FMA is split up into four factions. While you don't *have* to stick with one faction, it lowers the cost of your allies, and keeps you safe from very powerful events (By Order of the Fuhrer). Each faction has its own strengths and weaknesses, and cater to different type of players. Whether you like keepign control of the playing field, slowly building to inevitable victory, dominating with the raw power of Alchemy, or getting down-and-dirty in a straight-up beatfest, read on!
Second place in everything. Elrics have better Alchemy, The Homunculi have better Wits, and the Rebels have better Strength.
So what's a faction to do?
Only one thing - win.
The Military took the top two spots at the East City Regionals for a reason - the faction has the best 'synergy' out of all four. Played correctly, the Military can use its characters' innate abilities to control the Search phase, and win the game before other factions are even set up.
The Military's biggest strength is that its characters are solid in both Strength AND Wits - all of the other factions' characters neglect one or the other. Because of this, you'll always just be a few points away from totally overpowering them in the right battle. Even the Homunculi, who eschew Alchemy in exchange for the other two attributes, don't match the Military in either attribute until the later levels - your five and six cost Allies are generally better than any others.
Military allies also 'stack up' nicely when you stick within your own faction. Hakuro gives Strength and Wits to soldiers, Hawkeye gives a free Strength boost (or is an effective blocker, or keeps your leader alive), Yoki removes their most powerful character, Reinforcements lets you search for any Military ally you need, and their Mark - although least powerful in terms of ally destruction - transfers abilities to their entire faction.
As the Military, you should start as strong as possible - in some fashion that allows you to win early Strength / Wits locations. The points you take early on will allow you to save your events for later in the game, when you only need one more location to win. This is easier than it is for other factions - the Military has access to the most 'pump' (Battle bonus) cards in the game.
Elrics - stay away from Alchemy unless you are sure to win via pumps and Wits events. Use location control to your advantage, as well as battle-changing events - you can quickly cut down their allies if you gain the upper hand.
Rebel - don't try to fight them in Strength - instead, switch to Wits, and don't let them overwhelm you. You will most likely always be going first, so strike their highest characters while you can.
Homunculi - they've got you in Wits, but you can carry more pumps than they can. Beware being set in the Main phase - turning this against them is almost as potent as holding back that Pressure for their Persuasion. They can't use heroes - so use the ones that you have against them.
Maes is best for the fast game - he starts off strongest in both Strength and Wits, and gets even stronger with his higher-level leaders. His level three characters guarantee you an attack should anyone mess with him, or more importantly, allow you to redirect an action - this shuts down many other level threes. He is best, however, in the one-faction, fast win. Beware of your total lack of Alchemy, though. Use Catch the Train as much as possible, A Job Well Done, and Taunt to keep the battles and locations in your favor, and you can get nine points in very few turns. Special Note: Smitten Husband guarantees you the early start, which you can use to dominate in the Search phase.
Roy is the long game character - his stats at higher levels allow you to use any event in the game, making him able to use all the Event cards normally left to only Elrics or Hughes. Also, he is neither Hero nor Villian, so all allies are open to you. His drawback is at early levels - his Level 1 leaders aren't too phenomenal, and at Level 2, he has no way of going above seven command. Special Note: Master Manipulator allows you to control locations forever, adn even with without ever lifting a finger. Try it with an all-faction Alchemy deck for great results.
Basque is the Villian - no Elric splashing for you here. He is best used in recruiting out-of-faction, and playing expendable characters to fuel his events. With his even stats, he's great for the Homunculus player that wants to hide the fact that they are, well, playing Homunculus. Special Note: His eX level two, "Tucker's Patron", works wonderfully in an attachment-beatdown deck. Just pack Pressures and Exposed to get rid of those pesky attachment destruction cards.
Rebels love to fight, and that's what you'll be doing with them.
The Rebels' strengths lie in the fact that they can play all of the battle pumps that matter (Frenzy, Out the Window, Expertise, etc) for free or with less EE than all of the other factions. Other players will expect you to carry at least two +2 or +3 battle pumps. Use this to your advantage by throwing your characters at them to weed out their own, if they have any.
Strength is your biggest attribute. Depending on your allies, you'd either have Alchemy or Wits as an average second attribute. Use this to your advantage by playing double and triple threat locations (ones that two or three battle types, respectively.) Even if they have you in a certain attribute, you can defeat them head on in battle and come out on top.
