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 35: The Stormy Calm
Happy New Year, dear reader! Welcome to the Year of the Pig, and may fortune and luck find you in this year, along with bounty and joy. The Lunar New Year has begun, and it is a good moment to look forward to 2019, as it would seem we will not likely get a moment to catch our breath the entire year.
We should start by addressing the slight stumble that has begun what will likely be the most unpredictable year in Legend of the Five Rings since the announcement of its sale in 2015. Children of the Empire, the Deluxe Expansion Set that has been hotly anticipated for the Living Card Game, was initially expected to arrive in stores at the beginning of January.
An unexpected delay, however, bumped forward its street date to last week instead, amidst a great deal of speculation in the community and little to no communication from Fantasy Flight Games. The only information given for the delay came from a tweet by Tyler Parrott, the lead designer of L5R, who informed the community simply that Children of the Empire would not be arriving in stores until after January. Fantasy Flight Games later announced the definite street date of February 14th, though many players of the LCG worry that this might have been the result of production delays.
My own investigation into the matter yielded no additional information about the cause of the delay. Children of the Empire was included as a January release in the December email statement Asmodee North America distributes to members of the press but was quietly removed for the January statement which followed. It returned with the February statement as a February release, but in turn the Unicorn Clan Pack, Warriors of the Wind, conspicuously vanished from the March schedule.
A deeper dive into the matter led me to very little in the way of substance, only a good amount of speculation, mostly involving difficulties in getting consumer products through an international port of entry during a government shutdown. No word has come from Asmodee or FFG one way or the other regarding whether or not we can expect additional delays in the packed L5R LCG release schedule in 2019, and as the old L5R adage would suggest, we must simply Wait and See.
In other LCG news, there has been a great deal of new cards spoiled from the upcoming Children of the Empire, up to and including the Emperor himself, Hantei XXXVIII. Adding 234 new cards to the game, Children of the Empire promises to have a meteoric effect on the meta game, an effect which has only grown more anticipated with each new card previewed.
Over the course of several weeks, Fantasy Flight Games previewed cards for each of the Great Clans, as well as several Neutral cards, showcasing several new mechanics and a hefty amount of support for dueling. Each Great Clan, along with the Mantis, was given its own Challenger, a Dynasty Character with a printed ability to create a duel. Both the Dragon and the Crane were given their own Holding to produce a duel in any Conflict, and both Great Clans will be given key Attachments and Events to enhance their existing Duelist characters.
Fan favorite characters from the old lore were unveiled as well, including Mirumoto Hitomi, Hida Yakamo, Utaku Kamoko, and Kakita Toshimoko. And for those who tastes go towards the more Imperial flavors, two new Magistrates were previewed, along with two new Conflict cards. Split along the Keeper / Seeker Roles, these cards will give a lot of weight towards Keeper choices in the upcoming Elemental Championships, as both Righteous Magistrate and Defend Your Honor far outstrip their counterparts in utility.
Previewed in January as well was the upcoming Crane Clan Pack, Masters of the Court. Slated for release in April, Masters of the Court will introduce 78 new cards focused around the Crane Clan. Expanding on the themes of dueling greatly fleshed out in Children of the Empire, the Crane Clan Pack will likely mirror the Phoenix and Scorpion Clan Packs, which should include in it a new Stronghold, a new Province, and a new Role, along with six unique Characters for the other Great Clans to provide some means of combatting the new range of tools given to the Crane Clan.
Included in the preview article was the new Stronghold, Kyuden Kakita, which honors your participating Character after a duel resolves regardless of if it was won or lost, and a new Daimyo for the Crane Clan, Asahina Takamori, who can prevent a Character owned by your opponent from being able to be declared an attacker or defender that round.
What was not announced was whether or not there would be a Crane Clan Novella to accompany the Clan Pack. Once again, no word has been released from FFG regarding whether or not this means that the Crane Clan Novella could be expected in April, later this year, or even at all. Considering the exceptional nature of the fiction to date, I certainly hope we will see an announcement before too long, though whether it’s handled by an existing master or a new hand to L5R fiction I go back and forth on. In many ways, I have high hopes for Across the Burning Sands, and while I do enjoy most of the fiction so far, getting fresh voices to help tell the growing story of L5R is always good.
Organized Play Is Coasting Right Along…Unfortunately
In other news, what was already anticipated to be a “dead meta” environment of Organized Play for the LCG has been extended by the delay in Children of the Empire. While no Kotei events were planned to take place after the latest Restricted List update and before the deluxe expansion became legal, the delay caused both the Cork, Ireland and Phoenix, Airzona Kotei to be held in the current environment. As reported by Imperial Advisor, Cork was taken by the Phoenix Clan while Phoenix was taken by the Crab Clan.
