You may have heard of GWENT, or even played it, if you're a Witcher 3 fan. Having not played a Witcher game since the first, I was actually introduced to GWENT from the Xbox conference at E3 this year. After the trailer and short talk, it was actually one of the games I was looking forward to most for Xbox One. Here we are months later as part of the closed beta with some early impressions.
I'm a trading card game fan and love when they are done well digitally, Magic, Marvel Vs., and Yu-Gi-Oh as particular standouts. I enjoyed Hearthstone for quite a while as well, but the knockoffs of that play style seem to be all that’s being developed anymore. Then here comes GWENT, a card game that is so unique, I don't even have a reference point for comparison.
In GWENT battles take place in three opposing rows, representing melee, ranged, and siege units. Cards are played from each player's hands into the rows on their side, corresponding to their unit type. While that's not too much departure from the norm, this is where new ideas come into play. There is no mana, no resources of any kind. Players take turns playing one card each, of any type and strength. The combined strength of the units on your side of the board must be higher than your opponent to win the round.
There are more intricacies that further separate GWENT from other games in this genre. A battle (vs CPU or another player), consists of best two out of three, not just a single round. This is important because you never draw cards during a round, and you only get two more in between rounds. Card advantage is a big deal. So much so that you may pass your turn (can no longer play a card in the current round) just to keep more cards. Effectively, there is strategy to concede a round to try to be strong enough to win the other two. It's the first game I've played where there is strategy in knowing when to give up as much as there is in the cards themselves.
To be honest, the game is a tad overwhelming when you leave the beginner territory and start thinking about card combos and synergy. Deck building still eludes me. I've had fun in my matches, and the rewards are on par with other free to play games of this type. I would not consider GWENT a casual game. Yes it is casual friendly to start, but the advanced strategies needed to construct decks and win matches is a bit daunting, even for me. I think if I can bridge to gap to an intermediate level of play, the draw of “just one more game” would be more intense.
Even in closed beta, GWENT is a very polished game, and from my experience, almost bug free. I know open beta isn't planned until well into next year, so it'll be interesting to see what is added over the following months. What's here is a very enjoyable and unique game that might just need to think about how to help players discover the cards synergies and strategies to propel them into higher levels of competitive play.