Gwent – Card Game in The Witcher 3, An In-Depth Review

8.7 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 9/10
Sounds: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10

Amazing artwork and graphics. | Incredibly addictive gameplay that'll have you abandoning your quests.

No multiplayer. | Locked away in The Witcher 3 so you have to play the main game to access cards and opponents.

PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

$59.99 for The Witcher 3. Gwent is included in the main game.

May 18,2015

English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese

I should begin by saying that Gwent is not a game you can freely download from any traditional marketplace. In fact, Gwent is a card game within the amazing Role Playing Game (RPG), The Witcher 3, undoubtedly this summer’s video game blockbuster.

Gwent is a unique style of card game. It doesn’t conform to the usual rules that govern trading card games, nor does it try to imitate any of the more popular card games available today. Instead, what we get is a game that leans heavily on chance, gambling, hand management, and bluffs. The game doesn’t have a typical combat system, yet does rely on Units’ Strength values to determine a victor. Confused yet? I was too, at first!

So how well does Gwent play, and should you buy The Witcher 3 just to play a card game? Read on to find out…

Lets-play-and-dont-let-the-scars-put-you-off

I wouldn’t mind a few rounds of cards, either. Don’t let my scars and mean stare put you off, friend!

GAMEPLAY

The first time you encounter Gwent is when you stumble into a bar, looking for a woman with raven-black hair. You notice a man trying to teach a couple of local knuckleheads a card game. He appears exasperated with their lack of understanding and gives up. You ask him if he has information on the woman you’re looking for. He says he may have some, if you will play a card game with him… and thus you’ll fall down the slippery slope towards no longer playing the main quest for the story, but playing to find as many Gwent opponents and cards as you can!

Let’s start by describing how the game works. The simple stuff first: in Gwent, a match is played as a ‘best of three rounds’, with 2 Gems representing your life. When a round is won, a gem is shattered for the loser of that round, signifying a loss. When a player loses both Gems, they lose the match. So the idea is to keep your shiny, sparkly things intact!

That’s the simple stuff out of the way — now it gets really interesting. The battlefield is split into 3 lanes for each player: Close Combat, Ranged Combat, and Siege. Close Combat Units are placed on the front line, Ranged Combat Units in the middle, and Siege Units at the rear of the battlefield. At the beginning of the game you’ll draw 10 cards from your deck and among these will be Units that can be played into the 3 lanes.

Overwhelming-advantage

Units are played into their specific lanes. However, your overall total power is counted when deciding the winner. Manipulating total lane values to affect the outcome of a round is half the strategy.

Most Units are assigned to particular factions and these factions are essentially your deck’s theme. The themes extend to characters you’ll encounter in the wider game, such as heroes, monsters, and other standard Unit types. Each faction also has a unique power for the game: Nilfgaardian Empire has “Wins any round ending in a draw”, the Northern Realms has “Grants an extra card upon winning a round”, the Scoia’tael have “Decides who takes the first turn” while the Monsters have “Keeps a random Unit Card out on the battlefield after each round”.

Many of the Units in the game have special effects. These range from increasing the Strength of allied cards, to drawing more cards from your deck. They have the ability to turn the round from a loss into a win if played at the right time. There are also special Units that are unaffected by any other card played in the game. Most of the special cards are characters you’ll either play as, or encounter, when playing the main story quest of the game. I often wondered what an opponent would think when they see me play myself as a card on the field?! (There is a card representing your character, Geralt!)

When you play a Unit (let’s say in this instance we’re playing a Ranged Combat Unit), it must be played into the middle of your three lanes, the Ranged Combat lane. It cannot be placed into the Siege or Close Combat lanes. Every Unit has a value and this value represents their Strength on the battlefield in their specific lane, which contributes to the lane’s overall Strength as well.

Catapults-to-the-back

Siege Units get played to the rear of the board. This isn’t a good idea right now though, as the Siege lane is being affected by a Weather card, causing their Strength values to drop to 1 each.

GAMEPLAY CONTINUED… 

Overall Strength value is the key to winning a round in Gwent, but it’s not as simple as having the most powerful Units. You only have 10 cards to play over the entire course of the match. What you are doing is gambling how many Units you want to commit in one round when you play them.

