Basic Terminology

the_witcher_3_gwent

Most card games use the same basic terminology, but since Gwent is unlike most other card games, the terminology that has to be used requires of us to define some of these terms anew, so that we’re on the same page when discussing them.

Card Advantage

Card advantage is a concept as old as collectible card games themselves. The meaning is simple; the player who has more cards combined on the field and in their hand, has the card advantage. If you play Poor Infantry, you get card advantage. If you play a Swallow, you lose card advantage. These and other examples mean, that card advantage is not really an appropriate term for this game as it doesn’t really reflect actual ‘advantage’ either player has.

Move Advantage

The term I propose we use instead of card advantage is move advantage. What does it mean? If you have more plays left in hand than your opponent does, you have move advantage. Keep in mind, that you should count move advantage after both players made the same amount of moves; the player to go second in a round does not automatically gain move advantage because it’s their turn and they didn’t make a play yet. A ‘move play’ is one that leaves you with the same amount of cards as you had before, for example playing Decoy.

Power

To gauge the balance of strength on board I propose we use the term power. Power is exactly what it sounds like; it’s the combined strength one has on their board, and you have an advantage in power if you have more power than the opponent does. A power play is one that adds a lot of strength to your board or subtracts a lot of strength from your opponent’s board. A fine example of that is Madman Lugos.

Tempo

Tempo is a really complicated term that has some parts of both move and power. Tempo is a measure of how effectively you trade your move advantage into power or power into move advantage. To ‘have tempo’ you have to keep up with your opponent in both power and moves, so that you don’t fall too far back in either, because otherwise your opponent might just pass and leave you at your disadvantagous position. A good example of a ‘tempo power play’ is playing Witchers, because they put a lot of power on the board for little move investment. A nice ‘tempo move play’ is passing early when you have a big advantage, because then your opponent might be forced to use multiple moves to catch back.

Control

Even though the typical split of aggro/midrange/control doesn’t really apply to this game, control as a term is still applicable, it just means a slightly different thing. To control the round is to set the round’s tempo, to be the one that decides when is the time to end the round and go into the next one. In order to do that you have to keep up in tempo. It usually happens when you’re the player that has won the 1st round.

Combo

A combo is a combination of two or more cards that is more powerful than the sum of those cards in a void. The simplest way one can combo is to have a lot of strength on a row that you then use Commander’s Horn on.

Setup

Setup is just a simple matter of doing a play that benefits further rounds. A good example is using Last Wish to discard Queensguard in order for them to be later on revived. A setup play can still impact your board on the same turn, just like what Clan Tordarroch Shieldsmith does, by increasing base power of a unit that might benefit from that increase over further rounds too.

Counter

A counter play is when you’re disrupting opponents combo, so that it either can’t be done at all or is significantly less effective. A nice example of that is using Stammelford’s Tremors just before your opponent wants to Thunderbolt Potion their Scoia’tel Neophytes.

Stall

Stalling is when you’re playing for time. What it means is that you’re in control and deciding to have you both use your cards in order to go into the next round with a simplified game state. Even if you don’t put too much power onto the board, your opponent still has to respect the cards you have left in your hand and can’t afford to pass out of fear of simply losing the game.


Redrawing

Redrawing is an action constituting of shuffling a card from hand into the deck and then drawing a card.

Thinning

Thinning is any action that reduces the amount of cards left in the deck; drawing, discarding.

Bouncing

Bouncing is a term meaning any action that returns card(s) from the board into the hand.

  • Some excellent points here, I can admit to having used card advantage in the past (though I just used the term, always meant it the same way you do with move advantage) – now I’ve switched to turn advantage, which I think sounds nicer, but it’s not a big deal.

    There are a few things I disagree with though – first off if we are using “power” to talk about the total strength on board, then what do we call non-strength related “power”? I have always gone with strength = the literal strength on the cards, total strength is the total strength on board etc. while “power” is a more general word for how strong something is. As an example I would say Geralt: Igni is a “powerful” card or a card with a lot of power, while I would not say it’s a card with high strength. If power is used for strength on board then what do we call a card like that?

    Second I think even using tempo at all is kind of strange – your definition of sounds a lot like “good” more than conveying anything useful (i.e. witchers are good since they give a lot of strength for little investment, or passing when you are ahead is good since it gains you move advantage). The term has a lot of baggage, and doesn’t mean much in Gwent. In fact I think one of the defining elements of this game is how it doesn’t have tempo since there’s no incentive to push cards out quickly.

    • Dunkoro

      I think move/play advantage could be used interchanginbly pretty easily.

      Power meaning how strong something is still applies; if you remove a lot of strength from opponent’s board that’s just as much (probably even more) power as if you added that much power to your own board, so with that in mind, Igni is still as ‘powerful’ as he ever was.

      This appearance stems from the fact, that most good plays in the game are good plays precisely because they have a lot of tempo. I could easily bring two counterexamples though:
      Playing Crones is a really good tempo play; 21 strength for just one card; but it opens you up to some really easy and really powerful counterplay by your opponent (for example the aforementioned Geralt:Igni).
      On the other hand, most setup plays like Shieldsmith or combo pieces like Hawker Support aren’t really good tempo plays on their own, because they don’t apply as much pressure as soon.
      Additionally, while passing early while having the power advantage in round 2 after winning round 1 might be a great tempo play it might not be the correct play in certain circumstances.

      I like ‘Stall’ as the term specifically because that’s what you’re doing; doing really weak plays and staying behind on power in order to force your opponent to actually use valuable cards out of respect for the cards you have left in hand. The term is not applicable when you’re tempo racing your opponent.

      ‘Move Advantage’ should always signify actual amount of cards in hand; you usually don’t know how many move-neutral cards your opponent might have and thus comparing that to your potential doesn’t make much sense. If you really want to talk about ‘potential move advantage’ then just use that.

      Thank you guys for comments, I really appreciate it.

  • Remachinate

    “Stall” as a term implies a weaker position than the one you’re describing. I’d prefer something like “press” or “push” as a term for being able to force the opponent to keep playing cards in the current round to avoid losing, as it comes from a position of control.

    I’ll also echo the previous comment: what you describe as “tempo” I actually find as a weakness in Gwent. The more cards you have exposed on the board, the more vulnerable you generally are to your opponent’s reactive cards. Given how important move/turn advantage is, you actually want to generally deploy your power very gradually. If you accumulate a large power advantage on your opponent, you can inadvertently give them the ability to “press” you, as you can’t pass without fear of swing cards (Scorch/Weather/ Horn/etc) and end up committing more power than you may have otherwise needed to win the round. For example, If your opponent plays Stennis into your Witcher trio, you’re in a really awkward position in spite of your “tempo”. You can keep committing to an already strong board, or pass and potentially let him catch up with Frost/Igni + one other card, allowing him to win the round for only one net card.

    As for the previous commenter’s question on power, I’d distinguish existing power on board from “value” in hand, which can change depending on board state.

    Finally, I’d like to suggest one other term: “board position”. Given the prominent mechanics that look at highest/lowest strength and row concentration, staggering your cards’ strength and row placement could be considered to have a resilient board position.

  • Aych

    This is great. Given how different Gwent is from other popular card games, it is vital to develop a transparent vocabulary, especially for when streaming/casting tournaments becomes (hopefully) huge. And I am glad that the most influential/best players in the Gwent scene right now are behind this. I have a couple of comments:

    Firstly, move advantage is somewhat ambiguous, as it can refer to either
    1. Which player has more cards left in hand or
    2. Which player has more moves left in the game if all cards in hand are played out.
    For instance, if I have a bronze unit and a decoy in hand, I have 2 moves by the first method, and 3 moves by the second. The second method can get even more ambiguous if you have cards that are able to resurrect spies/decoys. I am not sure which term would be best, as card advantage has a lot of baggage from other card games… how about ‘Hand advantage’ (referring to the first method of calculation). Playing a decoy/spy can then be referred to as making a ‘hand neutral’ play (similar to how cards that draw a card are sometimes called ‘card neutral’ in magic the gathering, for instance).

    Secondly, tempo generally refers to a playstyle that involves using cheap spells to counter or delay your opponent’s expensive plays, to put them at a mana disadvantage. In magic the gathering, tempo plays include bounce spells, or a one mana spell to kill a three mana creature. In hearthstone tempo plays include hunter’s freezing trap, and the popular tempo mage decks uses cheap removal spells in combination with mana wyrms and other cheap creatures to out-tempo their opponent. Migrating this concept to Gwent is difficult, and as A Round of Gwent argued, it carries a lot of baggage. Because of said baggage, I think it can’t mean BOTH trading moves for power and power for moves, as tempo in other games only refers to a one way exchange (between mana and cards).

    Lastly, I think that a ‘disruptive play’ is much better than a ‘counter play’ especially since, as you say in the definition, it means to disrupt your opponent. But once again both counter, and disruption carry a lot of baggage from other games. Stupid card games, taking all the good words for themselves and distorting their meaning.

  • DGThunderer

    I like the idea of renaming card advantage to move advantage. However I strongly disagree with the statement that the player to go second does not have move advantage. This is because the importance of move advantage has to do with powerful last cards like a skirmisher resurrection, dimeritium bomb, Geralt: Igni, or any weather. Going second allows you to have that powerful last say if you’re otherwise tied on move advantage.

    As such, I propose we always talk of move advantage in .5s. If you go second you have 0.5 move advantage just from that. If your opponent plays Decoy or any other move play, he will then have a 0.5 move advantage. Etc. I feel this system is more honest to the impact of move advantage on the game.

    • Dunkoro

      Move advantage and second player advantage are separate things and should be treated as such. The fact that both give you benefit of playing later is irrelevant and I disagree about merging them into one.