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.
Chapter 20: An Anniversary and Announcement
The Clan War. The Second Day of Thunder. The Hidden Emperor. The Race to Volturnum. The Spirit Wars. The Four Winds. The Third Rise of Iuchiban. The Test of Enlightenment. The Khan’s Defiance. The Race for the Throne. The War of Dark Fire. The Destroyer War. The Age of Exploration. The Samurai Caste Divides. The Twenty Festivals. And now, the Blackest Storm.
For twenty years, Legend of the Five Rings has set the bar for interactive storyline gaming. No other game comes close to the power granted to players of L5R for the determination of their shared world. For twenty years, L5R has stood out in the hobby of gaming for its diehard community of fans, and any celebration of L5R is more a celebration of that community than anything else. That is exactly what the 20th Anniversary Party was: a celebration of community.
Before we reached the party, however, there were many drafts to participate in. This year at Gen Con, my interest in playing L5R lay primarily within draft tournaments. The story prize for the many drafts were for the top two to each select a character in the storyline. This character would be featured in a Scenes of the Empire fiction or receive a visit from the bearer of the Jade Hand or the Obsidian Hand, two vastly powerful individuals with a connection to the Celestial Heavens. I made it a point to play in as many drafts as I could in hopes of earning my Winter Court 4 character, Susumu Naishi, a little more time in the spotlight.
It had been announced that all the draft events at Gen Con 2015 would be using the Thunderous Acclaim expansion. I was pleased to hear this, as Thunderous Acclaim had been designed with drafting in mind and the set itself had been revealed through the Oracle of the Void on the L5R Imperial Assembly. This allowed me to take my time doing research on the set before convention, and I noticed certain key elements to it.
First and foremost, Crab and Scorpion have a ridiculous amount of synergy in the set. As part of playing a draft, a player chooses two Clans whom they play. Cards like Shosuro Kanako and Toritaka Suppon each rewarded a player for having the opposite faction to their own Clan.
Additionally, the Scorpion and Crab both boasted very cheap Force-to-Gold personalities, with Kuni Igarasu, Bayushi Tenburo, and Bayushi Chizuken leading the pack. Bayushi Chizuken was an especially potent Personality, featuring the Tactician trait as a built-in Force pump, Resilient for some staying power, and a built-in Battle action which lowered the opponent’s Force – potentially even bowing them. Both the Scorpion and the Crab also had the key Melee and Ranged Attacks for removal of Followers and Personalities, preventing your opponent from taking actions. Attrition, while less necessary in Draft than Constructed, is still a very powerful force in battles.
Of the other factions, Crane and Phoenix offered a large share of high personal honor Personalities, with some synergy between them as well. The Crane / Phoenix deck stood to be the defensive honor runner to beat, and with Ichigo Sensei in the set, they would be unafraid of battles. Winning or tying a battle would result in greater Honor gains for decks with Ichigo Sensei, allowing them to quickly accelerate beyond the reach of a military deck to handle.
Another interesting deck pairing was the Dragon / Unicorn switch deck, going for whichever victory condition presented itself as an option. That said, Spider, Lion, and Mantis sadly suffered in this set from having an apparent lack of solid Personalities.
These are mere general observations, however, and not my entire focus here. For more reading about the Thunderous Acclaim Draft environment overall, I highly recommend reading this article on the Kolat Informant.
Going into my first draft, I quickly discovered I was hardly alone in the attempt to earn more story time for my favorite Personalities. Several others had a similar idea, choosing Draft as their field of preference at the convention, and I found myself facing both Mark Armitage and Will Abbott, two of the best draft players I have ever faced. As New England itself was a center of the draft playtesting for Legend of the Five Rings, there were other familiar faces as well, but none gave me nearly as much trouble as those two highly skilled players.
My first draft saw me snag the Scorpion / Crab combo early on, only to lose out due to the high Force drain Strategies in the environment. The second draft forced me into not choosing my clans until the start of the third of four booster packs, leaving me with a strange Phoenix / Unicorn switch deck. Oddly, that one performed better than my first, but neither got me close to the goal. My third draft pod was a total washout, a result of my Scorpion / Mantis deck facing down the Crab / Scorpion powerhouse.
Undeterred, I went on to participate in the Second Chance event on Saturday, running opposite the Main Event. The Second Chance tournaments at Gen Con were traditionally for people who couldn’t participate in the Main Event or failed to qualify. This year it was selected as a Draft Event, with the top two winners receiving the aforementioned character visit from the Jade Hand or the Obsidian Hand.
The winner of the Second Chance tournament also determined which Clan would receive the Black Scroll “Black Wind from the Soul”, should Rokugan win the corresponding Challenge Booths. There was four rounds of Swiss pairings before splitting to a Top 8 and Bottom 8. Aside from Abbott and Armitage, I also saw another of the New England locals in my draft pod in the form of Anthony Lawrence. Not expecting much, I opened my first pack, and went from there.
My drafting strategy was primarily defensive. Noticing the number of Force drain actions in the environment which targeted Personalities and not Followers, I prioritized those first. Immaterial Weapons, Price of Shame, and Followers were my top priority, and soon I had built a strong Fate deck out of such cards. However, by the start of our third pack I still had been unable to determine which Clans I favored. Going back through what I had been forced to draft, I noticed a large amount of cheap Lion and Spider Personalities that no one else had wanted. Focusing on those and without losing my target on the Fate side, I was able to put together a blindingly fast military blitz deck which relied on cheap Personalities, large Followers, and Force drain Strategies to win opposed battles. While it only went 2–2 in the first four rounds, my strength of schedule saw me place in the Top 8.