If you only have a few Close Combat Units, but plenty of Siege Units, you may want to start drawing out your opponent’s stronger Close Combat Units early by playing the few that you have in round one. Taking a loss can be risky, but if you’re confident on winning the following two rounds, it’s a loss worth taking.

Both players have to pass in order for the calculations of all Units played to be tallied. If the total value of all Units you have played that round exceed the total of your opponent, you will win that round. How many Units you commit to do this is entirely up to you.

Look-its-me-playing-me

I just had to include this shot. It’s funny that a lot of the cards in the game are characters you’ll encounter on quests. However, Geralt is the character you play in the game! I wonder if the fictional person who made Gwent in the game’s world had come across all of these people before?

Each deck is aligned to a faction, and attached to these factions are Leader cards, one of which you will choose to go with the deck but will exist outside your deck to be used separately. Your Leader card has an ability that can either be triggered during the course of a match or will come into effect at the start of a match. Leaders cannot fight or be placed into the main play area. Their effects are only used once per game, but they can be completely game-changing.

In addition to Units and Leaders, there are some utility and Weather cards. My favorite utility card allows me to destroy one of my opponent’s strongest Unit(s) on the field. If they have two at the same value, it will destroy both! Nice.

Weather cards are a very interesting card type. When they come into play they will affect only one lane type (but for both players) and reduce the Strength of each Unit in that lane type to 1. This is obviously a massive blow if you’ve committed all of your stronger Close Combat Units, only to see them reduced in Strength. Thankfully there is a Clear Weather card that will remove all current Weather effects from play. You will want to carry at least one of these in your deck.

Removing-weather-effects-is-a-great-strategy

Clear Weather is an amazing card that can swing the battle in your favor. Removing the effect of a Weather card will reset your Units’ Strengths back to their original values.

MODES AND FEATURES

Gwent, at it’s core, is just a card game that you’ll play to pass the time between bouts of killing monsters and completing quests. It isn’t like other card games that have their own quests, missions, or campaigns. It remains simple and unpolluted with lots of unnecessary features that could have weighed it down. Instead, it feels light and free to show off it’s character to the fullest.

Just keep in mind that in order to access the full range of Gwent cards and opponents, you will have to play the RPG as well. Many cards are hidden away in tavern owners’ shop inventories, or earned as rewards for special Gwent matches against others. You’ll have to have the patience to finish the game to unlock everything.

Unfortunately, there is no PvP (Player versus Player) mode, or online multiplayer. It’s just A.I. opponents at the moment, but there is one expansion that you can get which adds some new cards to play with. However, the surprise success of Gwent itself means that I’m sure we’ll see more card DLCs (downloadable content) in the future, and perhaps even online multiplayer eventually. The demand for the game in it’s own right outside of The Witcher 3 is going to lead to some interesting developments, I think!

Scraping-a-victory

I love how Gwent is just a side quest that you can play in an already amazing game, and yet I love Gwent far more than the rest of The Witcher 3

DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY

There’s something funny about Gwent that I totally adore. You can edit your deck no matter where you are or what you’re doing. You could be knee-deep in monsters, or just roaming around on your horse, Roach. No matter where you are, you always carry your Gwent deck and collection and can start deckbuilding by popping open the menu and the world around you freezes. I guess once you’re hooked on Gwent you will need it with you all the time. Who knows where you might find someone willing to indulge you in a game or two!

As I have mentioned before, you will need to pick a Leader for your deck. This will determine the faction of your deck and the subsequent faction-allied Units you can use. There are only four to choose from and the faction chosen will lean heavily towards specific Unit types.

What I find to be useful is to have a strategy in mind when building your deck. The first cards you get aren’t very powerful, but win games consistently and you’ll earn more cards. There are also some quests that can earn you some seriously powerful, special cards, and don’t forget to look in taverns and speak to the owner to see what cards they might have for you to buy as well.

Just because you are given 10 cards at the start of a match, it doesn’t mean that you cannot utilize the rest of your deck. Perhaps some of the strongest cards in the game are those that can call other cards of the same name to the field, instantly, or bring back cards from the dead, or help you draw cards in some way. You’ll often find that if you lead with this early on in round one, your opponent will pass and give you the round to save their cards for the next one.

