For most, The Witcher is an epic tale of magic and monster, corrupt royalty and twisted mages, surrounded by vast landscapes and sprawling cities. The books that inspire the game however only make mention of something most of the video game’s fans have become quite familiar and fond of — Gwent.
This game from the digital realm is a competitive card game played over a series of rounds by two players. Each player tries to win two of the three possible rounds by having the greatest combined military force by the end of each round, after both players have passed or when both players no longer have cards left in their hand. Military force is accumulated by playing cards, each with a unique value and sometimes special effect.
Players take turns playing a single card from their hand into one of three rows on their side of the board. Close Combat cards are played in the row closest to your opponent, Ranged Combat cards are played in the row behind that, and Siege Combat cards are played in the row behind that. When a card is played, their combat strength is added to the player’s total. Some cards have special effects that trigger when they are played, or as passive effects that persist throughout the round.
Despite being a secondary activity in The Witcher video game, Gwent’s popularity was so apparent that the developers decided to release a physical version of the card game. Each set comes with two of the game’s four faction decks: Nilfgaardin Empire, Northern Realms, Scoia’Tael, and Monsters. For those of you unfamiliar with each of these factions, they include the three primary warring factions in the storyline, plus a set of monsters commanded by the mysterious and evil Wild Hunt.
I got my hands on a copy of the Northern Realms and Monster faction decks and played a few games to see how it compared to the video game’s experience. The first thing I noticed is that they kept much of the beautiful art the cards the video game had, but with a few changes to make it a little more family friendly. The physical game made an effort to remove a few cases of nudity and gore, without taking away from the beautiful style and theme. Furthermore, the cards in the video game did not have their effects printed on them, so they added that to the bottom of the cards in the physical version. The game rules we of course the same, so thankfully nothing changed there.
The cards are tall like they are in the game, much like the size of a tarot card, which really emphasizes the art. I have never been a fan of holding more than a couple tarot sized cards in my hand, so this took a little getting use to. While I am glad it stayed true to the game, I would have settled with standard poker size cards. Of course without being a digital game, all of the visual and audio effects that occur when playing cards in the video game we no longer there. This surprisingly weakened the game a bit for me at first, but with time my imagination filled that gap.
All in all, Gwent made its transition to a physical medium quite effortlessly, and now being able to play with friends has added a whole other level of challenge that was there playing against the computer. It is an easy enough game to teach and learn, and has enough depth of strategy that even highly competitive folks can really sink their teeth into it. There are even some rumbling that the developers may roll out a stand alone version of the digital game. I would thoroughly suggest anyone looking for a good two player strategy game give Gwent a try.
What other card or board games from the digital world would you like to see in the real one? Let us know in the comment section below.
Feature Image Credit: CD Projekt RED