Heroes fight in a battle to the death in the world of Rathe. In Flesh & Blood (FAB), each player becomes the hero—fighting their opponent with gorgeously designed cards and wildly fun strategies. First debuted in October 2019, FAB centers players as the hero of their own story in a game that is both unique and engaging.
Heroes begin the game on the playfield with their Weapons and Equipment attached. Just as a hero walks into battle ready, players begin the game at their strongest in Flesh & Blood. Each player’s Hero determines their minimum hand size, life total, and the class of cards that can be included in the deck.
A major difference between Flesh & Blood and other trading card games, like Magic: The Gathering, is that every card can perform multiple functions. Therefore, there is never a card in a player’s hand that cannot be utilized. Additionally, players draw their full hand at the end of their turn—but only on their turn. This makes it essential for players to consider how to best utilize each card in their hand.
If it sounds complicated, frankly, it is. But once you’ve surmounted the learning curve, Flesh & Blood is an exciting, fast-paced, and fresh TCG. There is a jovial spirit to Flesh & Blood that brings together the beautiful artwork and strategic gameplay seamlessly. This complete guide for learning how to play Flesh & Blood will cover the following topics:
- What is Flesh and Blood?
- Flesh & Blood Hero Classes
- The Anatomy of a FAB Card
- What Does “Go Again” Mean?
- FAB Card Types
- How to Play Flesh & Blood
- How to Set Up the Play Area
- FAB Formats
- Where to Play Flesh & Blood
What Is Flesh and Blood?
Flesh and Blood is a trading card game where you are the hero, and your goal is to defeat the opposing hero. When I say you are a hero, I mean that you are the main character.
Take a look at the Hero below. This Hero is part of the Wizard class, which means the deck would include only other Wizard and Generic class cards. This can be seen at the bottom center of the card.
In the lower left corner is the Hero’s Intellect. This is the hand size the player begins with, and the number of cards they draw to at the end of their turn. In the lower right corner is the Hero’s starting life total. This is usually 40 for adult Heroes and 20 for Young Heroes, though there are exceptions (like with the card above).
Flesh & Blood is a 1v1 battle to the death. Every card you play represents a weapon you use, an attack or defense action you take, and so on. You aren’t summoning minions to do the fighting for you, you are getting your hands dirty yourself. The entire feel of the game is different from any other as a result – it’s all about tactics, sequencing, and micro-decisions in combat. Let’s dive into how it works.
Flesh & Blood Hero Classes
Flesh & Blood decks are built around a Hero. Every deck must conform to that Hero’s class, although Generic cards can be included as well. (There are also “Elemental Class cards, which can be played only by Elemental heroes of that specific class.”) Each class represents a style of play. Abbas Dedanwala discusses the importance of playing different classes as a competitive player:
“Like many TCG’s, each design space and hero associated with it appeals to different players. Those who like big swingy attacks may tend toward Guardians and Brutes, whereas those who like to endlessly attack in long chains may lean into Mechaologists or Ninjas.
“The weakness of this sort of polarizing design space however is that you can become fantastic at certain skills which pertain to your class and horridly weak at those that do not, all while never noticing it occur…This struggle is extremely important to understand though.”
Dedanwala has a chart here that shows what classes to play when building specific skills. Currently, there are nine classes in FAB that are supported with cards (11 total classes). New classes are likely to be added in the future.
Merchant and Shapeshifter are currently unsupported classes (meaning there aren’t enough cards for a deck) in Flesh & Blood. Each class specializes in its own strategy and plan for winning. Wizards, for example, deal Arcane damage during either player’s turn—which is unique to that class. The Warrior class is weapons-focused, while Ninjas do as many small attacks as possible in one turn.
The main takeaway here (TL;DR) is that every deck is led by a Hero, which determines the class cards that can be included in that deck. Each class of Hero represents a play-style in the game.
The Anatomy of a FAB Card
The way you play cards in Flesh & Blood is simple: each card has a cost located in the top right corner. This is the number of resource points required to play the card.