Other important tricks to remember are the effects of the Weather cards. If you lure the opponent into committing to a lane and then drop a Weather card on them to reduce the Strength of their Units, you’ll nail that round. Unless they have a Clear Weather card, though… and well, that’s just tough luck!

That-one-monster-turned-into-many

Some factions have an ability to call forth other monsters of the same name. Although they are weak by themselves, there is strength in numbers! Take advantage of this as much as you can. It will usually win you the first one, with the opponent probably rage-quitting for the round!

FINAL THOUGHTS

What is amazing about Gwent’s gameplay is that the developers have managed to not only design an excellent card game, but they’ve managed to create something totally unique, too. I find that achievement to be mind-blowing, especially when you consider just how many unoriginal card games are out there.

Gwent is a pricey card game at $59.99, but it does come with an excellent RPG attached. If sword fights, casting spells, controlling people’s minds, and harvesting shrubs are your thing, you’ll have an absolute blast with the rest of the game, too. Jokes aside, I really do think Gwent is an excellent distraction from slaying monsters and finding frying pans (seriously, there is a side-quest to find an old lady’s frying pan!). It is complicated enough to satisfy those who want a deep and strategic card game, yet simple enough for people who rarely play card games.

There is a lot of scope for Gwent to expand beyond the confines of a video game and into an actual card game. I’d love for there to be a physical, or even an extended digital version sometime in the near future (a collector’s edition of the game did actually come with some Gwent decks! I’d like to see a more complete physical product, though). The thrill of playing against someone who isn’t controlled by an A.I. would be amazing, too. Fingers crossed, eh?

For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.
  • Ilya Hinzburh

    Any CCG that always has tens of creatures on the battlefield instead of limiting their number (like Hearthstone does) is a crap. What sense has the good card artwork if you never see it?
    Any CCG that forces players to constantly perform calculations (“if I play this, I’ll have… 87 strength, right?”) is utter crap.
    The Witcher is available as a standalone game now, and it’s free to play. This can’t change the fact it’s unbelievable crap. I’ve heard that CD Projekt RED had tested the candidates to a CCG game designer position by asking them to invent a new CCG in two hours. They’d better spend a few months learning the good CCGs 🙂

    • Yeshu

      Crap this, crap that and no clear arguments.

      • Ilya Hinzburh

        OK, here are the clear arguments:
        1). CCGs were invented to AVOID processing turns in your mind. If you play chess at the decent level, your brain is burning from evaluating all possibilities, but in normal CCGs nobody can calculate the variants since you don’t know the opponent’s hand and can’t predict your own draws. GWENT is the only CCG where you still need to calculate a lot and evaluate all variants if you want to win.
        2). All players like to make their creatures attack other creatures (or directly the opponent), and GWENT is the only CCG without that. Once you’ve played a creature, it does nothing unless it has some ability.
        This is already enough to call this game utter crap. It’s actually a niche game for the intellectuals only, and not the best in its category.

        • Yeshu

          1) I call bullshit. All ccg require the players to think ahead and try to predict the players move in the next few turns. Are you allergic to math?
          Also, when making a deck you try to make sure to leave nothing to chance making sure that the ratio of monsters, spells etc. is set so you will always had a fighting chance.
          Not to mention many long time players can tell a deck strategy just in a few turns.

          2) You do know you can have your monsters attack your opponents monsters right? And just that the win condition is different, it makes GWENT a bad game?

          Again. You have NO real arguments outside “I don’t like it so it’s crap”. GWENT drops the overused mana gathering and monster battles and does it’s own thing. You don’t have to like it but many people already shown interest in this new way a ccg can be played.

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            1). I’m not “allergic to math”. I’m a CCG expert (know EVERY CCG on the market) with more than 20 years of experience and a math degree 🙂 And when I tell you that the majority of players would have difficulties in calculating and processing the variants, you can believe me. Just compare the number of Witcher 3 players to the number of GWENT players, and you’ll see yourself that conversion rate is AWFUL.

