Friday, April 30 marked the worldwide pre-release of Monarch, the fourth expansion in the Flesh and Blood (FaB) Trading Card Game. Regardless of your focus, be it Magic: the Gathering, Pokemon, Yugioh or sports cards, the growth of Flesh and Blood and collecting cards has been exponential and undeniable.
It wasn’t until I watched the presentation by Flesh and Blood creator James White at the Local Game Store Conference, presented by ChannelFireball, that I dug deeper and learned that this man spent two decades of his life and career preparing to create a publisher that would do things right. Immediately upon turning open the cover of the first hardcover lore book, every LGS owner, collector and player is greeted with the words “Trading Card Games [TCG’s] are an incredible medium for bringing people together. Their unifying force transcends age, race, religion, gender and even social status, through a common language of ‘playing great games.’” These are James’ words, and an extension of LSS’ core mission.
But how, in such an incredibly competitive industry and in the midst of a global pandemic, has this game been so massively successful? What can other gaming companies, both established and new, learn from this?
First, a staunch commitment to in-person play. Recently I walked to the prerelease location from my home in Manhattan, passing by the typical NYC traffic, lost tourists and makeshift cardboard homes for those down on their luck. Only a year ago, these telltale signs of NYC were completely gone, and my home felt like a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The Big Apple has come back in a big way, but somehow making my way to a prerelease to enjoy the game with others made the return to normal more real than ever. When I arrived at Montasy Comics, NYC’s favorite local game store (LGS), I could hardly contain my excitement.
However, to my dismay, the gaming tables were still put away. The proprietor explained that he had decided to keep the community safe and would not fully open for live events until big publishers announced sanctioned events in the coming months.
Legend Story Studios (LSS) has had every opportunity to throw in the towel when it comes to in-person gaming and transition to a purely online experience. But they’ve stayed the course. Through the release of Arcane Rising just after the pandemic hit to Crucible of War months later to Monarch today, LSS remains steadfast in their goal of bringing gamers together to enjoy an experience that they understand is as much social and physical as it is mental. Just like LSS’s mission, I cannot wait “to bring people together in the Flesh and Blood through the common language of playing great games” again.
Early on in FaBled Hunters (the YouTube project where I perform 1st edition FaB box openings, among other things), I did a collaboration with a well-known establishment in Denton, Texas called Reaper Game Store. They gifted me a LSS “Retailer Appreciation Kit” for my involvement, which was an exclusive gift sent to each LGS by LSS in appreciation for carrying the Flesh and Blood product. Upon opening the box, I saw a little business card that had “LSS” in gold foil and on the other side, also in cursive gold foil, read “Thank you for opening your doors day after day, so that people may come together to play great games.”
Since establishing FaBled Hunters, I can honestly say I have never been welcomed in any community the way I was greeted as a content creator for Flesh and Blood. Big or small, nearly every single content creator has welcomed me with open arms – and I have worked to pay it forward, answering questions, hosting online events and creating content as I continue to search for the elusive fabled cards.
It’s been so refreshing to engage with a community that has such a passion for playing and collecting this game and spreading LSS’s vision to the global TCG community! There will always be those folks that accuse others of being too focused on financial value of this hobby, but the journey, experiences and “the friends we made along the way” are what this FaB adventure has really been about.
I have seen over and over again the positive engagement LSS has directly with their community as well. From the handwritten notes and surprise playmat gifts James White sends to content creators and tournament winners, to the feedback from partners that have the pleasure of doing business with LSS noting what a uniquely great experience it is working with them.
It’s clear that there’s a passion for more than just the bottom line when it comes to LSS, but the bottom line is important. And not just to LSS, but also to the stores both small and large, that rely on LSS to create a great product for their customers.
Unlike certain other games/publishers that have recently distanced themselves from the LGS community in a race to the bottom, LSS understands what an important (and difficult) role the LGS plays in both their success and the success of TCG’s generally. LSS has gone above and beyond to support this important community, who oftentimes unfairly bear the brunt of customer ire at the price of singles and especially sealed product, who don’t understand that FaB is one of the few products that can be truly profitable to an LGS. A profitable LGS is one that stays in business.
I would be remiss, as a content creator on this platform, if I didn’t also include ChannelFireball (CFB) in this discussion. CFB is the largest distributor in the world of FaB products, and I believe one of the few that have contractually secured the privilege of a direct relationship with LSS. As a player, a collector, a content creator and a genuine advocate of ChannelFireball, I’m glad that they bet on LSS, because they made the right move and are doing what they can for supporting the future of TCG’s worldwide.
TCGs don’t have a history of transparency. You have to go back to the very earliest Magic sets to have any sense of print run numbers, and WotC is notoriously tight-lipped about its internal machinations. LSS to-date has been groundbreaking in their willingness to share information and news about their company and product.
First, they provide timely communication on matters important to the community (which requires that they actually be a part of the community). When it was discovered that the Monarch pre-made Blitz decks would include full-art versions of the new “mentor” cards, people immediately began buying up and hoarding this product, expecting them to retain value as a collectible. LSS promptly released a statement that these decks would be printed as long as there was interest, ensuring that prices would remain stable and these decks would be available to all players.
Their response to the delayed shipping of Monarch 1st Edition was also a lesson in PR excellence, communicating the delay as soon as they knew that the Suez Canal blockage meant shipments would be late and choosing to airlift the remaining supply at their cost to minimize delays.
Second, their transparency with regard to the collectable aspect of the game shows a unique support for the collecting community. LSS is releasing the print runs of all their first edition sets once they are no longer in print. Additionally, they provide the breakdowns of the frequencies of each card type (for example, in Welcome to Rathe, there is one card of Legendary rarity in every 96 packs). This information allows collectors to know just how rare their cards actually are, and gives a unique look into the process and approach of the launch and expansion of a new TCG.
I welcome any and all to explore the world of Rathe, even if it’s just a moment. It’s okay to seek excitement and wonder outside of the worlds of Dominaria and Kanto after all and FaB is a place where you’re always welcome no matter what other interests you have!