But a major part of Flesh & Blood is the fact that cards can be used to perform multiple functions, including:
- Pitch for Resources
- Defense Value
- Attack or Non-Attack Action
Each aspect of a Flesh & Blood card, as well as what it can do inside the game, is explained below:
Cost to Play
In the upper right corner of the card is the cost to play in Resource Points (RP). Resource Points are acquired when a card is “pitched”. Pitching is explained next.
Pitch for Resources (Pitch Value)
Each card has a pitch value in the top left corner. This represents the number of Resource Points (RP) that card generates. Player’s announce the card they are going to play, then “pitch” the cards that will pay for the card.
Multiple cards can be pitched to acquire the amount of RP necessary. At the end of the player’s turn, cards that were pitched for RP are placed at the bottom of their deck in the order of their choosing.
The amount of RP a card can be pitched for is also represented by the color at the top of the card. Blue cards always pitch for three; Yellow cards for two, and Red cards always pitch for one Resource Point.
Most cards have the ability to block attack damage from an opponent. This is represented in the lower right corner of the card. That value is how much defense the card provides when discarded to defend against an attack from the opponent.
There are specific cards that can defend (called Defense Reactions), but most cards can also be discarded for their defense value. Therefore, you always have options with which to stop opposing attacks. This is important because a lot of attacks have special effects that are triggered when damage has been successfully dealt.
The attack value is in the lower right corner. When an Action is played, the text on the card is activated. Some cards do not have an Attack value but are still Action cards. These types of cards often buffer Attack cards, deal Arcane damage, or create other strategic shenanigans. Decks often combine these types of cards
The Three Colors of FAB Cards
Now that we’ve covered the elements of a card, let’s quickly discuss what the three different colors in Flesh & Blood mean. To do this, take a look at three versions of Leg Tap below—each has slightly different numbers:
- Blue cards pitch for three but have the weakest stats.
- Yellow cards are in between.
- Red cards pitch for one but deal the most damage.
That generally means that you want a mix of blues to pitch and reds to play, with yellows being the most flexible but overall weakest – you’d usually rather specialize via red or blue rather than hedge via yellow.
In Flesh & Blood, cards with different colors are considered different cards. For example: in the Classic Constructed format, decks can include three copies of a card. Technically, this means that a Ninja deck can include three Blue copies of Leg Tap, three Yellow copies of Leg Tap, and three Red copies of Leg Tap.
What Does All This Mean?
Just in seeing how cards get played, we’ve learned a lot about FAB – here are some key points:
- The resource system in FAB means you will always have the capability to play the cards you want to play. While it is possible to end up with all expensive cards and nothing with good pitch numbers, that’s a rarity. In general, you can play any of your cards on any given turn—so long as you were able to hold onto them during your opponent’s turn.
- There’s no ramping up, period – at any point in the game, basically all cards are playable. It’s rare that a single card dominates the game, and most wins come as a result of accumulating advantages from winning small combats. A game-winning eight-drop really isn’t a thing in FAB.
- Every card opens up a wealth of possibilities – you have a ton of options every turn, and how you sequence your cards or utilize them is critical in securing victory.
- No card is ever truly dead – at the very worst, it can stop you from getting punched in the face.
The first point is the biggest: how the resource system works is one of the most important parts of any game. There aren’t really any non-games in FAB, and you always have plenty of relevant decisions to make. Now, it can be rough when you lose because of those decisions, but having your destiny in your hands is a great feeling.
What Does “Go Again” Mean in Flesh & Blood?
Another major aspect of FAB gameplay are Action Points and Go Again:
As a player, you start each turn with one Action Point. Every Action (Attack and Non-Attack) in Flesh & Blood requires an Action Point.
When a card says Go Again, the player receives another Action Point when that card resolves. This allows players to string together multiple plays in a single turn.
When a player uses their Action Point to play an Attack, they trigger a Combat Chain. Once triggered, the opponent has the opportunity to defend and react with an Instant or Defense Reaction card.
Once the Combat Chain has resolved, the player can start a new Combat Chain if they have another Action Point—and the resources to continue, of course.
We’ll discuss the specifics of the Combat Chain in How to Play Flesh & Blood later. But understanding this aspect of the game will help with learning overall as you continue.
