Legend of the Five Rings (collectible card game)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2008)|
|Designer(s)||David Seay, John Zinser, and David Williams|
|Publisher(s)||Alderac Entertainment Group|
|Playing time||1 hour|
|Skill(s) required||Card playing
Arithmetic/Patience/Grasp of strategy
Basic reading ability
Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) is a collectible card game created by Alderac Entertainment Group in 1995. L5R takes place in the fictional empire of Rokugan from the Legend of the Five Rings setting, where several clans and factions vie for domination over the empire.
The card game shares some similarities with Magic: The Gathering but has its own unique game mechanics and flavor, providing "passive" win conditions like the Enlightenment Victory, as well as a version of Magic''s goal of destroying the opponent. Games can be very long, with some matches lasting hours.
A major distinctive feature of the game is the importance of the storyline: new fiction pieces advancing the story of Rokugan are published on a weekly basis, in addition to being released with every expansion, and in a quarterly publication, the 'Imperial Herald. Many of these fiction reflect the result of tournaments, where players use their decks to determine which faction will claim a particular prize within the storyline.
Legend of the Five Rings has garnered many accolades throughout the years, including several Origins awards (such as the most recent 2008 award for best CCG with Samurai Edition) and the 2008 Scrye Players Choice Best CCG Award for Samurai Edition.
- 1 History
- 2 Game play
- 3 Product information
- 3.1 Release History
- 3.1.1 The Clan War (Imperial Edition)
- 3.1.2 The Hidden Emperor (Jade Edition)
- 3.1.3 The Four Winds (Gold Edition)
- 3.1.4 The Rain of Blood (Diamond Edition)
- 3.1.5 The Age of Enlightenment (Lotus Edition)
- 3.1.6 The Race for the Throne (Samurai Edition)
- 3.1.7 The Destroyer War (Celestial Edition)
- 3.1.8 The Age of Conquest (Emperor Edition)
- 3.1.9 Ivory Edition
- 3.2 Learn to Play Sets
- 3.1 Release History
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The game was created by Alderac Entertainment Group and published by Isomedia. It was first previewed at Gen Con in 1995, followed by the release of the first set, Imperial Edition, in October of that year, beginning the Clan War arc. Five Rings Publishing Group (FRPG) took over the intellectual property shortly thereafter, before being purchased by Wizards of the Coast in 1997.
In 2000, at the behest of Wizards' mother company, Hasbro, the intellectual property to the game was put up for sale. Alderac Entertainment acquired the rights to publish the game in 2001, and full rights over the game within the following years, and have since published the game.
The release of Lotus Edition (in 2005) and Samurai Edition (2007) saw extensive changes to several aspects of the game.
Culture of Legend of the Five Rings
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2013)|
There are some distinct differences between Legend of the Five Rings and other collectible card games. The most important is the ability for players to affect the storyline and card development. Another is the running of charity events such as Solving the Riddle. Legend of the Five Rings is the second-longest-running CCG in part because of the dedication of the player base, as well as the fact that since neither game is based on a third part intellectual property, the publishers cannot lose the right to develop cards when a contract expires.
Card Look Changes
Originally, cards featured intricately ornate front sides, while the back of the card, either black or green, featured five interlocked rings and the words "Legend of the Five Rings".
Starting with the release of Pearl Edition in 1999, the card fronts were changed to a simpler, cleaner look that allowed for more card text, as well as returning the visual focus of the card on the art, rather than the borders of the card.
Following a legal issue with the International Olympic Committee, which has trademark-like rights in the United States to all designs featuring five interlocking rings, it was agreed that Wizards of the Coast would change the card back. This was done with The Spirit Wars in 2000, when the design was changed to five non-interlocking circular symbols depicting each of the five elements of the game (Fire, Air, Earth, Water and Void).
The card fronts were redesigned for a second time in 2008.
Legend of the Five Rings can be played with any number of players, although two to four are most common. Unlike most CCGs, which are geared towards one-on-one duels, L5R was designed with multi-player matches in mind. Each player represents the leader of one of the factions battling for power.
There are a number of different factions that a player may use in Legend of the Five Rings. Each faction has different strengths and weaknesses and often can use one or more different paths to victory. At various times in the game's history, factions have been added and removed for storyline reasons, simplification or mechanics for newer players or power-level reasons. At the time of Imperial Edition six factions were included (Crab, Crane, Dragon, Lion, Phoenix and Unicorn).
Imperial Edition Factions
Defenders of Rokugan from the creatures of the Shadowlands, the Crab Clan are traditionally a military theme.
