The Final Fantasy Trading Card Game is a trading card game released by Square Enix featuring Final Fantasy characters. Similar to other trading card games, players build decks of cards and battle each other using them.
The game was originally released exclusively in Japan as the Chapter series, which ranged from 2011 to 2015 and spawned a total of 1898 cards. In 2016 Square Enix announced the Opus series, which can be seen as a reboot of the original Chapter series. Although they share many similarities in rules and cards, both are different games and cards from one cannot be used on another.
The new Opus series marked the official release of the card game in North America and Europe for the first time, with the first card set being released in English on October 28, 2016, featuring 216 unique cards. It was also released in Japan later that year on December 9.
Each turn, players spend their Crystal Points (CP) to play other cards. Crystal Points are provided in two ways: either by Dulling (turning sideways) a Backup card, providing one CP of its element, or by discarding a card from the player's hand, providing two CP of that card's element. To successfully play a card, the player must pay at least one CP of its element, and enough other CP to make up its cost. Therefore, a Fire card with a cost of 5 requires one Fire CP and four CP of any other element. The exceptions are Light and Dark element cards; these have no element requirements for paying their costs, and cannot be discarded for CP.
The game is won by attacking with Forwards. The defending player can choose whether or not to block attacking Forwards with their own Forwards. If two Forwards are in combat with each other, the Forward with the higher power destroys the other, and the loser is put into its owner's Break Zone (discards). If the Forward was unblocked, it deals one damage to the defending player. Whenever a player is dealt damage, they put that many cards from the top of their deck into their Damage Zone. When a player's Damage Zone has seven cards in it, that player loses the game.
To play a card or ability, a player announces the card or ability and any targets it has then pays any costs for it. Then, each other player may respond to that card or ability before it has its effect or enters the field, and the first player may respond to any actions the other players take. This is known as "the stack." Once players pass on playing cards or abilities, the objects on the stack resolve from top to bottom - in other words, first in, last out. Character cards (Forwards and Backups) can only be played if the stack is empty.
A list of cards from the Chapter series may be viewed here.
These are the cards that will be taking part in the game's combat. They attack the opponent and defend against the opponent's attacks. In the bottom right corner of each Forward card is a large number denoting their power. If at any point during a turn a Forward has taken more damage than its Power, it is put into the Break Zone.
Forwards enter the field in an Active (vertical) state, but cannot attack or use abilities that require dulling until the beginning of the player's next turn.
Backups provide CP and have abilities that support your Forwards. Backups are not affected by "summoning sickness" as Forwards are, but enter the field dulled. A player may only control up to five Backups at a time. If a player would control more than five, they choose any excess Backups and put them into the Break Zone.
Monsters are mostly notable for their support abilities. Their defining trait is that they are unaffected by summoning sickness, meaning that they can use their dull abilities the turn they enter the field. Many of them can also become Forwards for a turn at a time.
Forwards, Backups, and Monsters are collectively called Character cards. If that card represents a specific person, a player may only control one card with that name at a time. They can't play other cards with the same name. If they control more than one card with that name, they must put all of them into the Break Zone immediately. Cards marked with the three-cards icon in the top right corner are exempt from this rule. Note that any number of players may control cards with the same name, just as long as no one player controls more than one of those cards.
Summons are one-shot effects. When they are played, instead of entering the field, they have the printed effect and are put into their owner's Break Zone. Summons, along with activated abilities, can be played at any time except for the Active Phase, Draw Phase, and End Phase.
Items are used to strengthen a player's characters and is exclusive to the Chapter series game. Each Item has an Equip ability and a Return ability. Playing an Item card does not use the stack, and therefore cannot be responded to by Summons or abilities. Equip abilities are written as "Equip (type)." When an Item card is played, its owner chooses a character of the given type. The item enters play attached to that character. Return abilities are written as "Return (cost)." A player may pay the Return cost to return the item to his or her hand. An item in play not equipped to a character is put into its owner's Break Zone.
Card abilities can be broken into four categories: activated, passive, special, and EX Burst.
These abilities are designated by a cost (usually CP or dulling) followed by a colon. With a few exceptions, these abilities may be used at any time by paying their cost. For example, to use Rosa's ability, the player must dull her, then choose any one Forward. Until end of turn, the next time that Forward would deal damage, that damage is reduced by 1000.
All Forwards also have the ability to form a Party in battle. When declaring an attack, the player may choose to form a Party of their Forwards that can attack. Forwards in a Party must all have the same Crystal Type or all have the "P" icon. Parties attack as if they were one Forward, and are blocked as if they were one Forward. A party's power is the sum of the power of its Forwards. When blocking a Party, a Forward may divide its damage among the members of that Party in any way.
All Backups have the activated ability "T: Gain 1 CP of this card's Crystal Type." unless otherwise stated on the card. This ability can be used at any time and resolves immediately, bypassing the stack. This also means that they cannot be responded to.