Flesh & Blood Card Types
We’ll discuss the specifics of these card types when we go over the Combat Chain in How to Play FAB. Below is an example of each type of card for you to review. All of the cards below are from the same class, in order to show how the different card types can be used in combination.
This is simply meant to familiarize you with each type of card. Next, we will discuss the Combat Chain and How to Play. Having some familiarity with each type of card as we cover the Combat Chain will help provide context to the information.
Notice that this card is a Non-Attack Action, as opposed to an Attack Action card. This is because the Wizard class deals Arcane damage (a special kind of damage that’s blocked by a barrier to other damage-blocking card)—whereas most other classes rely on attacks.
This Instant is a Generic card, which means it can be put into any FAB deck, regardless of the Hero’s class.
Again, these are just examples of each card type. Now, let’s jump into how to play FAB.
How to Play Flesh & Blood
At the beginning of a Flesh & Blood game, both players draw cards equal to their Hero’s Intellect. The first player takes their turn. At the end of this first turn, both players draw cards until their hand size is equal to their Hero’s Intellect.
For the rest of the game, players will draw cards at the end of their turn (but not on their opponent’s turn). At the end of a player’s turn, they draw cards until their hand size is equal to their Hero’s Intellect (which is generally four).
This method of drawing cards has two major effects on the game:
- Players have a full hand when their opponent begins their turn. This allows the player to use the cards in their hand for defense; however, cards used to defend will be discarded. This means players must be strategic with which cards they use to defend—if they wish to also be able to attack on their own turn.
- Players are incentivized to use all of their cards on each turn round, in order to get max value from the redraw.
What if you have a great card that you don’t want to play this round?
Utilizing Your Arsenal
At the end of your turn, before you redraw, you can put a card from your hand face down into your Arsenal (which can only have one card at a time). You can play that card from your Arsenal whenever you could normally play it, but you can’t pitch or discard it.
Good arsenal usage is key to winning, as it lets you time your cards exactly as you want to. However, it is important to place cards in the Arsenal strategically, since playing the card is the only way to remove it from the Arsenal.
Some cards will buff Attacks or provide other special effects when played from the Arsenal. This is stated on any card that does as much. The Arsenal is located directly below your Hero in the play area.
Taking Turns: Learning The Combat Chain
On your turn, you start with one Action Point. With this Action Point, the player can use an Action card, which may be Attack or Non-Attack.
Non-Attack Action cards are often played in combination (using Go Again) with Attack Action cards in order to buffer the attack or provide other special effects.
When an Attack Action card is played, the Combat Chain begins. Every turn in Flesh & Blood revolves around the Combat Chain. A turn can include multiple Combat Chain links. This occurs when a Combat Chain has resolved but the player (whose turn it is) has an Action Point and the resources necessary to use it.
Players can use their Weapons to attack as well. During the Combat Chain, players can utilize their Equipment.
Let’s walk through a Combat Chain in FAB:
- The “turn player” (person whose turn it is) pays whatever costs are associated (by pitching cards for resources) and plays the attack.
- The opponent chooses if they want to discard any cards to defend. This is the only part of combat where they can do this, and they can discard multiple cards for defense (unless a card prevents as much).
- The turn player gains priority. Both players can play Reaction cards: the turn player plays Attack Reactions; the opponent can play Defense Reactions. Instants, of course, can also be played.
- These cards generally boost attack or defense, and are quite strong because they get to be played after attacks and defenses are locked in.
- This step ends when both players pass.
- Once everything has been played, the total damage is calculated by attack minus defense. All excess damage goes through (every Attack does this, it’s not a special ability).
- Note that, technically, each Attack must declare a target that is a “living object”. Currently in the game, this is only relevant due to the Spectra ability.
- The physical damage of the attack is applied (usually to the opponent’s Hero) and this step ends.
Note: There are two types of damage in FAB: Attack damage and Arcane damage. Officially, “Arcane damage cannot be defended using the defense value of cards in hand or with defense reactions. Arcane damage must be prevented with arcane barrier or cards that specify preventing arcane damage or (any) damage.” More details here.
