Hidden Talents

13th Apr 2021 James White

Welcome to Monarch preview season!!!

When I began designing Flesh and Blood back in 2012, I started with a few fundamental goals I wanted the game system to achieve:

  1. Immersive hero vs hero fantasy themed combat
  2. Reduced variance (relative to industry norms)
  3. High quality sealed deck and booster draft (in addition to constructed, which is a given)

As the development process moved along, points 1 and 2 crystalized into our 4 principles of design. Point 3 is what I want to talk about today, because this goal had an influence on what Flesh and Blood is, perhaps beyond what you may expect, which inadvertently creates the feature of Monarch I have famously said reveals the “completeness” of the game.

I believe the process of drafting a TCG is interesting because of the tension that exists when assessing the cards in a pack. There is a consequence of decisions, an opportunity to display your skills of judgement and ability to decipher and manipulate information that exists in small random batches within a larger known ecosystem. Fundamentally, tension is what creates this experience; the scenario of other participants in this ritual wanting some of the same resources you may also want. It’s a beautiful dance of positioning yourself optimally amidst the flow of luck, logic and chaos.

Firstly I wanted our booster draft format to stick to industry standards. 8 man pods. 3 packs per player. On a side note, this is why our booster displays contain 24 packs. 1 display supports 1 draft pod.

To create tension within a draft pod, a minimum of 2 players needs to be contesting each card. This dictated a draftable booster set could feature a maximum of 4 classes. From here it was obvious that Welcome to Rathe and Arcane Rising should each feature 4 heroes from 8 different classes.

We need to jump back to the first point on the goal list for a second; To create 'immersive hero vs hero fantasy themed combat', there needs to be depth to our heroes. We wanted fans to be able to relate to them, to want to know more about them, for each hero to have a backstory, a motivation, a unique character, a home. For fans to feel like they are playing as the heroes we crafted.

How is this related to booster draft and “completeness of the game”?

Welcome to Rathe, 4 heroes. Arcane Rising, 4 heroes. It simply became obvious that the world we needed to build to house our heroes and their stories would be comprised of 8 regions, each with its own identity, culture, motivations, agenda…. and talent.

Region specific talents are the key here. How do we make a Brute from somewhere else in Rathe, say the Demonastery, feel different to a Brute from the Savage Lands other than just aesthetics? By giving them cards and mechanics that only heroes with the talent unique to that region can use!

Let me introduce you to Levia, Shadowborn Abomination.

Levia, Shadowborn Abomination
Levia, Shadowborn Abomination

Notice her card type line; Shadow Brute Hero.

This means you can include Brute cards in your deck, like Bloodrush Bellow, Shadow cards, Shadow Brute cards, and of course Generics.

Levia weaves together 2 strands of design. Her Brute design comes from “strength rules all” (6 power matters) and her reckless nature (random determinants). Her Shadow design comes from her ability to access forbidden power (the banished zone).

Endless Maw
Endless Maw
Shadow of Blasmophet
Shadow of Blasmophet

6 power matters and random outcomes are the design element common to all Brutes. It’s primarily what makes a Brute a Brute in Flesh and Blood.

Likewise, interacting with the banished zone is the design element common to all Shadow talent heroes. It’s what makes Shadow, Shadow.

Tome of Torment
Tome of Torment
Doomsday
Doomsday

What are all the talents?

The talent of each region has been meticulously woven into the theme, culture, and feel of each region, expressed through the visual design of card frames, artwork, and lore. The talents are as follows:

  • Solana - Light
  • Demonastery - Shadow
  • Savage Lands - c'mon, did you actually think I was going to reveal this today!?!

Revealing the talents is something we look forward to delighting fans with over the coming years. I’m sure speculation will be rife, and many clues exist in work we have already published. Have fun imagining what the talents for the other 6 regions could be!

What does this mean for legacy heroes?

Monarch and future products include many cards that are exciting for legacy heroes of the classes featured in the set. For example, Monarch includes new Brute cards that both Rhinar and Kayo fans will be excited to get hold of.

Pulping
Pulping

It’s important to note that region talents are not retroactively applied to legacy heroes. Viserai is from the Demonastery, and has the same incredible “Demonastery card frame” as Levia, but that does not make Viserai a Shadow Runeblade. He is just a Runeblade, as printed on his card.

Viserai, Rune Blood
Viserai, Rune Blood

Why talents are good for the game

Talents mean we can design flavorful mechanics which are contained within a certain subset of heroes. This benefits diversity of deck construction, game strategy, and play experiences. It also means there is a deep and immersive relationship between the heroes we create and the world of Rathe, carving out unique identities for each hero not only in how they look, but in how they play.

Wrapping up with where we started; booster draft. Talents add a lot to the booster draft experience. Welcome to Rathe and Arcane Rising are both great draft products, but one of the things that Monarch and standalone sets going forward improves on, is the option to “stay open” during the early picks of the draft. In WTR and ARC the only way to stay open was to early pick Generic cards. With the introduction of talents (in addition to Generics), early picking Shadow cards keeps you open to 50% of the heroes you could play, giving you flexibility to work out which hero, and therefore which class cards you should be drafting in your seat.

This article very much used Levia as a reference to introduce talents, without really giving her the spotlight she deserves. If you’re hungry to know more, go ahead and devour the details on her hero page. Just be careful to not let the Shadows corrupt you, else you may soon find yourself wrestling to control its all consuming power.