During my first playthrough of The Witcher 3 I avoided Gwent like the plague. I had zero interest in learning some stupid card game and sold every card that came into my possession. After having a pretty good time playing poker in RDR2, I decided to give Gwent another look. Guess what? It’s real fun.

The game itself is fairly basic. You play against an NPC using one of 5 decks of cards: Skellige (only available with the Blood & Wine DLC), Northern Realms, Nilfgard, Monsters or Scoiatel. Each card carries a different value and Hero cards (the ones with a gold star around the number) aren’t effected by special cards. Special cards (weather, decoy, scorch) can be used to reduce the value of your opponents cards or rescue cards from the board. If you’re looking for info on where to find all of the cards, IGN published a great guide on where to get many of the good cards here.

Initially, you’re going to need to take whatever cards you can buy from Innkeepers or Shop Owners. That means that you’ll have a lot of low value cards that you eventually remove from your active deck. If the card is a summon card, you should keep it, but only if you have multiple cards from the same group. These cards are more valuable if you’re using Monsters or Scoiatel

You are dealt 10 (or 11 depending on your leader). After this initial deal, you’ll need to discard 2 cards and will be given 2 more. After this swap your game begins. The goal is to get the other player to pass and win the round by having the highest number of points on the table. Once you find out which deck your opponent is playing with, it’s easy to decide on a strategy.

Nilfgard and Northern Realms are the easiest decks to build out in the early game, so use those when you’re just starting out. Once you’ve built out Monsters and Scoiatel, try your luck with them- even though they’re slightly more difficult to master. Also don’t forget to check inns and merchants for cards for sale- they may not be the best, but in the beginning you’ll need as many as you can get.

General Strategy Tips

If your opponent is using either Monsters or Scoiatel deck, the Frost or Fog cards can be a big help freezing out huge strings of cards, otherwise- don’t bother with weather cards.

Keep your deck small if you’re using Northern Realms or Nilfgard. You only need to have 22 cards, which means that if you use everything, you could end up being dealt a bunch of worthless junk.

Play everyone. There are special Gwent quests in each region, but most blacksmiths, bartenders and other vendors are up for a game. Play them and get some good cards as rewards.

Rather than starting a new game from the beginning and grinding through the main storyline, you can load the Blood and Wine DLC. It’s a great way to get started with a lot of money and no distractions.

Get as many spy cards as you can find. These guys will win for you- especially if you’re playing agains the hordes of monsters that the higher level players use.