- Any effects from damage resolve and the current Combat Chain link resolves. The turn player gains priority, then both players have the ability to play Instants. This step ends when both players pass.
- With this step, the Combat Chain will close or the turn player will play another attack.
- Another attack can only be played if the turn player gained an Action Point from the previous attack with Go Again.
- If another attack is played, the second link in the Combat Chain begins and this process starts anew.
- If another attack is not played, both players have the opportunity to play Instants. Once both players have passed, the Combat Chain closes.
After the Combat Chain closes, the turn player can put a card into their Arsenal and draw up to their Hero’s Intellect. It then becomes the opponent’s turn.
Note: Any cards used to defend aren’t replaced—as a player, you only draw up to your Hero’s Intellect at the end of your turn (the first turn is an exception to this, where both players redraw).
That’s basically it—you now know the basics of FAB. While the turn structure isn’t too complicated, there’s a lot to think about in a game of FAB. Here are some tips to help you on your way.
Tips for Playing Flesh & Blood
- On each turn, you should figure out which combination of attacks you want to play and how you are going to pay for them. You will defend (on your opponent’s turn) before you have the opportunity to attack (on your turn). Therefore you will need to think about your strategy on your opponent’s turn—since you only draw cards up to your Intellect at the end of your turn.
- Utilizing your arsenal is key to victory. If you can afford to have a turn where you only use three cards, saving the fourth for the next turn can give you a substantial advantage. It lets you overwhelm their defenses by creating a more powerful attack, or by playing a defense reaction and effectively blocking their next attack.
- Know what your cards/deck are best at. To go back to the red/blue/yellow cards, you should try and pitch blues to play reds whenever possible. Some decks are better at attacking than defending, and you need to accept that and just focus on using your cards the way they are intended, even if that means taking a lot of extra damage.
- Attack reactions can help sneak through damage and get extra value.
- If you’re under pressure, and don’t have a great turn lined up, you can use most of your cards to defend and then just put your best card in your arsenal (or pass your turn). That means you don’t get damage in that turn, but the nature of FAB allows players to regroup.
How to Set Up the Flesh & Blood Play Area
Before you play a match, you’ll need to understand how to set up the play area. Flesh & Blood is one of the few Trading Card Games where it’s incredibly important to understand the arena layout.
Below is a screenshot from Felt Table, which is an online platform for playing Flesh & Blood.
Note that the Hero is at the center of each player’s area. Directly below the Hero is the Arsenal (discussed next). Directly to the Hero’s left and right are any Weapons they have. To the left of the Hero and Weapon are the spots for Equipment.
Directly to the left of the Hero’s left Weapon is a spot for Arms Equipment. Here is also a spot for Chest Equipment to the left of Arms, while Head Equipment and Legs Equipment flank Chest from above and below, respectively.
On the right side of the play area sits the player’s deck. Below the deck is where Banished cards are placed. “Banished” is similar to “Exiled” from Magic: The Gathering. Certain cards will banish other cards, temporarily or permanently. Banished cards cannot be used while Banished.
To the left of the deck is the Pitch area. When a card is pitched for its resources, it is placed here until the end of the turn. Above the deck is the Graveyard, which functions much the same as graveyards in other TCGs.
Finally, at the center of the arena is the Combat Chain.
In the screenshot above, the Combat Chain has only just been triggered by the Action Attack card. In response, I can discard cards to use as defense, then I’ll have the opportunity to play a Defense Reaction or Instant card. If I do nothing, the damage will take life from my hero’s total (any other abilities on the card are triggered as well).
Flesh & Blood Formats
The two main formats of Flesh & Blood are Limited and Constructed. We’re going to cover the basics of each below. However, Luis Scott-Vargas recently discussed the full range of FAB formats here, which includes the multiplayer format in the game.
Blitz is an ideal way to start playing Flesh & Blood. Aside from the fact that there are many starter decks that you can buy for less than $20 each, this is a faster-paced, short-form version of the game. Blitz decks are easy to pick up with a friend and learn FAB in an afternoon.
