Let me try to illustrate my point, but, first and foremost, I believe things are going in a healthy direction, at least that is my take from the recent reveals of the last expansion.
Notice how fun it is to play the so called “meme decks”? Tons of fun, right? All vampires or an army of royal guards or druids or witch hunters, the point here being making and playing a deck that truly feels like a faction, like a coherent group rather than the mere result of the combination of cards that are useful “per se”. So, for the fun factor, I think about two extremes, on the left we have the “Game of Thrones Solitaire”, where your deck is just the optimal point combination and, on the right, we have the truly thematic experience of “Witcher Card Game”, where decks are flavorful.
The conundrum, my friends, stems from the fact that there’s a tradeoff between having fun and winning (of course, winning and thus climbing the ladder is fun per se, ça va sans dire, but that’s not what I’m talking about ) – the flavorful decks rarely are the most competitive. Now, back to my opening paragraph, I think things are really changing and the turning point can be traced to those wonderful 12 cards we recently were graced with. Foltest, Unseen Elder and Anna Henrietta are so unique, so much more than “does x and gets y points” while, at the same time, being competitive that I get the feeling that the developers also feel that this gem of a game should (and can) be much more that “Game of Thrones Solitaire”. Good, right? Now, I would like to describe hindrances in the way of what I believe to be a better Gwent:
Removals are way too powerful – a single banish can brick a whole deck; a lock from a bronze unit sometimes can make you lose a round. I don’t have a solution for this problem, but I think a healthier balance would entail a less binary, less rock-paper-scissors adjust, meaning that the counter to a powerful deck would not be having a definite and clear-cut removal for its best card, but, instead, buffing alternative strategies until we reach a point of healthy competition. Again, I think the developers are aware of this and the recent rework of artifacts and bomb heaver is a proof of that.
- Drawing is too powerful – in a game in which you can, under normal circumstances, play a single card per turn, playing another gives you an immense edge. I believe this should always be avoided.
- Some cards eclipse many others, leaving less room for design – while there are absolutely useless cards, there are also those which would be useful sometimes, but, due to their objectively better competitors, never see the light of play. The examples abound. This is a complicated problem, I’m aware, but one that a bolder design could, in my opinion, circumvent – more keywords (Beta Gwent had a ton of them and, while this is a big balance challenge, it certainly makes for a more interesting game, does it not?), more interaction between cards sharing types (and, quite frankly, more types would be nice too, e.g.: ‘how come Foltest is just a human and a soldier?’) could also help this.
As I have claimed in the beginning and as it is clear through the text itself, the game seems to be in a Beta 2 stage and slowing reaching what it wants to be; the developers are aware of that and I write this to have a good discussion about the state of the game and, possibly, to nudge it in this healthy path. I appreciate the time you took reading this.