Tag Archives: card game

Greed Is Good In Gwent’s New Novigrad Expansion

Image: CD Projekt Red (Gwent)

Gwent’s latest expansion, Novigrad, launched on Friday, and I’ve been playing almost nonstop since. After months away from the Witcher 3-inspired card game, I’ve fallen for Gwent all over again. The Novigrad expansion adds a new theme and mechanics that draw on what I love about the source material, and it also helps the game grow in important ways.

In The Witcher 3, the free city of Novigrad is a seaside metropolis ruled by a loose confederation of shady merchants and cutthroats. The Gwent expansion draws on similar elements by introducing the game’s first ever new faction: Syndicate. Made up of smugglers, pirates, witch hunters, and various gang leaders, much of the set revolves around earning gold and spending it to assassinate your rivals. While simple in theory, this dynamic opens up exciting new possibilities.

Take the card Witch Hunter Executioner, for example. It has Profit 2, which means players earn two coins when they play it. It also has “Fee 1: Gives Bleeding to a unit for one turn,” which means once the card is on the board players can spend one coin to activate the ability. When a card suffers from Bleed, a mechanic introduced in the previous Crimson Curse expansion, it takes one damage at the end of its owner’s turn. With Witch Hunter Executioner a nice thing to be able to use bleed whenever you want.

If a card targeted by Witch Hunter Executioner’s ability has a Bounty on it, the bleed damage is done immediately, which is even better. In addition, when a card with a Bounty on it is killed, the player who killed it gets coins equal to its base power. Enter Witch Hunter, a Syndicate card that places a Bounty on another card when it’s played. Together, the two cards offer up a vicious cycle, with each Bounty paying for the next kill.

Other cards like Caleb Menge, which allows you to spend three coins to place a Bounty, push this chemistry even further when combined with Ewald Borsodi, whose ability deals two damage in exchange for two coins. There aren’t any free lunches, even in Novigrad, and the money does run out eventually, but crime cards like Swindle, which adds between four and six extra coins to your coffer, and leader cards like The King of Beggars, which grants you up to six extra coins during a match, can greatly extend the life of the party.

One of the most popular deck archetypes at the moment is based around precisely this strategy, with The King of Beggars bankrolling the removal of just about whatever an opponent can throw at you. I’ve been playing with a version put together by professional Gwent player FreddyBabes, and it’s taken me on a dozen game winning streak. The synergies are so strong at the moment that CD Projeckt Red has already announced a hotfix to address balance issues coming later this week. Ten Syndicate cards will be affected, though the studio hasn’t yet revealed which ones will take the hit.

Even if their potency is reduced, the underlying strategies at play are still fun to navigate. When Gwent’s open beta began in early 2017, it felt like a fantasy version of a traditional playing card game, with lots of bluffing and passive watching as effects resolved automatically based on the order you put your cards down in. When Gwent left beta last fall, it dramatically changed, simplifying the game board and adding animated characters while also introducing new card mechanics. It wasn’t the game I’d grown to love anymore, and as a result I fell off it for a while.

Several months later, it feels like Gwent has finally grown into its new identity as a more interactive card game like Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering. Though its rules and layout still distinguish it from those games, the Novigrad expansion adds a new layer of strategy that lives up to all of the other business going on on screen. Individual cards feel more like their source material namesakes rather than just tokens passively representing them, while the interplay between the game’s new mechanics offers as much lively complexity as the fictional city they draw from. 

Source: Kotaku.com

Artifact’s Few Remaining Players Are Desperate To Know What Valve Has Planned

Valve’s new card game launched on Nov. 28, and in just 100 days, it’s become a ghost town. The number of concurrent players recently dropped to just 500, and as a result, you can now buy every card in the game for a total of $60.

The game was criticized when it came out because everything in it required spending money. The game itself cost $20, and prior to a patch released a month later, the only way to get new packs and earn tickets to compete in gauntlet competitions for prizes was to spend additional cash. Now it’s possible for anyone to complete their collection for the standard retail price of a triple-A game, a far cry from the approximately $300 required back in November.

It’s the logical result as demand for new cards diminishes while the supply from new packs being opened slowly ticks upward. What’s surprising is just how far things have fallen in such a short period. A steady drip of negative Steam reviews still appears daily on the game’s Steam page, and even the positive ones aren’t exactly glowing endorsements. “This is my acquired taste, but I do not recommend you acquire this taste with me,” wrote one player who had put over 100 hours into the game.