We then cracked open four new packs and drafted a new deck. Sadly, lightning did not strike a second time, and I was eliminated in the first round by Will Abbott. Will went on to win the Second Chance tournament, with Anthony Lawrence coming in second. Yoritomo Kinshikira was selected to receive a visit from the villainous bearer of the Obsidian Hand, while Akodo Aeshma, a Personality in an upcoming set based on Anthony Lawrence, would receive a visit from the heroic bearer of the Jade Hand. As part of the Top 8, my prize included an entire booster box of Thunderous Acclaim, officially giving me the single largest prize I have ever won in a single tournament.
The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, as I rushed out to the Expo Hall to make some interview appointments and then returned to my hotel room for a respite after the long day previous. I then threw on the costume I’d prepared for the 20th Anniversary Party. As with the L5R Spectacular I covered last year, there were prizes available for all those who came in costume. Luckily, the prizes were simply for participation, not for quality of costume. Had it been the latter, even my Susumu Courtier costume would have been easily outdone by the many costumes of the Heroes of Rokugan Court Interactive LARP held just before the party.
For those who are curious as to the costume, I can be found here, on the far left.
The Anniversary Party itself was hotly anticipated, and by the time I arrived the line already stretched out the door, into the food court nearby, and had just begun to double back upon itself around an elevator. I encountered a fellow Spider Clan costumer (whose awesome skull mempo is unfortunately obscured in the picture above by his sword and stance). The hot topic of discussion in the line to get in was, of course, the results of the Story Path votes and the upcoming Onyx Edition. While not everyone approved of the direction the storyline was moving in, the inclusion of all ends of player participation was rather popular. People felt optimistic about the future, and while many had felt the lackluster turnout at the tournaments was worrisome, the 20th Anniversary Party showed those fears to be unfounded. Legend of the Five Rings was still a dominant force in the world of gaming, and promised to be for years to come.
Once we were let into the rotunda, the party kicked off with a bang. Reggie Garth was emceeing in full Hida Kozan regalia, and the area quickly became filled with fans of L5R. Hanging over the proceedings were the original Clan Banners from the Day of Thunder tournament in 1997, and projected onto a massive wall display were pieces of art from L5R’s long history. The Story Team were present to mix and mingle, along with Bryan Reese, Rob Hobart, and several other L5R luminaries. Ed Bolme, one of the original writers of L5R, gave a few words about the history of the game and how it had brought the community together.
There was an air of excitement over the anticipated announcements and sneak peak at Onyx Edition. I spent most of my time mingling with the AEG team, posing for photos with my fellow Spider, and avoiding the massive line for the bar. Midway through the party, all those who showed up in costume were asked to come forward and pose for the many cameras.
A raffle was held for several prizes after the photo ops, with the prizes being the selection of the Day of Thunder banners and a $1,000 gift certificate for the AEG online store. In a moment of pure amusement, both the ticket immediately before mine and the ticket immediately afterwards were selected for the banners, and Benoit Touluse, a local L5R player from Montreal, won the gift certificate. This was a fortunate turn of events, as Benoit had originally lost his ticket for the party entirely and barely had been able to get in before we exceeded capacity.
As the night continued on, however, it became increasingly apparent that there would be no announcement for Onyx Edition. After the raffles, people were encouraged to pick up their door prizes, consisting of 20 packs of cards (10 Twenty Festivals and 10 Thunderous Acclaim), a commemorative engraved mug, and a pair of commemorative chopsticks. They were also giving away uncut sheets from previous expansions, including Imperial Edition itself.
As someone interested with seeing the return of the Naga though, the sneak peek at Onyx Edition had been one of my most anticipated parts of GenCon. With a little bit of legwork, I was able to find out that the announcements had all been pulled at the last minute by AEG for reasons unknown. (Editor’s Note: While many have suspected after the announcement of the FFG sale that this was a result of that, Bryan Reese has stated that it was because AEG was considering massive changes to the format of Onyx Edition and had decided to pull the preview as a result.)
Time To Decompress
The evening wound down, and I ultimately elected not to join those proceeding out on the L5R Pub Crawl that night. It had been a very long Saturday, and I still had the entirety of Sunday for interviews. Surely enough, Sunday came on fast. I headed out to the CCG Hall to check in with the community and watch the final matches. The final few Challenge Booths were also being decided at that time, along with the last few draft pods. I wasn’t able to get in on any last drafts, but did sit down briefly with the Story Team while they sorted out the exact story prize results.
The Main Event itself came down to Shika Mantis versus Phoenix defensive honor, with two players from the same playgroup. The Main Event was won by Isaac Cynova of the Mantis Clan, choosing for the 13th Black Scroll to be used by Yoritomo Ichido on Yoritomo himself, the man who made the Mantis a Great Clan. While this was a surprising turn of events, it is widely suspected that the $1,000 cash bounty for the scroll to be used on Yoritomo may have had an impact on the decision.
For those who wish to see the final results of GenCon 2015 L5R CCG events, AEG has made them available.
And with that last contest announcement, my time at Gen Con 2015 came to an end. It was another spectacular year for L5R, but one I was glad to put behind me as I look ahead to the future. Even if the fall tournament season is largely outside of possibility for me this time around.
And then there’s the tricky issue of certain recent announcements pertaining to Legend of the Five Rings as a whole, but I shall save that for next time where I can devote time to that topic entirely. Until then, dear reader.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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