Originating as a series chronicling David Gordon’s return to the Legend of the Five Rings CCG after a several year absence, Dave of the Five Rings continues on as he examines the current and future of the iconic world of Rokugan upon the game’s sale to FFG in 2015.
Chapter 38: Daimyo Format and Seeing the Bigger Picture
Welcome back, dear reader! I hope the last month treated you well. As April shifted into May (and now again into June), we have seen the downpour of Legend of the Five Rings content finally begin to lighten, with barely a drizzle these past few weeks. Still, it is good to remember how long we would go in the first year between any significant news, when the long stretches of “Six Packs in Six Weeks” would be interspersed with only a few major tournaments and no major announcements. Though 2019 was promised as the year of the ever-changing meta, it is important to remember that while the Inheritance cycle has yet to be released as of this posting, the first 5 Dynasty Packs have already been announced.
Organized Play Shakeups
With only a handful of articles since we last spoke, let us begin with the most significant, most of which pertain to L5R’s Organized Play environment. May 6 saw the first changeover in Organized Play Roles on the new eight month cycle. The secondary Elemental Roles chosen over the course of the Toshi Ranbo Kotei season of 2018 cycled out, to be replaced by the new Elemental Roles chosen through the first round of Elemental Championships. As these Roles will be in effect for the World Championships in November, most of the Great Clans sought to guarantee themselves an Elemental Role with a solid footing in the current meta. The new Elemental Roles were selected by popular vote, with votes being awarded to the top two of each Great Clan at the Elemental Championship.
Interestingly, my own vote card for Top Dragon at the Saugus EC came with two votes, as the votes were handled by a proprietary code printed on a prize card. My card had a different code on each side, giving it two votes. When I checked with the other EC vote holders, their card likewise had two codes. For those going into Season 2 of the Elemental Championships, let this be a notice: check your prize cards for two codes. Do not short yourself a vote.
In the new system, more than one Great Clan could choose the same Elemental Role, provided they did not already have access to that role. This last bit did limit several options, however, as certain Great Clans chose what they felt to be their best Elemental Role during the draft at the World Championships in 2018. With the new system in place, the only Elemental Role a Great Clan can guarantee it will not have for the next year’s World Championship is…the one they pick at that year’s World Championship.
Call it a spicy take on the process if you want, but I am of the opinion, dear reader, that those making the choices at the World Championship would be best off choosing the one Elemental Role they feel is strongest against their Great Clan, as to block its choice from other Great Clans. If there is a card your Great Clan absolutely lives and dies by, and it is Role restricted? Then you should never choose the best Elemental Role for that, as doing so will weaken your Great Clan at the next World Championships.
The choices the Great Clans settled upon reveal, quite tellingly, the weaknesses in the Elemental Role system. Of the seven Great Clans, three voted for Seeker of Void (Crab, Crane, Phoenix), two for Keeper of Water (Unicorn, Dragon), and the last two split on the Air roles, with one going Seeker of Air (Lion) and the other Keeper of Air (Scorpion). The reasons are well known and discussed in many places in the community, but to summarize:
- The Core Set’s Void Provinces are among the most powerful Provinces in the game, and Seeker of Void lets a Great Clan run two of them.
- Keeper of Water opens up access to the card Fight On, which is a staple in the powerful Crab Clan splash for most decks.
- Finally, Air is considered the best Element, as Seeker of Air Provinces generate card advantage and Fate, while Air itself opens up Soul Beyond Reproach in the Crane Clan splash.
- Most importantly, no Great Clan chose a Fire Role or Earth Role. With Feast or Famine on the Restricted List, Fire only grants access to Unleash the Djinn – useful for Unicorn but too costly for nearly anyone else. The Earth Roles are all but radioactive for the time being, with Sabotage not nearly making up for the fact of making Upholding Authority harder to break.
With the second round of Elemental Championships happening between May and August, it will be interesting to see what the Great Clans decide to head into the Worlds with. Unicorn is guaranteed to vote for Keeper of Fire for Djinn, while Crab will likely be forced to take Seeker of Water to keep access to Fight On.
The Scorpion Clan finally have their hands on the Keeper of Air Role, so they will probably grab Seeker of Void. The same will likely be true for the Lion Clan. The Crane Clan may pick up either Seeker or Keeper of Air. Both the Dragon and the Phoenix are anyone’s guess, however, as the Dragon cannot pick Seeker of Void and the Phoenix have Seeker of Void (and nothing else matters). We will just have to check back in September to see how these predictions shake out.
