Gwent was announced at E3 2016 with a closed beta begun in October of that year. The closed beta test ended May 22, 2017 and open beta began on the 24th. It had a full release in October 2018 for Windows and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in December later that year. A standalone single-player Gwent-based RPG called Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales was released alongside the game.
The end of March 2019 saw the release of the first proper expansion, Crimson Curse, themed around vampires, bringing 101 new cards and an additional leader for each faction. A mobile release occurred in 2019, coming first to iPhone with an Android release to follow. Late 2019 the console ports were closed and all users were migrated over to their choice of PC or Mobile.
Currently Gwent is up to five expansions and is playable on Windows, Apple, and Mobile devices. It is Free-to-Play, but very kind about monetization. There are no advertisements. Most monetization is in the form of optional cosmetics such as card backs and leader skins. All cards may be obtained via regular play. There is no secondary card market: all cards can be traded for within the deck editor or found within card kegs. Even losing a game will generate a reward for having completed the game to start with.
Gwent is, at first glance, relatively simple as card games go.
The goal of Gwent is to have more points on the field than your opponent at the end of the round. A round ends either when both players have passed or neither player has any more cards to play. The board is wiped clean of all cards at the end of each round. Games are played to best of three rounds.
The three-round structure combined with the limited resources at a player's disposal forms a duel of each player attempting to field enough units to overpower the other while at the same time, not over-commit and find themselves unable to win.
The board is divided into two rows, melee and ranged. Players are limited to playing one card per turn. On their turn, they must either play a card on their turn, discard a card from their hand (the card is not played), or else pass and forfeit playing any more cards for the remainder of the round. New cards are drawn/redrawn at the start of each round. There is a maximum hand size of ten cards per player.
Decks are composed of a minimum of twenty-five cards. In building a deck, a player selects from one of six factionsnote and have a choice of one of six leader abilities per faction, each with a uniquely powerful ability and differing amounts of Provisions allowed to build a deck with. A suite of neutral cards also exists which may inhabit any deck. You may select any card you own for your deck as long as it matches your faction or is neutral. Your deck must stay within the provision cost set by your leader ability. You may have two copies of any valid bronze card in your deck, but only one copy for gold cards.
There are three card types: units, special cards, and artifacts. Most cards are units, which all have a single number denoting their strength which adds to the player's totals. Special cards affect units on the field or have unique effects such as allowing the drawing of new cards during a round. Artifacts work like special cards, however, they remain on the field until the round ends or they are removed by another card's effect. Cards in general have no mana or other resource cost. The exception is Syndicate cards which sometimes require Coins to use special effects. Coins are generated by syndicate cards and leader abilities.
Gwent is a fairly balanced card game with frequent updates and balance patches. There is a marked lack of random chance (almost no "coin flip" cards!) with a strong emphasis on planning and strategy.
Gwent contains examples of the following tropes:
- Creator Cameo: One of the Scoia'tael units, Pavko Gale, is based on and voiced by community manager Pawel Burza. He sometimes cosplays as Pavko for various media outings such as this Studio Tour.Pavko: Juiciest leeks in town, get 'em here!
- Walter Veritas, a Syndicate unit, is based on game director Jason Slama.
- Deadpan Snarker:
Geralt: Let me guess. She's got a dragon.
- Geralt in one of the trailers as soldiers bust into the locale he and Ciri are playing in and approach her from behind. Keep in mind, he's still talking about their game.
- Market-Based Title: The game is known as Gwint in the original Polish, changed during the various localizations of The Witcher 3 for ease of pronunciation.
- In The Witcher 3, Gwent has different names in several languages. For the multiplayer game, the name was consolidated to Gwent in all regions outside of Poland.
- Spin-Off: Popular demand for more of the sidequest Mini-Game from Witcher 3 led to this standalone game.
- Adaptational Modesty: Characters that would have been topless in other Witcher media are now relegated to Godiva Hair and Sideboob due to the teen rating.
- Chained to a Rock: The fate of Birna Bran depicted on her card art, battered by waves on a stormy sea.
- Digital Bikini: Some of the card art in the Chinese client has had this treatment due to local censorship policies.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Nilfgaardian spy Cantarella's card has her leaning in for a kiss with a man, while reaching into his bag to pilfer some important document.
- Fan Disservice: Very common in the monsters factions where the features of shapely often naked women are combined with bloody fangs/claws, gore, withered skin, and other unpleasant features.
- The Gernichora leader skin is the epitome of this with withered human arms and legs tipped in claws, grey saggy skin, pendulous breasts, a human-like head with blonde hair and no nose, a tadpole-like tail coming from between her legs, and beady blank white eyes. She's covered in warty growths and has leech-like "fruits" hanging from her chest and torso. You can tell she was a sexy woman once... but not anymore!
