Legend of the Five Rings, L5R for short, is a competitive card game produced by Fantasy Flight Games. Set in a medieval pan-asian fantasy world, several clans compete for territory, resources, and influence in the Emperor’s court. The game is unique in that an overarching story is influenced by the decisions of major tournament winners, and that story in turn, influences card design. The culture within the game itself is also something to be admired, as players develop loyalties to specific clans and animosity towards others. From a mechanical perspective, the game is complicated and offers enormous depth. This is a gamer’s game, plain and simple. There is a lot to keep track of and each decision made tends to affect multiple aspects of the game at once. However, if you are someone with a passion for strategy and a desire to learn an incredible card game that is entirely unlike Magic and its many clones, I can’t recommend Legend of the Five Rings enough. If you want to see the game in action check out some of these youtube tutorials.
If you’re thinking this game might be right for you, let me break down the market strategy of getting into L5R. For better or for worse, Fantasy Flight decided to take L5R in the direction of a Living Card Game instead of a Collectible Card Game, like Magic the Gathering. The way an LCG works is that instead of a collectible card game where you have to buy random packs and trade cards with others, instead smaller chapter packs are released with full playsets of each card in the set. There are currently 9 chapter packs with several of them being unessential to tournament level deckbuilding. There is no randomization and you can look up each card in the set before buying. The best part of the system is once you are caught up, you are looking at a $15 investment every month to maintain your collection with no hassle of trading and a HUGELY reduced cost in comparison to buying hundreds of $3 packs. In video game terms, think of it as DLC as opposed to micro-transactions. For dedicated players, LCGs and by extension Legend of the Five Rings, are a better deal and considerably less exploitative than CCGs.
Here’s the catch, the upfront cost of getting started is a much more expensive than a crummy starter-deck. Fantasy Flight designed their $40 Core Set (on sale for $30 at the moment) to be a demo game. You’d buy the core set, make small decks and play it with a friend to see if you liked it. Each Core set contains one copy of every clan specific card and two copies of every neutral card. If you want to build a legal deck, you will need to buy two cores. If you want a full collection, you’ll need three of them… aaaaand this is where everyone stops reading. Quite frankly I don’t blame you. But, if you are still interested, here are some suggestions I have for making the smartest investment into this truly awesome game:
- Ask around first. This game, like other card games, will not be worth the money if you don’t have a regular group to play with. So unless you have several friends ready to go in on it with you, I would swing by local game stores and see if there are any groups. Once there, ask if you can sit in and watch or even ask if you could try a game or two with their decks. Most groups are happy to teach new players and would gladly take some time to explain the game. Some game stores may even have a Core Set devoted to demoing the game for newbie
- See if you can’t get a friend to go in on it with you. Buying three core sets is daunting but the good news is, if you split the cost with a friend and agree to divide up the clans evenly, you’ll each have plenty of decks to play and full playsets of everything you need for those clans.
- If you are going to buy into the game but don’t have friends to split the price with, just buy two cores to start. With two cores you can still build strong decks that can take matches off fully invested players… once you get the hang of the game. From there you can figure out which clans you really like, and pick up specific $15 chapter packs to buff up those decks! There are also online stores that sell core cards separated by clan if you just have to make that top-tier scorpion deck.
- Finally, like any hobby, there are always people ready to get out if it. Try checking online forums or stores like Ebay to see if people are selling their collections for cheap. If you can find a good deal, this is a great way to get into the game.
Whats the next step? Check out the L5R subreddit for news and discussion about the game and check out 5ringsdb.com for decklists. If you live in the Hampton Roads area, come out to Atlantis Games and Comics’ Norfolk Location on Thursday nights and check out the game with my group!