Hey, you're still here! That's good. It means you weren't bored to death by my last post. For those of you who haven't seen said post and are too busy to click the link, it begins with a tiny introduction of myself and a not so tiny introduction to Fire Emblem Ø(Cipher), the card game. Yes, there is a card game. Yes, I already said that last time, returning readers(both of you), but there might be new people who haven't seen last time. Anyways, I was going to do a full breakdown of all of Cipher to make it easier to understand for people, hopefully eventually adding my info to the official article, however, my first post ended up longer than I thought it would be, so I split it into two sections, with the first one focusing on Card Breakdown and this one focusing on Field/Turn Breakdown. Now that that explanation's over with, let's get into the Field Breakdown and Turn Structure!

The translations aren't on the actual mats, though...

Here's the Playmat, with translations helpfully added  to make it easier to understand it all. I'll go over each Area with exception of the Deck Area because in my opinion if you need to ask what a Deck is you shouldn't be here until you've had like half a year of experience playing Go Fish or something. Pretty much the only thing you need to know is that you need at least 50 cards and the upper limit is basically however many cards you can fit on the table and still get shuffled well in a reasonable amount of time(so like maybe 15 seconds tops...if you can somehow do that with 500 cards send me a video because I want to see that), but I'd recommend staying as close to 50 as possible. Maybe I'll explain why next post. Anyways!

Let's start with the Orb Area. This is kind of like a weird mix between an HP bar and the Pokemon TCG's Prize Cards. There are five Orb Cards in the Orb Area. Whenever your Main Character(I'll get to that in the Turn Structure section) is unable to defend him/herself in battle with an enemy Unit, you take one Orb Card and add it to your hand.

Hey look, it's Herretik's little girls! Argent is my favorite…Sorry, that sounds super weird and has nothing to do with anything...

These Orb Cards are meant to be symbolic of the Orbs on the Fire Emblem shield, pictured to the right(hopefully). The idea is that when all the Orbs break(are added to your hand), the shield loses its power and your Main Character becomes vulnerable, opening them up to defeat. Orbs will always be Face-Down unless a card turns them Face-Up. You can't look at them. That should be it for Orbs, so let's move on!

Next up is the Bond Area, which is kind of like the Mana Pool in Magic the Gathering, another TCG. I play too many of those, by the way, in case that wasn't obvious. Anyways, once a turn you can add a card from your hand to the Bond Area, and then you use the Bonds as energy to Deploy Units. To quickly explain some terminology, Unit just means any Fire Emblem card(...but Joey, these are all Monsters...) and Deploy is just the act of placing a Unit onto the Field. I'll get into the basics of how Bonds work during Turn Breakdown, so let's move on.

The next Areas are the Vanguard and Rearguard. This is where the action really happens during the game, because these two Areas are where you Deploy your Units to do battle with your opponent's Units. Basically, they work kind of like spaces on the battlefield in the video games, which is where your Unit's Range comes in - a Unit with a Range of 1 can only attack enemy Units in the Vanguard and only while it's Deployed in the Vanguard, a Unit with a Range of 2 can only attack enemy Vanguard Units while in the Rearguard and enemy Rearguard Units only while in the Vanguard, and Units with a Range of 1-2 can attack the Vanguard while in the Rearguard, and can attack any of your foe's Units while in the Vanguard. At time of writing, there aren't any Units with a 3 in their Range, but such Units would be able to attack the enemy Rearguard from the Rearguard. Personally, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a Ballistician card with 2-3 Range soon. Another thing to note is that there is no limit on the number of Units that may be in the Vanguard and Rearguard Areas - you could theoretically have 50 Units out, assuming you were playing a big enough deck with enough Bonds to do that and you had the table space. However, when there are no Units in the Vanguard Area all Units in the Rearguard must make a Forced March to the Vanguard. I'll get to Forced Marches later. That should just about sum up the Vanguard and Rearguard, so let's speed through the last two and get to Turn Structure.

Next up is the Support Area. This area only matters when two Units battle, so I'll cover that in more detail during Turn Structure.

Last is the Retreat Area. This Area is identical to the Discard Pile or Graveyard area in most TCGs. Basically, it's where the dead guys go.

