Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game
The Emerald Empire of Rokugan. It is a land upheld by honor, guided by fate, ruled by destiny. The Great Clans each support the Emperor, but inter-clan conflict is inevitable—both in the Emperor’s courts and on the battlefield. In the midst of danger and turmoil, honor must be your sword and your armor.
Enter the vibrant world of Rokugan with Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, a Living Card Game® of honor and conflict for two players! Drawing on the legacy of AEG’s original Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game, and now reimagined with new mechanics, story, and the Living Card Game distribution model, you are invited to join the Great Clans, uphold the tenets of Bushidō, and fulfill your duty to your daimyō and the Emperor in a world shaped and changed by a dynamic, player-influenced story.
During the game, you take on the leadership of one of the Great Clans which define Rokugani society, and you are cast into conflict against another clan. Your conflicts will decide the future of Rokugan, whether you’re battling with a katana or with cutting words, but the samurai of your clan cannot remain by your side indefinitely—when their destinies are fulfilled, you must find new allies to continue your conflicts. Ultimately, it’s your choice whether you will fight with honor or use unsavory means, but in every game, it is your role to lead your clan to victory.
Embrace Your Fate
In a game of Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, your cards are divided between two decks. The first is the dynasty deck, which contains your characters and holdings, like those shown above.
The second deck is your conflict deck, which has a mix of characters, attachments (including weapons, followers, equipment, and other conditions), and events. Between your two decks are four face-down province cards (as shown below), and protecting these provinces is essential to maintaining your strength and defeating your opponent.
At the beginning of the game, a card from the top of your dynasty deck is placed on top of each of the four province cards between your decks, while the fifth province hosts your stronghold. As the round begins, the dynasty cards on your four central provinces are turned face-up, and during the dynasty phase, you and your opponent will take turns playing characters from your provinces. All characters have a cost, shown in the upper-left corner, that must be paid in fate—a currency that represents the karma and destiny that a clan has accrued. There is an additional cost, however, that must be considered.
In Rokugani culture, a central philosophical concept is mono no aware. Literally translating to “the pathos of things,” mono no aware is an understanding and bittersweet acceptance that everything in the world is impermanent and transient. In Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, this is played out through your characters and your fate. After playing a character from one of your provinces, you may choose to pay any number of additional fate, placing these fate tokens directly onto the character.
For instance, you may choose to play the Matsu Berserker (Core Set, 69) from a province, paying one fate, as shown above. Considering your options, you decide that you will want this character in play for several rounds, so you place two more fate from your supply onto this character. At the end of this round, one of those fate tokens will be removed from the Matsu Berserker. If you had chosen to not place any additional fate on the Matsu Berserker, this character would have been discarded in this round’s fate phase—the Matsu Berserker will have fulfilled their destiny at this point in the ongoing narrative of your game.
By placing additional fate tokens on a character, you are, in essence, paying to keep that character in play for additional rounds. Choosing exactly how much fate to invest in a character is a key strategic decision! If you don’t pay enough, you could find your best characters have fulfilled their destiny and departed just when you need them most. If you pay too much, however, you may have bound your clan’s destiny to a single character—which could leave you vulnerable to attacks on multiple fronts. Compounding the decision is the fact that you’ll need to save some fate if you’re going to play conflict cards from your hand later in the round. The clans gain more fate at the beginning of each new round, but deciding how to use your fate is crucial to victory.
Uphold Your Honor
After both players have passed on the chance to play additional characters in the dynasty phase, the game proceeds to the draw phase. Here, you and your opponent each have the chance to select how many cards you will draw from your conflict decks, which contains the tactics and maneuvers that you keep hidden in your hand—but you must be cautious, because the honor of your entire clan is at stake.
Each player has an honor dial featuring numbers from one to five. The number that you select indicates how honorably you intend to act during the coming round, with a low number equating to a more honorable path and a high number equating to a less honorable path. The number that you select is also the number of cards that you will draw from your conflict deck. After both players have secretly chosen a number, you will each reveal your dial and draw the number of cards that you chose… but if you’re relying on dishonorable tricks from your conflict deck, you’ll pay with your clan's honor. For instance, if you reveal a dial with a five, and your opponent reveals a dial with a one, you must pay him four honor—the difference between the two bids. Then, you would draw five cards (your bid), he would draw one card (his bid), and the draw phase would be complete.
