Collectible or Trading Card Games (CCGs or TCGs respectively) are always dangerous territory, well at least for me. There is an undeniable joy to opening booster packs and pulling cards that you need, or a worth a wedge of notes. But I always find playing them a bit more difficult. I’ve long resisted Magic the Gathering but did dabble in Keyforge with its unique deck premise. I’d heard of Flesh & Blood (FaB) but only that it sold out quick and seemed to be super popular. That was the extent of my interest until recently…
Due to my young nephew catching the Pokémon collecting itch, I got slightly addicted to opening packs and sending him the cards. All the joy with none of the space taken up by loads of cards! But really I wanted more, I wanted some cards to keep and a game to play that I enjoyed. So began my descent into Flesh & Blood.
FaB is a hero based duelling game. What this means is that each player will select a hero, give them some equipment and play to the death against another hero. What form this takes depends on how far you dive into the rabbit hole.
The main way to play is through 60-80 card constructed decks with a hero that has around 40 health. This was my first hesitation with FaB as I struggle to construct smaller decks than in games requiring it. One of my attractions to Keyforge was that I didn’t have to get a lot of boosters to have a chance of making a competitive deck. Fortunately, Legend Story Studios, the team behind FaB, seem to know what they are doing. FaB includes ‘young’ heroes with half their older counterparts’ health, who play with a 40 card ‘blitz’ deck. You can construct these, but there are 7 pre constructed Blitz Decks to buy at the time of writing with another 2 on the way soon.
For anyone looking to start playing FaB these Blitz Decks are an excellent place to begin. They don’t come packaged with any rules though, you’ll have to find these on the official website. Speaking of which don’t dive straight into the comprehensive rules set, unless you want to be scared off! The quick start rules are more than enough to get you going. It helps that a lot of the cards explain their keywords in the text printed on them. You can pick up multiple Blitz Decks in bundles here on Zatu!
Also coming to the market soon is the first ‘Classic Battles’ set. Two blitz decks with special foil cards and a book of lore around this battle. It’s more expensive than grabbing two normal Blitz Decks but does have some extras thrown in.
Resourceful Card Play
The basic play of FaB is quite straight forward. You will take your hero and equip them with a weapon or 2, depending on how many hands it takes to hold them. Then you may also place equipment on the head, chest, arms and legs of your hero (in the space to the left of your play area). Your deck goes on the right and you draw up to your initiative. This is the number in the bottom left of the hero card, usually four. Cards come in several types with the most costing resources to play. The number of resources is in the top right of the card. To earn resources you must pitch another card.
Pitching produces 1-3 resources depending on the icon on the top left of a card. A pitched card also gets placed on the bottom of your deck at the end of your turn. You have one action point to use per turn unless you play a card with ‘go again’ or activate an effect with ‘go again’. Go again is one of the key abilities in the game allowing you to string out impressive combos should you play well!
Most of the time you will want to be attacking your opponent. To do so you play a card from your hand, or one of your weapons, to the combat zone - paying any resources you need to by pitching cards. Your opponent can then play as many cards as they like from their hand or equipment to defend themselves, adding up the shield values on the bottom of those cards. They do not pay resources for these cards. Then each player gets a chance to react. First the attacker can play attack reaction cards, paying resources as usual, and the same for the defender with defence reaction cards. Both can play as many as they want, or they can play them one at a time to try and tease out your opponents moves.
If you are anything like me reading this on the page will have caused concern that this is a drawn out long complicated process of back and forth, however this is not the case. Usually, both players will only have 4 cards to play with, for the attacker they will want to use them all but the defender will not draw back up until the end of their turn. Meaning any card they defend with is unavailable for their next turn. The one action limit and need to play cards with ‘go again’ to extend this will also keep this process punchy.
FaB plays out in visceral quick battles where euro mechanics like managing your hand, deck and resources. Knowing when to take a hit to hit back harder is essential, and a thill to get right. Each hero has their own strengths, weaknesses and play styles which you will need to lean into to do well. Heroes are split into types, ninjas, wizards, warriors and so on are joined by more unusual types like Mechanologist. Within this are heroes with their own sub flavour. It’s a lot of variety.
Not All Rosey
One of the negatives of TCGs is they don’t provide everything you need… some cards will mention dice, but you don’t get any. Some mention markers, you don’t get any. Thankfully due to its popularity you can get third party solutions, or just use dice! There is also a handy app on iOS at least.
If you really get into it you can booster pack your way to full adult heroes and 60-80 card decks. But this isn’t necessary to enjoy the game. I find the 20 min match ups Blitz provides to be perfectly sized battles! If you want to get a bit fancier then the new Classic Battles set provides a good option, and more Blitz Decks are being added in the Uprising set in June.
Boost Me Up
So far there have been a number of booster sets. Some of these provide new heroes and cards for them, whereas some like the most recent Everfest are supplemental boosters providing cards for all hero types.
Each booster set comes in a limited run first edition, followed by an unlimited run. For collectors, first edition cards are more sought after and valuable but thanks to rarity levels and rainbow and cold foils even unlimited run cards can fetch a fair penny. First edition runs did include rarer cards but from Uprising on there will be no differential - only one run. Also, the History Boosters have been released issuing the best cards from the first year with white borders instead of black, but still will the same rarity spread and foils.
All in all, now is the perfect time to jump into FaB. There is a strong user base and the team behind the game seems to know what they are doing. Opening boosters has never been so fun.