|This is a /v/ related article, which we tolerate because it's relevant and/or popular on /tg/... or we just can't be bothered to delete it.|
Fire Emblem is a video game series for the Nintendo consoles and handhelds. It's the younger, more popular, brother of Advance Wars. Among the tRPG genre, of which it was a fairly early member of, it's unusual for its lack of player controlled generic characters: Every character the player controls is unique, has a personality and if they die, they're dead forever. In most games there is a finite number of battles and obtainable money while weapons are finite in use, which renders efficiency in combat quite important (though only a handful are particularly stingy about this). Until the 13th game, it had a down to Earth artstyle with characters who were reasonably proportioned in sensible armor and only some unusual hair colors (an artifact of the the NES's very limited color options) would betray its Japanese origins.
Officially, we're not here to talk about any of that! Instead we're going to talk about a pair of trading card games based on it.
An unusual, poorly supported game. It's best remembered for being the only source of official art for many characters from the first five games. No effort was made to translate it and nobody plays it.
Cipher is the second attempt at a TCG. While it has not been translated officially, there is a notably sized English community for simulator play and all cards have been translated for such. It is unusual among TCGs for two reasons.
Firstly, all cards represent characters, with no land, sorcery, spell, energy, item, instant or trap cards to be found. Instead deployment is fueled by setting characters down from your hand once a turn as Bonds. To deploy a character you need to spend bonds equal to their deployment cost and have at least one bond with the same symbol (or both symbols in the case of cards with both Hoshido and Nohr symbols). Expended bonds return to normal during your next turn. In addition to spending bonds to deploy, certain cards also Flip bonds as a cost. Flipped bonds can not provide symbols, but can still provide points. Very few effects can unflip bonds and so far only yellow cards can unflip a net positive number, so this payment is largely final.
Secondly decking out does not lose the game, it only causes the discard pile to be shuffled into a new deck (and this happens instantly so you don't even miss drawing a card) unless you have no discard pile as well (this is quite unlikely). Pulling cards from the discard pile, known as the Retreat Area, is actually relatively easy and doable by multiple series with low cost clerics. Exile, known as the Boundless Area, was introduced later in the game's life.
Each deck consists of a minimum of 50 cards (including the main character) with no maximum. Each card (determined by serial number) can only appear 4 times and each deployed character must be unique. Some cards representing generic monsters, faceless enemy units and, in one case, a guy who can multiply have exceptions to this rule. At the start of play each player chooses a character from any card with a cost of 1 and deploys it over a special marker identifying it as the main character (Also known as "lord" by English fans, since the terms were synonymous when discussing Fire Emblem before Cipher).
The objective of play is to destroy the five cards an opponent has deployed as orbs, either by defeating their main character 5 times or using skills that destroy orbs, then attacking them again. So far, the only other way to win is to destroy all five orbs and activating a skill found on a particular Marth (B13-051SR). When an orb is destroyed, that player adds it to their hand (The reverse of Pokemon TCG, since that has been found to make for a death spiral if you're screwed enough to have all your important cards as prizes).
In combat an attacking unit's attack is compared to the defending unit's attack, with the defending unit destroyed if the attacker has a higher power. This sounds simple, but it is complicated by a few other factors. Firstly there are two zones, front and rear, for deployed units with most units having limited attack range. Secondly are supports, criticals and evasion. During combat the top card of each player's deck is revealed and the support value of the revealed card added to a character's attack and activating their support skill unless the revealed character has the same name as the supported character (in which case the support fails, doing nothing). After this the attacking player may critical hit by discarding a card from their hand with the same name as the attacking character, doubling their attack. A defending player may discard a card from their hand with the same name as the defending character to evade and nullify all damage (even critical hits). If the attacking unit's attack is higher and they haven't been evaded the defending unit is sent to the retreat zone or (if they're a main character) an orb breaks.
Until the 7th game, none of these were officially translated. English titles for these are the ones used by Nintendo in crossover games. While the earlier games have not been translated officially, fans have translated all of them and as a result many are known to older fans by slightly different translations of their Japanese titles.
Every few games brings a new sub-series with their own separate, unrelated, universes. Fans refer to these subseries by the name of the world they take place in while Cipher, the second TCG, assigns each a color and a symbol.
In Cipher characters originating from these games focus on swarming cheap units, fitting how many of these characters lacked solid personalities or dialog past their original chapter. One mechanic unique (aside from Lianna and Rowan, the colorless heroes of Fire Emblem Warriors) to Red is Hero Skills, which changes the main character mid-play.