            2). Any game designer knows that EMOTIONS make a good game. When my monsters attack, or enemy monsters attacks, I feel strong emotions, and that’s great. When nobody attack, there are no emotions, and that makes a bad game.
            The only reason GWENT didn’t meet a total blowout yet is the clever “2:1” rules: most of the time the bad players and newbies still can win one round of three, and they feel happy for winning at least something 😉 Without that the number of GWENT players would be so small that everyone would understand it’s a crap.

            So don’t hurry to call me names 🙂 I really like CCGs, and I rarely call them a total crap. But when I do, they are really total crap. There is only one game I’ve called a total crap besides GWENT: a Russian game Berserk (it was implemented on PC as Berserk: the Universe which failed inevitably). If you can read in Russian, I can provide you a link to my articles about CCGs that make you understand why some games are good while the others are bad.

          • Yeshu

            At no point did I call you names.

            And again, your arguments boils down to: “This is not how I believe CCG should be played, therefore it’s crap.” While assuming what ALL people want from CCG’s.

            Many people already took a liking to GWENT and even made videos about why, still pointing out that it doesn’t have to click with everybody.
            https://youtu.be/AkMqbjOyZBs?t=13m40s

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            Look, I’m a game designer, and knowing what’s good and what’s bad for the game is my job. That’s why “this isn’t how CCGs shouldn’t work”, and there are no any “beliefs”.
            If you’ve watched the video yourself, you should note that even its author admits that the game requires a skill. A lot of it! This exactly makes the game niche and reduces the target audience by 90%.

          • Yeshu

            That’s the point. The game is design for people that are ready to put some effort in learning the rules. That IS the target audience. It’s not trying to be a casual HeartStone rip off and actually managed to gain a stable player base.

            Eve Online is a game that is notorious for being tough to get into and yet it managed to have many players for years and it doesn’t look like they’ll be going away soon.

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            “Gaining a stable player base” isn’t enough. Big companies like CD Project RED need millions of players and a good conversion rate to keep the game going, and GWENT can’t achieve that. Believe me or not, but this game isn’t going to live long. Might & Magic: Duels of the Champions was a better game, and still it got closed.

            Eve Online was very popular a decade ago. Now its player base is decreasing, since new games aren’t as demanding as it.

          • Yeshu

            You sound more like an investor/economist and less of a game designer, which you claim to be.

            Might & Magic: Duels of the Champions failed because Ubisoft never gave it a chance to grow or develop, not to mention most people learned about it after it was shut down.

            The game plays well, it introduced it’s own style of gameplay that deviated from the now stale “draw mana, summon monster”. More and more people are coming to play and CDP Red is active on social media to have constant contact with the players. They are doing there own thing and are successful at it.

            CDP RED is no Activision-Bllizard that farts out marketing design, casual games for the lowest common denominator. You don’t have to get all of the money to be successful. As long as you carve out your niche you can expand from there, while having a solid base.

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            This isn’t even funny. Any game designer should think about target audience, monetization, retention, converting players to payers and so on.
            MM:DoC was a great game. It never had such a good chance to get renown as GWENT (more than 100 mln of The Witcher players got to know GWENT), but it was much better. Believe me, I’ve played it and even paid some money for it.

            I’ve paid for GWENT starter as well to learn the game, but will never pay a cent to this game that violates all CCG rules and will inevitably fail. There is no chance to “expand from that niche” because number of players with high IQ is limited.

          • Yeshu

            “Any game designer should think about target audience, monetization, retention, converting players to payers and so on.”
            “…number of players with high IQ is limited.”

            Ok, I see what kind of breed of “game developer” you are. Sorry, but if you treat potential players as nothing more than walking wallets than i don’t think you are in the right business. Ether that or go get a job at EA with the rest of the whale hunters.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQsc14gDPbk

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            You see what kind of breed of “game designer” I am just because I think about game profits and money? Surely I have to, I’m a good game designer after all 🙂 Because the game designers who don’t care about money get fired, and their games get closed.
            There is absoutely nothing “evil” in making money if you give the great emotions for these money. And the art of giving such emotions is called “game design”.

