Card games are everywhere, right? If you've ever walked into a hobby shop, a comic book store, or even your local Wal-Mart, you can find yourself easily overwhelmed by the selection of colorful, collectible card games to throw money at. The digital space is equally as competitive, but as the success of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft suggests, much of the attention is focused in one very specific direction.
And why shouldn't it be? Hearthstone is fun, engaging, and dynamic. It's quick to play, easy to learn, but hard to master. It encourages tactical thinking, as well as sound strategizing and deck building. In short, it's got something for everyone.
While you Hearthstone faithful have been battling it out in Tavern Brawls and resisting the call of C'Thun, CD Projeckt RED has been slowly rolling out access to its digital card game, Gwent. Yes, that game from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is now a standalone product. And yes, I know I just spent all that time describing why Hearthstone is really great, but I think you might find that Gwent can be great for similar reasons. Here's why.
It's dripping with Lore and Character
One of the best things about Hearthstone is how incredibly flavorful it is. It's filled to the brim with references from Warcraft games young and old. On every card face is a fond (or frightful) memory, and the character that those memories gives the game is oft understated. Everytime I hear the murloc gargle I chuckle a little inside, which makes me feel way better about how badly my opponent's mid-range Shaman deck is going to hurt me and my sensibilities.
Gwent knows the power of evoking these strong memories of your travels within its games, and follows Hearthstone's lead in that regard. Geralt of Rivia reminds you that he still hates portals when you play him. Some character cards, like Sabrina Glevissig, have mechanics that feel like references to events surrounding them in-game. Witcher 2 fans will remember her as the Kaedweni sorceress that Henselt had burned at the stake, but not before she cast a curse on the battleground around Vergen. In Gwent, she damages all of your own non-Gold cards. Curses, am I right?
Smaller Decks = Faster Games
One of the best qualities of Hearthstone for card game players is the deck size. At 30 cards, the amount of options are limited compared to a game like Magic: The Gathering's 60 card decks. But with smaller decks come greater assurances that you'll draw what you want. Yes, the probability is mathematically the same (trying to draw one of two cards in a 30 card deck versus trying to draw one of four in a 60 card deck), but games are also way faster. You can mill through your deck pretty quickly, meaning draw-heavy strategies will find you at the bottom of your deck far more quickly than other games.
Gwent has the same philosophy: small decks make small games. The pick-up and playability is alive and well in Gwent, since decks as low as 25 cards are all that is needed to duke it out with friends and enemies. A game is engaging and fun, but it's never a long commitment - my average Gwent game is around 6 or 7 minutes.
The way Hearthstone's mechanics interact with each other is very fun and unique. Some cards randomize effects, some cards turn cards into other cards, etc. The way you can cause mayhem in any given game is fun and interesting, past the act of just attacking heroes and creatures.
Standalone Gwent keeps this creativity in mind. There are a myriad of new card effects that encourage interacting with your opponent's cards (or your own). Now, you can directly affect enemy card's strength totals in a number of ways outside of weather effects and removal cards like Scorch. Some cards have timers that trigger effects after specific turn counts. Some cards get stronger when weather is applied or when cards are removed. It's far more dynamic and tactical than the Gwent minigame in The Witcher 3, and that's something a Hearthstone player can really appreciate.
If you're a Hearthstone player with a freshly piqued interest in Gwent, you should come by our Gwent Wiki, which is chock full of everything you need to know to get started.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.