May 6th also saw the update to the Restricted List and errata on several cards take effect. Nothing was removed from the RL this time, while Embrace the Void, Secluded Shrine, and Steward of Law were added. Display of Power, a staple in Phoenix and the single least interactive card in the entire game, continued to dodge excision, though Embrace the Void was an acceptable substitute for now. Yet it was the errata which truly mentions calling out, as this was the first time in the new LCG that not only some cards gained errata from the Core Set, but three major errata were done specifically to weaken the card.
Previously, errata was only done to make the card function as intended (Pit Trap being playable, timeframes added to Ride Them Down and Kaiu Inventor, Hawk Tattoo not being a harpoon, etc.). The changes to Isawa Tadaka, City of the Open Hand, and Restoration of Balance on the other hand were done specifically to lessen their impact on the game. It’s a marked change in how the LCG interacts with errata and introduces a serious barrier to entry for new players, as now a Core Set Stronghold itself no longer plays as printed. Still, there is at least now a promise of an update to the Rules Reference Guide in July (with potentially an updated Restricted List), and rules for how the Disguised keyword operates. Please check out the full article by Tyler Parrott for more information.
In more positive news on the Organized Play front, Imperial Advisor has provided us insight on the Kotei in Athens, Greece over the weekend of May 4th. This is an important tournament, as it marks the first Kotei in Greece for the new game. Greece was a major hub of Legend of the Five Rings during the CCG years under Alderac Entertainment Group, and the return of the Kotei to its shores is a welcome sight indeed. The tournament saw a strong turnout of 60 players in Day 1, with the Day 2 Top 8 being comprised of 3 Phoenix, 3 Scorpion, 1 Crab, and the Shogun playing Crane. The Crab Clan went on to win the tournament, with congratulations going to Panagiotis Xanthopoulos for his victory.
Finally, late in the month came the Mono No Aware announcement, which introduces set rotation to the L5R LCG starting in the fifth Dynasty cycle. This is not wholly unexpected, and I will have more to say on the intended process at a later point, but it is a notable development all the same.
Patiently Pacing for Pending Packs
The fourth Dynasty pack for the Inheritance cycle was also announced in May, along with several cards previewed from it. Children of Heaven shifts the focus of the Inheritance cycle away from the Bushi, who are central to the first three packs, and moves it onto the Courtiers of the Emerald Empire. Featuring our first look at Hantei Daisetsu (AKA Not Daigotsu, AKA the Prince Who Is Promised, AKA Best Boy), the preview article also gave us a glimpse at new cards for the Scorpion and the Dragon. While the cards may not replace some of the staples of the Core Set in the game, they continue to expand the pool in directions which are sorely needed. It continues my hope that we may see the Core Set itself rotate out of the game sooner rather than later, with an updated Core Set taking its place.
Included along with this set are five of the full art Province backers, in FFG’s continuing policy of rewarding direct preorders and harming the local gaming stores which provide their games support. At least the art is pretty, however, and I am curious who the mysterious figure in blue and yellow armor is.
As of yesterday, this now makes five known packs for the Inheritance cycle, but none have yet been released or a concrete release date given. This continues the longstanding Fantasy Flight Games trend of avoiding any firm release schedule for their games, something which is at once frustrating and likely canny for the publisher, probably only bolstered by recent events.
For those who are unaware, disruptions in international trade are beginning to directly impact the tabletop game market. This is most obvious in the delay in the release of Masters of the Courts in the United Kingdom (likely caused by Brexit delays), causing the set to not be Grand Kotei legal at the recent UK Games Expo.
In the United States, the threat of rising tariffs on imports from China (where FFG prints most of its games) may directly impact sales and profits of the entire board game industry, let alone FFG. It is important to remember that tabletop games is not a high profit industry, and as such, large publishers have to be very conservative in their business decisions. Uncertainty can topple giants, especially ones which just went through a major sale like Asmodee North America (FFG’s parent company) just did. For more insight on how tariffs can and are already impacting tabletop games, I recommend reading the recent Polygon article on the subject.
Releases, Releases, and more Releases
For both L5R Roleplaying Game and general Fiction, things have been comparatively quiet. Clan Letters were released at the aforementioned UK Game Expo event, which speak to the decisions made at last year’s World Championships, but beyond that there has been little to report. A preview for Courts of Stone gave us a map of Kyuden Doji and its surrounding city, but it took sharp eyes to catch the first artwork of the new Deer Clan in the banner of the article.
