So you’ve played your first few games of Flesh and Blood, you’ve learned the rules and got the very basics of the game down. So what’s next? How do you take those first steps to levelling up your Flesh and Blood game? Today I am sharing three fundamental concepts that have been integral in my own experience and understanding of Flesh and Blood as both a player and as someone who has introduced and taught the game to others. What these concepts are is a step in moving past just simply playing out the cards you draw each turn.
In my intro article I expressed that one of my favorite attributes of Flesh and Blood is its simple structure which makes it approachable and easy to learn the basics of. But it doesn’t end with the basics, after those first handful of games the true depth of Flesh and Blood really begins to open up to players. Many of the layers and depth to this game are not necessarily obvious but can be nuanced and require an understanding of the game greater than just the core basics. I have always thought about this game in terms of learning phases or more aptly perhaps, levels. I see four fairly encompassing levels in depth of gameplay in Flesh and Blood. Each one of these levels are just as enjoyable to inhabit and discover as the previous, but as you move between these gameplay levels you start seeing entirely new dimensions of how the game can be played. So what exactly do I mean by depth in game and “levels”? As I see it these levels of gameplay look broadly like this:
- Level zero: The absolute basics of the game, here players have taken in the core structure of Flesh and Blood, they understand the phases of a turn, playing and using attacks, as well as defending against these attacks.
- Level one: At this point players have the basics of the game down; they are now thinking about how to win the game. Using life and cards as a resource, they will follow a basic game plan. At this level players are starting to think about winning the combat phase by blocking as efficiently as possible or by combining some of the stronger cards in their deck on offense. The game now begins to be a more strategic affair.
- Level two: Clear game plans emerge; players here understand how they will win or lose match ups and games. They formulate their plans, and they will often adapt. The game is no longer being played one turn at a time, but rather at this level players are starting to play a few turns ahead, considering how to set up key turns and thinking of which specific sets of cards they need for their best turns. Players on level two will consider the cards they pitch and what that means for the late game when these cards cycle back around.
- Level three: Players here are now playing the whole game out, with an understanding of how their role shifts as the game progresses. There is a fluidity to it. They are thinking about tempo, who has it and when it is the right turn to shift gears and take it from an opponent. They are bearing in mind which cards have been pitched by both players and what that means for how turns will line up and play out as the game goes on and these cards are drawn again. Players here are playing both sides of the table and understand what their opponent is trying to do through both the entire game and turn to turn.
There is certainly more involved at each level, but the above give a good overview of the core attributes. At any of these levels Flesh and Blood is a game that will challenge and excite, whilst allowing players to continue to learn game upon game. You can have just as much fun knowing the core basics of the game, focusing on executing each turn with your acquired knowledge as you might have in being a budding master of the game. That is really the beauty of Flesh and Blood’s design in my eyes.
The concepts I have shared below are focused primarily on moving from level zero to level one. I believe these fundamentals will help if you are new to Flesh and Blood, but be just as helpful if you want to teach friends the game or even if you are playing at a higher level but want to make sure you have these fundamentals mastered.
Have a General Idea of How You’ll Play and Win
You sit down across from your opponent, both players flip up their hero ready to begin the pre-game procedure in which you will both be selecting equipment and presenting a 60-card minimum (if constructed), or 30-card minimum (if limited) deck. By this point you should already have an idea of how you might win the game. In fact I would even encourage you to have this in the forefront of your mind when building your deck, be it for constructed or even when you are putting together your sealed deck in limited.
By having a plan I don’t mean that you should know exactly which hands, or combination of cards you will play at each stage of the game to ensure you kill your opponent and stop their every move. What I do mean however, is to have a general plan or some guidelines to direct the way you will play out the turns of the game. Your plan could be as simple as “I’m going to fill my deck with defend three cards and defense reactions to subdue my opponents offense while I attack with my Romping Club every turn to attempt to push damage over the game”.
It could also be as complex as having detailed game plans for each opposing hero that involve being more aggressive or more defensive depending on the opponent’s hero choice. These advanced plans might revolve around you bringing in or taking out certain cards for the game that change how your deck functions. Other advanced plans may even be strategies to set up different end game scenarios to push lethal damage on the last turn of the game.
One thing I see a lot in Flesh and Blood is players having a great understanding of the basics of the game. They typically know what their cards do, they know which cards are most powerful, they know how to play actions as well as grasp the basics of attacking and defending. What I have seen less of is players having a plan or knowing how they want to win the game, which is why this is my number one fundamental I want to share. My advice is start small and start basic if you are new to Flesh and Blood, or new to having a focused game plan. Having a clear plan in mind will help immensely in your effectiveness in games and I honestly believe it will improve the enjoyment you take out of each game.