            Why don’t you attack a couturier for selling his stuff for thousands bucks, why don’t you attack the jewelers who want thousands bucks for their stuff, but start a revolution when somebody tries to get the same money for in-game purchases? The value of the cards you buy isn’t less imaginary than the value of couturier’s name or the value of diamonds (BTW only experts can distinguish the natural diamonds from the lab ones).
            If you hate “money makers” so much, I guess you should stop playing GWENT (since it also wants your money) and move to chess. Seriously.

          • Yeshu

            There is a difference between wanting to be paid for your work and prioritizing profit over everything else.

            Even in the jewelry crafted wont ask for billions for his work. Not to mention there is an art to the craft that needs to be honed and not just shoved out when he assumes it’s good enough for the masses.

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            I don’t “prioritize profit over anything else”. In fact, if “everything else” is good, the game will gain some profit, but GWENT’s isn’t the case.
            Imagine you’re playing Magic, but no creatures can attack or block. You just try to get larger army than your opponent, using spells and creature abilities. No counterspells, no Wraths, NO EMOTIONS. It’s a game for AI who likes to calculate, not for the human beings 🙂

          • Yeshu

            “I don’t “prioritize profit over anything else”.” And yet you constantly mentioned how the game will not make any money and you need to turn players into payers. A quote from a seminary that called potential customers whales and dolphins.

            GWENT i s not Magic. It has different rules and win conditions. Plus, you have one deck for three possible rounds, so just shoving monsters on the board is not a valid strategy. And because of that the games can get really tense. So i dunno what is it with your clam that there are no emotions in the game.

            Also, there ARE counter attacks and spells in GWENT, as well as units with the guard skill that is basically this games version of blockers/defenders. When was the last time you played it if ever?

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            The game should make money, or its developers will starve 🙂 Isn’t that obvious? And a game from a large company should make a LOT of money since there are lot of people working on the game and all these people want their high salary. Every month.
            “GWENT isn’t Magic” isn’t an excuse to give insufficient emotions to the players. Hearthstone isn’t Magic, Spectromancer isn’t Magic, Mighty Party isn’t Magic, Animation Throwdown isn’t Magic, Faeria isn’t Magic, Clash Royale isn’t Magic etc. etc. All these games are very different, but guess what? In ALL these games creatures do fight other creatures. Not a single game is just about collecting an army of superior size. Guess why? Because that’s STUPID! The absolute majority of players won’t get enough emotions from such a game, and that means a game failure.
            I’ve entered the game just today to find at least one card with “counterattack” or “guard” and found nothing. Maybe you’re playing a different GWENT? 🙂

          • Yeshu

            Again, you are making assumptions for other people on what they like when playing.

            How do you quantify emotions from playing a game? It’s such a subjective thing. Some people will like the game, others will not.

            “Not a single game is just about collecting an army of superior size.” – And? What is exactly bad in that win condition? You gather an army, while attacking and reducing your opponents army while taking in consideration that there are two more rounds ahead of you. It’s a new way of play and many people find it refreshing compared to the old “reduce HP to 0”.

            GWENT basically turns that concept on it’s head and makes you gather points instead reducing them.

            And again and again. You don’t have to like the game. No one is forcing you to like it. But you shiting on it for not conforming to your subjective views on how card games should be played by throwing vague term like “game has no emotions!”, while there are streams where you can see people on the edge of there seat while playing.

            Also there are no cards tha literaly has a skill like counterattack or guard but work in a similar way.

          • Ilya Hinzburh

            “Making assumptions for other people on what they like when playing” is my job. Every game designer should do right that.
            How do I quantify emotions? There are scientific methods for that, based on players’ response. Nobody just “likes the game” – there are various emotions about playing some cool creatures, killing some enemy creatures, losing own creatures, etc. etc.
            What is exactly bad in that win condition? The dull and hard way to that win condition. To win, you have to calculate various options like you do in chess. And if you ask “what’s exactly bad in chess?”, the answer will be the same: too much effort and not enough emotions.
            Yes, I don’t like the game, and you do. But I’m a game designer, and you aren’t, and that means that I’m more likely to express the real attitude of most players than you. And it’s your views on the card games are subjective, not mine. I like all CCGs, and know them all, but the obvious failures like GWENT make me sad.

  • Yeshu

    You should do a review on the stand alone F2P version of GWENT.

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