Basic Gameplay for Beginners
Welcome, Aretuza Novice, to our course Basic Gameplay for Beginners! The lessons in this course are aimed towards complete Gwent beginners. We will introduce you to the basic rules and card mechanics of Gwent. You will learn about rows, different types of cards, keywords and many other factors that make playing Gwent a unique experience. After completing this course, you will be able to play and understand Gwent, as well as move onto more detailed content that we have prepared for you in our other courses.
Contributors: Writing: lordgort & Easha Dustfeather; Review & Editing: SwanDive.
Gwent's game board has two rows per player, which adds a tactical feel to the digital card game genre. In this lesson, the row system and how to use it to your advantage will be discussed.
Melee and Ranged Row
Each player has a Melee row and a Ranged row. The Melee rows meet in the middle of the game board, while your Ranged row appears closest to you and your opponent's Ranged row is the one farthest away. They are also marked by a row icon at the right side of the battlefield: A sword for the Melee and a crossbow for the Ranged row.
Each row can have a maximum of nine cards. Units, artifacts and stratagems all count for a row limit.
If both of your rows are full, left-clicking a unit or artifact in your hand will manually Discard - move to the graveyard - right away. Special cards can still be played, even if they Summon units to the board. If cards Spawn and Summon units to a row, they will do so until the row limit is hit. For example, playing Germain Piquant on a row with seven cards in it will grant you just one Cow (Germain is the eighth card, and the one Cow is the ninth, reaching the row limit).
Of course units and artifacts can leave the game board as well: Your opponent can destroy them, of course, to open up a slot, but you can also Consume a unit or move one.
The end of a round clears the game board.
Certain cards have different effects depending on where they are placed. For example, Yennefer of Vengerberg is almost like two cards in one.
- Play it on the Melee row, and its Deploy ability will damage all other units by 2.
- Play it on the Ranged row, and its Deploy ability will boost all other units by 2 instead.
Other cards simply have no effect if they're on the "wrong" row. You could play Geralt: Professional on the Ranged row, but its Deploy ability won't happen at all! A warning will appear if you try to play a card with such an effect in the wrong row. You can disable it in the game options. Make sure you know which row is best for each of your cards, and plan ahead so you don't run out of room.
Other examples of the importance of card placement: “Pockets” and adjacent effects (crew abilities such as that of Kerack Frigate or Tunnel Drill; Temerian Drummer), offensive effects on adjacent cards (Treason, Red Haze), row punish effects (Saber-Tooth Tiger: Stealth, Geralt: Igni, Brehen), row swarm effects (you want a clean row for Keldar or Lieutenant Von Herst; disabling row-locked cards); movement effects (Cat Witcher Mentor+Gaetan interaction - if Cat Witcher Mentor is placed on the leftmost spot of a row and Gaetan is played on the row afterwards, the Mentor moves first and boosts himself for every other card moved; Dryad Matron always moves to the rightmost spot, benefiting from being played on the left; Cat Witcher moving to ranged row before Gezras of Leyda moves there gives you one more point from Gezras if he meets Adrenaline 3); etc.
Many interactions like these depend on the order of card abilities ticking that is rooted in Gwent’s coding. Ongoing card abilities always trigger from left to right, melee row first. Another example of this is the interaction between Imke and Saul de Navarette. If Saul is placed anywhere on the right to Imke, she gives you two more coins, so if you have 7 coins and gain 2 more, you will meet Saul’s condition to boost himself by 3, and he will, because Imke’s abilitiy goes off before his. But only with this placement. If Saul was on the melee row (Imke being locked to ranged) or anywhere on the left from her, his ability would tick before Imke gives you the 2 coins, boosting himself only by 2. This article explains the topic in more detail.
Row effects are exactly what they sound like: They create an effect on a specific row. Row effects most often come from units or special cards. For example, the Deploy ability of Geralt: Yrden will reset all units on a row, while Impenetrable Fog damages the lowest unit on a row by 2 for four turns.
If a row is affected by a lingering row effect, you can hover over the row icon to learn more.
Movement between Rows
Some cards like Strays of Spalla can move units from one row to the other. A unit will always be moved to the rightmost place on the new row.
This has several uses. If you apply Impenetrable Fog to the opponent's Melee row and the opponent doesn’t put any units there, a movement effect can pull one of your opponent’s unit right into the fog. Movement can also get your units out of danger and can be used to interrupt rowlocked abilities of cards, such as Reinforced Trebuchet.
Moving units between rows can set up later plays worth many points. For example, moving all the opponent's highest units to a single row can set up a devastating Geralt: Yrden or Lacerate. Of course, a wise opponent will make counterplays, and a whole round can center on one player trying to set up Igni and the other fighting against it.
Some cards, for example Dunca or Griffin Witcher, are row-locked only for one of their abilities. Dunca, moved from melee to ranged, will no longer be available to deal 3 damage, but her ability to boost cards in your hand will still proc. Similarly, Griffin Witcher’s order ability won’t be usable on the ranged row, but his Adrenaline 3 effect will still go off. This is suggested by the cards’ ability text as well, so it is important to read cards carefully.
Gwent's row system adds a tactical element to an already complex digital card game. Make sure you know where to place your cards, use movement to set up future plays and think about what your opponent might be doing to stop your plan. Good luck, and have fun!
Green Cricket is one of the heads of Aretuza, creating an environment where players and content creators can thrive and continuously improve themselves. In addition to his work at Aretuza, he runs a Gwent YouTube channel for beginners and advanced players alike. He teaches how to become better at Gwent and offers one in-depth Gwent guide each week as inspiration.