In January, the player base had fallen by 97.5 percent, with the number of people playing at any one time peaking at around 1,500. Artifact then received two small updates. The first on Jan. 18 fixed some bugs and shortened animations to make the game run more quickly. The second on Jan. 28 lowered the amount of gold needed to play certain item cards and added a few more options to the game’s tournament mode, like an option for playing randomized decks. The patch notes for that update also included a section called “Unchanged: Still in it for the long haul.”

It was a reference to when Valve had told fans through the official Artifact Twitter account that it had more updates planned and wouldn’t stop working on the game anytime soon. That was back on Dec. 10. The Artifact Twitter account hasn’t tweeted anything new since Dec. 21, raising questions among the few remaining players as well as some of the ones eager to potentially jump back in.

One recent thread on the game’s forum is titled “Valve plz send a sign.” The person said they regretfully left the game because of how long it took to matchmake and the lack of encouragement from Valve that things might change anytime soon. Prior to the game’s release, Valve announced plans to hold a $1 million-prize Artifact tournament in early 2019. There’s been no further information about whether that will still happen, either.

Vale did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its future plans for the game.

Then there’s the question of whether Artifact will end up going free-to-play like competitors Hearthstone and Gwent. While not a popular possibility among many of the game’s most hardcore players, who have already financially invested in the existing version of the game, others feel it will be a necessary concession to make the game more popular. The latter group points to Dota 2, the free-to-play strategy game on which Artifact is based, as an example.

Of course, as the game continues to shrink and card prices plummet further, that reality is looming anyway.

Source: Kotaku.com

Valve’s Card Game Artifact Is Running Out Of Players

Screenshot: Kotaku (Artifact)

The collectible card game Artifact released on November 28, and had 60,740 concurrent players that day. A good start—but it was all downhill from there. Last night, its total concurrent players dipped just below 1,500 for the first time ever—a 97.5 percent drop from launch. Yes, many online games struggle to find an audience on Steam, but not usually the ones made by Valve itself.

Today, Artifact game is currently ranked 145 on Steam Charts out of all games being played on Steam. That wedges it in-between Dark Souls II and Assassin’s Creed Origins, two single-player games that have been out for over a year. Even Portal 2, Valve’s much-praised puzzler from 2011, currently has more players online than Artifact.

The Dota 2-inspired card game caught some negative press early on when it came out that there was no way to get new cards without paying money. Contrary to the free-to-play model established by the most successful digital card game of the last few years, Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Valve decided to charge $20 for Artifact and also for tickets to compete in its “gauntlet” mode where prizes could be earned. Artifact cards can also be resold between players, creating a secondary market where players can pay money directly for better decks.

Screenshot: Kotaku (Steam Charts)

I wrote at the time that this alternative model didn’t feel unusually onerous, and I still think that. But it’s become clear in the weeks since that the model is not attracting players to the game. An early round of review bombing by people angry with the game’s monetization scheme has only given way to more negative reviews, despite Valve’s initial attempts to make Artifact more balanced and add a way to earn new packs simply by playing.

A December 11 update added two sorely-needed features: leaderboards for certain modes and a chat wheel that let players communicate with one another during matches. On December 20, Valve released another big update, this time rebalancing some of the more overpowered cards and, more importantly, adding skill ratings for players and a leveling system that allowed players to earn free card packs after reaching certain milestones.

Players apparently remained unimpressed, since they continued to steadily leave the game in the subsequent weeks. Some of them have complaints about the game’s reliance on RNG mechanics, while others say they’re tired of having to continually pay for tickets to compete in the game’s prize modes.

Image: Valve (Artifact)

The marketplace tells a similar story. Back when Artifact was released, the total cost to buy a full set of cards was around $294. By mid-December it was down to $200. Today it dipped just below $100. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. As more players open up more card packs, the overall price should slowly trend downward. But the quick decline over the first month and a half is also an indicator that Artifact isn’t winning any new players who might drive fresh demand.

Artifact received two minor updates last week. The first, on January 10, tinkered with some of the chat options, adding bindable keys for custom messages and decreasing the amount of time on player clocks during matches in an attempt to make them shorter overall. The second, on January 11, changed even less, fixing two minor bugs and removing the surrender notification. The Artifact Twitter account hasn’t been updated since December 21.

Valve has said that it’s in it for the long haul when it comes to Artifact. But it’s not clear what shape that investment will take in the short- and medium-term. In March 2018, Valve CEO Gabe Newell announced that Artifact would have its first major competitive tournament, featuring a prize pool of $1 million, earlier this year. It’s possible that that could be when the company makes a big push to try and revive the game, although there hasn’t been any real news since on the details surrounding that event. (Valve did not respond to a request for comment.)

Source: Kotaku.com