Gempukku – An Introduction to L5R

With the impending relaunch in sight and the information drop coming on April 19th, I felt it was time to begin a new recruitment article.  This article is for those who have never heard of Legend of the Five Rings before.

Note: I have no advanced knowledge of Fantasy Flight Games approach to the game, story, or characters in their upcoming version of the LCG.  My information comes from the original L5R CCG and RPG by Alderac Entertainment Group.

What is Legend of the Five Rings?

For a legend to be released in 1995, not enough folks know about it.

Legend of the Five Rings (also called L5R for short) is set in a fictional world of Rokugan.  Rokugan is an Asian-inspired world incorporating many ancient eras of China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan.  If you happen to be a fan of Wuxua, Akiro Kurosawa, Avatar: The Last Airbender series, Samurai Jack, Ninja Scroll, Journey into the West or Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, then you might enjoy this world.

My Introduction to the Game

Many of our local players had been playing the game since the onset of Imperial Edition, including a couple of players who had seeds to Gen*Con World Championships (back then it was in Milwaukee). Once they returned, Doug Wimberly was taking pre-orders for Pearl Edition.  Doug had been the Crab Clan Warlord which meant he had Here was our conversation:

Me: So what won?
Doug Wimberly: Monks
Me: Enlightenment?
Doug Wimberly: Military
Me: You have me intrigued…
Doug Wimberly: So which starters do you want?
Me: Let me do a bit more research before I decide which clans to buy.

When I was introduced to L5R, I first feel in love with the setting.

Two stories in particular hooked me into this game with great fervor: Private Lessons and The Son of Storms.  Private Lessons was a story involving the character Kakita Toshimoko (Illus. by Quinton Hoover, right) and the son of the Crane Clan champion, Doji Hoturi.  This was a story very early on in the game’s history but it certain displays the power of great story telling.  Two samurai duel and only one walks away.  The power of a character like Kakita Toshimoko sucked me into the world that I’ve been enthralled with for 19 years.

Aren’t you a Mantis player?


So how did you not end up playing Crane?

You could blame that on the story The Son of Storms.  It was found on the back of the Stronghold card in a set called Time of the Void.  This story was a meeting between the members of several clans before the final battle that culminated on the Second Day of Thunder.  The leader of the alliance was a man named Yoritomo, whose nickname was the Son of Storms.  His brashness, strength, bluntness, and his willingness to never give in made him legendary in my eyes.  From that moment forward, I was a Mantis.

Only a fool stands in the path of a storm – The Mantis Clan War Banner

Interactive Story


I know that many people are aware of the George R. R. Martin A Song of Fire and Ice series and the Game of Thrones TV series on HBO.  In a recent article by Geek & Sundry, they called L5R “A Game of Thrones with Samurai”.  While the story does have the feel of George R. R. Martin’s epic with both military conquest and political backstabbing, the major difference is that we as players have the ability to make decisions that could change the course of the story’s history.  Take Magic: The Gathering for example.  While you can remove a legendary creature or planeswalker during an individual game, Wizards of the Coast doesn’t give you the opportunity to permanently remove that character in regards to story. Imagine if they gave you the choice to permanently end a planeswalker.  Take Pokemon as another example.  What would happen if you got to chose a race of Pokemon that would become extinct? This made it unique for a card game to have such a radical affect on a world.

In the original game’s history, players have had the ability to affect everything from small discoveries to character deaths to even who would be the next Emperor.

While we know that FFG will approach the player interaction differently (according to Steve Horvath at GAMA), there will still be story interaction.

More Than Just A Game

I’ve played many games over the past 23 years.  I’ve been all over the US competing in tournaments for many different games and have been lucky enough to compete in multiple Professional Level events and World Championships.  While the competition used to drive me to go everywhere and compete, Legend of the Five Rings was much different for me.

I went to Legend of the Five Rings events for the community and for my clan.

The Clan

There have been many playable clans in the original game’s 20 year run.  Many Great Clans fought for honor and glory of the Emperor.  Each Great Clan houses several families under one banner, each with different skills and ambitions.  Fans of the game will usually research each clan to find which speaks to them.  In the original CCG, many players would be devoted to play only that clan. As I said earlier, I am a Mantis player first.  I have had times when my clan wasn’t available to play due to story reasons, so I had to dabble in other clans.  There have been many clans throughout the history of the original CCG.  Going only by the information we have, the poster that was displayed a few weeks ago at a French con shows 7 clans:

The clans on that display in their alphabetical order are the Crab, Crane, Dragon, Lion, Phoenix, Scorpion, and Unicorn.

While my clan is not on this poster, I am still hopeful of the return of the Mantis at some point.  Until then, I will have to play with another clan.


Ronnie is in the wheelchair and I’m across from him in my Green KI shirt

When I went to large L5R events, I wanted to win for different reasons.  It wasn’t just a desire to win for myself, but to win for the glory of my clan.  That is what ties the loyalty to this game.  To quote Wolfgang Baur in the 2007 publication, The 100 Best:

In the case of collectible card games, the outstanding title after Magic: The Gathering is Legend of the Five Rings (known to its fans as L5R). It inspires loyalty and devotion in those fans unlike any other CCG, and for good reason.

The Community

This leads me into something else that keeps me coming back, the community.  No game has a community like L5R.  None.

I’ve met the most incredible people during my travels competing at many CCG’s, but none have compared to the wonderful, passionate fans of Legend of the Five Rings.

Among folks in the picture: Case Kiyonaga, Giovanni Aviles, Dan Dineen, Reginald Garth, Angela Ditillio, Jeff Phillips

At Donny’s Moving Party – From Left to Right: Myself, Melissa Palmer, Dan Jacobson

Honor the Fallen

I know of no other game that remembers their players in the manner that L5R does.

In a span of several months, three L5R players left this world.  In L5R, we do not forget those who have left us.  Before major events, we have one person lead us in a UTZ! BANZAI! battle cry.  This one was special:

Are You With Me!?

On April 19th, we will get the opportunity to see the new game for the first time.

Who’s ready?


Yoritomo Arashi

A member of the Mantis Clan, Yoritomo Arashi has been masterful at gathering information for the Silken Sect. The master of information founded The Kolat Informant blog in March of 2011 and The Oni's Eye Podcast in October 2013.