Artisans, courtiers and duelists, the Crane Clan usually tries to achieve an honor victory gaining recognition for its honorable deeds
Isolated and mysterious monks and deadly duelists, the Dragon Clan often speak in riddles and act in unpredictable ways. The Dragon has been a clan that can win through any victory condition, and has usually been one of the best clans to be able to achieve an enlightenment victory.
Firm adherents to Bushido, and deadly warriors, the Lion Clan tends to win through military victory, but is often able to win by being more honorable, gaining its honor from battle instead of words.
Honorable Shugenja (wizards or spellcasters) and their dutiful yojimbo (bodyguards) allow the Phoenix clan to win through honor. Despite being passive in nature, the Phoenix Clan has often had a strong military theme, utilizing tricks and spells to prevail against stronger individual forces.
Masters of horsemanship, the Unicorn Clan is primarily a military clan that uses cavalry to attack around the enemy defenders, allowing them to attack resources as well as being strong in direct confrontations. The Unicorn are seen by many to be outsiders but are capable of honor victory.
A race of ancient snake people, the Naga were unable to win through honor victory, but had a strong military theme.
A dark mirror to the Crane Clan, the Scorpion also use the power of the courts, but where the Crane seek to be more virtuous than their adversaries, the Scorpion seek to shame theirs. The Scorpion also have military strength, but it is not direct like the Lion or Crab, their ninja and warriors are more subtle and uses the power of their courtiers to slow the enemy down.
Anvil of Despair
A group of ronin (unaligned samurai) united under the banner of Toturi the Black, the former Lion Clan champion who was shamed and forced to leave his clan. Toturis army was both a military and honor faction. Toturi's army is no longer a playable faction, but has morphed into the Monkey Clan, a minor clan of Rokugan.
Yogo Junzo's Army (Later the Shadowlands Horde)
Monstrous oni, goblins, troll, corrupted samurai from the evil Shadowlands. They are followers of the dark kami, Fu Leng, and seek the destruction of Rokugan. The Shadowlands Horde has in part morphed into the Spider Clan, a great clan of Rokugan.
Crimson and Jade
Yoritomo's Alliance (Later the Mantis Clan) is an alliance of several minor clans. At the conclusion of the Clan War, the Mantis Clan champion Yoritomo was allowed to make his alliance into a great clan, Under the Mantis Clan banner. The original four clans in the alliance were the Mantis Clan, the Wasp Clan, the Fox Clan and the Centipede Clan, as well as other members from the great clans and minor clans.
The Brotherhood of Shinsei
Identified by the monk keyword, the Brotherhood of Shinsei were pacifists who primarily dealt with enlightenment and honor victories, but were able to uses their powerful magic to defend the empire as well. No longer a playable faction, they are still very much alive in fiction.
The Ninja (Lying Darkness)
Identified by the ninja keyword, they served as the ultimate evil bent on destroying everything that existed. They were ultimately defeated and removed at the end of the Jade Arc, but many ninja have survived and are now a part of the Spider Clan.
Received a stronghold the was allowed in both Jade and Gold Editions. No longer playable, but some ratlings are still roaming Rokugan.
Received one Stronghold in the last expansion of Jade Edition, the Spirit Wars.
Fox split from the rest of the Yoritomo's alliance for many arcs, now reunited under the Mantis Clan Banner as the Kitsune family.
Sparrow cards allow Sparrow Clan personalities to become part of a player's clan.
Kolat cards allow Kolat personalities to become part of a player's clan.
Founded by Daigotsu, the dark lord of the Shadowlands, the Spider clan has now been elevated to great clan status.
Imperial was given a stronghold in Emperor edition and represented the forces of the Imperial Household during the raid on the Second City. They were only a faction when the stronghold was played.
Fudo was given a stronghold in Coils of Madness and represented a rogue faction of the Shinsei who followed the teachings of a new master.
Pan'Ku was given a stronghold in Coils of Madness and represented the forces that followed the whims of the mad Dragon Pan'Ku.
A minor clan with a playable stronghold, it is not considered a faction.
In addition to the playable factions, several minor clans exist in Rokugan, each with a purpose and task given to them by the Emperor and some card and storyline support. They include
- Badger Clan
- Dragonfly Clan
- Bat Clan
- Oriole Clan
- Tortoise Clan
- Sparrow Clan
- Boar Clan (killed)
- Snake Clan (now the unaligned evil Chuda Family)
- Monkey Clan
- Falcon Clan (now the Toritaka family of the Crab)
Before the Game
Each player has two decks that are kept separate during play: One Dynasty deck, consisting of black-backed cards, and one Fate deck, consisting of green-backed cards. In tournament games, each deck must contain at least 40 cards, and this has become a de facto standard in casual games. (There is no upper limit.) No deck may contain more than three of any particular card, and no more than one of any particular unique card. In addition to a Fate deck and a Dynasty deck, each player must choose one Stronghold card to represent his Faction and ancestral home.