- Flavor Text: Found on every card in the game, even tokens spawned by other units.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Dryads are nearly always in the nude, but censored strategically to meet the teen rating. Lesser female vampires such as Bruxa and Alp are assaulting in the nude albeit without visible nipples. The monster leader Gernichora is fully nude and 3d modeled, much to nobody's delight.
- Gainaxing: Manually shifting Ves's premium card left and right generates a notable jiggle in her chest.
- Human Sacrifice: Ritual Sacrifice triggers all deathwish effects on your side of the board. In its art Brewess is leading the children of Velen to the sacrifice.
- Knight in Sour Armor: The Northern Realms pack a lot of knightly units with big swords and shiny armor, but their vocal callouts pack a lot of bitterness and sarcasm.Redanian Knight: Long live etcetera etcetera...
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Significant events from the Witcher trilogy and book saga are spoiled by cards. Examples include:
- Birna Bran's punishment of being chained to a rock at sea, ala Prometheus.
- The death of Milva.
- Gwent offers two divergent possible solutions to the quest to determine the ruler of Skellige, showing both Cerys an Craite with a suite of Queensguard and Svanrige an Tuirseach's flavor text naming him king.
- The Thronebreaker cards are an odd example of this. Many may spoil events of the game they come with due to the cards abilities being based on the events of the game.
- Magic Cauldron: The Crones are depicted gathered around a cauldron, stirring a skull into a glowing brew of flesh and bones.
- Nipple and Dimed: Several cards push the Fanservice as far as possible but conceal the all-important nipples. A few female vampires, such as Alp, simply appear not to have any nipples despite Full-Frontal Assault.
- She's Got Legs: The premium animation for Vivienne: Oriole begins with her posed to emphasize her exposed lower half, before shifting into her bird-like form.
- Shout-Out: Various cards have Shout-outs in their flavor text.
- Stripped to the Bone: Scorch, appropriately, features unfortunate individuals scorched to the bones on its art.
- The Upper Crass: Imlerith, The "Duke of Dogs", and Whoreson Junior all are upper-class types who chose to be crude and downright vicious despite having noble/wealthy family. Their taunts reflect this.
- Would Hurt a Child: Ritual Sacrifice's art shows Brewess marching chained children to the sacrifice.
- And then there's Whoreson Senior depicted looking at a painting as a battered and bruised young boy clings fearfully to his sleeve. It's his son. The abuse is what eventually makes young Cyprian break and become a monster.
- Character Development: Evolving cards depict the stories of important characters in the Witcher series, showing the circumstances that lead to each of their rises in power and how they changed for it.Auberon King: "A stunningly beautiful display, this world. But it heralds naught but the end."Auberon Conqueror: "I have lived long and seen all, and I am bored with it."
- Story and Gameplay Segregation:
- Witchers, professional monster slayers, are neutral cards that can be played with any faction, including monsters. On the other hand, the Witcher code states that they're supposed to be "neutral".
- Ge'els is in the Monster deck with the other Wild Hunt characters despite the fact that his biggest contribution to the plot of Witcher 3 is betraying the Wild Hunt to Geralt. This is especially notable since Avallac'h, another Aen Elle elf who doesn't side with the Wild Hunt, reflects this by being a neutral card and not having the Wild Hunt tag.
- Similarly, the Bloody Baron is a loyal Northern Realms card despite the fact that he was a deserter who tried to negotiate with Nilfgaard.
- Several cards are based on Witcher potions and can be used on any unit, even though anyone without Witcher mutations would die if they drank one.
- The White Frost card takes this Up to Eleven. In spite of the fact that it is literally the end of the world, it's a neutral card that can be played by any faction, not just the Monsters.
- All of the bronze dwarf cards are Scoia'tael cards, and most dwarf cards have benefits dependent on other dwarf cards in play. Thus, several dwarves are placed in the Scoia'tael deck when they weren't actually members or even if they actually opposed the Scoia'tael. This includes:
- Yarpen Zigrin, who considers the Scoia'tael to be just as racist as the humans they fight.
- Dennis Cranmer, who was captain of the guard for a Temerian Duke, but isn't in the Northern Realms deck.
- Zoltan Chivay, which is odd since "Zoltan: Animal Tamer" is a neutral card.
- Brouver Hoog, who is a leader card despite the fact that he decreed that dwarven youths were not to join the Scoia'tael.
- The latter two examples combined form a double example of Gameplay and Story Segregation: Zoltan is said to have nothing but contempt for Hoog and his policies but serves under him in-game.
