Battling a backstreet Gwent grand master in The Witcher 3

Stumbling across an unexpected challenge in the trading district of Novigrad.


In Now Playing articles PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today card duels get serious for Phil Savage in The Witcher 3.

My inventory is bulging. Strong as he is, Geralt can only carry so many goat hides and smoking pipes. I do a tour of Novigrad’s traders, eventually working my way to the bookseller. As I go to flog my many copies of Tyromancy, or the Noble Art of Cheese Divination, I notice the option to play Gwent isn’t greyed out. That means I haven’t played him. If I beat him, I’ll win a card. It should be easy enough. Traders are a pushover. 

I’m playing as Northern Realms, he’s Scoia’tael. I open by placing a Spy, as is my wont. Spy cards are played to an opponent’s board, increasing their attack total but drawing two extra cards to my hand. Having more cards is a big advantage. It’s always worth doing. 

The bookseller plays Decoy, taking my Spy off the board and into his hand. He’ll likely play it next turn, negating my advantage. To protect my lead, I play another Spy. This is when things get silly. As expected, he plays my original Spy. I decoy it. He plays another Spy, and I replay my now twice-decoyed original. Finally, we’re both out. I still have the card advantage, but it’s close. This guy is good! 

Next, Marcus TK Hodgson—he has proven himself worthy, so I shall use his real name—plays Dandelion, a melee card with the Commander’s Horn perk. Every card now placed on his melee row gains double attack power. He follows up with a five point melee card, and then another—the Havekar Smuggler—which has a special ability that instantly calls any card with the same name. In just two moves, he’s added 40 points to his attack value. 

Next, Marcus TK Hodgson—he has proven himself worthy, so I shall use his real name.

I’m impressed, but I’m also a jerk. I play Scorch, burning all of the highest value cards currently in play. His Dandelion-assisted ten point cards are the most powerful, and so all four are destroyed. If someone had done that to me, I’d be fuming. But Marcus is fictional. Instead of raging, he spends the next few turns playing Medics to resurrect his cards. 

I’m working on my own melee trick. The Blue Stripes Commando has Tight Bond, which doubles the strength of any card with the same name. On their own, they’re a measly four points. I have three, shooting me into the lead. He passes, and I win the round. 

For round two, I’m holding nine cards to his eight. Not a great lead, given my earlier Spy shenanigans. To fix that, I play Yennefer—a Medic. She resurrects that original Spy. 

He plays a Commander’s Horn on the ranged row. Fortunately, I have Fog, which weakens ranged cards. I keep it in my proverbial pocket. Kenny Rogers would be proud. 

We each play attack cards, having exhausted our repertoire of tricks. He builds to an 82 to 46 lead and passes, assuming the damage is done. He’s almost right: I’m out of attack cards. If this doesn’t work, even a Poor Fucking Infantry could beat me in the final round. I play Fog, weakening his ranged row, and bringing the score to 54 to 36. Here’s hoping my maths is correct. 

It’s not! I play a Commander’s Horn on my siege row, but it only draws me level. I can’t remember what happens in a draw, but I have no other choice. My last remaining card is Clear Weather, which would put him back in the lead. What happens is we both lose, which means I win. I lose a gem, but still have one remaining. He loses a gem, but it was his last. Good game, Marcus.


Phil has been PC gaming since the '90s, when RPGs had dice rolls and open world adventures were weird and French. Now he's the deputy editor of PC Gamer; commissioning features, filling magazine pages, and knowing where the apostrophe goes in '90s. He plays Scout in TF2, and isn't even ashamed.
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