Both events saw a field with a large number of Phoenix players, and the removal of Against the Waves from the Restricted List has made quite the splash on the competitive circuit. Both tournaments also saw strong performance from the Unicorn Clan, as well as a sudden drop of tournament performance from the Scorpion Clan.
Much of the former can be laid at the feet of the latter, as the addition of A Fate Worse Than Death to the Restricted List have left the Scorpion Clan struggling with formulating the new competitive strategy. Without the pressure the high Fate, Control focused, City of the Open Hand Scorpion decks, the much faster Hisu Mori Toride Unicorn decks are able to take a more dominant presence in the field, even though they have not claimed a Kotei victory – yet. February holds one Kotei, in Toronto on February 23 and 24. This places the Toronto Kotei just inside the 11-day waiting period between release and legality at a Premier level event, which will undoubtedly impact participation.
Kotei are not the only events so far this year in L5R’s Organized Play, as the Elemental Championship series has proven to be highly successful. While a few Elemental Championships have seen small turnouts, the lack of an associated convention serving as a “pay gate” has led to surging attendance and participation. We’re only six weeks into the 2019 Elemental Championship Season and we are already seeing tournaments across the United States, Canada, and as far away as Shanghai and Austria. Nearly every Great Clan has seen placement in the Top 2, and the meta at the tournaments has been the right balance of challenging yet surprising. In my local area we have two events I will be attending, to try my luck at influencing the next wave of Elemental Roles. Some questions remain as to how the voting itself will work, but we shall see what direction the wind will blow come May 1st and the first change of Roles in the new method.
Lastly on the OP front, a major announcement from Fantasy Flight Games was released on January 30th, discussing the future of all their Organized Play events. While the full article can be found here, the relevant information for L5R is been a matter of hot debate, but sadly little clarity. In-Store support will be shifting away from monthly tournaments and towards weekly casual play, but no word was given regarding the missing Season 4 kits that many stores are still waiting on. Organized Play will also involve the incorporation of a smart device app, but no date has been given for when the app will switch from being KeyForge exclusive to all of FFG’s games. The Kotei series appears to be a separate event series from the standard, primary levels of Organized Play, but how the Kotei’s interaction with the World Championships will change is also unclear – if it will change at all.
And finally, there was the announcement that the World Championship events, including the L5R Winter Court, will be switching to strictly Invitation Only, a change that has already been polarizing to the community. Many praise FFG’s switch to a strict Invitational format for Worlds as raising the bar on competitive play and adding prestige to the event, but others worry that this will kill the community participation aspect of the World Championships. With the World Championships being separate from other major events, such as Gen Con or Origins, there is the question of whether or not non-competitors will even be allowed in the FFG Game Center during this time or if this will become its own mini-convention. Fantasy Flight has promised that it will discuss this matter more directly in a future announcement, addressing each game individually, but as of the time of this article, we are still largely in the dark.
February Still Has New Content To Enjoy
In other more positive community news, I would like to give a special welcome and shout out to a new L5R-focused podcast / YouTube Channel / Twitchstream, The Meek Informant. The Meek Informant is composed of several players from my own local playgroup here in New England and is formed around providing strategy and support to new Legend of the Five Rings LCG players. They focus primarily on providing commentary over gameplay footage and have recently begun a series showcasing decks created solely from the Core Set of the game. I would highly recommend checking them out, (and not only because I have already appeared as a guest on their show).
Finally, February has also seen the release of new fiction from D.G. Laderoute, focusing around the two Imperial Heirs and the Imperial decree drafted in “Tiger Stalks Its Prey”. The first two parts of a three part fiction, “Children of Bushido” and “Children of Tradition” tells the story of a dispute between the Crown Prince, Hantei Sotorii, and his brother Hantei Daisetsu, and the involvement of a third party, Bayushi Dairu, heir to the Scorpion Clan and son of Bayushi Shoju.
Framed as a deciding moment for Hantei the 38th and the question of succession, the fictions have the feeling of the classic film Rashomon, and I can only wait for the third installment to cast more light onto the situation, along with a conclusion and response undoubtedly to be included in the Children of the Empire. With one heir showing a dangerous doubt in Bushido and the worth of honor, and the other weak and lonely and under the sway of a mysterious whisper in his mind, I cannot imagine the story of the proclamation and the succession going well. I would be a liar if I am not secretly waiting for Bayushi Shoju to pose the inevitable question to his good friend: “The Emperor, or the Empire?”
And that brings us up to date. Join us next month for an in-depth discussion of the impact of Children of the Empire upon the LCG and the developments in the continuing saga of Chekhov’s proclamation. After all, nothing has ever gone poorly in L5R from opening a scroll at the wrong time, has it?
Until next month, dear reader.
Carry the Fortunes.
David Gordon was 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 were his stories. He can be reached on Twitter.
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Photo Credits: Legend of the 5 Rings images by Fantasy Flight Games.