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (ファイアーエムブレム 暗黒竜と光の剣) on the Famicom (NES), often known by early fans as Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light or just FE1. The pantless prince Marth is forced to flee from his country of Altea after Dolhr, who has obtained supernatural aid from some old artifacts and some evil dragons, invaded it. After his cover is blown in exile, he and his retainers decide to join forces with the other countries of Archanea, including the Holy Kingdom of Archanea, who are trying to fight Dolhr. Along the way he acquires the legendary sword Falchion (which isn't actually a falchion) and the Fire Emblem shield. It is regarded as exceptionally primitive and lacks many basic features of later games. The most obvious three being that healers can't level up by healing and instead can only get XP by being attacked by an enemy and not dying (quite a task given their frailty), not being able to see the enemy's movement range when selecting them, and the inability to rearrange units in the deployment phase (this can be worked around by removing all units from deployment and re-adding them in a particular order). Don't play it and play one of the remakes instead.
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (ファイアーエムブレム 新・暗黒竜と光の剣, lit New Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light) on the DS was the 11th game and is a remake of the first game. While it fixes the basic issues and gives Marth some much needed pants, it still lacks much of the advanced mechanics found in later (Thracia 776 onward) games and for some bizarre reason makes the new content impossible to access by a rational player by requiring you kill off the majority of player units at a rate even a horrifically bad player couldn't manage. This is corrected by a fanmade Full Content Patch.
- Fire Emblem Gaiden (ファイアーエムブレム外伝) on the Famicom was the second game and set on Valentia, a continent far to the west of Archanea. It stars Alm, a youth that eventually acquires another, separate, Falchion (that's still not a falchion!) and Celica, a sword wielding priestess. The mechanics actually got weirder here instead of more polished and introduced concepts that would never or almost never be seen in the series again like magic that requires spending HP to use, equipable shields, explorable towns, no money, and abandoning the limited resources. The maps in this game are really terrible, open with limited terrain.
- Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (ファイアーエムブレム Echoes もうひとりの英雄王, lit Echoes Another Hero King) on the 3DS is the fifteenth game and a remake of Gaiden. It's officially released in English, though the translation is quite lacking and has a bizarre love of adding character breaking jokes (thankfully not to the extent of Awakening and Fates). The maps were barely improved, though it's the first game in the series to have full voice acting.
- Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem (ファイアーエムブレム 紋章の謎) on the Super Famicom (SNES) was the 3rd game in the series and where it started to hit its stride. Two years after the original game, Marth has found pants and became king of Altea where he awaits his marriage to the princess he spent his exile with. A two year peace ends when the Kingdom of Archanea forces Marth to assemble his men and crush a rebellion in Grust. It included a remake of the original game which uses the new mechanics and contains many differences, including removal of several gimmicky filler levels. Remains a fan favorite in Japan.
- BS Fire Emblem: Archanea War Chronicles (BS ファイアーエムブレム アカネイア戦記編) on the Super Famicom with the (Broadcast) Satellaview is a sidestory that was only briefly playable. Using the Mystery of the Emblem engine this set of four chapters with an objective to survive as long as possible while collecting as much loot as possible. Each chapter was a prequel or sidestory to Mystery of the Emblem.
- New Mystery of the Emblem: Heroes of Light and Shadow (ファイアーエムブレム新・紋章の謎〜光と影の英雄〜) on the DS was the 12th game and a remake of the third. It generally tightens up the original, expands the personality of the previously bland characters, and remains quite good. It was for some reason not translated to English, but a fan translation exists. It introduced two mechanics which were well executed here but directly contributed to the downfall of the series: My Unit/The Avatar, a player created original character, and Casual Mode, where dead units only stay dead for the one chapter. Since Shadow Dragon existed the remake of the original was not included, but a remake of the BS episodes are.
Yellow cards have low support values, but higher than average attack and non-support ways to boost attack. They also have a unique mechanic known as Bond Skill, which can only be used when they are set as bonds. Supporting Bond Skills is that, so far, all cards that restore a net positive number of bonds to face up status are yellow, though it is by no means a common ability even in yellow. So far Leif, Lewyn, Linoan, Ethlyn and Deirdre have cards capable of doing this. Jugdral is actually in the same world as Archanea, located to the south of that continent with its edge visible on Awakening's world map.
- Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (ファイアーエムブレム 聖戦の系譜) for the Super Famicom (SNES) was the 4th game in the series. It breaks the mold right after Mystery of the Emblem set it: Maps are huge, you can deploy everyone at once, counter attacks aren't automatic, units can't trade items, class change doesn't reset level, and more. It also introduced the weapon triangle and skills to the series, the only of its oddities that would remain in the series going forward. It also introduced the Children system where by pairing by two characters they will give birth to two kids you will use in the second half of the game (if not, the game will provide replacements that most of the time are generally inferior to the kids). The game is quite good because of or in spite of these differences however.
- Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 (ファイアーエムブレム トラキア７７６) was 5th game and the final game (not just from the Fire Emblem series) released for the Super Famicom. Releasing three (four if you count the slightly different cartridge release) years after the Nintendo 64 was released and mere months before the GameCube was announced. After several failed attempts to make an N64 game (Which were scrapped as over ambitious, underdeveloped or wound up designed for the ill-fated N64DD) it recycled some concepts from the failures, though Binding Blade, Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance are all known to have remnants of the multiple projects. Predictably, the game is set in in Thracia in the year 776 (during the middle of the previous game), where Lief is running a rebellion. Remember how the introduction said some games were quite stingy about experience and money? This is one of them. It introduced the Rescue mechanic and differing stage objective, both of which would remain in the series going forward. The objectives are used to instill dread in the player, frequently forcing escape from battles that genuinely can't be won't. It was the first game in the series to include Fog of War, but while in all other uses in the series this just hides the enemies, here it also hides the terrain. It also added the ability to capture enemy units and non-Lief units growing tired if they were deployed too many times in a row, which did not exist beyond this game. It's actually quite a "normal" installment compared to its predecessor aside from how hard it is. Has two translations, unfortunately both terrible. The first incomplete, poorly translated and buggy, the second being deliberately poorly translated, with an author that insists his random changes and rewrites are completely professional and proper.
Elibe and Magvel/Legendary Weapons/PurpleEdit
In Cipher characters from these games focus on support skills, which is appropriate since the series's beloved support system began here. Characters from Magvel (which isn't actually in the same world as Elibe as far as we know) often have anti-monster effects or (in one case) monster tribal. As of this writing only three Purple monsters were printed and only 5 monsters were printed overall, so this isn't utilized all that much. More recently introduced is the legendary weapon skills, which activate when a character's other skill is activated multiple times in one turn.
- Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (ファイアーエムブレム 封印の剣), known by early fans as Sword of Seals (since it is related to a building translated as the "Shrine of Seals" in the next game), was the 6th game and released on the GBA. With his father, Eliwood, ill and the league's official leader, Hector, dead the young Roy is pressed into leadership of the Lycian League after it is invaded by its belligerent neighbor Bern. Very much a back to basics title, with a simple plot and no map objectives other than seize and killing the final boss. It is regarded as unexceptionable but playable, albeit with very low growth rates that make it quite possible many character will turn out absolutely terrible if the dice hate you. This is further complicated by most weapons having minimal chance to hit, so both allies and enemies will miss a frustrating amount of time, and enemy units being quite strong and numerous with extant critical hit rates. It did however introduce the support feature that became a staple of the series: By fighting alongside each other, units could become friends and get bonuses when fighting near the other. These bonuses were accompanied by conversations between the two units which expanded upon their characterization and backstory. If you value your sanity, don't use the nomads, since using them sends you to a series of open, empty, levels filled with annoying enemies.
- Champion's Sword (覇者の剣) is a manga that set in the same world as this game. It starts as a side-story but eventually becomes an alternate telling of the game's story. Character unique to the manga appear in Cipher as purple cards.
- Fire Emblem (ファイアーエムブレム 烈火の剣) was the 7th game, also on the GBA, and the first to be released in English, albeit without a subtitle. It is known as The Blazing Blade in English releases of spinoff titles and older English fans refer to it as Blazing Sword (An alternate translation of the Japanese subtitle) or just FE7. The story for this game, which is a prequel set 20 years before the previous game, is divided into two parts and is unusual in that it lacks a full scale war. This game is the most recommended for newcomers: In addition to being a fan favorite, it is one of the most polished/balanced titles and has high replay value while having a long tutorial that must be completed the first time the game is played (though a fan made "tutorial slayer" patch exists to remove this requirement). It also maintained the support system of its predecessor, but with much more interesting characters.
