Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about gameplay.
Unlike most CCGs, the objective of Gwent is to score more points than your opponent in a Best-of-3-rounds scenario. As you play your units, spells and artifacts, they will contribute points to your point total shown on the right side of the board. Players continue to alternate turns, playing one card at a time each, until both players either pass or run out of cards.
In order to close out the game, players will look to preserve their best cards for the final round, and sequence them as efficiently as possible for maximum value. The player that wins the first round typically has an advantage here, since they will have the opportunity to exhaust their opponents resources in the second round, or pass early and preserve their strongest cards for a longer third round. Different deck archetypes perform better in short or long rounds. For example, engine-based decks generate points each turn, and thus gain more points in a (10) card round than they would in a (4) card round.
The other advantage of winning the first round is the ability to secure “last say”. This term describes the ability to play the final card in the game, meaning that your opponent will be unable to respond to it. Decks that typically seek to gain “last say” are decks that have strong unit finishers, such as Harald Gord and Ozzrel.
When the game starts, each player will draw (10) cards and have the opportunity to mulligan away individual cards. At the beginning of each round thereafter, players will draw up to (3) cards to a maximum of (10) total cards. For example, if you only play two cards in the first round before deciding to pass, you will only draw (2) cards at the beginning of the second round. Since you do not draw at the beginning of each turn, the length of the final round is determined by how many cards each player commits in the rounds prior. It is common to see players passing in the first round at either (7) or (4) cards, since they will easily be able to regain a full hand of cards as they move into the final round.
Your ability to gain round control may often be influenced by the coin toss. At the beginning of the game, a coin is flipped to determine who goes first. Unlike other CCGs, going first is a disadvantage in Gwent, since the second player (red) will always have the ability to pass without conceding card advantage. The first player (blue) will receive an additional mulligan and the ability to use their deck’s stratagem (ie. Tactical Advantage). This card will appear in the center of the melee row and can be activated on any turn during the first round.
On your turn, you may choose to play your cards on either the melee or ranged row. There are many factors that may influence your decision. Certain cards have abilities that are locked to a particular row, such as Pavko Gale or An Craite Longship. In other situations, your opponent may have a particular response in their deck that affects your unit placement and sequencing. Nilfgaard, for example, has the ability to play Assassination which does increased damage to isolated units. If you suspect your opponent is using Assassination in their deck list, you may choose to stack your units onto the same row to prevent them from being easily removed.
Lastly, your leader ability can be activated from the left-side of the screen at any time during your turn. Be warned that using your leader ability, like all other Order abilities (see entry in Glossary) does not consume your turn, meaning that you will have to play a card from your hand as well. If your leader ability has multiple charges, such as Rage of the Sea, you are able to use all (3) charges in the same turn, should you so choose.
The objective of the game is fairly straight-forward. At the end of the final round, the player with the highest point total wins. It is up to you however to give yourself the best possible chances of achieving this. Learn your deck’s win condition and plan your strategy accordingly. Each match-up requires a different approach, and each game, a different play. Do your best to learn these skills early on, and your climb up the ranked ladder will be smooth and steady.