Fight with honor. That’s the only right way, that my parents have been impersonating in my education since I was able to hold the katana in my little palms. I did not understand it too much then. Only later did I learn the difference between honest combat and insidious assault. And now I believe their words fully!
Fire, air, earth, water, and void. Five new friends are brought to you by the board game Legend of the Five Rings. Trio of designers Nate French (Lord of the Rings LCG), Brad Andres and Erik Dahlman prepared it for us. This is new addition to Living Card Game (LCG) from Fantasy Flight Games, which has been long awaited. And finally, at the end of 2017, we got it also in Europe thanks to Esdevium Games, which is responsible for its distribution.
Whole game is hidden inside a white box with hurricane made of all available elements, and in their center, there are three mysterious characters. Inside, players have more than two hundred cards, which are divided into two basic types – dynasty and conflict. And here comes first novelty, because players (as with any LCG) will build packages – but two! Everyone places his two created piles in front of himself, after shuffling it properly. Both opponents will also take one of their honor pointers to use for secret bidding.
However, both opponents also choose their provinces, which is a separate type of cards we have not mentioned before. One of them will then create player’s homeland using stronghold card (covering it). Remaining five are then put in line between dynasty deck on the left and conflict deck on the right. It will create entire card line of a player, but both rivals will still need space for discard decks on the sides. Number in the lower left hand corner determines, how many honor tokens player gets at the beginning. In each province, player puts down one dynasty card with a picture down. At this one moment, however, he can peek and possibly replace cards with others (mulligan). From the second stack (conflict deck), the player takes four cards in his hand. All other components, such as title rings, fate tokens (currency) and favour token are placed some place near.
Every round of the game is full of interesting phases. In the beginning, both opponents will reveal new dynasty cards assigned to their provinces and receive starting income of fate tokens (on stronghold card). Right now, however, players also have the opportunity to use the characters, that appeared in their provinces and recruit them into their martial army. For this, he must pay price in fate. The warrior is prepared for upcoming phase of the current round, but if player does not want to spend more money, character will leave the table at the end of the round (will be discarded). In order to keep him longer in the game, player has to pay more fate – one for each round he want this fighter to remain in play – and place these tokens on that card.
Second phase is ability to draw cards. But even here, there will be no peace and lack of hard decisions. Players must pick up their rotating dial and rotate it to selection of number in range one to five. The higher the value they choose, the more cards they can get from their conflict deck into the hand. But as you guess right, there is a catch to it. Both of the opponents compare numbers they selected, and the one, who has chosen to play less honorably (chose a higher value), must surrender several of his honor tokens to the opponent. Their amount is determined by difference between the two numbers chosen on dials.
Now everything is ready and a real fight can begin. Here, for the first time, is really important, who is in role of starting player (it changes every round). He chooses one of the rival provinces and attacks it, but at the same time he must also report the element and type of combat (military or political). He can use any number of his characters, comming them by moving them forward (and kneeling – rotating by 90 degrees) and announce attack. Defender selects, who should be parrying the attack. Then both opponents have the option of playing new cards, buying new characters straight into the first line, equipping them with items or using one-time event cards.
By doing all this, players try to get strength superiority on his side. That victory will bring him reward in shape of elemental ring. However, if the difference between the two armies is large enough (at least as much as strength in the upper left corner of a province), then player has the chance to break that location. At that moment, it is turned upside down. And after three provinces are broken down, player has fulfilled precondition to attack the fortress, which would mean a chance for victory. In addition, the duel winner gets that mentioned ring, that he takes and exploits its effect (various help actions, such as gaining honor or readying one kneeled character). Each player has ability to attack twice in one round.
Only fighters, who remained neutral in that round and did not join the battle, may participate in the duel of the emperor’s favor. Winning player gets a token that will give him the bonus for one type of conflict in the next round. Round then ends and players have to set aside one fate token from all their active characters. If there is no token left on the card (there is nothing to return), that card leaves the game and is moved to the discard pile.
