Enter the land of Rokugan, where Honor is stronger then Steel. In the Legend of the Five Rings LCG (L5R), players can lead one of the seven Great Clans competing for the favor of the Emperor.

Legend of the Five Rings originally came out as a CCG in 1995. With player participation able to directly effect the storyline of the game, players became incredibly loyal to their favorite Clans, an aspect that has held over into the new version. With Fantasy Flight Games’s (FFG) acquisition of the game, the storyline has reverted back to an earlier time, close to when the CCG started. The new story is FFG’s though, with new changes to events and even some of the notable characters. This allows new players to step right into the story without having to read stacks of old history, while showing veterans a new, alternate timeline.

The storyline is not the only aspect that has changed. Gameplay has been updated to keep the similar flavor of samurai clashing on the battlefields and courts, while streamlining gameplay to incorporate the concept of the five elemental rings in a more “intrinsic visual.”

To play, players pick a Clan to represent, their Stronghold, and 5 associated Provinces. In order to win, players can either destroy their opponent’s Provinces and Stronghold, earn 25 honor, or have their opponent run out of honor.

Each player uses two decks to play, one for their Dynasty and one for Conflict. Dynasty decks are the main source of characters and is played through the Provinces, while the Conflict deck is for the player’s hand and can contain characters, events, and attachments. It is also where players have the ability to feed in a small amount of cards from other clans, allowing for further diversification between strategies.

Players alternate attacking each other’s provinces by using the Military and Political skills of their characters. Beyond attempting to overpower the value of the province to break it (and eventually attack their opponent’s Stronghold), attacking players also must choose one of the elemental rings for their attack (Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Void) which adds additional effects for a successful attack.

This is only a very basic overview of how to play. There are many other facets to the game, including honoring and dishonoring characters, playing event cards, adding weapons and other attachments to characters. One of the most interesting new aspects is the bidding dial, where player’s bid against each other for the number of cards they draw each turn. Players with the higher bid give the difference to the opponent in honor.

In summary (and in my opinion), FFG has succeeded in preserving the flavor of the L5R while at the same time, streamlining the game without losing too much strategic complexity. The story may have been reset to an earlier time, but it is a necessary sacrifice to attract newer players, without those players having to sift through two decades worth of fiction, some of which (due to player influence) had become a little…wonky.

~ Jimmy Campbell

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