Restoring Imperial Law
Updated Rules Reference, Draft Rules and Imperial Law for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game
The Kaiu Wall has been breached, and Akuma-no-Oni’s forces are ravaging the Empire…but not all is lost! The heroes of Rokugan have set aside their differences and banded together against this common foe. During this time of unusual unity between the clans, the Regent has seen fit to issue one final update to the Imperial Law, in an effort to maintain fun and balance should the clans (inevitably) return to their bitter conflicts. You can find an updated Rules Reference, Imperial Law, and Draft Rules documents now available for download under the Support Section here, as well as the complete Under Fu Leng’s Shadow rulebook to support challenge and cooperative play.
The most sizable update to the Rules Reference is the addition of the new rules and mechanics from the Temptations Cycle and Under Fu Leng’s Shadow expansions. These include the corrupted and dire keywords, as well as the tainted status token and the rules for conflicts at multiple provinces. Additionally, the card clarifications found in the Temptations Cycle rules inserts have been included in the Rules Reference so that they can easily be found by players.
None of these updates change the game, but hopefully they will make it easier for players to look up rules as they are needed during play.
Functioning As Intended
For a game with as many moving parts as L5R, even simple abilities can often have unintended—and undesirable—side effects. As the game does need to remain technically sound even in extreme corner cases, a handful of cards have received errata to function within the rules as they were intended to.
- The Western Wind (The Temptation of the Scorpion, 85) does not clarify whether the cards placed into the chosen province are faceup or facedown. As they were intended to be put into the province faceup (to be played or put into play by card effects), the event now places them faceup.
- A pair of Shosuro Deceivers (Coils of Power, 96), both of which are dishonored and one of which has a useful ability-granting attachment (such as Way With Words (In Pursuit of Truth, 69)) can achieve a game state where they have an infinite number of copies of a particular ability. While this is a difficult-to-achieve situation, it is convoluted enough and potentially powerful enough as to require an errata preventing Shosuro Deceiver from gaining the abilities of another Shosuro Deceiver.
- Calling the Storm requires you discard your hand as the cost to play the card. As the ruling on Chancellor’s Aide (Clan War, 30) indicates that Calling the Storm is still considered to be in a player’s hand while paying that card’s cost, this would result in Calling the Storm discarding itself and failing to resolve. It has been fixed to work as intended.
- Akuma no Oni (Under Fu Leng’s Shadow, 1A) requires the players choose characters to be bowed during the dynasty phase. Nothing prevents the players from all selecting the same character, however, which breaks the spirit of the cooperative challenge. His ability has been errata’ed to now require each player select a different valid character to be bowed, but also allows the ability to resolve even if insufficient targets exist in play.
- Finally, Procedural Interference has received a balance errata to prevent its controller from selecting the stronghold province and thus taking away the opponent’s opportunity to prevent the honor-gain. Procedural Interference would not be a fair card if it said, “Pay 0 fate to gain 2 honor” as that would quickly lead to an uninteractive honor victory, and so it can no longer achieve that result by targeting the stronghold province.
Free Cards Are Too Strong
While this header might be obvious, it is the impetus behind a number of additions to the Stronghold and Skirmish ban and restricted lists. A handful of cards from the Dominion and Temptations Cycles, intended to bolster new play styles or support clans that were underrepresented, provide players with an efficient way to gain card advantage over their opponent with no cost. While this can be fine in small volumes (such as Imperial Storehouse (Core, 129)) or under strict conditions (as with Battle Meditation (Coils of Power, 100)), these five cards represent too-easy access to cards and thus have unbalanced the clan metagame and proliferated problematic playstyles.
Wealth of the Crane (In Pursuit of Truth, 63), Ki Alignment (A Crimson Offering, 60), and Calling the Storm (Coils of Power, 106) have all been banned in the Stronghold format, with Calling the Storm also being banned in the Skirmish format. Logistics (Spreading Shadows, 45) and Exposed Courtyard (Atonement, 122) have both been added to the restricted list.
Wealth of the Crane, while succeeding at its objective of providing more selection in the dynasty cards for a particular style of Crane-based deck, has proven to be too effective in concert with the game’s wide suite of holdings. Holdings are a card type that inherently provides players with free value, but at the theoretical opportunity cost of drawing fewer dynasty cards each round. Wealth of the Crane entirely mitigates that opportunity cost by both searching out the desired holdings and then by refilling the holdings’ provinces with characters once the holdings are in play. In a late game scenario, or in certain deck archetypes, Wealth of the Crane can even be free! To prevent players from building near-unbreakable province formations at near-minimal cost, Wealth of the Crane has been banned.
Ki Alignment was initially designed to be the “glue” for Monk/Kihō decks, allowing them to compete alongside the most powerful competitive archetypes. It turns out that with several other powerful kihō that were recently printed, along with the ever-present Void Fist (All and Nothing, 94), it was less necessary than originally anticipated, and has instead turbo-charged that archetype above its competitors by providing free card advantage with minimal-to-no deckbuilding cost. To bring the Monk/Kihō decks back into alignment with the rest of the field, Ki Alignment has been banned.
Calling the Storm, while an ambitious design that challenged players to risk their entire hand of cards for whatever they could draw off the top of their deck, ultimately could not be supported in a game with as many free cards as L5R. The value of getting an immediate flood of free attachments onto one’s characters can be overwhelming at the start of the game, and the possibility of generating an infinite game-winning combo with Logistics and Divine Ancestry (As Honor Demands, 110) was the nail in the coffin for the card. Because it has proven to be far more consistent than it was originally intended to be, Calling the Storm has been banned in both Stronghold and Skirmish.
As the Lion clan often found itself fighting an uphill battle, due to its focus—and in many cases reliance—upon gaining honor, they have received a number of ways to draw cards without bidding for them. The clan has now reached a point where there are too many different ways for the Lion clan to generate free card advantage, and some of them need to be broken up. Specifically, Exposed Courtyard and Logistics work in excellent harmony: the Courtyard enables the free card draw from Logistics, and Logistics allows the Lion player to move the Courtyard away from danger to stay in play longer. And when the Lion player’s provinces are not being pressured, Exposed Courtyard can re-play Logistics to draw a card for free. To break up this synergy, both have been added to the Stronghold restricted list.
A Fresh Draft
Finally, with the full cardpool now released, I took an opportunity to update the Draft Pool found in the online draft rules. You can find the final version of the card pool in the new rules document, and the list of specific card exchanges are listed below.
While this is the final rules and balance update for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, it is not the final word on the game’s future. Members of the online community have been hard at work iterating on a much more expansive ban/restrict list, titled the “Jade Edict,” which looks to create a slightly lower-powered version of the game. It is neither better nor worse than the Imperial Law I have been curating, as it wishes to craft a different game experience, so I encourage members of the online community to also give it a try. I think it looks to be quite a fun alternative!
By virtue of being an LCG, Legend of the Five Rings has always been a game where we made the pieces, but where the players made the game their own. I look forward to seeing what creative new ways the players come up with to have fun with the foundations and cards that we have produced over the past few years. Will it be new fan-made cards? A new format? A rotating seasonal cardpool/ban list? You tell me!
Written by Game Desinger: Tyler Parrot
To download the updated Rules Reference, Imperial Law, Draft Rules and Under Fu Leng's Shadow rulebook documents, click here.