Gwent Review

We all know that The Witcher 3 is great, as covered in our Review, but CD Projekt RED took ambition to a new level with it's "Mini" Game Gwent, a Full scale in game collectible Card Game that may end up taking up as much of your time in the world of the Witcher as hunting monsters. 

This unique CCG seems to have a lot of players split down the middle in terms of a level of interest in the game. Either you love Gwent, or you want nothing to do with it. Those of you who love it, you already know why the game is so fun to play. Those of you not quite sold yet, let me tell you a bit more about this surprisingly large mini game as someone who started out hating it.
"Why on earth would you possibly decide the players only draw one hand for the whole match?" 

"I didn’t build a deck to only use 1/3 of it! Wow I can only play one card a turn huh?"

"What a boring piece of crap, wait. What do you mean I lose?" 

"Whatever f*** it, I’m a god damn Witcher for pete’s sake and there's monsters out there to kill!"

Realizing What The Game Really Is

I’ve heard a few similar testimonies like the ones above of  players early encounters with Gwent, and I would be lying if I said they didn’t mirror my own. Which as an aspiring game designer was a very silly and petty thing to do. I should know that simple doesn't always mean bad, and that a game’s surface might not be all there is to it.
Picture

Two Jet Fighters Playing Chicken

It wasn’t until I needed to beat an NPC at a game of Gwent that  truly learned how to play the game. Which at its core really isn’t a CCG. It’s core mechanic is that of a game of chicken, where each player does not wish to yield to the other, but horrid occurrences can happen when neither do.
This basic game design model of conflict is what makes the core of Gwent so different from any other CCG, and why each player only gets to draw ten cards. So unless you have cards that let you draw more, you will need to find a way to win 2 out of 3 rounds against your opponent. This can be done in many ways. Such as fishing out the enemies more powerful cards, creating a card advantage by passing early, or countering a pass of your opponent by playing a spy on their board after they yield. It also makes card draw and hand advantage far more important than any other card game. Same goes for board advantage, since you can only play one card a turn, special cards that let you play extra, draw cards, or complement each other are not just an optional gimmick, they are necessary.
Having a deck filled with nothing but high power cards that do nothing mentioned above will not net you wins. You need to find a balance between what kind of deck you’re building, how you will approach the game of chicken because of this, and when the best time to go all in is. Sure you could try to save as many cards as possible for the final round, but you may end up wanted to spend a few cards to take a round from an enemy who passed with only 10 points above you. It's a very interesting way to trade between, board presence, tempo, and card advantage. 

An Example Match

If you'd like take a look at the example match below. It is a turn by turn slideshow of an entire match of Gwent. 
One fairly subjective criticism I could give Gwent is that I personally feel it is a bit of stretch in terms of world lore. Meaning I can't really see a lot of these characters being the "Card Collecting" type. Especially with all the wars and other fairly important matters within the world. Yet I forgive it for not really feeling that cemented since these people do need a way to break out from all of the depressing glum in the story. And this game is just lighthearted and stress free enough to fill my relief gap. That is also its place within the game's mechanics, allowing the player to set their own pace by taking a break from all the killing and enjoy a simple game with great theme music (found below) and its own different sense of wonder. I suppose that may be why they wanted Gwent to feel so out of place from the world, to really let the player experience something completely different from the core game for a few minutes, just before they have to continue their search for the latest monster who's killed another innocent villager. 

If you haven’t found yourself becoming a Gwent enthusiast in the Witcher 3 yet and you like the idea of what I described I implore you to take a chance on it one more time and force yourself to learn all you can as I did. Suddenly your Geralt may just become quite the card collector.
Reviewer: Cody Hall
Game: Gwent
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Source: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Image Source: Macro Business
Gwent Song Video: Arthellinus