How many people actually do ironman runs?

  • Yes, I ironman pretty much all the time
  • I ironman sometimes, but not always
  • I never ironman

0 voters

“Ironman-friendly” feels like a buzzword around FEU design discussions lately, so I just have to ask: how many of you guys actually do ironman runs? Is it really such an important playstyle that hacks have to accommodate for it?


It can be a fun challenge sometimes, but it’s just awful when you get crited by a random enemy with a 2% chance. I guess this playstyle became popular recently because of a certain norwegian that shall not be named.


I chose never ironman but that’s not entirely true… but it’s the closest option, I only ironman when playing with friends so ‘sometimes’ doesn’t really work for me…

but I never hard ironman, that shit’s just not fun to me

it also doesn’t help that ironmans in of themselves are arbitrary rulesets meant to restrict the player on their actions in order to imitate difficulty, making a game ‘‘hard to ironman’’ doesn’t make it a hard game, it just makes it a game that is hard when playing under a specific, made up ruleset. Yes, Kaga said he wanted us to play past our mistakes but he never said to never ever reset for characters, the idea that ironmanning is the intended experience comes from the logical extreme of Kaga’s intent, no FE game is ‘‘meant to be ironmanned’’ it’s just meant to be played like a normal game if you think you lost too much or if you’re not liking how things are going it’s not against Kaga’s vision to reset, why do you think you can instantly reset most of these games with a button combination?

Overall I just think that ironmanning being the expected form of play is one of the worst aspects of the FE community, could you imagine if the pokemon community expected every let’s player and streamer to play nuzlockes? It’s the same idea with FE.


I consider permadeath a core pillar of FE’s design, and enabling the player to play w/ this option is good. It adds 1) flexibility (ie is it ill-advised if I move on without this unit that died? Can anyone else fill in for them?), 2) replayability (ie does the game offer enough options that I can replay and get a different type of experience?), and 3) stakes (ie knowing that I can play past my mistakes, I want to play better to avoid punishment).

“Ironman friendly” isn’t about ensuring the player does a “hard” ironman, but rather pieces that allow the player to play past mistakes and avoid resets.

  • Is the game transparent in what it expects from me? (ie X unit causes a game over, this condition not being met leads to Y, etc.)
  • Can multiple units fill the same or similar niche? (ie if my thief dies, am I screwed out of all the treasure?)
  • Does a unit death cascade into multiple punishments? (ie if I lose this character, am I unable to recruit another character? Am I locked out of any gaidens or items that drastically impact the gameplay?)

Basically, “ironman friendly” is about making it so the player can ironman feasibly if they choose to. At the very least, it’s about minimizing the punishment for each death so you don’t feel obliged to reset.

Put another way, is it punishing to not reset? If specific units die, do I get softlocked potentially?

I don’t think resetting should be required or should be assumed in the design (like how ambush spawns encourage trial and error).


A large part of the Fire Emblem experiance since the very begining has been a focus on emergent narratives, reinforced by things like permadeath, randomized level gains, and even hit, avoid, and crit rates. Kaga knew that these elements kept the game engaging both in the moment and when discussing the game with other players, similar to the kinds of stories you hear about Tabletop Rpg campaigns.
That being said, Kaga also understood the value in letting go of one’s ego and control as a designer, and letting players play how they wanted. He designed generally so that a no reset playstyle would be viable, but he was just as supportive towards players willing to sacrifice progress to save their favorite character.
I think designing in a way that allows “ironman” style gameplay has many advantages, like Pandan described above; I don’t really feel a need to repeat them here.
So while on a first playthrough I typically reset/use turnwheel when playing to save a character after bad rng or a dumb mistake, I also often go back and play either a hard or soft ironman, because I enjoy the added stakes and emergent experiance. I also am willing to have had upwards of a dozen or two hours be all for naught, which is not a common impulse amongst players, for sure, but I enjoy it nonetheless.


I voted “I never play ironman” by accident, but I do play ironman simply because I don’t want to waste time by replaying a whole chapter just because one guy died in the middle or near the end.


Simply put, I’ve never cared for ironmanning.