When setting a number on your dial, you are essentially bidding honor against your opponent. A low bid allows you to preserve your honor or gain more honor from your opponent—and in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, maintaining your honor is of the utmost importance. Choosing a higher number, on the other hand, may sacrifice some honor, but it also fills your hand with conflict cards that could give you exactly what you need during a conflict! Betting against your opponent and guarding your honor leads to countless strategic moments during the game.
Face Your Enemy
Once both players have drawn cards, conflict begins in earnest, inviting players to initiate military and political confrontations. These confrontations could represent pitched battle, a physical fight, a trial, a debate, or a contest of courtly intrigues—but in any circumstance, your end goal is to break your opponent’s provinces.
Each player has the option to declare up to two conflicts during the conflict phase. Players alternate declaring conflicts, and each player can initiate one military conflict and one political conflict. You may even choose to pass your first conflict, waiting to see how your opponent acts, and then commit your full strength to your second conflict later.
When you do choose to initiate a conflict, you face an array of strategic options and choices. You must choose which characters will participate in the conflict, while carefully ensuring you have enough characters left to defend against your opponent, because undefended provinces are easily broken and you’ll lose honor for failing to defend your lands. You must also choose which enemy province to attack: at the start of the game, all province cards are face-down, hiding their true nature, but as your forces move into enemy lands, you’ll discover what lies in wait, potentially undermining your plans with an unwanted surprise.
Finally, you must determine the type and ring used for the conflict. Every conflict must be either military or political, which corresponds to the military and political skills of your characters—only the skill that matches your chosen conflict type is used for this conflict. Along with the type of conflict, you’ll select one of the five rings: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, or Void. The ring that you use for the conflict determines the consequences if you are victorious as the attacker.
Air —Take one honor from your opponent or gain two honor from the token pool.
Earth — Draw one card from your conflict deck and discard one random card from your opponent’s hand.
Fire — Choose a character in play and honor or dishonor that character. (Honoring or dishonoring a character has a potent effect on that character’s skill, and causes you to gain or lose honor when that character leaves play.)
Water — Choose a character and ready it or choose a character with no fate and bow it.
Void — Choose a character and remove one fate from it.
Once the conflict has been initiated, your opponent declares defenders, and the conflict unfolds. During the conflict, you and your opponent will trade actions, triggering abilities and playing cards from your conflict hand to gain the advantage. You may play attachments, characters, and events from your conflict hand to increase your characters’ skill, decrease the skill of your foes, bow enemy characters, send characters home to remove them from the fight, or trigger even more unusual effects. Eventually, however, both players will pass, and one of you will win the conflict. In addition, if your skill surpasses the defender’s skill by a sufficient amount, you will break your opponent’s province, bringing you one step closer to victory! Then, the victor claims the contested ring, all attacking and defending characters bow and return home, and the conflict is at an end.
Honor Is Stronger Than Steel
Breaking enemy provinces moves you directly closer to victory in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. Though your opponents can still play new cards from their broken provinces, if you break three of your opponent’s four provinces, you will be allowed to declare conflicts against their stronghold.
A clan’s stronghold is the seat of its power, providing your supply of fate, determining your starting honor, and offering a powerful ability that can be used throughout the game. Underneath your stronghold, you’ll place a fifth province card at the beginning of the game, like the four province cards that you’ve placed between your dynasty deck and your conflict deck. Your opponent’s stronghold will be the site of a dramatic final conflict, and whether that takes the form of a military siege or a measured political negotiation is up to you. Either way, if you can break your opponent’s stronghold province (after breaking three of his other provinces), you immediately win the game.
Still, conflict is not the only way that you can win a game of Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. As previously mentioned, the honor of your clan is crucial to maintaining your standing in the Emerald Empire. If you ever attain twenty-five honor during the game, you immediately win the game! Similarly, you can also shame and dishonor your opponent into nothingness. If a player ever loses all of his honor, he immediately loses the game. With three distinct paths to victory, you’ll have careful choices to make, both when building your decks and playing the game!