- Lyn Mode: Lyn, the sole survivor of a tribe of nomads that learns her grandfather, an elderly lord of the Lycian League, wants to see her before he dies. She is joined by the Tactician (Default name: Mark) a mute, player created journeyman tactician she rescued that never quite manages to appear in frame outside of longshots. Lyn's journey to Lycia is fraught with obstacles including vengeful bandits, agents of her great uncle who wants to keep the throne for himself, and a pack of shadowy assassins seeking a pair of mysterious children. Lyn's mode is essentially a long tutorial, but it introduced many characters who would appear in the main game.
- Eliwood Mode: One year after Lyn's story, Eliwood, a young noble of Lycia and (eventually) Roy's father, is ambushed by assassins of the same group Lyn encountered while he is searching for his missing father. His quest is joined by his friend Hector and (later) Lyn and the trio soon learn there is much more at stake than just Eliwood's father.
- Hector Mode: Unlocked after first clearing the game in Eliwood mode, Hector mode is an alternative telling of Eliwood's story from the prospective of Hector instead of Eliwood. In addition to quite substantial dialog changes, Hector Mode adds multiple new levels and increases the difficulty of existing ones by adding new enemies with better tactics.
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (ファイアーエムブレム 聖魔の光石) on the GBA was the 8th game in the series. It is largely a spiritual successor to Gaiden, implementing many (but not all) of its unique mechanics in a much better base game (the base mechanics are largely unchanged from the 7th game). It also reintroduced skills to the series, albeit in a limited fashion, after the 6th game removed them. Set on the continent of Magvel where a long-lived peace is shattered when the Kingdom of Renais is invaded by its former ally the Grado Empire. Grado's apparent motive is to destroy the Sacred Stones of each country, a disturbing revelation as these stones are all that hold back the banished demon king from reemerging. The twin heirs to Renais, Erika and Ephraim, embark on separate quests to end Grado's assault. Despite being very easy, even without using the ability to grind infinitely, the base gameplay is solid and it continued use of the support system. Due to its best developed mechanics and largest rom size, it is the most popular base for rom hacks, of which there are quite a few.
In Cipher characters from these games focus on leveling up and promoting to achieve high power, with abilities that only work if a character has sufficient cards on its stack. It also has tribal effects for Laguz characters, who appeared only in this series.
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (ファイアーエムブレム 蒼炎の軌跡, literally Trail of the Blue Flames) released on the GameCube was the 9th game (though it began development before Sacred Stones did). When the country of Crimea is invaded by Daein, the mercenary Ike stumbles upon a woman claiming to be the lost princess of Crimea. Their attempts to flee Daein and obtain aid for Crimea take them across the world. It properly reintroduced skills to the series and was the first game in 3D. Ike remains the only main character in the series who is not a noble.
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (ファイアーエムブレム 暁の女神, literally Goddess of Dawn) released relatively early in the Wii's life and was the 10th game in the series. After its defeat three years ago, Daein is occupied by the country of Begnion. Begnion's occupying forces have proved to be abusive which has prompted the creation of the rebellious Dawn Brigade, led by the "Silver-Haired Maiden" Michiah who has mysterious powers. Unusually Daein regains its independence a mere third into the game and the prospective shifts between multiple different fronts of an increasingly tangled war. Clearly rushed to be an early release for the new Wii, it has quite a bit of unused content and fairly shallow characters, but the gameplay remains solid overall aside from the extreme differences in unit power. The shifting focus really makes this obvious, with half the Dawn Brigade being useless and the other half starved for experience but Ike's forces are capable of destroying everything in their path with minimal effort. Included height difference in maps with bonuses and penalties for attacking from/against higher ground, but this strangely hasn't been seen since.
In Cipher characters from this game focus on class change (but not to the extent of Tellius), orb manipulation and have easily swarmed monsters with their own tribal support. Ylisse is actually the same continent as Archanea but in the distant future where technology is exactly the same or worse.
