The announcement of Skirmish events is exciting for any of us missing competitive play. For areas where in-store play is safe right now it’s easy, mask up, show up, throw down. For places where that’s not possible, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you and your opponents have a good experience.
This guide will give you the basic steps for playing Flesh and Blood via webcam, and once you have things ready, you can focus on the game!
If you’re interested in playing a Skirmish event, they kick off on February 20th and the format online will be Blitz, and in person it’s Blitz or Sealed Deck. You can find out more here, and find an event near you here.
ChannelFireball are hosting our own online Skirmish on March 13th, stay tuned to channelfireball.com for more details coming soon!
Playing Flesh and Blood TCG Online
What you need:
- Video calling software
You can use a webcam, video camera, DSLR (with some hardware/software solutions) or even a smartphone as a camera.
Using a webcam is the simplest solution, it just plugs in to your computer and usually has a built-in microphone. The best option is a Logitech C920 or Brio, but stock is low, so as long as the webcam is 1080P and used in a well-lit area, anything should work. If it has a mic it’ll also save you some money buying the two parts separately, just be aware that a headset or dedicated USB microphone is always going to sound better than the one built into a webcam.
A built-in laptop webcam can’t really be used, unless you have your laptop attached to a separate monitor or TV, and a separate keyboard and mouse. If those are available, you can mount the laptop above your play space but it’s certainly more difficult (and dangerous) than a USB webcam. CFB assumes no libability for you dropping your laptop on your Bravo deck.
Using a DSLR or video camera with HDMI out is possible too, but this is really only if you own the hardware, not suggesting you go out and buy a camera for a few hundred dollars!
Hardware solutions include the Elgato Camlink (a game capture also works), which is essentially a HDMI to USB converter, that will allow any compatible camera (list on their website) to be used as a webcam. Most capture cards that take HDMI will actually work in the same way, so worth testing, but your camera will need to be capable of sending a clean HDMI output and not automatically turn off after a set time.
You can also use a software solution, and we recommend Sparkocam, which should work (it is a paid software) – though older DSLR models will switch off on their own after a set time, which can be solved with a third party solution such as Magic Lantern, but this may also void your warranty or damage the camera, so use at your own risk.
Finally, you can use your phone by making a video call with the phone and using it as webcam and microphone. Highly recommend keeping it plugged in for this, as the battery will go down fast in this setup.
Ideally you can mount your camera directly above where you’re playing your cards and we definitely recommend using a playmat for your cards, framing your shot to include only that, as that will ensure highest resolution and makes sure you know where your play area is, without needing to reference your camera constantly.
Using a playmat with defined spots for each type of card is going to make things easier for you and your opponent when it comes to seeing what’s going on too, and most Flesh and Blood mats follow this style. Your phone, if you’re not using it as a camera, can be placed on the mat to record life.
A gooseneck desk mount is an excellent way to ensure your webcam is easily angled at your play area, for example, this model.
Other webcams may not have a tripod-style screw thread, so you can mount it on an overhead shelf, there are also generic webcam mounts that don’t require that screw thread.
You can also just get creative. A box with a hole cut in the top for your webcam to be mounted into, and a lamp pointing into the box to ensure good lighting on your cards can work quite well – the interior of the box just needs to be large enough to contain a playmat. Preferably that can sit on a table in front of you for comfort, but if you want to lie on the floor hey, who are we to judge?
Huge shout out to @SpellTable for such an awesome, easy to use, intuitive interface for playing paper MTG online! With price spikes on web cams the past 8 months, being able to use my phone as the camera is perfect! And free, too?🤯
Here’s my current setup, love natural light! 🥰 pic.twitter.com/7Oiyq2n7VZ
— Eric Williamson (@Four2113) August 16, 2020
Other solutions have been shared online for Magic: the Gathering that you can try, including using PVC piping to create a mount you can stand on your desk, with just some tape holding the camera in place, so you can be as low-tech and creative as you want to be.
Using a DSLR is a little more complicated, unless you have a tripod, but the same formula applies, you just need to be more careful with mounting, and unless you have a wide-angle lens, probably mount it higher, further from your playspace.
Your phone is a much lighter, safer solution. We still recommend not dropping it of course!
A mount such as this will help in allowing you to use your phone as camera.
The phone can also function as a webcam with software installed on both computer and phone. For more on that, consult this article. This is likely unnecessary since you’ll be able to use Discord on the phone itself, but if you’d prefer to just have webcam functionality from the phone’s built-in camera without having to run the entire call through it, then it’s a good option.
However you use your camera, the goal should be to show a clean, evenly-lit play area, with your cards in focus and easy too see for your opponents.
There’s really only two considerations with lighting: consistency and brightness.
Brightness just means you need to be in a space with enough light to show your cards without adding a ton of digital noise. The darker it is, the harder the camera works to show things, and the more digital grain is added in. It also just makes it hard for your opponent to see your cards if you’re in a dark space.
To brighten things up you want a large, soft light. ‘Soft’ when referring to light means the light source is large, spreading a lot of light evenly. The opposite is a hard light source, which is a very bright, but very direct light which casts lots of shadows. The sun with no clouds is a small, hard light source making hard shadows. A cloudy day is soft, with the clouds becoming the light source instead of the sun.
In practical terms for your play area, you want to make sure you put soft, consistent light on your cards. A lamp pointed up at the ceiling will bounce softer light back down. A lightbulb in a paper lantern works amazingly well to soften light – basically putting a semi-transparent surface between the light source and the place you want the light to hit (your cards) softens it. Closing the blinds on a sunny day even works, but sunlight can add consistency issues.
Consistency is basically the light needing to stay the same, so if it’s the kind of day outside where it’s sunshine one minute and cloudy the next, you’re going to have your camera working overtime to keep your cards exposed right. Making sure your light source isn’t going to change will help a lot, because you can always just have the same setup for your next skirmish. Natural light works great outside this though, so if your webcam can automatically adjust, just being near a window might do the trick, ideally if the light hits the top of your mat – if it hits the sides it’ll fade as it travels across, and if it’s from behind you, you’ll block it!
This might seem complicated, but it boils down to keeping your space bright and evenly lit, so your playmat and cards are all as bright or dark as each other, and making sure nothing changes too much during the game.
Here your options are simple – you can use the microphone built into your webcam or phone, or purchase a USB microphone. You will also need headphones to ensure you can hear your opponents, and they can’t hear you – if you use speakers, their audio will echo back to them through your microphone.
If you want to use a USB mic, a blue yeti, amazonbasics condenser mic or other desktop microphone with its own mount should work perfectly and provide excellent audio for your opponents. If your budget is lower, you can go for something a little less professional, such as a Samson GoMic, Blue Snowball Ice, CMteck USB mic or similar.
A gaming headset is absolutely ideal for this too, tons of options are available from the likes of Arctis and Razer.
The goal is simply to be heard clearly, so you really don’t need much more than a built-in laptop/phone mic with headphones. This does not need professional equipment/
All you need here is Discord, which handles your audio and video, and the event will be run using GEM and Discord, so you won’t need to do too much. If you’re new to Discord, you can create an account and test out voice chats in your own server to make sure your setup works, just download the program, it doesn’t work as well via browser. Discord can also do the video call on your phone, but getting things organised between games is going to mean you need to either keep taking the phone out of position to check your status in the event, or have a computer handy to check things.
This may seem like a LOT, but really, it’s not that hard, and the reward is getting to play Flesh and Blood against other people competitively!