- Lighter and Softer: Compared to the hard M for Mature nature of the source material, Gwent is PG-13 to appeal to a larger audience. In the transition, things had to be toned down. For example, The Redanian Elites have been reigned in, instead of being willing to rape for their country, they will... eat worms.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Averted to keep the game's rating low. Notably crass characters such as Thaler and Zoltan's parrot, Field Marshal Duda, aren't allowed to swear every other breath.
- Vesemir is still too old for this shit, however.
- Clever wording on some taunts allows characters to come across as obscene without swearing.
- City of Spies: Or, more aptly, an empire full of them. The most popular jobs in the Nilfgaardian empire are Spy, Assassin and Courtesan. It's heavily implied that there is a major overlap between all three jobs.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Nilfgaard seems to see its rather nasty habits as a means to an end. That end being a more civilized, ordered, and peaceful world. Everyone else begs to differ, however.
- Evil Wears Black: Basically every other faction hates Nilfgaard for their spying, treachery, constant warring, and general habit of trying to conquer everything it touches.
- Working-Class People Are Morons: Portrayed as superstitious and uneducated outside of rare mages and siege engineers.Siege Support: "You Gotta recalibrate the arm by five degrees.""Do what by the What now?"
- The Church of Eternal Fire has cards that are both Syndicate and Northern Realms. They are the most superstitious, racist, and dangerous faith depicted in the game.
- The Weird Sisters: A team of three Crones from the Monsters faction. Depending on the order played, they can increase the size of other troops (spin thread), devour another troops to get bigger (draw out) or deal damage to the opponent's troops (cut off).
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: The cultist of Svalblod can transform into werebears in the middle of a battle rage.
- The Fundamentalist: The Church of the Eternal Fire happily burns elves, dwarves and mages on massive pyres and employs witch hunters. Salamandra is one reason they feel justified in this.
- The Mafia: The Syndicate is made up of three mafia families (Crownsplitters, Cut-ups, and Tidecloaks) plus a few other factions: Salamandra, Blind Eyes, and the Church of the Eternal Fire.
- King of the Homeless: The King of Beggars leads the "Blind Eyes"; a group made mostly of beggars and prostitutes.
- Overlord Jr.: Whoreson Junior. Nobody even bothers with his actual name, Cyprian Wiley, anymore.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: Salamandra seems to have no cause outside of getting money and scaring the pants off all non-magic users.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Whoreson Junior. As stated in-game: "Greasy Hair, Bloodshot eyes, a mess of underworld tattoos and a grin that'll make your skin crawl. That, dear friends, is the description of a monster worse than most you'll find in any forest or swamp. You'll find no man or beast more repulsive in all Novigrad. Nay... the entirety of the Continent."From the Rewards Tree entry: Scholars, philosophers, and religious figures have debated since the dawn of time what can cause a man to become evil. His nature, his upbringing, perhaps black magic or poisons? In Whoreson Junior's case it was a thick leather belt which his father lashed at him for any reason at all... and sometimes even in the absence of one. Years of fear, pain, and humiliation scarred the young Cyprian Wiley. Horrible years for which the people of Novigrad must now pay the price.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: This faction is portrayed either as racist terrorists or just non-humans who want equality for all races, depending on the card. This can cause a lot of dissonance for those familiar with characters from the book lumped in with Scoia'tael due to being an Elf, Dwarf or other non-human non-monster race.
- Awesome, yet Impractical:
- Shupe's Day Off has a massive array of possible effects, all of which are very powerful. What effect you get is random, many of the effects themselves are random, and being able to use the card at all requires having no duplicates in your deck, making it too unwieldy to use most of the time outside of Arena.
- Renew and Hanmarvyn's Blue Dream let you play a card from your or your opponent's graveyard, respectively. They also cost 12 provisions, far higher than any faction-specific ways to play with cards in the graveyard.
- Bad Moon Rising: The Crimson Curse, a special card depicting a vampire ritual that turns the moon blood red. It generates the Blood Moon row effect which buffs vampires for its duration.
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: Played straight as cards are unlocked through kegs which can be purchased individually for in-game currency or in bundles for real money.
- Also Averted as they may also be won via the Arena, unlocked by completing sections of the Rewards tree, swapped for other cards via the milling system, or occasionally granted as a reward for playing (win or lose).
- Came Back Strong: Skellige has several effects that revive units from the graveyard including one leader ability.
- Cannibalism Super Power: The Consume mechanic available to monsters where they destroy one of their own units but gain a boost equal to the strength of the unit destroyed, usually to enable some other effect either on the unit doing the consuming or on the prey. Necrophages (Ghoul and Ozzrel) consume units in the graveyard, gaining their strength.
- Card Battle Game: Gwent is a game simulating a war between factions of the players' choosing.
- Combination Attack: Any cards with the Bonded modifier, which enhance their abilities when copies of the card are already on the board. Letho's abilities are dependent on his Viper Witcher partners Auckes and Serrit being in hand when he is played, potentially combining both of their effects (locking a unit and dealing damage) into one.