Special abilities are a subset of activated abilities, and can be found by having the name in red text before the ability, and also have an "S" as part of their cost. The "S" means that the player must discard a card with the same name as the one with the ability you want to use. For example, to use Jecht's True Jecht Shot ability, the player must pay one Fire CP, two CP of any types, dull Jecht, and discard a card named Jecht from their hand. Then the player may choose one Forward and break it.
Passive abilities require no activation cost, and can either be continually in effect (such as Yuna's, which reduces the cost of all the player's Summons by 1) or be a one-shot effect when a certain condition occurs (such as Fang, who gains first strike until end of turn whenever she attacks).
Some specific keyworded passive abilities appear exclusively on Forwards:
- Brave: This forward does not need to dull to attack. It can still only attack once a turn though.
- First strike: This forward deals damage before its opponent in combat.
- Haste: This forward may attack and dull the turn it was summoned.
- Link: This ability is written as "Link - (type) (cost)". When a card with Link enters the field, the player may put a Forward matching that type of that cost or less onto the field without paying its cost.
- Level Up: When a Forward with Level Up defeats another Forward in combat or deals damage to a player, its controller may put it into the Break Zone, search their deck for another card with the same name, put it on the field, then shuffle their deck.
- Awakening: This ability is written as "Awakening (cost)". When an Awakening ability of a card is activated, that card is put into its owner's Break Zone, then its controller may search their deck for a card with the same name and put it onto the field. A player may only activate an Awakening ability on his or her own turn.
One keyword ability appears exclusively on Backups:
- Assist: These abilities appear as "Assist - (ability text)". When a Backup with an Assist ability enters the field, its controller may put it directly into the Break Zone. If they do, the Assist ability triggers.
One keyword ability appears exclusively on Summons:
- Patron: These abilities appear as "Patron - (job)". When you cast a Summon that has a Patron ability, you may choose a character you control of the stated job and put it into your Break Zone. If you do, the Summon's cost is reduced by that character's cost. It cannot be reduced to less than 1CP.
- EX Burst
EX Burst abilities work like triggered abilities, but they trigger when the card is placed in the Damage Zone. For example, the player may play the Moogle summon card normally and get its effect, or you can get its effect when it is placed in the Damage Zone from your deck. When a character card has an EX Burst ability, it triggers when they enter the field or are put into the Damage Zone. Cards with EX Burst abilities have an "EX" in the top right corner.
Overdrive abilities act as an additional cost for a Character card. Overdrive abilities are written as "(cost) - When this Character enters the field, (effect)", in addition to a card's other abilities. When playing a Character card with an Overdrive ability, a player may also pay that card's Overdrive cost to add the Overdrive text to the card. Note that the payment occurs before the Character enters the field, so the decision to use an Overdrive happens before any other players can decide how to respond to the card being played. If the Overdrive cost is not paid, the text is ignored.
- Blue Magic
Blue Magic abilities appear only on Monster cards, and allow them to be used similarly to Summon cards. Blue Magic abilities are written as "Blue Magic - (cost):(effect)." To activate a Blue Magic ability, pay its cost and discard the Monster card from your hand.
- Other terms
- Active: Cards must be active in order to attack, block, or use abilities with "T" in the cost. Cards become active at the beginning of each of their controller's turns.
- Dulled: Dulled cards cannot attack, block, or use abilities with the arrow in the cost. Usually represented by turning the card sideways.
- Break: When a card is broken, either through combat, damage, or some other effect, it is put into its owner's Break Zone. Note that breaking a card is technically different from putting it in the Break Zone - for example, while a Chemist can protect one of your forwards from being broken in combat, it won't stop it from being put into the Break Zone due to effects such as being used as an Assist or anything else that has "put a card into the Break Zone" as a cost.
- Remove from game: A card that is removed from the game does not go into its owner's Break Zone and cannot be accessed by cards that search through Break Zones or players' decks. As far as the game is concerned, the card no longer exists.
- Discard: The term "discard" exclusively refers to putting cards from a player's hand into the Break Zone. Cards cannot be discarded from the field.
- Counter: When a card or ability is countered, it has no effect. If a card is countered, it is put into its owner's Break Zone when it would resolve.
A deck must have exactly 50 cards in it, and no more than three of any card with the same card serial number.
At the beginning of the game, players shuffle their decks, decide who goes first, then draw five cards from their deck.
- Active Phase
The player sets all of their Forwards and Backups to Active.
- Draw Phase
The player whose turn it is draws two cards from their deck. If it is the first turn of the game, that player draws only one card.
- Main Phase
The player may play Forwards, Backups, and Summons and activate abilities.
- Attack Phase
The player may choose a Forward they control that can attack and dull it to show that it is attacking. The defending player may choose an active Forward they control and block with it. If a Forward is blocked, the two Forwards deal damage to each other equal to their power. Otherwise, if the Forward is unblocked, it deals one damage to the defending player, and that player puts one card from the top of their deck into their Damage Zone.
Combats are resolved individually, so the player whose turn it is may repeat this process as long as they control Forwards that are able to attack.
- Main Phase
After combat there is another main phase.
