Welcome heroes, to another Q&A. We have here with us the founders of Legend Story Studios, James and Robbie.
Let’s get right into it!
Nicky: So, Crucible of War. Walk me through the intentions behind this set for Flesh and Blood.
James: CRU is a supplementary booster, and was designed specifically to enhance and expand constructed play. We don’t recommend using CRU for booster draft or sealed deck formats; it’s best to enjoy it as an upgrade for constructed decks and explore all kinds of new strategies for your favourite heroes.
Robbie: Maybe we should walk them through the most exciting parts of the expansion?
J: Yeah sure. So CRU draws on the concept that Rathe is about to be plunged into war, everyone is getting ready to battle. Furnaces’ a-blazing, blacksmiths’ belting out new equipment and weapons, allies new and old coming together to join in the forthcoming war.
J: So from a product perspective, the way that we capture that is through adding lots of new equipment and weapons, there’s new heroes inside packs... When you’re opening packs of CRU, it really feels like a treasure trove of opening all sorts of cards; more so than in our previous two core boosters.
N: Then would you say the feeling of CRU is substantially different to the previous sets?
J: Yes. Very, very different. There’s a lot more variation in the cards that you’re opening. For one, Crucible of War includes cards for each of our 8 existing classes. So you see a lot of different cards; lots of singletons, some one-off unique cards - there are some very hard-to-get cards which are going to be a great surprise… It’s just going to feel like a treasure trove when you open a pack.
R: We’ve tried to really capture that feeling in the art n’ design as well, starting with the packaging and flowing through to the art on the individual cards themselves. The direction of the art is a bit different in this set, more breadth and laying the groundwork for a lot of interesting plot threads going into 2021. Overall just a lot to discover.
J: Yeah so you never really know what you’re going to get in a pack, and I think that should be a very exciting experience overall.
N: Wow, that’s a lot of intel. So there’s all eight classes, as well as generics, in the same set. Any concerns with so many moving parts?
J: Yeah nah, it’s a very fun product. Sure the composition is not compatible for booster draft - when we make booster draft products for the core sets, that requires us to structure them in a way that supports a high quality draft experience. In CRU we have a lot more freedom to do cool things with design, which makes for a very fun experience when you’re cracking some packs.
N: And you?
R: Well.. There's challenges around theme cohesion. But I think we did a decent job.
N: Awesome! Moving on. Does CRU introduce new ways to play each of the existing classes?
J: Certainly, and a lot of that is driven by every hero getting new weapons and equipment. One of the things that people love about FAB is that you get to start the game with your weapons and equipment already in play, so naturally these have a very large impact on your strategy and the gameplay.
J: That’s certainly a significant factor. The majestic cards - even a lot of the commons which are coming through, they allow you to do different things. They allow you to attack other people’s strategies in ways which weren’t possible before. I feel like Crucible does a great job of creating new points of interaction or engagement, for a number of the classes.
R: And there’s some sweet art in there too.
N: Which class are you the most excited about, personally?
J: I don’t want to influence anyone too much.. Our job as a design and development team is to make sure that every class has something that gets fans of that class excited.
J: Well alright, I enjoy playing Wizard. I enjoy playing all of the heroes, but Wizard is my guy. So, you know, if I’m playing CRU the first thing I’m going to do is look at the Wizard cards and be like - yep, I’m going to start playing that card and that card and that card. That solves this problem, that gets me excited over here, and so on - but if you like Azalea, you’re going to be heading to those Ranger cards and being like yep, ding ding ding, sign me up!
R: I like Warrior.
N: Speaking of Azalea, some classes are perceived as being… maybe a bit underwhelming compared to the rest. How do you think people will feel about those classes after the release of CRU?
J: When it comes to tournament play, there are always going to be some decks which are better than others. As a development team, we try to make solutions or different angles or different strategies available to different classes, so that there can be some kind of evolution for the meta-game; where one strategy might become dominant, and then there’s another strategy which can defeat that, but then because that strategy’s now winning there’s something else which can come in and beat that. Like rock, paper, scissors, really, in an ideal scenario.
J: But even in that situation, it can still come down to maybe three or four decks which will primarily win - and that’s what we’re seeing at the moment.
J: What we hope to see with CRU is that maybe some of the decks that are winning now aren’t winning as much after CRU comes out, so that there’s at least a little bit of evolution, a little bit of churn going in - but look, that’s talking about high-level tournament play.
J: When it comes to less competitive play, it’s about making cards which let people do new and different things. Whether you’re playing in hobby stores, or playing at the kitchen table, just being able to play exciting new cards is a design consideration for us as well.
N: Let’s take a step back. CRU is releasing on the 28th, leading up to Nationals - was this a consideration for this set?
J: We have timed the National Championship season to follow off the back of Crucible’s release, and this was intentional.
R: Didn’t we start developing CRU quite a while ago?
J: Yeah that’s right. I think over a year ago?
R: Maybe we want to touch on the dev. process.
J: Sure. FAB was in development for a bit over seven years prior to release, some of the CRU cards have been in the development pipeline since the very beginning. A lot of them, for various reasons, were not included in WTR or ARC but have been a part of the development process this whole time, and CRU has become their natural home.