After renewing the strength of all the fighters, there comes chance to discard cards from some provinces (cards in broken provinces are discarded every time) and starting player token is passed. The players have both a clear goal – to destroy home province of the opponent, in which he built a stronghold at the beginning of the match. But game can also be won by gaining twenty-five points of honor or by exhausting opponents suplly of honor tokens. Enemy with no honor is not worthy enemy.
Legend of the Five Rings was a very awaited game in boardgaming. For some reason, however, all of these messages passed us successfully, so we did not even know, what to expect from the game. The new LCG is always a challenge to learn, but also a chance to receive a truly memorable game. And the more time we spend in the game environment in China, the more we believe, that this game is the cream of the cake.
This game offers three completely fabulous phases, each practically equally powerful and yet completely different. And only if you can combine your performances in all of them, you can think of victory. But all this is preceded by one more step, which is typical of this type of game, and should be given the same attention. While building a deck does not have to be done before first tutorial match, when you get familiar with the game, you will want to change the starting set to better fit your style. There are a total of seven Rokugan clans to choose from in the game and each is different.
But players are building two decks, don’t forget about that. Each of them is used a bit differently – while dynasty cards fill your province and are primarily about characters and buildings, conflict cards are much more focused on combat and immediate effects. As these two decks complement each other, they need to be thoroughly balanced, when building them.
Management of warriors and their endurance on the board is an absolute foundation of success. You have to invest well in the right characters with limited chips of fate. It is possible to keep only a few characters in battle, while many of them will quickly leave the battlefield. It is also essential to read the opponent’s intentions. And not only in conflicts where players use multiple cards and their capabilities. More importantly, you need a good feel for enemy in the drawing phase. Here players need to balance benefits of winning more cards and negatives from loss of honor.
If someone has a broken province, its filled with card only temporarily. This brings with it not only a constantly changing situation and choice of tactical text skills of new card, that can not be predicted. This is especially the case for faster going through the dynasty deck. This, at the same time, threatens to penalize player by losing five points of honor, if he completely exhausts his drawing pile. This also applies to the second deck of conflict cards. Title five rings also play a very important role. In addition, the one that players did not choose in a round is equipped with additional honor token to make it more attractive in future round.
And even this time, new LCG brings a number of minor rules and queries. So it’s not easy to learn it or even teach it to someone without having some questions. For a successful game, players need to have enough experience with a similar type of game. This is an uncompromisingly competitive game, in which opponents do not get anything for free. But just thanks to that complexity and dragging for the victory, duels stretches for over an hour.
LCG games from Fantasy Flight Games are getting better and better with each new box. The Star Wars have already excited us during the recent review, and now we have even a better duel game here. Huge tactic options and a lot of hard choices, that’s exactly what should belong to this type of dense card games. And there is really a lot of choice in here.
Processing is quite obviously all wrapped up around graphics on the cards. They fill the absolute majority of boxes. But one box is only suitable for getting to know Legend of the Five Rings. If you really want to delve deep, you’ll need to buy some more basic boxes (for better deckbuilding) and a pile of expansions (available in upcoming weeks). There will be really lot of them and they will contain three copies of each twenty cards.
Legend of the Five Rings is an absolutely brilliant and virtually flawless game. Perhaps the only thing that can be criticized is a little longer game time. Well, at least in terms of entertainment. Your wallet will think of something different about the value of this game. But that does not change the fact that every player should consider Legend of the Five Rings an absolute experience. You will want to come back to this game, and you’ll probably look at the expansion purchases as an investment in a huge portion of entertainment.
+ fantastic tactical possibilities
+ game theme is really unique
+ continuous balancing on the edge
+ two decks
+ three ending options
+ fighters can only be on the table for few rounds
+ attack is only a means of destroying provinces
- longer game time
- burden on the wallet