Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, a single-player game with Gwent mechanics. While the Gwent and Thronebreaker are connected, they are separate applications, and we have reviewed them separately. You can read or watch our full Thronebreaker review or read on for our full Gwent review.

In The Witcher 3, Gwent was an enjoyable but arduous side activity, only rewarding for those patient enough to scour the open world in search of more powerful playing cards. If you weren't inclined to do that, you'd miss out on much of what made Gwent a unique take on collectible card games. Gwent, now a free, standalone multiplayer game, gives you the room and resources to really enjoy it. Its rules are shaken up to provide an even playing field for veterans and newcomers alike, and it establishes a deeply rewarding loop that encourages you to stick with whichever of its various factions interest you most.

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Gwent's fundamentals haven't changed much since The Witcher 3. You're still restricted to playing one card per turn, with the goal of attaining a higher power value than your opponent in each of three total rounds. Each card has an individual power value attached, and your total score will increase the more cards you commit to each round. If you feel as though you're outmatched or similarly far enough ahead in any one round, you can choose to pass and save your current hand for the next. Given that your ability to draw new cards is limited, having more cards in your hand gives you a tangible advantage. Gwent rewards calculated restraint, which makes knowing when to fold and when to go all in an important part of its strategy.

The big differences lie in the structure of the board. Previously Gwent featured three rows, one for each type of unit. That's been reduced to just two now--melee and ranged--and you're free to choose either for your units. Certain units will have abilities that you can only activate when spawned on a certain row, while other units that deal damage to enemies will have their range limited to one or two rows ahead of them. With fewer limitations on card placement, you're able to play Gwent with more fluidity. Experimentation with row-specific abilities and how they link up with cards already in play affects the board in significant ways during a single turn. These new rules keep rounds unpredictable at times and let the tide of the skirmish shift frequently. Having to decide between a big play or holding back for subsequent rounds makes for an engaging test of strategy, with no single approach being best in all scenarios.

The flexibility doesn't help the stagnant pace of matches, though, where each player turn feels far more drawn out than it should. Given the limited number of actions you can take a turn, it's frustrating to watch an opponent stall on playing a single card. Gwent could also benefit from more helpful visual feedback on card abilities and triggers, as I often found myself fumbling a play by placing a card into the wrong row simply because I missed a single word of text on the card itself. Boards should ideally give you more contextual information to work with when you select a card, so that you're not stuck reading each card repeatedly to make sure you're making the right play.

Cards are segmented into five different Factions, each of which requires a distinct strategy to play effectively. The noble Northern Realms specialize in cards with abilities like Deploy (which are triggered when you play a card) and Order (which you manually activate after meeting certain conditions). Monsters, conversely, enjoy strategies laden with Deathwishes that unleash often devastating chains of events when certain creatures die and head to the graveyard. You'll have a starting deck for each Faction when you initially begin Gwent which helps in familiarizing you with each of their differences. But it's also important to experiment with and figure out which Faction speaks to your style of play, and you'll have to decide where to invest your rewards from wins as you go.

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Reward trees sprawl out on parchment maps, with one for each Faction and sub-trees for each of their respective Captain characters. Nodes on these maps can be unlocked with Reward Points, which you'll earn frequently by completing challenges in-game. These can be as easy as playing a certain number of cards during a match, or as complicated as eliminating a large number of enemy cards in a single turn. Unlocking nodes rewards you in multiple ways, including small gifts of in-game currencies and big bundles of card packs called Kegs. Each map rewards you with respect to the Faction it belongs to, incentivizing you to spend points on the Factions you play most. It emphasizes the need to experiment with different factions and settle on your favorites beforehand, as the influx of Reward Points slows down after clearing many of the easier challenges.

In-game currencies are plentiful in Gwent, and each serves familiar purposes. There's one that acts as the standard fare for purchasing new card packs, another that helps in the crafting of new cards, and a third that can be used to spruce up existing cards into shinier, animated versions of themselves. Gwent rewards you well for match wins (and additionally for matches where your opponent congratulates you, which is a nice touch) which makes progression towards your next card pack feel balanced. Combined with currency rewards you'll get from reward trees, I found it easy to amass a large amount of each resource in a handful of hours. Gwent is generous with how it rewards the time you invest in it, giving you the means to build up a formidable collection of cards before tempting you to spend real money on it.

Gwent clearly learns from other digital collectible card games that have carved their niche out of the market, but its play style offers up an entirely different type of challenge.

That's not to say that time will eventually come, unless you're planning to keep up with the shifting metagame that CCGs generally employ to keep things fresh. Gwent's in-game store gives you many options for purchasing bundles of resources and some alluring starter packs that reward you with a generous number of Kegs to open.

Gwent clearly learns from other digital collectible card games that have carved their niche out of the market, but its play style offers up an entirely different type of challenge. It's one that requires some investment, and hard decisions on which Faction you'd like to invest in, but Gwent also respects your time by rewarding you for nearly every action in a match, tempting you to play just one more. Its matches could use some fine-tuning in their pacing and presentation, but Gwent is otherwise a refreshingly new take on card games that establishes itself firmly outside of the simple side activity it was in The Witcher 3.

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The Good

  • Refreshing changes to the ruleset make Gwent more engaging to play
  • Faction-based progression incentivizes you to invest in your favorite types of cards
  • Extremely generous with rewards of in-game currency and card packs which makes progression feel fair
  • Faction-specific techniques and unique cards let you continually discover new strategies for victory

The Bad

  • The pace of matches can feel far too slow
  • Matches could benefit from more visual feedback to inform card plays with specific abilities

About the Author

Alessandro stuck with the Northern Realms for most of his decks and became really skilled at chaining together Charge and Order cards. He still hasn't managed a full nine-game streak in Arena, though. Code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
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ArghyaD

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This completed version has too many bugs. Also it is very imbalanced. The Beta version it replaced felt a lot more complete than this. The final release is closer to a game released in alpha than a completed game.