Well, that went pretty quickly. Let's get into Turn Structure and hope that goes just as fast! I suppose I should run you through Game Setup, though, so I'll do that first.

To start, each player chooses one Cost 1 Unit from their deck, and places one copy of said Unit into the Vanguard Area. You'll also need some way to keep track of said Unit - All Fire Emblem Ø Starter decks(There are 8 as of now) come with a Hero Marker card that you can use, but you can find your own stuff to use as long as your opponent can tell which Unit has the marker. This Unit is your Lord or Main Character Unit. Obviously, don't let him/her/it(thanks Limstella) die. The only Win Condition in Cipher is to Defeat the enemy Main Character in battle while your opponent has no cards in their Orb Area. The reason not being able to draw a card at the start of your turn, commonly known among TCG players as "Decking Out" is not something that loses you the game is something I'll explain when I get to Combat.

Anyways, each player then draws a hand of six cards. Each player is allowed one "Mulligan" or do-over, where they shuffle their hand back into their deck and draw six new cards. You can't Mulligan more than once, and you don't get to pick what you want to shuffle back - you keep everything or you lose everything. Basically, what you usually want to do is make sure to draw a Promoted version of your Main Character or, if for some reason you're either not playing any higher-Cost versions of your MC or playing a Cost 1 Unit who does not have any higher Cost cards printed, like Malliesia (please tell me you're not playing Malliesia as your MC), then you want whatever supporting Units your deck needs to properly do whatever it's trying to do, plus generally at least one Cost 1 Unit that you can Deploy and attack or use Skills with early on and one card you don't mind tossing into the Bond Area because you'll have to throw a lot of cards in there if you want to get anywhere.

After both players have either declared they're keeping their hand or used their Mulligan and drawn their new hand, both players then put the next five cards from the top of their deck into their Orb Area Face-Down. Obviously, no peeking. The game wouldn't have them be Face-Down at the start of the game if you were supposed to know what they were.

Now both players figure out who goes first through a completely random, 100% fair method, like having an arm wrestle or asking one player's mother or girlfriend/boyfriend who should go first(I was joking for both of those, by the way, but if that's how you and your opponent want to do it by all means don't let me stop you). But seriously, just flip a coin or play Rock Paper Scissors(sorry Spock/Handgun/Volcano/whatever else you want to believe beats everything) to figure it out. Interesting to note is that, unless I read wrong, Cipher has both players figure out who goes first after each player has finalized their hand, not before like many other TCGs such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! This piece of info has nothing to do with anything really, I just thought it was kind of weird as Cipher's like the only TCG I know that's set up that way, as games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! are set up the way they are to prevent people from changing their choice of first/second based on their opening hand.

Turns are split into Phases, in similar fashion to the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG:

Draw/Untap Phase

Bond Phase

Deployment Phase

Action/Battle Phase

Draw/Untap Phase: The first player doesn't get to draw a card on their first turn because unfair Card Advantage (You don't need to read the whole link, just the first couple sentences) is a thing. After the first turn, though, whenever your turn starts, you draw a card. However, drawing a card is not actually what starts your turn, as there are Skills on cards that state "at the start of your turn" that activate before you draw your card, such as those on Donnel and Lucina . Basically, when your turn starts, you first check to make sure there are no Skills that activate at the start of your turn, resolve any that do so, and then draw your card. The Official Rulebook apparently defines the other part of this Phase as "Returning all Units to the Pre-Action State" which TCG players usually just take to mean the fairly common(at least for TCG players) phrase "I Untap my guys." Sounds much simpler, doesn't it? Anyways, I'll explain Tapping and Pre/Post-Action States during the Action/Battle Phase, but basically, after you draw your card for the turn, you turn all Tapped Units back to normal from whatever position you use for your cards to represent them being Tapped. It makes sense later, guys...maybe.

Bond Phase: This Phase is quite simple. You take one card from your hand and put it Face-Up in your Bond Area...or you don't. It's entirely up to you. You can skip doing so if you want, but usually you'll want more Bonds for Deploying and Skills, though that's not always the case.