J: There’s definitely a large block of time where we were doing nothing but developing cards for CRU. The development team was working solely on the Crucible of War set, and that went on for many many months - this was for the purpose of making sure that the meta-game evolved into a really interesting and dynamic place, to make National Championship season really high-quality.
N: So how do you think it will affect National champs?
J: I expect for CRU to come in and refresh the meta-game; we’ve seen during the R2N events that the meta-game is stabilizing into a few decks leading the pack. CRU is going to inject a whole bunch of new cards, it’s going to shake up that meta-game and allow for a range of new strategies for all existing heroes.
J: There’s some new cards coming in which are going to disrupt what the meta-game leaders are doing at the moment. People who are fans of heroes who maybe aren’t winning at the moment, they’ll be given new tools to bring to the fight, and use them to bring down some of these championship-winning decks.
N: I’m sure players have noticed that the configurations of CRU is a bit different. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
R: There’s quite a few differences, the primary configuration difference would be dropping the card count to 10 cards per pack, and changes in the rarity.
J: Yeah so 10 cards per pack tends to be the industry norm. The vast majority of trading card games have 10 cards per booster. Mainly, the reason we have 15 cards per pack in the core boosters is so they’re booster draft compatible. However, since CRU isn’t booster draft compatible, we’re reverting to industry norms.
N: How do you think players will respond to this change?
J: I hope they like it! We’re reducing the numbers of cards in a pack, and this translates essentially to less commons. Often you can feel overwhelmed by the amount of commons, so we chose to print less of them this time. Players still get the same amount of the really fun stuff; the equipment, weapons, cold foils, rainbows, majestics… and all of that good stuff.
N: Let’s talk about the change in rarity. Why drop Super Rares from CRU?
J: When we released WTR and ARC, Super Rares were useful in signalling to new players and the market that some Majestics were the "best cards" and should be priced appropriately.
J: This is important because FAB is so different to other TCGs, people didn’t know how to really evaluate our cards. (note: in terms of price)
R: We don’t have cards that do 9000 damage and instantly end the game.
J: Yeah that’s correct. So take Ancestral Empowerment. It’s an incredible card, a Majestic - but looking at the numbers you wouldn’t immediately think “that’s insane” without some knowledge of the mechanics and understanding of FAB; the effect is quite subtle.
J: If we were using the same rarity configuration that we’re using for CRU, it wouldn’t have been obvious that Ancestral Empowerment, for example, should be priced above other cards that were “Super Rare”.
J: I guess, a little bit, you could say that we were holding the hand of the secondary card market, saying that ‘actually, that’s a card which should be more expensive than the other “Super Rares”. So people know that, for example Mugenshi: Release (a Super Rare), should be a level below that.
N: So why the change now?
J: Well I think, looking at the secondary card market, and as we move into CRU and beyond, there’s a much better knowledge base in players and retailers and vendors, for what makes a good FAB card. Now I feel more confident that we can say; “Okay, we’re not going to tell you what the best cards are, we’re going to have all of these higher-rarity cards just majestics now - you work out what the good ones are. Price them accordingly.” I know the knowledge exists now for people to do that.
R: We always intended to make this change.
J: Yeah I believe it’s a positive thing - simplifying the amount of rarities, even just by one, I think makes a big difference.
N: Let’s talk heroes. We know there’s at least three new heroes if not more. And they’re “Blitz” optimised… correct? Can you tell us anything about them?
J: That’s right. There’s a bunch of new young heroes joining the fray and it’s an important part of CRU. And we designed these heroes specifically with Blitz in mind.
J: Blitz is the new format which was released very recently, back in June, I believe, and the reason why we announced that now is because it’s very appropriate for the current climate of covid, a lot of stores around the world are forced to have reduced event times….
R: But that’s not why we developed it.
J: No it was in the works for... A bit over a year, and we originally planned to reveal it later on. Blitz is something which becomes a very interesting format with the release of CRU.
J: CRU introduces a bunch of new young heroes who were developed specifically with Blitz in mind. There’s one new hero which we actually designed for Ultimate Pit Fight, which is multiplayer, and we think that people are going to have a lot of fun with that.
J: That is kind of the starting point for Blitz, in our view, but we brought it forward to coincide with the release of Play Anywhere, which is the expansion of our GEM software, which allows anyone to run official events from their smartphone, and that was a good solution for people who are in areas where their local games store can’t run any events.
J: Blitz is the format that we recommend people use with Play Anywhere, because it’s fast and it’s fun. You can get a game of Blitz done in maybe 10-15 minutes. It’s also a really good format for any local games stores who have a limited amount of time to run events. It’s a good format for new players, or people who want to play more socially.
N: Was it challenging designing (visually) and showcasing a wide spread of characters, weapons, equipment… etc. in this set?
R: It's always challenging, in different ways. We have a small but incredibly talented creative team here at LSS so it wasn't all that bad.
N: Was it difficult to make them stand out from one another?
R: Not particularly. We’ve done a lot of development, the team and I; we’ve established the lore and fleshed out the world of Rathe extensively over the past years. There’s a wealth of unpublished content that already exists that we can delve into, to formulate our characters and stories.
