Faction Identity #4 Northern Realms
Redania, Temeria, and Kaedwin are three of the largest kingdoms within the Northern Realms and the ones we’ll be focusing on, as they are the ones currently present in Gwent. The Northern Kingdoms are a vast grouping of lands, each control by a different rule. These rulers strive to finally unite the North under their banner, although each has their own personal motives as well. When powerful people strive to control others, the obvious consequence is war. As such, war is a constant within these lands. The biggest profiteer from the constant strife has been the Nilfgaardian Empire, which has managed to grow into the mightiest empire in the Witcher world.
“The Northern Realms seek to gain control of the battlefield by reinforcing their numbers. Their valiant commanders march in the front lines to inspire their units and boost their strength. Their troops can be immunized against attacks and weather spells through promotion to Gold status, while Medics can return fallen soldiers to fighting form” -Gwent official site
Themes in the Northern Realms:
The Northern Realms are not as theme-driven as the previous factions, While the other factions in Gwent heavily draw from unique themes from their lore in the Witcher universe, Northern Realms has no such thing with their mechanics and archetypes.
When playing Northern Realms you choose a ruler to lead armies into battle to conquer your foes: the prideful and duty-bound Foltest; the greedy and ill-tempered Henselt; or Radovid the Stern, the Mad King, Uniter of the North and destroyer of non-humans.
Despite a lack of synergy in deckbuilding (the exception being the Blue Stripes Commandos, the special forces of Temeria) the faction conveys the unity and massive combative forces of the kingdoms well. Almost all units are able to synergize with one another across any deck you’ll create. Cards like Reaver Hunter, Field Medic, and Temerian Footsoldiers reinforce the idea of an armed force fighting in the heat of battle.
Unity is also represented within the faction mechanics. Trio is seen primarily within the Northern Realms, with units only able to reach their maximum power with 3 copies on the field. Other units such as Blue Stripes Commando and Vess are summoned to the field under certain conditions.
While mages are deeply rooted in the politics and intrigues of the kingdoms histories, they are not unique to the faction and have no special tribal synergy (at this time, at least).
Greed, Duty and Punishment
Kaedwin: -Henselt and Sabrina
“Known to be excessively greedy and hot-headed, Henselt is the king of Kaedwen, a powerful and expansive land in the North. He in no way resembles the classic image of a king. He is bearded as a robber and has small, penetrating, wandering eyes. Henselt feuds with his neighbors over borders, titles and protectorates. He is also known for his intense hatred of nonhumans.” -Journal entry from the Witcher 1
Henselt is the king of Kaedwin. Most players know him from his role in the Witcher 2, where we learn about the feuds between Kaedwin and Aedirn and the Eternal War.
In this war Sabrina Glevissig, advisor of King Henselt and member of the sorceress lodge led by Philippa Eilhart, used a mighty curse that led to a never-ending war. Henselt, with the help of Geralt of Rivia, was able to lift the curse and free the lands from it. Sabrina herself suffered the fate of being stabbed by one of Henselts’ soldiers and was subsequently burned at the stake. Before that she was a mighty and beautiful sorceress. Rumors circulated that she was so influential and domineering that she ruled Kaedwin more than the king himself. This is why the Gwent version of Sabrina is disloyal (disobeying Henselts orders) with a deathwish ability that curses the opposing board. Henselt is known for being a greedy and arrogant prick, though despite that he is still caring about his soldiers.
In Gwent, Henselt has the ability to summon all copies of a unit you control from your deck to the board. As a player, you must judge when the time is fitting to unleash your army upon your enemies. Used wisely he enables you to overrun your enemies; used unwisely, you’ll quickly find yourself outmatched and unable to keep up with his power.
Temeria: Foltest and Vernon Roche
Foltest was the king of Temeria until a certain Witcher named Letho of Gulet beheaded him at the behest of the Nilfgaardian Empire. He was known as a ruthless and prideful king, but also wise. It is known amongst people that he had an affair with his own sister Adda at a young age. He also likely conceived two children with the Baroness of Valette, Änais and Bussy, whom you meet in the opening scenes of the Witcher 2.
Under Foltests’ reign Temeria became the most powerful kingdom in the Northern Realms. A large part of that success stemmed from the special forces of Temeria, the Blue Stripes. Vernon Roche was the commander of these forces. He was loyal to his king Foltest and served in the Temerian army for many years. He plays an important part in the Witcher stories, particularly in the Witcher 2 where you are able to accompany him through the entire game.
In their mission to infiltrate Kaedwin the Blue Stripes commando forces were caught and butchered by Henselt. Only Ves remained alive, because Henselt raped her instead. In revenge Vernon kills him - or at least does so if you let him in the Witcher 2.
In CD Projekt Red´s version of Witcher lore he joins Radovid in his goal for a free northern kingdom, as he believes it is the best way to serve Foltest´s legacy.
Redania: Radovid, the Stern and Phillipa Eilhart
Radovid is king of Redania and the 5th of his name. He is one of the few characters to appear in all three Witcher titles, with an increasing importance to the overall storyline in each. Many see him as the most evil and dangerous human within the Northern Realms, potentially the entire world. Compared to the hot-headed Henselt and Foltest he is much more calculated. Radovid weights every option with cold efficiency, has no qualms about using any means necessary if the situation calls for it. This is seen in the war between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms, when Radovid uses the invading winterto overrun and take control of a weakened Kaedwin. This move ultimately leads to Radovid being the strongest king in the north and leading the combined forces against the Nilfgaardian Empire. The outcome of this war is left to the player within the Witcher 3.
Radovid also shares a very special relationship with one of the key mages within the series, Phillipa Eilhart. Phillipa was the advisor for King Vizimir, Radovid’s father, for many years until her machinations had him murdered. After that event Radovid´s hatred towards Phillipa and mages as a whole swelled to unparalleled lengths. He later receives his revenge, if only partially, when he imprisons Phillipa and gouges her eyes out with a blazing iron.
He believes that every mage is rotten to the core and eliminating them entirely is the only solution. This bottomless hatred has led to the expulsion or execution of mages throughout the kingdoms, even in cities such as Novigrad that were formerly havens for the magically gifted. His obsession has made Radovid go mad and makes him irrational and dangerous as a leader.
In Gwent, Radovid is able to deal damage and lock units, a very fitting ability for someone so manipulative and ruthless. The lock mechanic also does him justice as it enables strategic usage of his ability, which goes back to him being a great tactician and chess player. While a powerful effect, it is somewhat meta dependent, as the Lock portion of the ability can be ineffective against many units.
Next week, we continue our look at the factions with the alliance of non humans, the Scoia’tael.
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