At the beginning of a game, all players start by simultaneously revealing their chosen stronghold. The family honor value printed on the stronghold determines play order, with the highest value going first. If a tie occurs, a random method such as a die roll or coin toss is used. Each player shuffles his or her Fate and Dynasty decks, and places them some distance apart on the game surface. Each player then takes the first four cards of their Dynasty deck face down on the table in front of them next to each other, between their two decks. This represents their provinces, the lands their clan control. Finally, each player draws six Fate cards and places in his or her hand.
The two most important type of card in the game are the personality and the holding. Personalities represent warriors, courtiers, scholars, monks and creatures of the empire. Almost every personality card has a unique name corresponding to a character in the story of Legend of the Five Rings; many characters have several versions, representing the evolution of the character over the course of the story. Many cards require a personality in play to be played; in addition, Personalities are necessary in order to attack or defend. Holdings, meanwhile, are used to produce gold, which is in turn used to pay for further cards.
At the beginning of each turn, a player turns all of the face-down Dynasty cards in his provinces face-up. If these cards are regions (representing places in Rokugan) or events (representing rare specific occurrences), they immediately take effect, regions modifying the province they are revealed in, and events having one global effect then being discarded. Whenever a province becomes empty, the player takes the top card of his dynasty deck and put it, face-down, in the province.
The player then proceeds to his limited phase, where he may purchase a variety of cards to improve personalities he controls. These cards, collectively known as attachments, are items, followers (representing troops and retainers that may assist your personalities), spells and ancestors (guiding spirits that may assist your personalities). During the limited phase, the player may also use certain abilities on cards in play or on action cards in hand; the latter are discarded when used. Other players may also take actions during this phase, but the abilities available to them are more limited.
The player then has the option of attacking one of his opponents. If he does so, the attacking and defending players takes turn assigning personalities they control to attack or defend the defending player's provinces. The attacking player assigns his cards first, allowing the defending player to position his cards in response to the attacking player's choices. Once all assignment is done, the battles at each province are played out, with players using abilities on cards they control or in hand in turn until both player passes; the battle is then resolved with the side having the highest total force becoming victorious. All cards on the losing side are destroyed; if the defending player loses, the province may also be destroyed. Destroyed provinces hold no dynasty cards.
Once all battles (if any) are played out, the player moves on to his dynasty phase, where he may purchase face-up personality or holding cards in his provinces. The abilities of newly purchased holdings generally cannot be used until the beginning of their controller's next turn, whereas those of personalities can be used immediately. Once a player is done with his dynasty phase, he draws a card, then ends his turn.
Victory and Defeat
There are several ways to achieve victory or defeat in Legend of the Five Rings.
A player may win the game by having his honor score (representing the public view of his clan) reach over 40, at which point he will win the game by an honor victory at the beginning of his next turn. He may also win by playing all five elemental rings, cards representing philosophical mastery of the universe; such a victory is called the enlightenment victory.
Another way to achieve victory is simply by eliminating all opposing players from the game. Players can be eliminated in two ways. The first is to destroy all of a player's provinces, (winning by eliminating players in this way is termed a military victory) while the second involves reducing another player's honor score below -19 (which is termed as dishonor victory). (Until Samurai Edition, published in 2007, victory by eliminating other players was termed "military victory" regardless of how the elimination was achieved).
In addition, several cards offer alternate, unique paths to victory or defeat, and certain factions are similarly immune to winning or losing the game in some ways.
Legend of the Five Rings is produced and marketed by the Alderac Entertainment Group.
The history of the game is divided in arcs. The beginning of each new arc redefines which card may be used in tournament formats. Arcs typically begin with the publication of a base set of 300 or more cards, primarily reprinted older cards, followed by the release of several expansions of 50 to 180 new cards, and one promotional set, of variable size, which is sold directly to player by the manufacturer. Often, the last few expansions of one arc will be legal for play in the next arc.
So far, these have been:
The Clan War (Imperial Edition)
The Clan War arc began in October 1995 with the release of Imperial Edition. It initially had six legal faction for play (Crab Clan, Crane Clan, Dragon Clan, Lion Clan, Phoenix Clan and Unicorn Clan).