The best news for the RPG this month came in the form of two outstanding fanzines released by the team behind the Shadows in the West podcast. Kitsune Mori (Issue 1) is a fanzine featuring the alternate Rokugan setting for the podcast and focuses very much on the community and world of that podcast. City of Remembrance (Issue 1) is a more expansive work, providing a wealth of new content for the 5th Edition version of the RPG, from a great many contributors. Both links have the option to “Pay a fair price” for the download, though it is important to note that all proceeds from these fanzines are donated to the Kaleidoscope Trust, a non-profit LGBT+ advocacy group.
As with the best things in the L5R community, you can enjoy excellent content while your money goes to making the world a genuinely better place. I highly recommend paying some money to download these fanzines. My fingers are crossed in hope that we might see future issues as well.
Our Own Announcement – The Daimyo Format
With the official news of the month behind us, dear reader, there is something I would very much like to share with you. If you follow several of the regional L5R podcasts, I have been testing a new format for the L5R LCG. Called “Daimyo”, the format of the game is designed to provide a fast-paced, casual environment which still follows the primary rules of L5R LCG but showcases the prominent characters of the Empire. It is inspired by the Elder Dragon Highlander / Commander format of Magic: the Gathering but for a slightly opposite purpose. While Commander slows a game of Magic down, Daimyo L5R ramps the game up. Both are good for casual play, and while Daimyo L5R can open up the game for some very powerful plays, I have yet to find a truly broken combination which requires me to ban cards.
I have included below the rules for Daimyo L5R. And as an added bonus, today you can see the format’s Stronghold artwork – designed by artist Rhiannon McCullough, whose art you might recognize elsewhere on this website. Please, give it a try.
L5R LCG – Daimyo Format
To create a format of the Legend of the Five Rings Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games which can be played in 15 minutes, promotes an atmosphere of casual fun, but still captures the core dynamics of play inherent to the game.
Deck construction for Daimyo L5R uses the same rules as the standard Legend of the Five Rings LCG, save for the following changes:
- The Dynasty Deck and Conflict Deck can be between 30 and 35 cards.
- There is a maximum of 1 copy per deck, even if the card says otherwise.
- Players must use the “Halls of the Daimyo” Stronghold. This Stronghold shares the Clan alignment of your Daimyo, if any. If your Daimyo is Neutral, you may choose any Clan alignment. This Stronghold is revealed before First Player is determined.
- Before First Player is determined, reveal one Character to be your Daimyo. This Character must be Unique and have either the Champion, Daimyo, or Elemental Master trait. Set this Character aside out of the game, face up. You may not include a copy of this Character or a Character with the same name in your deck.
- The player who reveals the Daimyo with the lowest Fate cost becomes First Player. In case of a tie, First Player is determined randomly among the players with the Daimyo with the lowest Fate costs.
- Players may use any Role for their deck, and are not limited by the standard Organized Play Role for their Clan alignment.
- The Organized Play Restricted List does not apply for deck construction in Daimyo. At presently there are no banned cards.
The game plays as normal for Legend of the Five Rings LCG (including all errata), save for the following changes:
- A player’s Daimyo may not enter a discard pile, hand, deck, or any out of play location.
- When a player’s Daimyo would leave play, it is removed from the game.
The purpose of the Daimyo L5R format is not to exactly mirror Commander, nor necessarily provide a viable multiplayer format for the LCG. This is why it is not “Any Unique”, nor does the Daimyo increase in cost each time it is brought into play. While there has been some argument on whether or not a player should be allowed to sacrifice their Daimyo to pay costs or to a card effect, I have yet to see this unbalance those effects. Right now, certain Daimyo (Soshi Shiori, in particular) have proven to be quite powerful, while certain Great Clans (Unicorn Clan) are suffering for a lack of “good” Daimyo. While this may change in the future, at present I do not see these as being problems. Honestly, I have seen more reason to ban Kaito Nobukai for his impact on slowing the game down than Yoritomo, despite the later potentially being a 14 Mil / 14 Pol powerhouse for minimal investment.
Also, a quick disclaimer with regard to the format. The L5R LCG is not my creation and I take no credit for any of its assets, mechanics, or sundry components. This variant on the game is simply a fan creation, and FFG is free to do with it as they see fit. This is simply a gift to the community, and to you, dear reader. I hope you play it and enjoy yourself.
And that brings us to the end of this month, dear reader. We shall see what the next month holds, as the Inheritance Dynasty Cycle (likely) kicks off, and the Elemental Championships continue forward. I will also be speaking about my plans for Gen Con this year, and what we all can look forward to at the Best Four Days In Gaming.
Carry the Fortunes.
David Gordon is a regular contributor to the site. A storyteller by trade and avowed tabletop veteran, he also has a long and complicated past with L5R. These are his stories. He can be reached on Twitter.
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Photo Credits: Legend of the 5 Rings images by Fantasy Flight Games.