Deployment Phase: This is where Bonds start actually doing something besides not attacking. As I mentioned before, Bonds work similar to Mana in Magic the Gathering as they allow you to Deploy Units(play cards onto the Field). I think the way I'd say it for an Official-looking Thingy would be something like "You can Deploy a Unit(s) whose total Deployment/Promotion Cost(s) are equal to or less than the total number of Bonds you have in your Bond Area as long as you have at least one Face-Up Bond for each different Affiliation of Unit you are attempting to Deploy." Confused? Yeah, that's ok. I won't leave you with just that definition because this is supposed to be a beginner's primer type of explanation. Instead, I'll go ahead and try to break this down. Hopefully it works...

To quickly run you through Costs assuming you haven't read my last post, each Unit has one or two numbers up in the top-left corner of the card. The top one(or only one if there's only one) is the Deployment Cost, and is the base Cost to Deploy the Unit straight onto the Field. The other number in the smaller circle, if any, is the Promotion Cost, and I'll get to those in just a second. Anyways, the Deployment/Promotion Cost is how many Bonds you need in order to Deploy or Promote the Unit. For those of you trying to understand this through a Magic the Gathering background, you'll notice(assuming you have access to a picture as I can't get one to upload for here for no apparent reason) that it doesn't say a specific set of Bonds, like {Blue/Blue/2} which in Magic would mean you'd need 2 Blue Mana and 2 of any color Mana. Instead, on a Cipher card you'll see something like {1} or {3/2}. The 3/2 card doesn't need three of one color Bond and two of another color Bond, it just means the 3 is the Deployment Cost and the 2 is the Promotion Cost, meaning you'll only ever have to worry about one of them at a time. This just means that you need at least 3 Bonds that haven't already been used that turn to Deploy a Unit, and at least one of them has to be the same color as the card. So, as an example, if I want to Deploy my Cost 4 Kurthnaga, a Green Unit, I need at least 4 unused Bonds, and at least one out of all my Bonds has to be Green - it doesn't matter what color the other Bonds are or if they even have a color(I'll get to colorless Bonds when I reach the Action/Battle Phase). This color requirement might take some getting used to, but once you get accustomed to it it shouldn't be hard to remember. For you Magic players, think of it as Kurthnaga being a {Green/3} Mana Cost Creature for now(he is a dragon, after all).

Now for another example to hopefully get this into everyone's heads. This time I'll use a multicolor deck for my example to show how it works in those situations. Let's say I have 6 Face-Up Bonds(3 Blue, 2 Red, 1 White) and 3 Face-Down Bonds(again, I'll get to that in a sec), and I have in my hand my Cost 2 Lucina (a Blue card) my Cost 4/3 Marth (a Red card), my Cost 1 Sakura (a White version because Sakura comes in both Black and White cards) and my Cost 3 Azura (a White version because same as Sakura). The links are just to the Wiki pages for them in case you were wondering who I was talking about, btw. Let's say I have a Cost 1 Marth on the Field as my Main Character, but no other Units. The way it should work, I could Deploy my Lucina, my Sakura, and my Azura, but not my Marth because you may only have one of each Unit on the Field at a time, right? Oh, wait, oops, I forgot to mention that's the rule - you may only have one Unit of each character out on the Field at a time, so you can't just play twelve copies of Elise onto the Field and do mad things with them. Anyways, that's one way I could go, but I actually can use Marth because of Promotion Costs which I'll get to. Oh, but I can't because I only have 2 Red Bonds, right? Wrong again. Remember, only one of all your Bonds needs to be the right color - the others may be any color or no color at all. So even though I only have one White Bond, I can still Deploy both Sakura and Azura because at least one of my Bonds is White. Basically, the only real difference between Face-Up and Face-Down Bonds is that Face-Up Bonds add to the selection of Unit colors I can Deploy, so if I only have Face-Down Bonds I can't Deploy at all even if I have 4 or 5 or 2853684335 Bonds because I have no Unit colors to choose from. So, going back to my example, I have a total of 9 Bonds, and my Unit colors I can pick from are Blue, Red, and White. I have a Cost 2, a Cost 4/3, a Cost 1 and a Cost 3 for a total of 10 Deployment Cost required, meaning I'l have to pick at least one card to not Deploy...or will I? Nope, because of the magic powers of Promotion!