R: We have story maps going years into the future so for now it’s been quite a smooth process.
N: How about the theme. What's special about Crucible of War? Aside from the lore tie-ins, which I know we can't comment on at this point..
R: Hmm... I separate our creative into blocks. WTR and ARC was in a "block", and had interconnected themes as seen in the packaging, website theming, book, and the look n' feel of the art. Then CRU is a bit of a reprise from it all, as we gear up for 2021 which will be its own "block" and bring with it its own distinctive feel while remaining firmly entrenched within our gritty old-school visual identity.
N: Is there any art that stood out to you as your favourite? Any foreshadowing of… what is to come?
R: I feel the same as James does about his hero gameplay design. I love them all, equally.
R: Well alright. There are some incredible equipment and scenic art that I particularly like. There’s a few experimental pieces in there with various art styles that have turned out very well, but I’d rather people experience it first hand... You know we like surprises.
N: Any Easter eggs in there?
R: Why of course! Always *laughs* I think, let’s say that people who really enjoy delving into the lore should know that there’s various story bits here and there foreshadowing what’s to come in 2021.
N: Let's shift gears and talk a bit about how the studio has been in the past six months. Obviously with the pandemic and everything that’s going on... how are we doing?
J: Yeah, so - we don’t need to talk about covid, everybody knows that covid is challenging. It’s really a terrible, tragic thing. Luckily the team’s been healthy, our partners and I hope our fans have been healthy and staying safe.
J: FAB is based around this concept of bringing people together in the flesh and blood, congregating together in groups, so when hobby stores are closed across major markets like the USA… that's tough on any indie studio.
J: But despite all of these challenges, FAB is just going from strength to strength. We’re seeing player numbers increasing from week to week. We’re seeing more LGS sign up to GEM (our Game Event Management software) - at a very rapid pace, I might add.
R: We have a fantastic player base, and some incredible partners as well.
J: We’re seeing more and more content creators coming on-board, we’re seeing viewership increasing, we’re seeing visits to our website increasing, we’re seeing sales for our distribution partners increasing. So, despite this very challenging backdrop of covid, it’s absolutely incredible, the growth that we’re seeing - in all territories across the world.
N: So there’s been some speculation. The game’s going well, stores are selling a tonne… hypothetically if we were going to reprint WTR and ARC, well… what should people expect?
J: Well the key here is that we’re going to respect the secondary card market. As we have said on multiple occasions, we respect the collectibility of FAB. Anyone who’s bought our booster boxes up until now would have noticed that the boxes had badges on the back; “Alpha Print” or “First Edition”. CRU will also have this. This means something.
R: Hypothetically, if we reprinted... well, that badge would say something else.
J: Yeah so. Yeah, I can tell you the product will look beautiful, people will love opening packs, it’ll be the same great experience. But there will be some differences.
J: We want to reward people who joined us early on and have invested into these beautiful cards… They’ve cracked packs, and they’ve found those hard-to-get cards. We respect that.
R: So get your pre-orders for CRU FIRST EDITION in now.
J: Yeah go get some. *laughs*
N: On a related note. 2021. Can we tell the community a bit about where we're headed?
J: Look, FAB is just doing incredibly, incredibly well in 2020 and the momentum has been phenomenal. There’s more and more people around the world discovering that FAB is a great game to play, and a wonderful product to collect… and opening packs and just being delighted with what they find inside.
J: But… boy, do we have something on the next level coming in 2021.
R: We can’t say too much about it…
J: We can say a little. *laughs*
J: Well ok, everything that has come up to this point - WTR, ARC, and CRU… it’s all laying the foundation for what’s coming next; March 2021. When we started designing and developing FAB, it was with this “step” in mind.
J: The majority of the development pipeline over that seven years included what’s coming out in 2021, and well we actually stepped it back down from that to a more fundamental level in WTR and ARC. Basically, we kept some things up our sleeve to slow roll-
R: I remember us saying something similar about ARC when we were hyping it up.
J: *laughs* Yeah... you got me there. But it's true!
J: It’s not about making the gameplay more burdensome or the mechanics more complex, it’s something quite subtle that will tie the lore, story, gameplay, collectibility and deck building together.
J: As you can tell, we’re very excited to share it...
R: March 2021.
N: Alright, I think that’s it! Anything to add?
R: Let’s market CRU a bit more.
J: Alright... So we’ve seen a lot of increased demand in the past months, and we expect that CRU is going to be selling out a lot faster than previous sets, so please go and place a pre-order so that you don’t miss out.
J: There are some great buy-a-box promos for this set, so - just get out there and have fun, and look forward to seeing exciting new constructed decks in tournaments, and some fun new heroes for the blitz format!
R: CRU preview season starts this week so keep your eyes peeled.
R: As always, we hope you enjoy our work.
So there it is, that concludes this Q&A session.
The Crucible of War preview season starts this Wednesday, the 12th of August. We look forward to seeing you then!
James White is the Founder, CEO, and Game Designer. Robbie Wen is the Co-Founder, Creative Director and CTO. Nicola Price is the Creative Writer.