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julianboxe

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Why did they change the 3 rows system?

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deactivated-5d14bade6a0c4

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It would be so cool if I could get Gwent mobile and a new Diablo on my pc.

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ahmetsenyigit

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Nice review guys.

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deviled

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i played gwent before and it was fun in the original game

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Gelugon_baat

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That Yu-gi-oh reference. Oh grud.

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Yurdle

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Edited By Yurdle

If you're new/interested in Gwent, some major points that may or may not be covered by the review:

- Gwent is one of the most of friendliest games for F2P players - it's rewarding even if you spend no money. The grind is nowhere near as bad as Hearthstone or other games, especially since decks are 25 cards minimum. In addition, a lot of the useful cards are not expensive to craft either, which is great.

-Gameplay is quite strategical and really makes you feel like you gotta think. It's also refreshing that unlike many other card games it feels original instead of another variation of MtG. No need to worry about hitting 'face' and health points. Also the only card game where losing a round on purpose can be a legitimate, smart move.

-Art is great, and actually amazing for premium cards, their version of 'foil' or 'shiny' cards. Premium cards in Gwent are actually animated and have sound to go with it when you view the cards with right click. The effort that goes into these is more than what I've seen in any card game, and they're legitimately good at breathing life into the cards. We're not talking like Hearthstone's 'Golden' cards are that do very little - we're talking actual animations that make the cards alive, like characters moving and grunting and all that.

- Clarity is unfortunately lacking right now, as mentioned in the review. There are a few things that could benefit from better visual feedback. The history tracker is also almost useless as it only tracks a card played, rather than all interactions that may have happened once that card was played. Also while the tutorial teaches you the gameplay, it fails to tell you much about a few other important basics, like how deck building works. Then again, Hearthstone never really taught people about keywords and stuff like that.

- Starter decks are actually pretty bad, but thanks to a decent reward system you'll be able to dig out of that annoying pit fairly quickly. In fact, at the time of writing, one of the most effective decks right now is one of the cheapest ones, although its popularity also makes it 'cancerous' for hardcore players due to how annoying it is (it's actually kind of a problem, but it'll get fixed). Alternatively, play Arena mode a bunch, it's pretty good in this game and again rewards are generous.

-As of time of writing content can be considered lacking if you want more than just ranked ladder for constructed decks and Arena mode. Then again, instead of having a weak but free single player experience, Thronebreaker exists as a very strong paid-for single player game...and we all know how impressive it is to have a crazy good single player RPG that uses card game gameplay. Oh, and the fact it has very good reviews helps.

Basically, if you can get past the learning curve of bad starter decks and poor clarity in some areas, Gwent can be quite rewarding and feels original compared to many other card games out there. The core gameplay is different than most card games and the fact that it is F2P friendly is a huge boon if you don't feel like spending hundreds of dollars just to get cool cards.

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REVIEWLIES

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@Yurdle: it´s a lie

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boardsport311

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@Yurdle: Good info thanks.

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Planeforger

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I'm loving this new version of Gwent. It's far more strategic than before, and far less focused on simply gaining card advantage.

It's also a great time to jump in, because netdecking is at a minimum and the meta hasn't been figured out properly.

Then again, I'm an Usuper player, so everyone probably hates me right now.

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Yurdle

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Edited By Yurdle

@Planeforger: That's surprising, Usurper is kind of a meme in a bad way right now. Having no mulligans makes playing him extremely difficult - more often than not, it's actually not very fun for you since there's a higher chance of just losing. Could be wrong, decks still need to be figured out and I'm sure someday someone will figure out a good deck that works with no mulligans. Pretty, pretty damn hard though. Besides, everyone hates on the super popular Eithne control artifact spam decks right now. Artifacts are currently too powerful and will need nerfs quite soon.

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lionheartssj1

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Edited By lionheartssj1

Kinda strange that this game took so long to come out of beta. The last time I played was maybe a year ago.

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gamingdevil800

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@lionheartssj1: Mainly cause they couldn't balance it properly and it's totally put me off going back to it. The nerfs and changing of card abilities were ridiculous.

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lionheartssj1

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@gamingdevil800: Ah, I never devoted time to really learning the meta, so I got to the point where I was getting crushed online and stopped. The computer matches were fun, but I can't honestly say I've won an online match.

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gamingdevil800

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@lionheartssj1: Yeah problem during the beta was you'd invest a lot of time in a deck then the developers would ruin it due to fan feedback or should I say complaints on the forums.

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NeverMore0

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Played this maybe a year ago. Probably won 75% of my matches, but in the end it's just a card game. You do the same thing over and over, so even though there's a small sense of progression, it's not the type of video game I wanted to play for hours on end. I'd say it's worth the $0 though, if you're bored.

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Yurdle

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Edited By Yurdle

@NeverMore0: If you read the review, the game has changed massively since it was in beta. Sure the core gameplay is still the same (it's not like suddenly players have health points and you go 'for face'), but the poor design of the past is gone. That was the point of Homecoming update.

'Just a card game' what does that mean? It's like me saying "video games are just video games". Although yeah, maybe card games aren't for you, so fair enough.

5 • 

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game

First Released Mar 31, 2017
released
  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

In GWENT, gamers clash with their friends in fast-paced duels that combine bluffing, on-the-fly decision making and careful deck construction. The game is played over a best-of-three series of rounds, as players unleash their hand by slinging spells and diverse units with special abilities and use clever tricks to deceive their opponents.

8
Great

Average Rating

33 Rating(s)

8.1
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence