Faction Identity #2: Skellige
Skelligers embrace death’s glory, knowing their priestesses and medics can summon departed heroes from the Graveyard to fight another day. A Skellige player sends units to the Graveyard on purpose… only to bring them back later, stronger than ever. Skelligers also turn wounds to their favor by inciting their bloodied warriors to attack with redoubled strength.
- CD Projekt Red on the official Gwent Site
Culture and Structure of Skellige
Do you remember the first time you set foot in Skellige in The Witcher 3?
The song “Fields of Ard Skellig “ sets in and you’re surrounded with a beautiful, wild land. You were shown tough, fearless people with that Irish accent you got used to after some time. Skellige truly had a lot to offer, both in terms of visuals and in terms of culture. Translating the feel of this primal land makes the identity of Skellige in Gwent.
Skellige is an archipelago of six islands. Each of the seven clans are ruled by a Jarl, and a ruler is chosen from among these Jarls that governs the entire kingdom. Skellige itself belongs to the Northern Kingdom, but it sets itself so far apart in culture and pure distance that it stands alone. Skellige culture and structure is largely inspired by the Scandinavian Viking culture; if you didn´t know the voice actors for Skellige were using an Irish Accent it could be confused with a Scandinavian accent. In general Skelligers are very direct people; a good example of that is this scene starring Geralt, Lugos, Yennefer and Donar An Hindar. You have problems with someone? Someone insulted your dear wife? Just let the fists fly and all shall be forgotten. Afterwards you have a drink together, to prove there is no bad blood between you.
Skellige is split into seven clans: The big ones are Tuirseach and An Craite, which rule over the biggest islands in Skellige and represented most Kings in the history of Skellige. The others Clans are: Brokvar, Heymaey, Dimun, Drummond and Tordarroch. You can probably recognize those names from some of the Gwent cards, those names indicate which clan they stand for. Each clan has different colours to represent their clan. Honor and family are very important values for Skelligers and the Clans in particular.
Harald the Cripple: Not much is known about Harald and he is only mentioned in the Witcher books. He ruled Skellige three centuries before the timeline of the Witcher 3.
In Gwent he has the ability to damage units on the opposing site, which has the highest amount of potential output, boardswings and control amongst any of the 3 Skellige Leaders.
Birna Bran after she got punished for her betrayal
King Bran: Bran was the uncle of Crach an Craite, and Brother of Eist Tuirseach. His wife was Birna Bran and his son Svanrige. In the Witcher 3, he just died then we came to Skellige and the first big Scene we saw in Skellige was his burial at See ,which led to the 5 Clans fighting over who wins the “Konung” and can represent the next King of Skellige. The 3 candidates left at the end of the main-quest were King Brans son Svanrige Tuirseach and Crach An Craite´s son Hjalmar and his daughter Cerys. By the end of the Skellige arc, we find out that Birna Bran, his own wife was the one behind the murder of Bran. Thats why Birna is a disloyal, which lets you draw and discard/sacrifice a card. In her case you can transition that ability to her Sacrificing/Discarding her Husband King Bran to “draw” their Son Svanrige and help him become the new King.
King Bran is represented as Gwent card with the ability to discard (sacrifice) 3 units from your deck, making him having heavy Graveyard Synergy, which refers back to his own death in the Witcher lore.
Crach An Craite: Crach is the father to Hjalmar and Cerys. Hjalmar is the classic Bersker-flavoured warrior, who fights for his honor and family. He represents also the adventurer Viking, who seeks new challenges and lands to conquer. As strong, loyal and charming as he is, he is lacking in the brain department. Cerys, on the other hand, is calmer and tries to find alternative solutions for problems. She has a strong will and is also a very strong woman. She is also very smart, which is shown in her main-quest in the witcher 3, when we have to deal with a complicated curse and she comes up with a brave idea and we ultimatively had to trust her instincts and intelligence, when we got asked to throw the baby into the oven. In Gwent he is able to summon the highest unit in the deck, strengthen it and afterwards dealing 1 damage to it, making him not only having synergie with the warcry archetype, but also with his subordinates, the Cran An Craite warriors. Fun Fact: *He once had a small affair with Yennefer.
Themes represented in Gwent
The largest theme within the Skellige faction is death and resurrection.
In The Witcher 3 this topic was very present in the Skellige quests; starting with the death of King Bran and continuing through Skalds death and the topic of Necromancy. Hjalmar and Cerys are also key figures in quests that deal with the questions of life and death.
In Gwent this is represented through the ability to not only resurrect units from the Graveyard, but also synergy with units dying,- transformation in graveyard, getting stronger for every unit which died and last but not least discarding. While the discard mechanic may seem strange for the faction, it fits well within these themes.
Skelliges’ views on life, death, and ressurection are largely based on their belief in the cult and the gods of their forefathers. Freya is the goddess of fertility, love and beauty, also known as the Great Mother. The people of Skellige, particularly the priestesses, are highly devout people. In Gwent this is represented by the Priestess of Freya, Sigrdrifa, and Restoration. Speaking of beliefs, the Skelligers have a multitude of legends and prophecies flying around in their culture. One of these prophecies states that in the final Battle “Ragh Nar Roog” between the forces of good and evil, the magical rooster Kambi will awaken the mythical hero Hemdall to fight against the forces of evil. This is the origin of the Kambi as a card in Gwent, and the legend itself is likely based on “Ragnarök” from Norse Mythology. Hemdall is likely based on a hero from Norse Mythology called Heimdallr.
Another theme heavily represents by Skellige is the force of nature. Druids are unique to Skellige; and they don´t believe in Freya or any of the other religions of the land. Instead, they believe in the power of nature itself and gain their strength through it. This includes calling upon the aid of animals in battles (Savage Bear) or even the weather itself (Skellige Storm). They despise mages like Yennifer and Phillipa for their manipulation and destruction of nature, an opinion that is shared with most denizens of the isles.
Skelligers are a tough and resilient people, having spent centuries living in the most unforgiving and hostile of landscapes . This constant barrage from the elements has instilled the people with a resistance towards these harsh conditions. Some Skelligers have become obsessed with fighting to the point of seeking out opponents, believing they will become stronger the longer a fight goes on and gain strength or even transform when in dire circumstances. This classic berserker theme is shown by cards like Raging Berserker, Berserker Marauder and Warcry. Additionally, the Skelligers are also people of the sea, a natural byproduct of being surrounded by the sea. It’s no surprise a healthy portion of the factions cards reflect this theme (Boats, Pirates) or have some weather-influenced abilities (Coral, Blueboy Lugos).
If we want we can sum the most important themes in Skellige up to:
Death, Resurrection and Sacrifice
Bears, Nature and Strength
In the future it might be an option for CD Projekt Red to further delve into the clan culture of Skellige; for example, giving each tribe a unique tag or generating synergy between the various clan cards. Another idea could be expanding on the religion and the culture of Skellige. Due to the harsh environments that surround the fierce kingdom, I also suspect more weather and nature-based cards are in the factions future.
Faction-Identity #1: Introduction and explanation~ 02.05
Faction-Identity #2: Skellige ~ 09.05
Faction-Identity #3: Nilfgaard ~ 23.05
Faction-Identity #4:Northern Realms ~ 30.05
Faction-Identity #5: Scoia´tel ~06.05
Faction-Identity #6: Monster ~ 13.06