1 Like

I do not do ironman runs often, so I selected the ‘no ironman runs,’ but I have done a couple;
Black Knights, Vision Quest, and Last Promise ages ago, when it first released. That last one turned me off from ever doing it again for nearly a decade, I hated it lol. But then recently I played Black Knights and I had an absolute blast - no kidding, I cried when I got Hermes killed, his death quote was too much and he died nearly killing the final boss.

That being said, I really dislike it when I play a hack and three chapters in I’m like “oh yeah, this is Fire Emblem; Ironman 3000.” I’m a huge nerd for story and character interactions/relations, so when characters pop in for once and then are just a fleshbag unit, I never use them again past my first playthrough. Too many times a new character joins and I’m like “woah they look cool!” and then have 2 supports, 1 ending, and never appear again in the main story.

This attitude changes when I’m watching someone else play though and I see them getting all their units killed and are 1 2% crit away from a game over. I love the despair then. Wait a minute, is this poll a clever scheme to separate the masochists and sadists?

Edit: I would vote the sometimes option, but it’s not even enough for that lol, I’ve done it 3 times and don’t plan on doing it again.


No one, ironmanning is actually a myth and the people who claim to do it are lying.


People often don’t even think of ironmanning on their first run of a game.
People often don’t play hacks more than once.

So if you hope or expect people to ironman a hack, you probably have to outright tell them to.


I think even if ironman runners aren’t your intended audience (speaking as someone who ironmans sometimes and am doing fe11 as a blind ironman) its good practice to design your game to accomodate for permadeath in some manner. This is primarily because it will help you to avoid softlocking your player should they leave units behind (say 15 turns into a map and cannot be bothered to replay) but also because people may wish to ironman your game and its not an overly hard thing to accomodate for.

Making your game explicitly designed around ironman runs (aka ironman friendly) isn’t essential but it is a niche that very few fire emblems really cater towards strongly, fe6/11/12 are like the only main fe I would consider blind ironmanning. Ultimately though how ironman friendly your game is comes down to your preferences but personally I like to accomodate for it as it can be a really engaging challenge.

Also as an aside livestreaming ironman runs with friends in discord is probably the most fun I’ve ever had with fire emblem, watching people ironman is a ton of fun too!


Simply make every unit give a game over on death


Mainly and simply, get good.


Not much. It is mostly a waste of time.


Oh no, I’m not brave enough for Iron man runs.

1 Like

I really enjoy ironmanning games, specifically FE6. But when it comes to romhacks/fangames, I’m usually more liberal with resetting on unit deaths. Letting units die feels like a disservice to the creators of romhacks since they made all of these characters, often with support conversations to expand on their personal stories.

But at the same time, it feels like a disservice to the player to force them to reset when a character dies (excluding the protagonist of course). It’s just really tough to strike the right balance of characterization, difficulty, design for multiple playstyles, etc.


I frequently ironman, and I never reset for every death (even in 4 Kings, with full deployment, I let like four people die because I couldn’t be bothered to reset).

Generally on my first playthrough of a new game/hack I’m not going to ironman unless the game is really easy, because it’s easy to get the run killed due to one poorly explained map (maybe super strong reinforcements show up when you didn’t expect, maybe the chapter objective was misleading, maybe a new unit’s weapon/skill doesn’t work the way you thought it did, etc.), and it’s dangerous to let too many people die, because you don’t know how the lategame is designed and if you’re going to end up softlocking yourself.

Usually on subsequent playthroughs I ironman.

While I respect Pandan’s perpective, I don’t really agree with him that ironman friendliness is about minimizing the punishment for each death. For example, one of the few hacks that I have successfully blind ironmanned (well technically my first run died in chapter 2, but my second run was blind from Ch3 onward and was a success) is 4 Kings Deposition, in which every playable unit is a game over condition. By a definition of “minimizing the punishment for deaths”, this is incredibly unfriendly to ironmans. But in my view, ironman friendliness is all about reliability.

