Like every massive RPG, Bravely Default 2 features a game within the game. It’s called Bind & Divide, or B&D (yes, yes, like the game). It’s a compelling card game you don’t want to miss, but you could easily roll the credits without ever playing a round.
B&D is more or less Bravely Default by way of Gwent. You and a computer-controlled opponent each have a deck of six cards. You take turns placing them on a five-by-five grid, with the goal of capturing as much territory as possible. Every captured square corresponds to one point. Each card—they’re based on enemies, characters, and job classes from the “real” game—features a different layout. An orc, for instance, will occupy three spaces in a horizontal line, while a sahagin will take up two vertically. A character card can change the rules of the game by, say, making it so every monster-themed card can occupy an extra square, regardless of team. Meanwhile, job cards come with bonus abilities. An early one, the Gambler, will swap squares with one of your opponent’s occupied squares at random.
Staking out your own territory isn’t enough to win, though. You also need to take your opponent’s territory off the board. Most cards feature one primary square plus at least one secondary square. The secondary squares can take up territory, but if you place them on top of an enemy’s occupied space, they’ll both get taken off the board—nullifying that point for both of you. (The square can then be re-occupied by either player.)
It’s a sound strategy, but you’ll have a greater chance at victory if you convert your enemy’s territory to your team. Sandwiching an opponent’s square—either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally—will switch it to your side. A well-placed card can convert a significant amount of territory, changing the scoreboard on a dime.
Just as Gwent players practically rent a seat at every tavern in The Witcher 3, B&D players can be found all over Bravely Default 2. When you win a round, you’ll earn points. You’ll then be able to use those points to buy cards from a defeated opponent’s hand. The good ones, go figure, cost more, so every victory begets a crossroads. Do you spend your points right then and there? Or do you bank them in the hopes a game-changing card might show up following your next victory?
You can curate three decks. As far as I can tell, you can only customize your decks in the pre-match menu that pops up before each game, but you can view any unlocked cards by booting up the Lore menu and selecting “Card Binder.”
Okay, I’m sold. Where do I get started?
Where else? In Savalon’s gambling house!
B&D is hidden as a side-quest, so you’ll be forgiven for walking right by it. (By and large, Bravely Default 2’s side-quests are skippable, seeing as they generally range from vapid to mind-numbingly inane.) At one of the card tables by the fountain, you’ll see a side-quest offered by an NPC named Shirley. Talk to her to earn a basic deck and kickstart a string of tutorials.
I didn’t stumble upon Shirley until well into Chapter 4, roughly 40 hours into the game, but you can apparently start the questline after you unlock the Beastmaster job in Chapter 1. After a few basic battles, all of which you can tackle in the gambling hall, you’ll have to go up against Shirley. Compared to the others you go up against, she’s a gauntlet. Here are some tips:
- Try to group your squares together so they can’t get surrounded. Sticking to the corners will help safeguard you.
- Your initial deck will start with the Gambler card, which swaps your placement with one of Shirley’s. Don’t bother using this one, since you can’t control the result.
- Stack your deck with humanoid and spirit cards. She plays a card that strengthens that class of card, regardless of team affiliation, so you’ll get a serious boost if you have a bunch in your deck.
- I learned this through trial and error, but, more often than not, the match against Shirley starts with you making the first move. You’ll be in a better position if you’re on the defense, since you get to make the last move, and thus won’t be caught off-guard by a game-changing move in the last minute. If you’re struggling, keep restarting until you start a round on the defensive.
- If you’re really struggling, consider roaming the world a bit, taking on low-level B&D opponents, earning their cards, and building up your decks. There’s one, for instance, outside the inn in Savalon. Another hangs out in Rimedahl, also near the inn. You can identify players by looking for NPCs with small card icons hovering over their heads.
Beating Shirley in B&D will trigger a boss fight in actual Bravely Default combat. Since I was so overleveled at the time, I took her and her cronies out in two turns, but I got the sense it’s not that tough of a fight. (She’s teamed up with the boss behind the Bard asterisk—whom you’ll have already defeated by that point—plus two low-level soldiers. Use your Monk’s Pressure Point move!)
Do I get something for that?
You bet. After defeating Shirley both in B&D and in battle you’ll get an asterisk for the Gambler job. Without question, the Gambler is Bravely Default 2’s most unpredictable job. One move has you spin two wheels—one with a number, one with an element—and dish out an attack based on the result. Another has you spin a wheel with the numbers one through ten. Land on ten, and everyone in your party may earn three BP...or maybe your enemies will earn three BP. Whoops!
What’s more, rather than MP or BP, many of the Gambler’s moves use up your in-game currency. As a result, it’s better suited as a mid- or late-game job, once you’re Rockefeller rich.
It’s a decent prize—after all, one of your primary goals in Bravely Default 2 is to collect every asterisk—but it pales in comparison to the opportunity to play a terrific game inside an already pretty terrific game. Two for one? Talk about an easy bet.