- Fire Emblem: Awakening (ファイアーエムブレム覚醒) was the 13th game and released on the 3DS. It stars Chrom, the prince of the Holy Kingdom of Ylisse (a country of the same name, not the continent as a whole) and wielder of the Falchion (which looks different but is still not a falchion) who finds an amnesiac tactician while hunting bandits. The two quickly come into conflict with the country of Plegia and meet a mysterious man claiming to be the legendary Hero King Marth. During development it was expected to be the last game in the series ever due to a stint of poor sales. As such it was designed to feature many formerly game exclusive mechanics like the world map/infinite experience found in Gaiden and Sacred Stones, the second generation of Genealogy of the Holy War and the custom player created unit of New Mystery of the Emblem among other fanservice for series fans. Unfortunately the combination of a self-insert and romance led to a large influx of people who didn't care about the actual game to make the game wildly successful. The translation isn't very good either, often changing characters into entirely different ones for no reason. The artstyle also throws away the reasonable designs of the series in favor of pure Fantasy Armor. Gameplay is very unbalanced, with the main character able to clear the game almost solo in just over half an hour. This is not helped by the pair-up mechanic, which is inherently broken by virtue of taking a mechanic (rescuing) that was already very useful when it only gave penalties and giving massive bonuses instead. It also has the dishonor of introducing paid DLC to first party Nintendo games.
Hoshido/White and Nohr/BlackEdit
In Cipher this unnamed continent has two symbols, one for each of the two warring countries. Hoshido focuses on swarming while Nohr gets bonuses when it destroys units and abilities that destroy units. Shared between the two is the Dragon Blood mechanic possessed by the royal families, which gives every unit with a Dragon Blood skill the Dragon Blood skills of the other units you have deployed.
- The three variants of Fire Emblem Fates (ファイアーエムブレム if) are the 14th game in the series. After the success of Awakening the next game was made for all the new fans of "the series" (who were really just fans of Awakening) and places a greater emphasis on waifu shit and the player avatar. A thoroughly "love it or hate it" installment in the franchise, either it's a flawed but highly enjoyable trilogy of games or a Daemon-created abomination that never should've saw the light of day. Trust me when I say there is NO middle ground, and more than its fair share of flame wars have been fought arguing over the quality of the game (or lack thereof, depending on where you stand). Hell, impressively enough, the game got its own Broken Base page on TV Tropes before the game was even officially released state-side, so that's when you know you're dealing with Wardian-levels of Skub. Less impressively, though, the translation became consistently awful to the point the works of 4Kids bore more resemblance to the original: Changes to the names (Even when it makes no sense like Harold, a man with a giant H on his outfit, being changed to Arthur even though there was already a character by that name in the series) and personalities of characters are done at random. Obvious references to myth and the series history are missed while wide sections of content were cut out at random as well. This got so bad a completely independent fan translation exists.
- Birthright (白夜王国, lit White Night Kingdom) took the waifuism to the extreme, to the point the avatar's siblings can be romanced (they literally carry around a letter revealing they aren't blood siblings that they only mention during love confessions). Game is either a massive improvement over Awakening considerably (on the gameplay front, at least), or a easy-as-hell chore to play. On the bright side, the story here is the least offensive of the three narratives, being surprisingly okay (not decent or especially not good, just okay) given Fates' iffy track record with any semblance of quality writing.
- Conquest (黒夜王国, lit Black Night Kingdom) has some remarkably high-quality gameplay (some even saying it's the best in the series), and the cast is generally the better of the two kingdoms. Unfortunately, the story is so hilariously bad that it loops back to being comedy central by how confusing and stupid everything is. Good news is though, the story being made of pure fail doesn't make most of the other characters not interesting (especially if you care to delve into the better supports), which is good, given you're stuck with a lot of these Nohrians for the entire route. Overall, by far the best of the three routes by a heavy margin, and one could make a decent argument it's one of the better Fire Emblem games... if you dare, which to be fair wouldn't even be a hot take opinion if the story writing wasn't ridiculous.
- Revelation (インビジブルキングダム, the English Invisible Kingdom rendered phonetically) is closer to Birthright in gameplay but slightly more challenging at the cost of most maps being terrible gimmick chapters. Good news is, it contains almost every character from both routes. The bad news? Story is even worse than Conquest, and doesn't have it being "so bad it's good" saving its anymore - it's just painful all around. While by no means a bad game officially, it's generally seen as the weakest of the trilogy by a long-shot; whenever somebody who hated Fates had something bad to say about it, they generally direct their ire to this game. That said, don't let the game being seen as the weak link detract you from enjoying it if you do; just keep in mind it's objective flaws, and whether you love it or hate it is purely up to you, as we here at /tg/ let you do as you will.
