What the Thronebreaker Media Push Means for Gwent
October 3, 2018 by lordgort
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales began as an expansion to Gwent and wound up its own standalone game with Gwent as its combat engine. As CD Projekt Red makes its first big Thronebreaker media push, what can we learn about Gwent Homecoming?
A Crucial First Note
Without the research, counsel, and other assistance of SwanDive666, this article would not exist. My name may be up top, but I consider her a co-author.
The IGN Video and the Twitch Developer Stream
Of the many, many videos pushed to various venues (seriously, check out the megathread on Reddit if you haven't), I found the English-language IGN video the most notable. Check it out below:
Aside from the third-party push, CD Projekt Red also made a Developer Stream pitched to existing fans of the studio's works, viewable below.
A Glimpse of the Big Picture
From the perspective of Gwent Homecoming, the most critical reveal from the Thronebreaker media push isn't any particular detail. There's nothing like the "Alzur's Thunder deals 5 damage" reveal from the Homecoming release date announcement, much less the wealth of detail from the original Homecoming reveal. Anyone trying to confirm Homecoming cards from their appearances in Thronebreaker is making a mistake.
What we do see, for the first time, are full turns taken and the way the action flows between players. Even discounting the "puzzle" factor Thronebreaker incorporates, the Gwent is complicated in a way never seen before. Unlike the "play and pass" gameplay of pre-Homecoming Gwent, the Thronebreaker videos show Order abilities activated by the player and similar abilities for the leaders.
The Order abilities are reminiscent of, though not identical to, the "tapping" or "exhausting" mechanics found in games such as Magic: The Gathering. As in that game, as the units with Order abilities accumulate, the possibilities multiply. Anyone still clinging to the idea that a two-row Gwent is "dumbed down" will be in for a rude awakening.
Gameboard and Card Animations
Starting at around 18:25 in the IGN video, Jakub Szamałek, Principal Writer for CD Projekt Red, notes that the upper part of the board is the same as the Nilfgaard board in Gwent. This makes three board designs known, after Monsters and Scoia'tael.
Image sourced from: IGN on YouTube
We also have our first suggestions of what multiplayer Gwent will look like when players of different factions face off, plus a better idea of the animation of cards landing on the game board.
Image sourced from: GameSpot Gameplay on YouTube
With each new board seen, the level of visual polish has gone up, as has the aesthetic appeal. What's more, the potential for boards currently set as Thronebreaker-only to migrate to Gwent could pay off handsomely for months, if not years.
First Look at the Provision System
There's next to no chance all the numbers in Thronebreaker will carry over to Gwent Homecoming, but the Thronebreaker media push has given us our first look at the "Provision" system that will shape how Gwent decks are built.
Image sourced from: Mark-Orz on Reddit
The UI is a bit confusing without hands-on experience, but the short version is that, where the full cards are visible, the top-left corner has points on the board (or another symbol, as in the case of Swallow Potion); the top-right corner is the quantity of cards available; and the bottom-right is the provision value, or how much each copy will count against the provision cap.
Deckbuilding under the provision system will require skills more commonly seen in tabletop gaming (as with Warhammer's point limit system for army building) or daily fantasy sports than card games. If you haven't already, start your research into similar systems and learn to spot a relative bargain.
Thronebreaker Matters More Than Gwent Right Now (and We Should Be Glad)
Imagine you're a silver prospector and you stumble across a site for a gold mine. Guess what? You're in the gold business now. Similarly, Thronebreaker might have started as an expansion to Gwent, but the time when CD Projekt Red thought of the game as "Gwent: Thronebreaker" is long gone.
In financial terms, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales (notice the rebranding) matters more than Gwent right now. Why should we as Gwent players be glad for this? Because CD Projekt Red can believe in Thronebreaker and Gwent.
From the grimness of the Monsters battlefield to the increasing complexity of cards and turns, CD Projekt Red has turned away from the fool's errand of trying to compete head-on with Hearthstone or upcoming entry Artifact and toward making a mature, niche, profitable multiplayer game that shares a symbiotic relationship with a profitable single-player game.
If Thronebreaker thrives, Gwent thrives. It is ironic, perhaps, that a return to grimness should be a ray of hope. Yet here we are. Bring on Thronebreaker. Bring on Homecoming.