For a video under 10 minutes long, the first glimpse of Gwent Homecoming gameplay had lots of revelations! What did we see? What are the implications? What questions remain unanswered?

On Sunday, 2 September 2018, viewers of Gwent Challenger #4 (congratulations, Damorquis and AndyWand!) got the first glimpse at in-game footage for Gwent Homecoming. CD Projekt Red later released the footage on YouTube, as seen below.

A few things are apparent right away. First, no assumption about how Gwent will play post-Homecoming is safe. We have too few details about post-Homecoming gameplay and too many confirmed changes to assume anything will stay the same unless explicitly confirmed by CD Projekt Red.

Second, nothing seen in the video is nailed down. Some things are almost certainly impossible to change this far along in the process, but numbers are easily changed, among others.

 

The Mulligan Screen

"Choose a card to redraw. [0 of 5]" is a mighty interesting line of text for players who are used to getting up to three redraws to start the game! More details on that soon. For now we have our first full look at a post-Homecoming Gwent card: Rotfiend.

Between the reduced points (common to all the cards on-screen) and the radically different ability (no more Deathwish!), we start to appreciate just how much Homecoming will change Gwent.

 

Reworked Cards

Many, many cards received a rework, generally decreasing numbers and changing abilities. Reddit user czytelnik050 has already screenshotted all the new cards, so you can review them at your leisure (while keeping in mind that their numbers could change). Of particular interest are cards with new keywords.

 

New Keywords

Vran Warrior shows not one but two new keywords, "Thrive" and "Order." We do not know enough to define "Thrive" with certainty, though the "zZz" symbol at bottom center, shared by Barbegazi and Imlerith: Sabbath, corresponds to "Order."

The mouseover of Barbegazi confirms that "Order" is the keyword associated with the "zZz" symbol and adds new information, that "Order" can have "charges."

Geralt: Professional introduces yet another new keyword, "[X] Reach." A card with "[X] Reach" cannot affect cards more than X rows away; for example, a Geralt: Professional on one player's ranged row cannot affect a unit on the opposing ranged row, as that unit is three rows away, beyond Geralt: Professional's "2 Reach."

Imlerith: Sabbath not only has new keywords "Order" and "[X] Reach," it adds yet another: "[X] Cooldown." "[X] Cooldown" simply means that an ability, once used, goes on an X-turn cooldown. Here's a clip from late in the video showing "Order" and "[X] Reach" in action, along with the visual marker of the "Order" and "Cooldown" abilities on the game board:

 

Redraw Details

Remember where we saw five redraws at the start of the game? Part of Homecoming's overhaul of leaders is that the choice of leader affects how many redraws a player gets. Further, the player going first gets at least one additional redraw and possibly two, though we will have to wait to see which ends up being implemented and how well this mitigates the well-known disadvantages of going first.

While it is unknown whether or not the new redraw system eliminates blacklisting, showing the last eliminated card to the side is a great visual reminder for players and viewers alike.

 

Hand Size Limit and Cards Drawn Between Rounds

Hand sizes now are capped at ten cards. This suggests (but does not confirm) drypassing will no longer be viable, as the other player can simply play a card and draw back up to equal cards for Round 2.

The video mentions drawing up to three cards between Rounds 1 and 2 and Rounds 2 and 3, up to that maximum hand size of ten cards. If this remains true in Homecoming's release, it has notable implications for how deep players will go into Round 1, regardless of their deck's strategy, and how long a Round 3 is guaranteed to last. No more single-card topdeck wars!

 

The Gameboard

Let's break down what we do and do not see here. At bottom, from left to right:

  • Hand size, (likely) rank, player name and title
  • Graveyard
  • Hand
  • Deck

At left are animated leaders, including the new Woodland Spirit (Dagon is out). Opposing the viewpoint player is Unseen Elder. Note that the leaders do not count as cards, according to the indicator at bottom left, and that they work differently from before, though we do not know yet how. The right side has the "Pass" button and, working out from the middle:

  • Total round points
  • Round victory indicator
  • Melee row points
  • Ranged row points

Information not readily apparent in the build shown:

  • Cards in graveyard
  • Cards in deck
  • Leader ability, if any

 

Two Rows

The two-row system opens up design space for what the video calls "row-restricted abilities." While no cards are row-locked, some abilities only activate when a card is played on a certain row, such as Iris von Everec destroying an artifact when played on the melee row or clearing all hazards when played on the ranged row. (Artifacts remain a mystery so far.)

 

The Visuals

The field of play is much larger, replacing the preview sidebar with enlarged card art and full ability listings as a pop-up in-hand. This is excellent from a streaming perspective, though it will make the use of tracking software more complicated.

The cards themselves get a redesign in Homecoming to reinforce the gritty Witcher-franchise feel. While the larger card art is welcome, the card backs have been getting more attention. Sandwiched between Scoia'tael and Monsters backs, viewers saw a card back not matching any of the existing Gwent faction symbols and in a different color scheme. This appears simply to be the card art for the graveyard (note the details high on the skull and the small piece off it above and to the left).

 

No More Silver Cards

As the video puts it, silver cards simply are not needed any more because the "Provision" or "Army Limit" system, which assigns a point value to each card in deckbuilding and does not allow decks to exceed a particular total value, does all the work silver cards used to do. In the same section, the video confirms all decks will be 30 cards (no more "40-card Foltest" decks).

 

The "End Turn" Button

Because of the "Order" abilities, a turn may not end simply because a player plays a card. For this reason, the "Pass" button can transform into an "End Turn" button instead.

 

 

Worth the Wait

Homecoming's visual overhaul alone is stunning and does justice to the already remarkable animated card art. Key questions remain unanswered, of course. Is post-Homecoming Gwent fun to play? Is it fun to watch? Those answers will come with time. For now, we can enjoy what we have been given: a beautiful game whose studio has taken a huge risk. May it pay off for them.