Fódlan/Crest of Flames/BrownEdit
Only four promo cards for the main characters, none of which have unique mechanics, have been revealed.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses (ファイアーエムブレム 風花雪月, Wind, Flower, Snow and Moon) is the sixteenth game in the series, released on the Nintendo Switch. Strangely the majority of the development for this game came from Koei Tecmo, with only a few senior Intelligent Systems staff involved. The main character (a renamable player standin, but not customization beyond sex, name and birthday) is bonded with a loli dragon that allows him or her a limited ability to rewind time. After saving a bunch of students, the player is invited to become a teacher at a prestigious Garreg Mach Monastery military academy. The player picks one of three classes, each representing students of one of the continents three (currently) peaceful powers. Until a mere month before release previews focused exclusively on the school management aspect, even though it disappears halfway when war is declared, which did it no favors among actual fans wary after Awakening and Fates. Mechanics are quite unusual, taking many of Gaiden's unique mechanics and refining them on top of a unique, fluid, class system instead of every unit being locked in. Unlike every other game in the series, nearly every usable character joins at the start and those that don't join when the main character's level is high enough instead of waiting for a later point in the series. Has a four way route split.
- Black Eagles/Adrestian Empire:
- Blue Lions/Holy Kingdom of Faerghus:
- Golden Deer/Leicester Alliance:
- Church of Seiros:
Colorless cards are those of character original to Cipher (though cards of these characters sometimes have the symbols of random existing universes instead), those of characters originating in one of the spinoff titles, certain promotional cards, or the character Anna (who appears in every game in the series but Gaiden). They have no set mechanics and are splashable since they don't need a color bond to deploy, but don't provide a color when played as bonds.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE (幻影異聞録♯ＦＥ, Illusory Revelations ♯FE) was a crossover between Fire Emblem and... Shin Megami Tensei (read: Persona) except not really a crossover so much as something that (badly) took elements from both. Supposedly the gameplay isn't terrible, but nobody wants to touch it because it's a crossover nobody asked for and did that in a way nobody wanted. The English version couldn't shake this because the translation is beyond awful, going as far as to redo the Japanese audio so the voice acting matches the blatant censorship. The original human characters are all colorless, but the
PersonaMirage they use are Red or Blue (matching the character they were based on). When a Mirage and its user are both deployed, they gain bonuses.
- Encore: A Switch enhanced port. Censored even in the Japanese version and bombed as a result.
- Fire Emblem Warriors (ファイアーエムブレム 無双, Fire Emblem Musou) is a musou (Dynasty Warriors) crossover game with two original main characters. It managed to fuck up a really basic concept by focusing exclusively on the cast of Awakening and Fates (Plus 3 Shadow Dragon characters) who already interacted with eachother and making everyone gameplay clones. Has bizzare fanservice costume destruction that results in sportswear that often covers more than what the characters were originally wearing.
- Fire Emblem: Heroes is a mobile gatcha game with stripped down gameplay and tiny maps. The player can summon
waifuscharacters from the other games, but there's also a few original characters.
- Fire Emblem Cipher is the card game you're reading about! There are (so far) 7 original characters created just for it. Their class changes every appearance, and, unlike other spinoff characters, they typically aren't colorless but a random color. The characters that existed at the time could be recruited in DLC for Shadows of Valentia.
In Fire Emblem each character, friendly or enemy, has a class that determines what weapons they can use and how high their stats can go (and how fast they rise in some games). High level units of most classes can class change (also known as promotion) and gain new abilities and weapons on top of a nice array of stats boosts (including an increase to movement in most cases), though the exact mechanism varies by the game.
In Cipher, classes tend to have a few consistent abilities and, for armor knights, fliers, and mounted units, gives certain affinities beyond their listed weapon, game of origin, and sex. Every card has a class listed, but this has no direct mechanical effect. In Cipher class change is represented by being able to deploy more powerful versions of units on top of other ones, which has a reduced cost and results in a card draw (Cards without a class change cost can still be added to existing units as a "level up" but this doesn't draw a card). Tellius character in particular depend on having a large number of cards stacked this was to achieve full power.
The class of most main characters, with only Alm, Celia, Ike, Michiah and the main character of Fates not being of this class. Since the class is unique in each game, it varies wildly between games. Stats wise they tend to be all-around average or average but higher speed in return for lower defense. In all games except Gaiden, Geneology of the Holy War, Thracia 776, Fates, and Three Houses the main character has an exclusive weapon (typically a rapier for sword users) obtained early (if not the start) that deals super effective damage against heavy armor and cavalry units. This will frequently show up in Cipher on one of their lower cost cards as a damage bonus against these unit types.
