The Mechanisms of Gameplay: Value, Tempo, and Initiative

by Max Dieckmann 19th March 2023 27 : 37
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After making a few comments on articles here that alluded to his deep understanding of the forces underlying Flesh and Blood gameplay, Max was invited to contribute a piece of his own that turned out to be a fascinating and extensive examination of the very core of the game.

Due to its length, we do not have an audio recording to accompany this piece.

The opponent is at one life. After an intense back-and-forth, the conclusion of the match is imminent. While we were able to pry a card out of their hand during our last attack, they preserved enough for a counterattack. We glance at our life total - it’s very low, but how bad can it be? We partially block their first two attacks, but some damage leaks through. We pray we can survive the turn with enough fuel in hand to mount an attack of our own.

Their last card hits the table and we feel our heart sink. We look at the cards left in our hand. We double check our life total - curse ourselves for the equipment block we made four turns earlier that we later realized was inefficient - but there is no way around it.

With a sigh we put our last two cards on the table to block. We survive this turn, but the game is over and our smirking opponent knows it. Even though we both have 4 cards in hand after we passed our turn, defeat is almost guaranteed - our opponent has the initiative and it’s almost certain that we will be forced into a defensive stance until the end of the game.

If there's a universal truth in this game, it might be this: The player who has the tempo in the end game - who can force blocks and command the initiative - will win the game.

But what are tempo and initiative? In this article, I want to explore these concepts - and along the way, talk about a related concept that comes up all the time when people talk about card games: value.

Defining Game Terms through Chess

I believe that tempo and value in Flesh and Blood are intertwined in interesting ways - and are not that easy to pin down. For this reason, I would like to begin our exploration on firm ground and look at a game where these terms are well defined: chess.

Chess is played on a board where a number of pieces are initially placed in a certain formation. Each player has control over half of these pieces and gets to move one piece per turn. If they move onto a square where an opposing piece is positioned, that piece is “captured” and removed from the game [11]. 

Just like the basic rules, the ultimate objective is simple: We need to capture the opposing king. Nonetheless, the game has an immense strategic depth that has been fascinating players for centuries. Over time, a lot of theory has been developed around the game, which has then also been applied to other games that came after. We will use this knowledge as a basis for our analysis and will begin by examining some of the concepts that were developed for chess.


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Max Dieckmann

Max Dieckmann used to pick up a new card game every other day until Flesh and Blood came along. His full commitment to his new love payed off in 2022 as he secured himself the Spanish National Championship.