- Critical Existence Failure: A single dose of the Poison status does nothing to unit. A second tick and they instantly die.
- Damage Over Time:
- Weather effects chip off strength each time the opponent starts their turn.
- The bleeding status deals damage each turn. Similar to Yennefer: The Conjurer, this can become overwhelming when enough units have bleeding and the other side has cards to synergize with it.
- Duel to the Death: The Duel mechanic where two units take turns hitting each other according to their current strength until one of them is dead. Typically in favor of the unit who started the duel, as their owner got to choose their target and will stack the odds in their favor.
- Fastball Special: Implied by the Cyclops, who destroys a friendly unit and then damages an enemy by an amount equal to the strength of the ally he destroyed.
- Friend or Foe: Many card effects indiscriminately hit either side of the board. It's a common rite of passage in the game for ignorant newbies to accidentally obliterate their own units.
- Scorch, which destroys the highest unit(s) on the playing field is the prime offender of this. It's gotten to the point that there are message boards dedicated to explaining that if the highest unit is on your side it will be destroyed. To a lesser extent, this applies to epidemic which targets all of the lowest unit(s).
- I Fight for the Strongest Side: Count Caldwell will flip sides on the board based on who has the strongest single unit in play.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: An important skill is knowing when to stop playing cards and when to allow your opponent to win the current round so you have enough strength remaining to win the game. There are multiple cards that can get you an advantage should you lose the round:
- Ciri is not very impressive by herself, having 4 strength while taking up a large amount of precious deckbuilding provisions. However, should you lose the round in which you played her, she returns to your hand instead of going to the graveyard. 4 strength might not be much, but the value she poses as an additional card to play makes her ability powerful.
- It's also useful to try making your opponent fail to use this trope by deliberately baiting out more of their cards with cards that you can afford to use.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: There used to be a "Brave" ability on some cards in Beta. Their abilities, generally a sizable Power-Up, will only trigger if you are losing when they are played.
- Monstrous Cannibalism: The Monsters faction has access to the Consume mechanic, allowing their units to chow down on each other and gain power equal to the unit that was destroyed.
- Mooks: The Monster factions features many of these from the Witcher series, such as Foglets and Nekkers. Many Monster decks use tactics based around these mooks, creating as many copies of them as they can before overwhelming the opponent with sheer numbers.
- Mook Maker: The monster faction can build around this concept via Explosive Breeder and Spawn Broodling. Some monsters generate tokens under certain conditions. The Arachas Queen-inspired leader ability specializes in this, passively spawning tokens whenever you destroy one of your own units during your turn or play an "organic" card in your turn.
- Play Every Day: The first 12 rounds won each day grant an additional crown half for progression through the Journey.
- Every day you play grants a reward, with rewards for each week being shown at a time. Completing seven days in a row improves the rewards afterwards. Festivals and other events often have bonus gifts such a reward points added in to the daily prizes. Missing days will not reset anything.
- Random Number God: Several card effects are determined by RNG, such as Tridam Infantry damaging a random enemy whenever it receives a boost.
- Create is a mostly random mechanic, giving the player a choice of three options within some parameter (e.g. Create a bronze Special card from your starting deck and Play it).
- Shupe's Day Off plays a random effect out of a pool of abilities based on a choice of three versions of Shupe.
- Gascon randomly boosts himself by an amount between 0 and 11.
- Switch-Out Move: Decoy invokes this idea to swap a unit on the board with the top unit in your deck, but doesn't count as a unit itself. Emhyr's leader ability returns a Nilfgaardian unit to the hand before playing any card in his hand, allowing a unit to swap the place in hand of any other card. Call of the Forest allows you to cycle a unit from the field to the deck and swap it with another unit with the same primary category.
- Zerg Rush: Multiple cards spawn copies of themselves or pull out troops from your deck.
- Blue Stripes Commandos, the Witcher trio (Eskel, Lambert and Vesemir), and Crow Messenger are examples that pull copies of themself out of the deck.
- Roach (Geralt's famous glitchy horse) will play itself from the deck the first time you play a gold card. Knickers is a cute dog that sometimes plays itself right from the deck at random, even if you didn't play anything!
- Kaedweni Revenants and Kikimore Warriors spawn copies of themselves whenever they destroy a unit.
- Arachas Queen Monster decks inevitably flood the board with weak tokens, either as fodder for consuming or self-destroy effects or row-based buffs like Commander's Horn.
- Syndicate's Firesworn archetype revolves around filling your board with Firesworn Zealots, with extra cards to boost whole rows of them, sacrifice them for utility, and to gain extra power and Coins with each summoned.