The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt got a lot of things right: It had visceral action sequences, evocative characters, dynamic environments, and Gwent – an unexpectedly gripping tabletop game that served as the perfect pastime for anyone who grew tired of incinerating alghouls or chasing after Ciri. I fondly remember committing entire gameplay sessions to building unstoppable decks and entering high-stakes tournaments. Long before the many tweaks that Gwent underwent for its standalone release, the popular card game was refreshingly easy to pick up, even for an amateur tabletop player like me.
Sometimes, I need a break from the overwhelming immensity of contemporary open worlds. Gwent was that perfect reprieve, and by taking inspiration from Gwent, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Orlog has become my latest minigame obsession.
Orlog is a game of chance where players are tasked with depleting their opponent’s health pool (15 points in total). After a customary coin toss decides who goes first, competitors spend subsequent turns rolling handfuls of dice that have varying abilities. Depending on the symbols you roll, you can deal damage with axes and arrows, defend yourself from attacks, or gain tokens that can be traded for God Favors – ultimate abilities that have a range of game-changing effects that include health restoration or bonus damage.
Like Gwent, Orlog is relatively simple to understand (the in-game tutorial is solid), but difficult to master. The fact that you and your opponent can always see each other’s dice and available God Favors gives the game a heightened sense of urgency. Because your rolls are always random, sure-fire strategies can fall apart at any moment, so you need to be flexible with prospective decisions. I love tweaking tactics on the fly; Orlog rewards iteration and adaptation. In one of my earliest matches, I chose to rely on defensive dice so that I could prevent incoming damage. This worked exceedingly well for a few rounds, until my opponent collected enough tokens to activate Vidar’s Might, a God Favor that allowed their attacks to bypass my armor. Immediately, I knew that I had to prioritize token-stealing die so that I would never have to worry about that God Favor ever again. Easier said than done, of course.
Once you’ve depleted your adversary’s health and claimed victory, you’re given their best God Favor, just like how defeated Gwent players would fork over their unique cards. Because of this, I enjoyed traversing Valhalla’s expansive England to find Orlog players to test my skills against. Additionally, experimenting with God Favors (you can only equip three at a time) reminded me of all the hours I’ve sunk into collecting the myriad Faction Leader cards in Wild Hunt. I won’t go so far as to say that Orlog’s mechanics are as impressive and polished as Gwent’s. Overall, I wish that Valhalla had more NPCs to challenge. A cleaner, comprehensible UI for approachability would be nice too. And, as of right now, there just aren’t enough God Favors to pad the minigame in meaningful ways. But the potential for a more replayable and captivating tabletop experience is definitely there.
Orlog feels like a love letter to what made/continues to make Gwent so engrossing and fun. If Ubisoft Montreal ever decides to implement updates that add extra die faces, side-quest tournaments, and new God Favors, Orlog might warrant its own digital or physical game.