In the Fire Emblem video games, Promotion usually requires an item called a Master Seal, which, while kind of cool because it's like using a Thunderstone to evolve your Pikachu, is sometimes annoying because you have to find enough Master Seals for your whole army, which can be not only difficult but also hard on your in-game wallet because those things ain't exactly worth the same as a Pebble. Thankfully, there are no Master Seal cards in Cipher, and you can just Promote your Units whenever you feel like it, provided you have one copy of the Unit on the Field and one in your hand. There are two ways to do so, Leveling Up and Class-Changing. Leveling Up, also known as "Stacking"(no, not stacking your deck, shuffle those cards again you cheater), is basically just using the Deployment Cost to add a Unit from your hand on top of a Unit of the same character on the Field - so if I had a Cost 1 Lucina on the Field, I could play my Cost 2 Lucina onto my Cost 1 Lucina as a Level Up. The reason you would do this is because higher Cost cards usually have better Attack and Skills than lower Cost Units, so you want to get your high Cost Unit onto the Field quickly instead of just waiting for your low Cost Unit to die. Also, some cards, all Green at time of writing, have Skills that activate when your Level or "Stack" gets high enough, meaning you have enough cards in the "Stack" of said card - so my Ike with a LvS3 Skill needs a Level/Stack of 3, meaning the total number of Ike cards in the Stack of Ike cards on the Field needs to be at least 3 for the Skill to be usable. Now for Class-Changing. Class-Changing doesn't use the Deployment Cost. Instead, it uses the Promotion Cost, the smaller number below the other one. If I have a Cost 1 Lucina on the Field and a Lucina with a Deployment Cost of 4 and a Promotion Cost of 3 in my hand and have 3 Bonds, I can still play the 4/3 Lucina on top of the Cost 1 Lucina by paying the Promotion Cost instead of the Deployment Cost and using a Class-Change instead of a Level Up. When I Class-Change, certain Skills, marked on the card with a blue box that says "CCS", become usable when they otherwise wouldn't be, and I also get to draw a card, meaning the general number of cards in my hand won't go down, which is usually a good thing. Also, a Class-Change is also considered a Level Up, so any Units with Skills that activate when a Unit Levels Up will also activate said Skills when a Unit Class-Changes. A Level Up, on the other hand, is not considered a Class-Change, so you don't get to draw a card. Sorry.

So, going back to the original multicolor example, since I have a Marth on the Field and a Marth in my hand, I'd start by Class-Changing my Marth because I might want to change my strategy up based on what I draw - if I draw a 4/3 Lucina, then I probably want to use that instead of the Cost 2 Lucina because the 4/3 is stronger, whereas if I draw a 3/2 Sakura I might want to skip Lucina altogether and Deploy and Class-Change Sakura instead. So let's say I Class-Change Marth and then draw, say that Cost 4/3 Lucina. I'm currently at 7 unused Bonds(since I used 3 to Class-Change Marth) with a Cost 2 Lucina, a Cost 4/3 Lucina, a Cost 1 Sakura, and a Cost 3 Azura in my hand. Now I get to make it look like my hand was better than it actually was thanks to that draw. I was going to just Deploy everything, but now I have another option. Rather than just Deploy the Cost 4/3 Lucina, I can Deploy the Cost 2 Lucina and then Class-Change into the 4/3 Lucina, thereby allowing me to draw another card and possibly change up my strategy even more. "But Royboy," You, the lone reader, say. "Then I'll only have 2 Bonds left instead of 3 and I won't be able to play Azura!" First off, you're supposed to capitalize the B in RoyBoy because I want you to. Secondly, that's just fine - it's perfectly ok to not Deploy Units because you're trying to get other Units Promoted. Basically, look at your situation. Looking at where you're at in the game, are you better off just playing Azura or are you better off Deploying and then Class-Changing Lucina? It may be difficult to tell at first, but with practice it should start to come naturally, and even if it doesn't, hey, we can't all be on Robin's level of strategic expertise, so don't worry about it. Anyways, I'd (probably depending on the situation) then Deploy Lucina and then Class-Change her, drawing a new card. Say this one is a Cost 1 Black Elise. Normally, I could then play both Sakura and Elise, because I'd only need two Bonds, which is how many I have, but I don't have a Face-Up Black Bond, so I can't Deploy, Level Up, or Class-Change into a Black card. Instead, I'll just Deploy Sakura and hang on to Elise, letting my opponent wonder if it's another copy of Marth that I can use for Criticals later. I think that's about it for the Deployment Phase, and it turned out longer than expected, so I'll try and hurry through the rest.

