Wednesday, June 7, 2017

First Impressions - Gwent: The Witcher Card Game

    Found a preview build of this on a friend's Xbox One. I've heard of The Witcher (mostly good things) but never played any of the games.  I was hitting the end of my Fallout 4 kick (which I'll talk about soon) and figured I'd try something new.  I've played a fair number of card games in the past, my brother got me hooked on Magic when it first came out.  The Battletech CCG was cool, and a tabletop game I liked, Mythos, the Call of Cuthulu CCG was innovative of the times, and the Aliens CCG looked neat but I never got to play it.  So I've seen a few in my day, though granted that was many years ago.
    Gwent struck me as a really cool game, and an interesting twist on some of the common mechanics.  Briefly, you construct for one of 5 or 6 factions each with their own strategies.  You draw a good sized hand, but the game is played in 3 rounds and on round 2 you draw 2 more cards and round 3 only 1 card.  So it makes a nice tension for how many cards do you want to burn though now or save for later.  It also makes for circumstances when choosing to lose a round is a good tactical option.  That's a nice complexity.  The winner of each round is determined but a simple total of power, highest wins.  Each character card has a power number, "spells" and such do not.  So your cards do not directly fight like in Magic, though they do have abilities that can target each other.  You also have a leader card with a powerful special ability, but they can only be played once in the entire match.  Cards are placed on one of 3 rows: melee, ranged and siege; and some effects target a whole row or adjacent units.  It has a nice tactical depth without being too hard to learn and track (in my so far limited experience).
    If you like card games or board games I'd give it a try.
    There are a few things I am not too fond of.  The tutorial didn't quite explain that when you pass, you stop acting/playing cards for the round.  I thought like most CCG's you only sat out one round.  This does make some of the "damage over time"-type effects a little less useful, since you have to keep playing cards to sustain the effect and you may need to stop to avoid burning yourself out for later.  The card effects are not always explained well, though in play you start to get a feel for the quirks, but since it's basically a beta game I'm sure the tooltips and such will get clearer soon enough.  Also, the number one problem with any CCG is explaining the fundamental tactics that each faction uses.  It can be a little hard to suss out by reading the cards, I'd imagine moreso if you are new to card games in general.  This can be kind of simple, like the monster deck that summons and sacrifices cards, or a little trickier - the leader in the deck I've mostly used has an ability I did not catch at first.  Normally you hold your leader, since it can only be played once in the whole match; but this leader added 1 power to every character in my hand and deck - so it was best to play him as the first card of the match.  Not a big deal, but I wish more games would give some hints or a walk-through of strategies in general, just to soften the learning curve.
    I'm sure I'll play it some more, but just against the computer opponents.  I don't really like playing adversarial games in general, and I don't really care for playing games with or against random people across the world.  Still, I thought it was a pretty good game, it's free, and worth taking a look at.

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