This constructed format requires the player to use a Young Hero. The deck is 40 cards, plus 11 Inventory cards. Starting life totals can be found on the Hero card in the lower right corner, but it is generally 20 life for a Young Hero.
Finally, Blitz decks can have up to two of each card. In Flesh & Blood, cards with different colors are considered different cards. This means you can technically have six copies of one card (two blue, two yellow, two red) in a deck—because cards with different pitch values are considered different cards in the game.
Limited breaks down into Draft and Sealed formats. “In both cases, you play with a 30-card deck (not counting weapons/equipment).” Players can add Young Heroes and Weapon cards of their choice. This is key. According to Legend Story Studios,
“Cards added this way are from a publicly available pool of young hero and weapon token cards provided by the tournament organizer, or by pooling the token cards opened from the booster packs between all players in the event.”
Note that this may not be the case at all events; therefore, it is wise to bring a Young Hero and Weapon cards if you have them.
- In Sealed, Players open six booster packs and build a deck with what they have.
- In Draft, Players begin with three packs. This is a classic booster draft:
“Simultaneously, all players in the draft open 1 of their 3 packs and remove the token card from the pack. Players then choose (draft) 1 card from among the cards remaining in the pack and place it face down into a single pile in front of them. The cards remaining in the pack are then shuffled and passed to the player seated on their left. Players pick up the cards passed to them, and repeats this process until all cards in the pack have been drafted.”
If Draft players do not have enough cards for a 30-card deck, they will have to include enough Cracked Baubles to make up the difference. Cracked Baubles can only be pitched for two RP—this card offers no other utility.
As with all formats, the deck must only contain Generic cards and those with the same class as the Young Hero. However, there are no limits on the number of copies of each card that can be included in Draft and Sealed.
This is the original way to play Flesh & Blood. And it’s finally time to use the adult version of Heroes. This generally means that players begin with 40 life (always double check your Hero card to know your minimum hand size and starting life total).
This format requires a 60-card minimum deck, plus one Hero, weapons and equipment. Note that for tournaments, players register up to 80 cards for their deck, including weapons and equipment. As with all formats, the deck may only contain Generic cards and cards with the same class as the Hero card.
Decks can contain up to three copies of a card. Different colors are considered different cards. Therefore, a player could include three yellow Leg Taps, three blue Leg Taps, and three red Leg taps for a total of nine in a Ninja deck.
Official Classic Constructed matches are 50 minutes, best of one.
Where to Play Flesh & Blood
Flesh & Blood has a learning curve. When I started playing Magic: The Gathering, I bought a box and jumped in with a friend who has some experience. Frankly, that would be a rough first experience with Flesh & Blood, which requires players to think about the way they will approach the game in a unique way.
Once you’ve played a few matches and are ready to build a deck, check out our guide on Flesh & Blood deck-building to continue learning. Here are a few places to play FAB, online and in-person:
Felt Table. Felt Table is the easiest way to start playing Flesh & Blood right now. The platform is ideal for beginner’s. I highly recommend using this as a learning tool.
Blitz with friends. Another great way to learn: pick up a couple pre-constructed Blitz decks with a friend and play. This will cost you less than $30 for both decks and give you the opportunity to learn the game and explore your first hero class.
Webcam. Flesh & Blood is highly focused on encouraging in-person play. Therefore, the best online version, according to the studio behind the game, is to use your webcam. Here’s a detailed article on setting this up.
Local Game Store. You can search for local events on the FAB website here. If you think your area could support in-person play, consider asking your local game store to host events.
To get your hands on the cards, pick up a box or a couple Blitz decks. With Flesh & Blood, you may even consider buying boxes from earlier releases to provide you with a well-rounded pool of cards.
Flesh & Blood sets are printed in limited First Edition quantities. Once sold out, the studio prints Unlimited Edition boxes. This is an important distinction for collectors to keep in mind when buying FAB cards.
For more intro content, watch LSV’s Ira starter deck walkthrough, highlighting key concepts that will help you understand the game.
*This article was originally written by Luis Scott-Vargas and expanded by the ChannelFireball Librarian.