A quick post about a design that I did for a Gwent table top play area. Let me give you a brief introduction to this rather unusual card game and where it came from.
The Gwent card game is a virtual subgame of the Fantasy RPG, the Witcher 3.
Witcher 3 (Wikipedialink) is a blockbuster Fantasy role playing game available on Playstation, XBox and PC and is a great Swords and Sorcery epic of love, life and monster hunting set in a mythical fantasy world. The original was a series of books by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski which were then made into a multi award winning RPG by Project Red, a Polish game developer. In the game, which is truly excellent by the way, the protagonist, Geralt, travels around the land hunting monsters, following quests and gathering information from various in game persons who he meets mainly in the taverns and hostelries of the mythical lands. While there he has the option to play this virtual card game with characters that he meets and to obtain further virtual playing cards by either defeating his opponents or buying them from innkeepers and merchants.
In the game Geralt starts off with a limited number of cards of low value and has to collect or win or buy more as he progresses through the story. Rare cards are more powerful and the aim is to build a strong deck with high value and powerful cards. In the computer game Gwent is played virtually, but in a recent release of a new DLC mission, one option was to buy a version that had two decks of the in game cards as actual physical items.
These are handsomely designed cards but the 'play area" that is used in game has no physical equivalent with the real world cards, so I decided to design one. This was then printed onto a heavy duty 61cm wide canvas on my large format Epson Inkjet printer. Heavy weight canvas is pretty durable and rolls up neatly to store and then unrolls without the creases normally associated with game boards. The canvas can also be stretched and glued/stapled more permanently over a piece of wood or fibre board to give a solid play board.
Below is a photo of a game in progress being played on a light wood background version of the canvas "board".
Now, while the Witcher 3 is an exceptional video game in every respect (more to say on the place of video games in the modern state of creative arts in a future post), the Gwent card game is in itself a very fine complex and interesting game. It plays very well as a table top physical game without the need to progress through the difficulties of the video version which demands considerable hand eye coordination and quick reflexes. We older gamers who are "transitioning to maturity" find that the trigger finger is not what it used to be, and a gentle but strategically demanding game of cards is actually very satisfying.
Brief overview of the mechanics of the game
The game is played between two players who each use one deck of cards out of 4 possible decks. In the video game cards have to be collected as you progress through the game but in the physical version two full decks are provided. The game is best of three rounds, each round being decided by who has the most points on the board at the end of the round. Points are calculated from the numerical values printed on the cards and modified by other "special" cards either positively or negatively.
Initially, from the whole deck provided (each different faction/deck has different cards, so strategy varies on the deck you are playing), each player selects a number of cards as his playing deck for one game. He must select at least 22 "unit cards", ie cards that have a numerical value printed on them, and no more than ten of the "special cards", those that modify the effects and numerical values of both your own and your opponents cards. So each player commences with a game playing deck of at least 22 cards and probably more depending on how many special or additional unit cards he has included.
This is an important consideration, as from this playing deck, the player then randomly selects 10 cards which are his "troops" for ALL THREE rounds of the game. Obviously, one tries to put all the high scoring cards into ones deck at the start of each game, but if you have a starting deck of, say 40 cards, your chances of drawing the high cards in considerably less than if you had a starting deck of 22 cards.
Cards are then played in turn from each players 10 card "Hand" onto the board. There are 3 types of unit card. Artillery, Ranged and Close combat, represented by the Catapult, Bow and Sword icons respectively that can be seen in the divisions on the board. Units have to played into their own rows on each side of the board. If it were just playing number cards it would be relatively dull, but the Special cards can significantly modify the numerical values of the cards and the essential strategic consideration is how to best play the 10 cards you have drawn over the 3 rounds to win two of them. In practice the point count can fluctuate significantly with one or two well placed cards having devastating effects. Each player may pass at any time in each round to conserve his cards for ensuing rounds.
So it is very much a medieval battle simulator in which you as the general has to try to make the best use of your canon fodder as well as your hero units and sometimes it is better to lose the battle so you can win the war.
So, the woodgrain board design is mine and the green back and red back cards and counters seen thereon were included in the Witcher 3 expansion pack which I bought for about AU$ 25 in JB HiFi.
Even if you are not a video game enthusiast, the Gwent card game physical edition, is a very complex, absorbing and challenging game that has much replay value. You don't really need the board once you have learned the game but it does help and looks pretty good IMHO.
P.S. While I enjoy the more strategic current video games available now, I started playing tabletop games at Uni with my friends in the days before home computers and video consoles (pre-history obviously). A good friend of ours has two kids, an 8 year old and a 10 year old and I try and get them away from their screens to play some tabletop games such as Carcasonne and Ticket to Ride Europe. There is a LOT of value in a family sitting down together to play a pleasant game for an hour or two. With a little gentle management the extra competitive ones can be pulled back and the shy ones encouraged to participate and even take a risk or two. Many good life lessons and interpersonal skills can be subliminally absorbed over a good board game.
Check out BoardGameGeek for more information than you probably want to know straight off, but a good resource and beginner's games are usually termed "Gateway" games, ie try one of these easy family friendly games to see if you like them before buying something expensive and over complex that you find too difficult and confusing.