We are at the beginnig of a new era in L5R CCG. The dawn of a new edition.
It is an excellent opportunity for everyone to jump in and start out their adventure with the best card game out there and this little blog entry is just to show you why it is the best.
I know that many people do care about that, and trust me, L5R has very detailed and deep backround. It has been around for the past 14 years, both in the form of a Collectible Card Game and Role Playing Game.
The setting is fantasy asia (I know that samurai, clans and most of the visual effects resemble Japan, but there is a lot of elements taken from China and Mongolia) with great clans battling with huge armies, treacherous diplomacy and spells. There is something for everyone.
Don't get me wrong, but this game can be VERY hard to grasp. After a couple games everyone should get ahold of the rules, but fully understanding and utilizing them is another matter. Let me quote a fragment from an article by Nina Illingworth, which appeared on several L5R related websites:
1) L5R is one of the most complicated collectable card games ever created. It takes not only a keen understanding of your own deck but also an incredible catalogue of memorized terminology to compete successfully in this game. Though there are a few individuals out there with the necessary recall skills to play L5R in a very short period of time the only way most of us can develop said catalogue is by playing lots and lots of games until we remember. Even then it’s hard to learn anything when you’re being utterly dominated in test games and one can quickly lose motivation to learn when losing all the time.
2) Most new players to L5R choose their first deck for purely subjective (storyline) reasons with little or no understanding of mechanics. I can’t count the number of times a new player has asked me to help him build a Crab deck because “Kisada/Kuon/Whoeever is a bad*ss!” While this is not a “problem” per se, it does often tie a new player to a deck that doesn’t match his natural play style or current skill level. Additionally it tends to limit the beginner’s scope of vision to one deck at a time when she SHOULD be playing as many different decks as possible to promote a better overall foundation on which to build her understanding of the game.
3) Its almost impossible to learn to play this game through online resources and the rulebook alone. You basically NEED someone else to help you go through the early stages of both play and deck building. This can be a limiting factor if the other players in your group are also beginners or you simply lack other skilled card players to test with.
4) While it’s very easy to find decks online the vast majority of them do not come with enough instructional information to make them accessible to even a moderately experienced L5R player. While it’s impossible to cover every situation in a deck list or tournament report a basic discussion of overall pacing and the use of key cards in the deck is hardly too much to ask for. Yet most decks simply list 80 cards and a stronghold plus a snippet of action from a key turn in a tournament game.
Sounds familiar? Easy to learn - hard to master...
You are playing with 2 decks, each consisting of at least 40 cards. There are 4 different winning conditions, 10 factions and very large card database.
So far, we have a difficult multiplayer game with great background. Now we'll get to the flesh and bones of it, it's where it really shines and makes it worth playing - the competition.
L5R scene is pretty large worldwide and AEG (the developer) makes use of it. There are several large tournaments being played every year throughout the world. Most of them have valuable rewards and in addition story prizes, which are usually the most important reward for all the winning players. Story prizes influence the game itself, by making a certain choice, you change the cards that will be printed in the near future (sometimes you even get to design the card by your own).
The most prestigious tournaments have ~50-100 attendants at the local level, so the competition is pretty hard. You can't count on luck (although it always helps), most people that win this tournaments have taken top spots/won them for years (which doesn't mean you can't beat them, it happens even for the newcomers, but it's not an easy task).
If you feel interested, please take a look at this sites:
http://www.l5r.com/ <--- L5R main site
http://rules.l5r.com/Main_Page <--- CCG rules (with downloadable .pdf)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend_of_the_Five_Rings <--- wikipedia entry
I will update this blog later, with basic skills you need to acquire to start owning and some info on the gameplay itself.
Gameplay basics and starting tips
Ok now, let's take a closer look at this game. This edition has provided several changes at the core, so even more experienced players are still adjusting.
1. What do you play with
Basically, you start the game with:
a) Your Stronghold: This is your most important card, it can't be destroyed or put out of the game. It is what defines you. Your faction, province strength, gold production and starting family honor.
b) 1 or 2 Mulligan holdings: You get 2 of them if you're going second (you have lower starting family honor), but one of them won't work until your second turn. This were introduced in this edition, it basically makes the first turn to look like second turn previously. This holdings provide you with some gold and one of them has 2 actions, you can use each action once per game, they're both the same, let you cycle your cards.
c) 2 decks, Dynasty and Fate. Dynasty deck consists in majority of Personalities and Holdings you can put into play. Also Event and Region cards, but this are not important for this article. The Fate deck consists of actions that are available to you, also attachments (spells, items, followers).
d) 4 provinces. They hold your Dynasty cards, usually for a Dynasty card to enter play, first it has to appear in one of your provinces.
e) 6 Fate cards, which create your initial hand.
2. How do you win
There are 4 types of victory in L5R:
a) Military: The most straightforward one. You have to destroy all of your enemy's provinces before you lose yours.
b) Honor: If you reach certain amount of family honor (usually 40) and you start your turn still having it (or more), you win.
c) Dishonor: If you drop your enemy's family honor down to -20 you automatically win.
d) Enlightement: This is by far the hardest one to achieve. You win this way if you manage to put all 5 elemental rings into play by their own text. This basically means that:
- you must get the rings in your hand at the right time (they go into your Fate deck)
- you must meet each ring's requirements while you have it in your hand (each ring requires something else, from winning a battle, playing enough actions in a single phase, performing enough spells or winning a duel)
3. Creating your first deck
a) First question you should ask yourself is not "Which faction should I choose?", it's "How do I like to play?". If you like to be on top of things, control your enemy, politics etc. then probably military blitz decks aren't for you.
b) Choosing a faction. Every faction can sport a deck that can win using each condition, but some factions excel at some stuff and suck in other areas, thus picking wrong faction for the job will most likely lead to frustration. Just choose 1 victory condition for starters and focus on this.
The factions and their strengths:
- Crab: military
- Crane: honor/dishonor
- Dragon: military/enlightment
- Lion: military
- Mantis: military
- Phoenix: honor/enlightment
- Scorpion: dishonor/military
- Spider: military
- Unicorn: military
As you can see, most of the clans primary strength is military (and military decks are the most common), however, they each look different. Crab are the big guys that are very hard to kill, Dragon are the duelists, Lion uses a lot of tacticians, Mantis have their naval invastions and shooty guys, Spider uses swarms of undead, big demons and other evil stuff etc. etc.
c) Choosing cards for your deck
I will explain this in detail in another blog, as deck construction is a skill of its own in L5R (go to any tournament, and you will rarely see 2 decks that are the same, personally, during my over 10 year experience with this game, I have never seen 2 decks that would be the same. Sure I saw a lot of similar decks, but that's bound to happen).
Related blog: L5R - Art of Deck-building