Later expansions added six more : the Naga and Scorpion Clan in Shadowlands, Toturi's Army and Yogo Junzo's Army in Anvil of Despair, and Yoritomo's Alliance and The Brotherhood of Shinsei in Crimson and Jade. The arc (and the game as a whole) was originally intended to end with Time of the Void, but was extended due to its popularity and ended with the release of Scorpion Clan Coup, in early 1998.
The Hidden Emperor (Jade Edition)
This arc began with the release of the base set Jade Edition in May 1998. It contained originally all twelve factions playable at the end of the Clan War arc, to which were later added the Ninja in Dark Journey Home, the Ratlings in Heroes of Rokugan (the first promotional set, depicting certain past figures of Rokugan's history), and the Spirits in The Spirit Wars. The Spirit Wars was the final expansion of the Hidden Emperor arc.
The Four Winds (Gold Edition)
This arc began in July 2001 with the release of Gold Edition. Several factions were removed from the game for various reasons, to retain only eight : the original six factions from Imperial Edition, the Scorpion Clan, and the Shadowlands Horde (until then known as Yogo Junzo's Army). In addition, because all cards in Heroes of Rokugan were also legal for play in the next arc (The Four Winds), the Ratling faction remained, although they received only limited support. Later, in the Dark Allies expansion, Yoritomo's Alliance was re-introduced as the Mantis Clan. The promotional set for The Four Winds arc was A Thousand Years of Darkness, depicting an alternate timeline where the Shadowlands Horde ruled over Rokugan.
The Rain of Blood (Diamond Edition)
This arc began with the release of Diamond Edition (October 2003) and lasted two years. It featured all the factions of the Four Winds arc (including Ratling), this time all fully supported. The promotional set for the Diamond Arc was Dawn of the Empire, depicting events surrounding the creation of Rokugan.
The Age of Enlightenment (Lotus Edition)
The release of Lotus edition (October 2005) heralded the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment. Several significant rules changes marked this release, redefining several key concepts of the game. A new faction, the Spider Clan was introduced at the very end of the Age of Enlightenment, with the release of The Truest Test. The promotional set was Test of Enlightenment, which, unlike previous promotional sets, depicted current events, focused on result of the 2006 tournament season.
The Race for the Throne (Samurai Edition)
This arc began with the release of the eponymous Samurai Edition, in July 2007. It featured significant faction changes, with the removal of the Ratlings and Shadowlands Horde. The latter group was replaced with the newly introduced Spider Clan. The promotional set for the Samurai arc was The Emerald and Jade Champions, again depicting current events within the game, this time centered on the results of the 2007 World Championship. The last set, Glory of the Empire, was dual bugged for the next arc.
The Destroyer War (Celestial Edition)
The arc officially released with Celestial Edition June 2009. The story begins with events following the tournament story line of The War of Dark Fire. Until now, the sets have been: Celestial, Celestial 15 (special anniversary edition with promo cards featuring previous editions of the game with the new layout), The Harbinger, Path of the Destroyers, The Plague War, Empire at War, The Dead of Winter, Before the Dawn (dual bugged) and Second City (dual bugged).
The Age of Conquest (Emperor Edition)
Originally scheduled for release November 2011, it was delayed until February 2012. Currently it includes the promotional set for the Emperor arc Forgotten Legacy, as well as Emperor Edition, Before the Dawn, 'Second City, Embers of War, a second promotional set The Shadow's Embrace, Seeds of Decay, Torn Asunder, and Coils of Madness (dual bugged).
Next story arc scheduled for release in 2014
Learn to Play Sets
Learn to play sets allow new players to be easily introduced to the game. Several learn to play sets have been released over the course of the game history. Generally, these sets features particular flavor text and promotional cards relating to a specific events in the storyline. So far, these have been Battle at Beiden Pass (November 1996), Siege of Sleeping Mountain (May 1999), Storms over Matsu Palace (July 2000), The L5R Experience (July 2002, simple demonstration decks freely distributed), The Training Grounds (November 2003), and The Training Grounds II (July 2006). A bit apart from the others learn to play sets were The Imperial Gift (Part 1 to 3), first released in August 2009 for Celestial Edition and distributed through Stronghold Stores as free sets. As of September 2010 Battle of Kyuden Tonbo has been released, featuring learn to play sets for Lion and Dragon. Honor and Treachery was released in December of 2012, a set of battle between the Phoenix and Scorpion clans.
- List of Legend of the Five Rings sets
- Legend of the Burning Sands
- Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game
- The Book of Five Rings