Basic ranged attack unit. Can hit two squares away but not in front of them. In the games these tend to always suck compared to mages since 1: mages can counter attack regardless of range 2: archers are barely if at all more durable than mages 3: Enemies with physical defense are far more common than those with magic resistance. Even compared to melee units armed with javelins and hand axes they tend to look poor. Their main advantage is they deal triple damage to flying units, but those tend to be extremely fragile anyways and some games give wind magic the same advantage. The big exception is Shinon in Radiant Dawn since he has every possible advantage thrown at him.
In Cipher they tend to get the ability to attack anywhere, regardless of battlefield position, attack boosts when attacking and anti-evasion. The whole problem with countering isn't much of an issue due to how combat works in Cipher.
Heavy armored but slow moving guys. They tend to struggle between their low speed, low movement and poor resistance. Non-Japanese players were however introduced to the class with Wallace, a guy who is intentionally overpowered for the short time he's around for tutorial purposes, and Oswin, who joins early, starts strong and could easily be the best armor knight in the entire series. If you're wondering why random armored guys become generals despite not holding that rank, the armor knight class couldn't promote in the original game but a late joining character, who was a general in story, got the class as "armor knight but better". Future games linked the two classes and didn't bother renaming general.
In Cipher they get bonuses when under attack by non-magic units.
All around solid units with high movement and the ability to keep moving after certain actions (varies by the game). They are kept in check by taking greater movement penalties in rough terrain and certain anti-horseman weapons that deal triple damage to them. Some games also give them some kind of penalty on indoor maps. They typically use swords and lances, but in some games each cavalier specializes in a different type of weapon.
This set of classes has two recurring archetypes associated with it. A pair of cavaliers, one red and one green with one serious and the other more eccentric, tend to join early in most games. This duo is known known as Cain and Abel after the pair from the original game. An old Paladin that has great stats early game but terrible ones late game tends to join early game with a goal of helping you survive early levels but potentially stealing experience from units that need it if used carelessly. This character is known as a Jeigan, a spelling that persists in fandom even though the character has been officially romanized as Jagan since the release of Shadow Dragon.
In Cipher, Cavaliers of the Cain and Abel archetype get bonuses from both being on the field at once. Jeigan archetypes have some kind of penalizing ability like being unable to move or not being usable as a bond. Other cavaliers get abilities concerning their own movement.
Infantry units who either use swords (first five games) or can't attack (6 onward) but can make an ally that has already acted that turn act again. Since they double (or more) a unit's effectiveness without cutting into experience and can pick the most useful unit to double each turn they are always some of the best units in the game.
In Cipher Dancers and Bards, unsurprisingly, have the ability to untap tapped units in exchange for flipping bonds.
Dark Mage/Shaman>Dark Sage/DruidEdit
Users of dark magic. Dark magic is generally heavier, slower and more powerful than "normal" magic and sometimes has extra effects attached to it. Since Dark Magic as a separate type of magic only exists in 4-10, 4 and 9 don't have any playable dark mages, and the playable ones in 5, 6 and 10 join fairly late (and only on the second playthrough for 10) this class is rather unrepresented. This class exists in name only in 11-14, where it's just a mage with slightly different stats and no (or no worth using in 13) unique magic.
In Cipher this class focuses on destruction of the enemy hand or deck and getting bonuses from it.
Axe users with high strength and HP with above average speed, but average at best everything else. They can use bows after promotion, but hand-axes mean that's not much use (outside of FE6, where those have terrible accuracy). Typically come in pairs, but there is rarely anything distinguishing the two characters mechanically. Fighters are extremely scattered in quality, with most being terrible and a handful (Orsin, Halvan, Boyd, Nolan) being awesome. Until the 14th game there were no female members of this class.
In Cipher they gain attack when it's your turn. The difference between them and archers matters for some skills.
Winged humans who transform into dragons to fight. Strong, but they typically join late game and their transformation has limited uses in the entire game. Nearly always Loli who are much older than they look.
In Cipher they are weak but get large temporary bonuses from flipping bonds and/or large always-on bonuses from having a large number of bonds out.