I see LTC and ironman as opposite ends of the spectrum of optimal FE play. LTC is about minimizing turns at all costs, usually involving resetting/rigging until extremely improbable chains of events work out in your favor (some LTC’ers do try to factor reliablility into their strategies, but when you go for the more reliabile strategy over one that saves turns I think you’ve moved slightly down the spectrum from a pure LTC (which is not bad, I don’t think there’s a “correct” position on this spectrum)). Meanwhile ironman runs are about maximizing the chance that you clear the game without losing, no matter how long it takes (just like with LTCs many actual ironmanners do care to some extent about turncount or avoid what they would consider “grinding”, meaning that their runs slightly closer to the “turns” end of the specturm than an ironman maximizing reliability at all costs (personally I like it when the map design inherently limits the amount you can grind for XP, so that maximizing reliability requires not taking forever)).

One of the reasons I like ironmans because they encourage me to find strategies that are reliable from turn 1, instead of, say, going for YOLO warpskips and resetting if I fail to kill the boss (or just in general being recklessly agressive early on and resetting if it doesn’t work out). In my view, the big thing that makes a game bad for ironmans is having a map (especially in lategame) where you are forced to rely on RNG to win (this is one of the reasons I think FE7 is a bad ironman game). If you have a green unit with, say a 90% to survive until the player reaches them, that’s not too big a deal in a regular run (although it’s still not great design IMO). If the green unit dies, the player is annoyed, they reset the chapter, they probably succeed this time, they wasted a few minutes. But if this happens halfway through an ironman, the player has lost hours of progress, because of the fact that there was no reliable way to beat your map.

This can also happen when your maps are so tightly designed that you expect the player to make a particular attack with <100 hitrate, and they’re basically screwed if they miss. In a regular run, if you miss a 90 that your strategy was relying on, you get annoyed, you reset the chapter, life goes on. In an ironman, you can lose the run. An ironman friendly game shouldn’t have chapters that rely on the player hitting a specific attack unless that attack has 100 hit (and maybe not even then). This is another area where I feel like 4 Kings is actually more ironman friendly than people give it credit for. The buyable skill books in preps are huge for boosting reliability, and the large open maps give you ample room to retreat and regroup if you miss an attack you really should have hit.

I’m intentional refraining from including negative examples of ironmanability in hacks here since I don’t really want to call anyone out, and I don’t really want to start an argument over games that I’m sure others in the community know better than I do. But my point is that if you want to make your hack friendly to ironmans, I think that the most important thing is making sure that every chapter can be beaten with a very high level of reliability by a player who is willing to sacrifice some turns/side objectives/characters for that reliability.


I love doing ironmans, but tend to avoid doing them on a first playthrough, specially when playing a romhack/fangame.
Since there are many games in the series that aren’t very ironman friendly (even more so when you’re bad at the game like i am!), i like to learn as much as i can about the game, without checking guides, before i atempt to go for any challenge run, to anyone who may be scared of ironmaning doing it this way helps a lot.
I was scared too the first time i look at HHM and said to myself “okay, lets do a robert downey jr.”,but it’s really fun.
To anyone on the fence i really recommend it, most of the reasons i could give have already been given by people more articulate than me, so i’ll just say this: it’s a blast.

1 Like

You said it better than I could. Reliability is important in making the experience feel fair. No one likes a cheap death, but I’d still argue a big part of making it so the player can play past mistakes is that each death is not incredibly punishing.

To your later example, I’d say FE7 is a bad “hard ironman” man (for the reasons you mentioned), but generally fine for playing past your mistakes since you get enough useful units to achieve your objectives.

It is def a spectrum w/ different considerations to create an overall “ironman friendly” environment IMO. (Reliability, feasibility to play past a mistake, transparency, etc.)


I don’t think hacks need to accommodate iron man. It’s like a spectrum really. On one end you have something like Vision Quest which has a high unit count and units that several units to serve as “replacements” for others, which means you can iron man fairly easier.

On the other hand you have hacks like Four Kings, which has very defined unit niches and full deployment most of the game, and hacks like the one with Vance (my mind is drawing a huge blank on its name) where you just get barely any units at all.

What most people expect is somewhere in the middle, where you’re not ironmanning, but can let a unit or two die without needing to worry about it.

(I’m not dissing the aforementioned hacks or saying one style is better, just using them as examples.)