- End Phase
"Until end of turn" effects end, and the active player discards cards until they have at most five cards in their hand. Then it becomes the next player's turn.
Fire-type cards specialize in dealing damage outside of combat, and are generally fast and aggressive. Many cards have abilities that deal damage to Forwards when they enter the field.
Ice-type cards specialize in slowing down the opponent. Many Ice cards can dull the opponent's Forwards or make the opponent discard cards from their hand.
Wind-type cards specialize in preempting the opponent's plans. Many Wind-type cards can set the player's other cards to Active at any time, and are sensitive to the costs of the opponent's cards. The Wind-type cards also have offensive abilities to put cards from the opponent's deck into their Break Zone, taking advantage of the alternate win condition that states that a player loses the game when they have to draw a card from their deck but can't.
Earth-type cards tend to focus on increasing the power of the player's Forwards. Sometimes, this comes at a high cost, such as Kefka, who can boost the power of one of the player's Forwards by 5000, but breaks that Forward at end of turn. Other Earth-type cards can make the player's Forwards unable to be broken.
Thunder-type cards have many abilities that can instantly break the opponent's Forwards. Most of these abilities are limited by the cost of those Forwards. For instance, Odin can only target Forwards that cost 4 or less.
Water-type cards mostly focus on combat tricks and undoing the opponent's actions. Many Water-type cards can return the opponent's Forwards and Backups from the field to their hand.
Shine-type cards represent heroes and villains of the Final Fantasy series, and are mostly higher-powered versions of other cards. Therefore, there is no unique strength of Shine-type or Dark-type cards, though in general these cards are all powerful. This is limited by the fact that a player may only control up to one Shine-type and/or Dark-type cards at a time. If a second card of Shine or Dark-type enters the field, its controller must immediately put all Shine or Dark-type cards they control into the Break Zone.
The trading card game went on sale on February 25th, 2011 in Japan, introducing two Entry Sets. The sets contain 50 cards and comes in two types - Black Deck and White Deck - while boosters will contain eight cards each. Currently there are a total of 322 cards: 160 standard cards and 162 premium cards. The five rarity types for the cards are Common, Uncommon, Rare, Special Rare and Premium.
The 3rd Birthday contains a promotional Aya Brea card when purchased, while the Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix contains a promotional Cloud Strife card. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy was also released with a tie-in promotional card.
The second booster series, Chapter II, was released on May 27, 2011, with two new Entry Sets, Earth and Lightning. A third booster series, Chapter III, added another two Entry Sets, Fire and Ice.
There were fifteen sets in total before being discontinued to focus on the new sets.
The Final Fantasy Trading Card Game rebooted itself, beginning with its first set known as "Opus I". These sets reuse cards from the original Chapter sets however many cards have changed abilities and values.
The Opus sets are also being localized in different languages and released in North America and Europe.
The two–player game will be sold in the traditional trading card format of starter and booster packs with a total of 186 cards. The three starter decks, Final Fantasy VII (Fire & Earth), Final Fantasy X (Wind & Water) and Final Fantasy XIII (Ice & Lightning), will be sold in six-deck displays with each starter deck containing 50 cards, a paper playmat, and rule information. Boosters will be sold in 36-pack displays with each pack including 12 cards and one premium foiled card.
Since a key component of the game regards sacrificing cards with the same name or being unable to have two (non-generic) cards with the same name on the field simultaneously, in addition to cards targeting specific jobs and card names, the English version of Opus actually plays slightly differently to the Japanese version. For example, 1-060H Leon has the job "Dark Knight" in English and the job ダークナイト (Dāku Naito?) in Japanese, while 1-108H
Cecil has the job "Dark Knight" in English and the job 暗黒騎士 (Ankoku Kishi?) in Japanese. 3-065L Bartz has an ability where
Bartz has the Jobs of the Forwards you control., and also another ability
If Bartz has 3 Jobs or more, Bartz gains Haste and First Strike.. Therefore if 1-060H Leon, 1-108H Cecil, and 3-065L Bartz were the only Forwards the player controlled; in the Japanese version of the game Bartz would gain Haste and First Strike, and in the English version he would not.
To address this, an errata has been published that makes amendments to the rules of the cards that makes them all play uniformly. These changes apply even to the original Japanese cards, such as Leon's job being changed from "Dark Knight" (ダークナイト, Dāku Naito?, lit. Dark Knight) to "Rebel" (反乱軍, Hanrangun?) to avoid conflation with the other "Dark Knight" (暗黒騎士, Ankoku Kishi?, lit. Dark Knight) job which is named for the recurring job class in the series. The original made similar adjustments to card names and jobs in an errata, primarily addressing typos.
- Square Enix enters North American Tabletop Games Market (Accessed: July 09, 2018) at ICV2
- Errata (Accessed: July 09, 2018) at Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
- Errata (Accessed: July 09, 2018) at Final Fantasy Trading Card Game (Japanese)
- Errata (Accessed: July 09, 2018) at Final Fantasy Trading Card Game (Chapter)