Action/Battle Phase: This Phase shouldn't be too complicated, so hopefully I can breeze through it so you both can get back to your normal lives where playing a Japanese TCG in America is probably the worst if not only secret you're hiding from your friends. Basically, in this Phase you can start hitting things now. All cards have Skills(which I went over last post so you can find the breakdown there), and the vast majority of those will activate in this Phase. There are some exceptions, though, so make sure you pay attention to when your cards are activating their Skills because if you miss one you're not technically allowed to go back and use it. Now for battle!

The first player may not attack during their first turn as their opponent hasn't done anything to prepare for attack and, however much it may seem like a war where anything goes thanks to all the guys with swords, this is still in fact a children's card game and we want to be fair for some reason. Anyways, you first must clearly declare which Unit of yours is attacking, and which Unit of your opponent's you will be targeting for the attack. As mentioned above, Units can only attack areas within their Range numbers, and you can't attack your own troops(duh), so Units with a Range of 1 in your Rearguard will not be able to if you would want them to hit your own Vanguard troops even if they could. Anyways, once the attack has been declared, both players flip the top card of their deck over into the Support Area, and add the Support Value of the card in the Support Area to the Attack Value of the attacking/defending Unit. Highest number wins, with attackers breaking ties. If the defeated Unit is not the opposing Main Character, said Unit goes to the Retreat Area. If the defeated Unit is the opposing MC, your opponent takes one of their Orb Cards and adds it to their hand, in theory enabling them to make a comeback because they drew new stuff to use as a consequence of taking a hit. If your number isn't high enough to beat the defending Unit, you may use a Critical Hit. Announce you are using a Critical Hit and make sure your opponent understands that's what's going on(even just saying "I Crit" and having your opponent nod is generally enough), and then you must discard one card with the same character as the attacking Unit. Your attack is then doubled and damage calculation continues. If you are the defending guy and you don't particularly like the idea of one of your guys getting run over or you want to keep your MC from taking a hit, you may use what's officially called Godspeed Evasion, though the players I know(all five of them *internal sobbing*) usually call it a Critical Evade or just an Evade. Again, announce that you are using Godspeed Evasion/a Critical Evade and make sure your opponent acknowledges it(you can just say "I Evade" and make sure your opponent nods if you're playing casually), then discard a card with the same character as the Evading Unit, then the attack is over - no further damage calculation takes place. You just Evaded their attack, why would there be any damage to calculate? Anyways, after all the fancy calculationing(of course I know that's not really a word) is over, you send any dead guys to the Retreat along with the cards sent to the Support Area for the attack. This is why Decking Out isn't a thing in Cipher, by the way - you're pretty much guaranteed to go through your hopefully-50-card-deck at least once, twice if you're playing Donnel. Now you get to try and hit them again! Wait, no, their Units, not them. Wait, no! With your Units, not your hand. NO STOP ACTUALLY HITTING THEIR CARDS WITH YOUR CARDS IT WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE LITERAL! Ahem. My bad. Anyways, after you're finished battling and using Skills, you end your turn(some Skills may activate now, so check) and your opponent's turn begins and you get to start all over again!

So I think that's about it for the intro. Thanks for making it this far! This is my first time trying to explain Cipher to anyone, so please let me know how I did in the comments section, and let me know if I missed anything and I'll try to cover it. You're also welcome to let me know if I was wrong about anything up here, I'd like to think I'm good at accepting criticism. Also, I'd recommend this site for buying Cipher cards next time you do so. He might not have everything you're looking for, and he doesn't often update his site, but if you email him and ask he'll check for the card(s) you're looking for, and he was very excellent both times I've ordered from him. If he wants to know where you heard about him, send him to this page and we'll let him figure out who I am on his own, though it shouldn't be that hard. Anyways, it took me like a week and a half to get this done because work and stuff, plus my comp crashed halfway through, so I'm kind of done with posting stuff for a bit. Maybe I'll put something up again soon. Until then, bye! SANKYU

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