Subversive Influence – Rebirth of Legend of the Five Rings

Welcome to a new age!

Today, Fantasy Flight Games had the much-anticipated information drop on the Legend of the Five Rings LCG (Living Card Game).  For reference, I’ve linked all of those items here:

Announcement Page
Changes from the Classic CCG
Enter Rokugan
A Peek Into Legend of the Five Rings – Geek & Sundry
Team Covenant Designer Interview

I’ve had many people ask my thoughts on all the information and changes.

The Story

Taking the game back to before the greatest storyline in the 20 year history of the CCG is both a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, FFG mostly wiped 20 years of player interactions, stories, and legends.  Some of these were good and some were terrible.  Many players got the opportunity to affect major plots in the classic game that are now gone from the Ikoma Histories.  I can feel their pain and understand that loss.  It is very similar to what happened when Disney bought the Star Wars Universe and then dropped the Expanded Universe.

On the other hand, it gives the players new perspective on what lead up to the Scorpion Clan Coup and resulting Clan Wars.  It could give more character insight on those we know little or nothing about.  Most importantly, it gives players who completely missed or weren’t able to affect things in the first 20 years of the game a chance to do so now.

The time period means that many clans no longer exist as something playable.  While this is certainly a drawback for someone like myself, since the time period reset is where it is, they should come back.

The Artwork

Fantasy Flight Games has done a fantastic job commissioning new artwork as well as using artwork from the classic L5R to recreate Rokugan once more.

The new frames, fonts, and card backs are as, if not more, awe-inspiring than any of the classic L5R ones.

The Mechanical Changes

So enough blabbing from me about story and aesthetics, this is the real reason you sought out this article.

When FFG purchased the IP from AEG, their article clearly stated that the game would change.  Many of the classic L5R mechanics had fundamental balance issues that could not be resolved without a redesign.

That being said, the design team mostly did a great job keeping as much of the classic L5R as possible while removing or reworking many of the classic games issues.

Pieces that were kept:

  • The two deck system – now called Dynasty (light-colored backs) and Conflict (dark-colored backs)
  • The stronghold
  • The four provinces holding Dynasty cards
  • Breaking / Destroying 4 provinces to win by Military
  • Multiple Win Conditions (Honor, Dishonor, and Military)

What I will discuss is each item that was changed.

You can still buy Dynasty Cards after your province is broken (New Info from Team Covenant Interview)

This is one of the best changes.  The snowballing effect was a massive downer in the classic L5R.  If you lost a province in the old game, you didn’t get to replace the card.  The province was gone. Now you are down production and cards.  The new version gives you a reprieve from having to deal with the snowball effect that crashes the old game.

Gold System vs. Fate System

We all know that the gold system had severe consequences.  Gold screw and gold flood has hurt us all.  The earlier gold system lead to some very broken strategies and decks in the classic L5R. Some clans had a different economical standing making game balance an issue.  The Fate System eliminates this as each player has the same amount to spend each turn theoretically.  This makes balance much more possible.

Permanency vs. “Mono No Aware”

This one will certainly be much more difficult to judge.  The classic L5R had personalities stay in play until they met their end in combat or via an opponent’s card effect.  This certainly made for some brutal battles with devastating consequences.

The LCG uses the Japanese philosophy that nothing is permanent and the Fate system does this perfectly.  Now, I do come from a Magic background so I’ve run across this in that game.  It is similar to the MTG ability “Fading” in that after a set number of turns, the card is gone.

The major deference between ‘Fading’ and character fate is that you have more control over how long your character sticks around whereas in Magic, the Fading mechanic had a number that you had no control over.

While the Fate system isn’t perfect in this regard, it is certainly thematic.

I can imagine much depth in this new concept.  Choose who gets Fate and who doesn’t is an interesting debate and I can see it being a game changing decision.

Card Draw and Your Honor

This is one that is taking the most thought to wrap my head around.  Every player gets to draw at least 1 card during the draw phase, but you could always draw 5 cards as well.  The thought-provoking issue here is the exchange of honor based on the difference between what your opponent bid and what you bid.  This is a critical sub game that must be maneuvered very carefully. Again, this is another massive area for game play depth.

Two types of conflicts

Finally.  This is one area that the classic game had trouble with.  If you went in to battle in the classic L5R, it was military strength.  In the LCG, you get to attack your opponent on both Military and Political fronts.  Not only that, but it does make sense that you can cripple an opponent politically as well as militarily.

Force, Chi and Personal Honor vs. MIL Skill, POL Skill, and Glory

This is a somewhat noticeable change.  With the two different conflict types, Force and Chi were replaced with MIL and POL skill.  Glory replaces Personal Honor in a way.  Glory sounds like a wonderful idea as it allows a bonus or penalty to the character’s stats based upon where the character is Honored or Dishonored.  Again, this makes for a fantastic sub game.

No Enlightenment and the working of the Elements

This is somewhat sad for me, as I started playing the classic L5R during the time when the Brotherhood of Shinsei run in 1999.  Even without an Enlightenment victory, the subtle way that FFG designed the game allowed the elements to still play a major part.

Province cards

One of the long-standing issues with the classic game was the problem with cards like Regions, Terrains and Fortifications all took up some of the same design space.  This led to them being not used due to being weak or overused due to being broken.  Province cards are a merger of those 3 cards into one uniform idea.  The only complaint that I have is that, if I were attacking an opponent’s province, I would want to do a little recon work first to know what my clan was getting into.  With the province starting face down, you are going in blind, which doesn’t make since flavor wise to me, but I can see where you would get misinformation and your opponent knows their land better than you do.  This gives them a more of the feel of the Terrain cards, unknown and dangerous.

Attacking a Stronghold’s Province

What an elegant idea.  This should be where the last conflict takes place.  How the classic L5R missed this idea will drive me nuts for a long time.

Characters don’t die during battle resolution

This one will be difficult to wrap our heads around for a while since losing a battle in the classic game lost you everything at that province.  Still, this could be a good change.

Your Destiny Awaits

I’m ready to explore this new version.  Are you?

As always, the Kolat are scouring the lands searching for information.  We will bring you the most up-to-date news because there is no escape from the Tiger.

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.