Magic users. Somewhat fast but squishy like you'd expect. Since it's rare for non-pegasus knight non-paladin non-mage enemies to have high resistance, they can be quite deadly. When they promote, they gain the the ability to heal as well as blast which greatly enhances their flexibility and makes splitting the group easier. How the categories of magic are split varies by the game, but the most common systems are "they aren't", and a rock paper scissors wheel of light>dark>anima>light and/or fire>wind>lightning>fire. This tends to be less important than the weapon trinity since magic users on both sides tend to have high accuracy and high resistances.
In Cipher they either let you draw a card under certain conditions or have conditional bonuses dependent upon allies
All around average or (much) better sword using infantry. This may sound boring, but the class is consistently strong, with its main weakness being that swords don't have a 1-2 weapon like spears (javelin) and axes (hand axes) do. When they promote they gain the ability to use axes (giving them 1-2 range), and they tend to be some of the better axe users due to their high skill counteracting the low hit rate of axes. Ike, the main character of ninth and tenth games, is of this class.
In Cipher they get or give bonuses when you have enough allies deployed.
Light, agile sword users with above average (or even higher) strength, high speed and (often) a bonus critical hit rate in exchange for being squishy. Often an early game one begins as an enemy and must be persuaded to join. This presents a challenge of trying to get the needed person in range without one of the two dying, with the solution typically being to take the Jeigan's weapons and use him as a meatshield.
In Cipher they have anti-evasion abilities and abilities that support critical hits and evasion. Bonuses for other sword using allies pops up as well.
Basic healers who can't do anything else. When they promote they can attack with magic, but in games with multiple magic types this tends to be light magic which tends to be the worst magic type in the game. This is generally useful mainly for helping them level up faster or when there is nobody to heal.
In Cipher most basic healers have the ability to flip bonds and tap themselves to return a card from the retreat zone to your hand.
Pegasus Knight>Falcoknight (>Dracoknight in Archanea games)Edit
Lance using flying units with awesome movement, the ability to ignore terrain (though this generally means they also ignore the positive bonuses like extra defense), high speed and the only non-magic using class with consistently good resistance (which pairs nicely with their easy access to 1-2 range in Javelins). On the downside they tend to be quite fragile against physical attacks, have lower than average strength, and a weakness to bows. Playable examples were all female till Fates, though generic enemies in the Archanea games were male. Tend to come in groups of three, which can combine in a formation for a triangle attack which has a 100% chance of a critical attack. It's rarely worth it since only one of the three can attack, you need to surround an enemy and the third character rarely joins before the late game.
In Cipher they have their triangle attacks, which are more useful with how attacking works and the ability to untap partners so they can all benefit, and have abilities that can move allies.
Squishy, hard to hit guys with swords that aid the group with the ability to open doors and chests, see far in fog/darkness and steal items from enemies that, for some reason, can't be taken from their corpse. Some thieves are actually decent fighters as well and behave closer to Myrmidons. What they promote into and if they can even promote varies wildly within the series.
In Cipher they have abilities that are some combination of reveal the opposing player's cards, discards their cards and/or draw you cards.
Mounted staff users. In exchange for higher movement and (in some games) the ability to move after healing, they typically join after unmounted healers, yet still low level (a big deal since staff users are a pain to level) and being mounted can be a con in some terrain heavy maps. In a large chunk of their appearances they actually wield swords as well as staffs, even unpromoted, which further sets them apart from the light magic wielding foot healers. Despite being the masculine noun, they were all female till the 14th game, where they're not even really Troubadours (being called Rod Knights in Japanese).
In Cipher, they are largely the same as their unmounted counterparts.
Dragon or wyvern (depending on the game) riding flying units. In exchange for better physical durability and higher strength, they lack speed and resistance. They originally used lances, but since the 10th game, Wyvern Knights favor axes to distinguish them from Pegasus Knights. They were only split off into their own class in Genealogy of the Holy War and tend to join later than Pegasus Knights making them one of the least populated "standard" classes.
In Cipher they don't really have any consistent abilities and the few represented characters draw from their own characterization before their class. They suffer from how dragon is rarely a beneficial affinity but bonuses against dragon affinity units aren't that rare.
- Official Japanese website: Helpful if you know Japanese, useless if you don't.
- Serenes Forest wiki: The wiki of the primary English fansite for the series, is considered the main source for card translations as well as maintaining the rules list and instructions for simulator play.
- Emma and Shade's Cipher Classroom!: Translation of the official tutorial.
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