Militia is the bread and butter of the deck when it comes to allies. With his nifty ability, you'll be able to use your obnoxiously high strength instead of any other attribute in battle, ensuring victory. Rebel Sergeant will give all of your mob characters +1 strength, which further reduces the EE cost of your battle pumps. Adoring Fans will keep your other characters alive by taking the first few attacks, leaving your ample time to defeat their strongest allies.
Your favorite locations will be ones with Strength as the battle type, and ones that either allow you to play the next location or defeat an extra ally. With that in mind, Youswell Inn, Ishbal Ruins, and Country Station are must adds to your location deck. Other potential locations include Altar to Leto, Riverside/Rockbell's House, and High Command.
Versus Faction Strategies
Military: Use Automotive to guard against Yoki and Run, You Coward! Pensioner isn't really worth the ally slot since most of the good Military allies are 6 cost. They like to play Catch the Train a lot, so have Inspector handy. If it's a wits location, use Challenge the Sun to make sure that their high wits people are out of the picture. Use Lead by Example and Rally the People to allow them another attack.
Rebel: Beware the mirror match. Try to have the hand advantage so they'll think you have more than you actually do at any given point. Take them out before they do the same to you.
Elric: Strangely, this should be the easiest faction for you to beat. If you play the Claires, you should be able to take out their people with one or two battle pumps. They're also extremely low in Strength, so you can use Challenge the Sun with your weaker people in case you don't have Lead by Example handy. Just beware of the location control.
Homonculus: Easily the toughest faction to go up against. Save your Pressures for Persuasion. Carry Wheedling and use Challenge the Sun on them before they make you unable to assign. It takes a few turns to set up the control correctly, so make sure you win before they do. The longer the game takes, the bigger the advantage they will have on you. This faction is also one that you may want to carry Train to Aquroya and Edward Elric, Executioner against.
Unaligned: Just win. There may be a future leader that makes this "faction" playable, but as of now just beat your opponent into the ground.
There are currently three leaders available to the Rebels. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, so work with them, not against them.
Scar: Scar is the leader you want to use to permanently kill their allies every turn. Use Bald and use Challenge the Sun against their key allies. Use Spoils of War to get them back and make sure they don't win until you get out Alchemist Hunter. After that, just kill off some more allies and then go in for the location win or character kill.
Psiren: This sneaky lady is the leader you want to turn to for mobs. If you combine Shameless Flirt's attributes and ability, you can rival even 5 command leaders in battle. She also has the only 8 command, 5 Alchemy Rebel leader, allowing you to play Quick Draw for free. Folk Hero allows you to use your opponent's own deck against them, so go after that Spoils of War to get your challenge the Sun back if you haven't won by then.
Father Cornello: Cornello also can be used with mobs. His level 1 ability temporarily gives you another ally to play with. At level 2, you have the ability to use Challenge the Sun with an ally and then replace it with another one. However, you'll need to have either Alchemist Gloves or Lyra's Pendant, which is a giant target for any hate. Power Monger allows you to drop down big allies in the main phase after recruiting.
Battling is your forte, so use it to your advantage. Guarding against Main Phase tricks is your main problem, so take them out first or carry some cancels. Consider using Wheedling to help you become the active player since you're the faction with the lowest wits.
How you play is up to you and your metagame. This is just a general guideline, so tweak these strategies as you see fit to win.
In the search for the Philosopher's Stone, the Elrics are beset upon by both dark, deadly, and conniving. As such, they can only truly prevail in their own element - alchemy.
The Elrics (currently Edward, Alphonse, the ex-State Alchemist Tim Marcoh, and Izumi Curtis) have access to the high-power Alchemy events that are too expensive for other factions. Also, they completely dominate at any Alchemy location - which means that, for them, location control can be the key to the game. Also, the Elrics are strictyle Heroes, which means that cards that cater to that keyword will work in any Elric deck.
The Homunculi, small in number and ultimately unable to stand against the might of the state or the alchemy that created them, must work from the shadows, controlling others and manipulating those they will further their goals. Homunculi are Villians, and as such can use those characters that Heroes can't - while mostly worthless in Alchemy, they have great controlling abilities, as well as ways to play cards out of their discard piles, pulling back to life what was spent away.