Pick a fairly easy to execute game plan, such as the one mentioned above as a starting point and take it into each and every game that you play with your deck. Experiment as you go and learn more about the game, your deck, and the heroes in the world of Rathe. I guarantee that with having a focus, you will learn a lot with each game that you play. Once you have more games under your belt, start challenging your basic plan and adapt it to the decks you are facing or cards you are excited about playing.
Understand Winning Turn Cycles
A turn cycle is quite simply both your opponent and then you taking a turn. The easiest way to think about it is that when you conclude your turn and draw back up to hand size, you are beginning a new turn cycle. Your opponent will be able to play actions and attack first, with you as the defending player and then finally you will have your turn where you can use what cards you have remaining on offense. Rinse and repeat. The turn cycle is important in Flesh and Blood because each player has to play both the offensive and defensive side of the game on just one hand. Currently in classic constructed and limited play this means both players will have just a four-card hand and possibly an arsenal card to work with as they move through their turn cycle.
In almost every game it is going to be crucial that you come out positive in at least some turn cycles in order to emerge victorious. So what does it look like to come out positive in a turn cycle? Well primarily this is going to be by dealing more damage than you take from your opponent. There are other ways that you might come out on top of a cycle, but first and foremost in Flesh and Blood you should be focused on the simplest metric. Damage in, damage out.
Example: Player A is playing Dorinthea Ironsong and has just started their turn with two cards in hand after blocking with two cards on Player B’s turn, taking zero damage. They are now in the second half of their turn cycle before they draw back up.
Player A starts by playing red Sharpen Steel, they then pitch blue Warrior’s Valor to attack with their weapon Dawnblade. No cards remain in hand for player A. Player B is the defending player on Bravo Showstopper and has just started their turn cycle with four cards in hand, these cards are two blue Crush Confidence, Spinal Crush and Forged for War. Let’s say player B decides to defend with just Forged for War, taking three damage from the attack. Player A has now finished their turn cycle ready to draw back to four cards.
In that turn cycle for player A, they took no damage but dealt three damage to the opponent. Player A has come out positive in that turn cycle. If player B now attacks on their turn with Spinal Crush pitching the two blue Crush Confidence to pay for the action and player A defends for 9 with three cards, player B has come out negative in that cycle from a damage perspective.
This is a very basic example, and it is important to note that it doesn’t mean whoever wins more turn cycles will win in a game of Flesh and Blood. If Player B comes out positive by one damage in the next two turn cycles, they have still changed the life totals by one less than Player A did in one cycle alone. Thinking in turn cycles, rather than each player’s respective turn is going to help immensely in understanding the core gameplay of Flesh and Blood. Beginning to think more about cycles and how you trade damage with your opponent will get you in the right mindset for advancing your skills in Flesh and Blood.
Know the Role of Your Cards
Each card in Flesh and Blood has some amount of versatility, with the ability to pitch and give you resources to pay for cards you play, the ability to defend, and have an impact when played as either an attack or as a card with an effect. Of course not all cards have this versatility, red Sigil of Solace is an instant and does not defend, and there are a few others in the game. However, the majority of your cards you play will have versatility in a game.
Once you play a few games of Flesh and Blood you will quickly notice certain cards do specific roles better than they do others. For example, blue cards tend to be much better as your resource cards than they are as offensive cards. Red Scar for a Scar is better suited as an offensive card than it is a defensive card or even as a resource card at 4 attack, 2 defense and a pitch value of 1.
A concept that will help you in playing your cards and turns more efficiently and effectively is to know what primary role each and every one of your cards has in your deck. Work out and understand which group of cards will be primarily used as resources, which cards will be your win conditions or more powerful cards that generate offense for you (these will tend to be red and yellow cards, or class specializations and majestic rares).
Defense reactions by their nature will be the core of any defensive role in your deck, but blue cards that defend for 3 have utility and redundancy in that they can perform two roles for you, a defensive role or resource provider. It sounds simple, but it is such an important concept, knowing what each card’s purpose is for being in your deck will ensure you don’t have a deck with cards that aren’t going to pull their weight! By knowing the primary role of each card in your deck it is also going to enable you to make quicker and better decisions when it comes to choosing which cards to defend with, which cards to keep and use offensively and which cards to set in your arsenal.
The three fundamental concepts I have shared today really are a simple step up from the basics in the game of Flesh and Blood, but they are important stepping stones to greater concepts and vital I believe for a better understanding of the game. These concepts are easy to implement, although repetition is certainly the key. They will help in focusing to level up your play and in turn delivering wins. Keep your eyes peeled for more concepts and gameplay level ups in the future, and if you found these useful leave a comment and let me know!