When you think of collectable card games (CCGs), the likes of Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering probably spring to mind, and quite rightly so.
Both have player bases exceeding 20 million and a thriving competitive scene. That’s not mentioning their long service to the community, with Magic over two decades old. Let’s face it, they are the veterans of CCGs.
But we should also consider the new guys.
Another round of Gwent?
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game was born as a mini-game within The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red’s Game of the Year-winning RPG. Players could collect the in-game characters' in-card form and battle it out in taverns, dark forests and even high stakes tournaments.
Fans were overwhelmed by the RPG’s quirky mini-game and the developers soon received an avalanche of requests to make it a standalone game that were impossible to ignore.
It’s officially been a year since Gwent: The Witcher Card Game first went into beta, inviting hundreds of players to test what would be a standalone version of the The Witcher 3’s much loved mini-game.
Since then, thousands of CCG enthusiasts have flocked to the game – with many popular Hearthstone players such as Lifecoach and SuperJJ – defecting to what was fast becoming a unique, exciting strategy game. Its success was recently recognised at the Global Game Awards, where it won the title for Best Free-to-Play game.
"Gwentslam #1 was won by the British player Freddybabes, who qualified online. Not only that, but this also earned him the crown points to qualify for Gwent Open #2, which he also won."
CDPR have used the money earned from the success of The Witcher 3 to promote their new CCG well, selling it with the slogan 'Fresh Meta, No Mana', which has caught the attention of many players.
It’s one of the few card games on the market that doesn’t have a mana system. Therefore, if you want to play your legendaries first, you’re more than welcome to do so. There’s no waiting seven turns to establish land or power in Gwent; your entire hand is open from the off.
After the success of Gwent Challenger, CDPR’s first official Gwent tournament, the community were crying out for the game to become an esport. So CDPR created the Gwent Masters series and the Pro Ladder.
In order to qualify, players need to have reached Rank 21 by the end of the season. They are then rewarded with a separate ladder where players can earn Crown Points, used to enter official Gwent Masters tournaments.
The Pro Ladder forces competitors to play a wide variety of factions, eliminating the ability to spam a deck they’re most comfortable with.
Thanks to the addition of Strivewire sponsored qualifier tournaments, we’ve also seen players who don’t have time for ladder grinding emerge victorious in various events.
Gwentslam #1, a Lifecoach hosted tournament, was won by the British player Freddybabes who qualified online. Not only that, but this also earned him the crown points to qualify for Gwent Open #2, which he also won.
While we welcome the diverse, multicultural field, it’s nice to see homegrown talent doing so well. And, with Gwent Challenger #2 later this year – not to mention the various tournaments in 2018 – the Gwent Masters title could be going to anyone, including new players. Hint, hint.
Gwent and UK esports
Since most tournaments are run by CD Projekt Red and Lifecoach, they are usually held in either Austria or Poland, but it’s not rare to see UK faces at the top of the Gwent scene.
Aside from the aforementioned UK champion Freddybabes (shown winning the Gwentslam grand final below), what other notable Gwent names are from the UK?
The official Gwent Masters series is co-casted by Connagh “Merchant” Hawkins, a regular Twitch streamer and veteran YouTuber based in Cambridge. With over 30,000 subscribers, he played in the Gwentlemen Invitational alongside teammates Petrify and Truedawn and co-hosts the Tier 2 podcast, a weekly talk show for Gwent.
Known for his 'spicy' memes, he’s admired by many in the community – even if they pretend otherwise – and recently announced plans to set up a UK Gwent event. He urges those interested in being a part of it to contact him via his Twitter page.
Venture to Scotland and you’ll find Stephen “crokeyz” Croke, a regular Twitch streamer and former winner of the Gwentlemen Open, one of Gwent’s biggest online tournaments that’s open to everyone. He is often one of the first Gwent streamers to go live every morning, warming up the viewers for his international peers.
A popular face within the community, “AshCosplay” is a British streamer and the host of A Round of Gwent, CDPR’s official talk show. She is also a talented cosplayer, regularly bringing characters from the Witcher universe to life, and also hosts Lifecoach’s Gwentslam series.
Battle for the Eternal throne
While it was released roughly the same time as Gwent, Eternal Card Game has slipped under the radar. Created by a team of professional Magic players for Dire Wolf Digital, Eternal is a mana-based CCG that plays like a fun blend of Hearthstone and Magic.
It fuses the many possibilities of a hardcore strategy game alongside the polish and speed of its contemporary counterparts.
Just like Gwent, it utilises five different factions but lets the player roam free with deck building. If you want a Time legendary in your Primal hybrid deck, go ahead. It's clear the team at Dire Wolf Digital want the players to have as much choice as possible.
"While it doesn’t have much of a competitive scene, there are regular small-ball tournaments with a decent cash prize for the top scoring players."
Eternal is still in closed beta but that hasn’t stopped it from receiving expansions along with new awards and cards. The Dusk Road has also just been teased, which promises to add new in-game mechanics as well as a story mode that follows up its last 23-mission expansion, The Tale of Horus Traver.
While it doesn’t have much of a competitive scene, there are regular small-ball tournaments with a decent cash prize for the top scoring players. The next one will be held mid-December and is open to registration here.
Eternal is available to download on Steam and also mobile. Similar to Hearthstone, players can sync their PC accounts with their phone and continue playing when away from home. Say goodbye to your productivity.
Despite its niche audience, Eternal’s community is growing every day and, with the new expansion coming soon, we hope to see some UK faces reveal themselves.