The Great Clans of Rokugan
Seven Great Clans await your command in the Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game Core Set. For over 1,000 years, the Great Clans have served the Chrysanthemum Throne according to their unique strengths and weaknesses. As new conflicts erupt across Rokugan, you’ll need to decide which clan has won your loyalty…
The Crab Clan
To the south of Rokugan lie the blighted Shadowlands, a dark realm under the sway of Fu Leng and the corrupted armies from the realm of Jigoku. The only safeguard between the Shadowlands and Rokugan is the mighty Kaiu Wall and its constructers and defenders, the Crab Clan.
To those who look upon the Crab kindly, their strength is impressive and their determination honorable. But to those who do not—those who benefit from the protection of the Wall without knowing the sacrifices it requires—the Crab are impolite brutes, too pigheaded to comprehend the intricacies of court decorum. Regardless of how others might view them, the Crab cannot mire themselves in bickering and intrigue. They present their back to the court only so they may more fully face the true enemy in the Shadowlands beyond.
As rugged, stoic, and tenacious defenders of the Empire, the Crab are at their best when they are defending against attacks and reacting to an opponent’s aggression, weathering your opponent’s best attacks, and retaliating when your foe is most vulnerable. As builders who excel at living off the land, holdings are important to the Crab to protect their provinces and power their characters.
The Crane Clan
To the rest of the Empire, the Crane are a study in contrasts. They are both respected and hated for their achievements, both admired and envied for their elegance and grace. They are the makers of beauty and beauty itself, devotees of peace and civility who nonetheless wield lethal blades. From the Crane’s impeccable garments, which set the standards for style in the Empire, to the sprawling beauty and wonder of their Fantastic Gardens, to their seemingly limitless talent for artistic accomplishments and political dominance in Rokugan’s courts, the Crane don’t simply define what it means to be a civilized Empire—they are the very civilized essence of Rokugan.
The Crane are known throughout the Emerald Empire as a political powerhouse, with wise and honorable courtiers guiding the clan and protecting themselves from external threats. In the game, you must leverage this political might to devastate your opponents during conflicts, keeping your characters honored to increase their skill and controlling the board by pushing your opponent’s characters away.
The Dragon Clan
In contrast to the conformity that permeates the land of Rokugan, the Dragon Clan chases individual enlightenment. Secluded in the northern mountains, the Dragon rarely focus on the internal politics of Rokugan, instead turning their eyes to the future and the mysterious visions of their founder, the Kami Togashi. Indeed, few can truly say they understand the Dragon. Some insist their beloved paradoxes and puzzles are no more than a game, triviality masquerading as depth. To this accusation, the Dragon quote a common saying of their monks:
“What is wisdom?” one asked.
“What is not wisdom?” the other answered.
The Dragon are a mysterious and individualistic clan. The use of attachments is one of this clan’s greatest strengths, and it’s wise to invest in a few powerful characters with plans to give them multiple attachments. The concept of balance is also important to this clan, and they are well suited for both military and political conflicts. You must take advantage of this flexibility and strike wherever you opponent leaves an opening.
The Lion Clan
Sitting opposed to the Crane’s political skills is the pure military might of the Lion Clan. Every samurai who lives in Rokugan measures courage, honor, and duty against the standard set by the Lion Clan. With the largest standing army in Rokugan, the Lion have earned their place as the Right Hand of the emperor. Above all, the Lion Clan lives, breathes, and dies for the Emperor and Rokugan. Should the interests of the Emperor and the welfare of the Empire diverge, toward what deadly paths or dishonorable fates would the Lion march?
The Lion are a proud, aggressive, and violent clan that leverages its strong military skill to win conflicts. Lion decks frequently aim to swarm the play area with characters, strengthening their presence through numbers. However, Lion characters with political skill are harder to come by, so it’s important to have some extra fate to keep your few courtiers and politicians in play.
The Phoenix Clan
The Phoenix is a symbol of contradictions: explosive power and great restraint, vast intelligence and deep humility, immolating self-sacrifice and glorious rebirth. These entwined virtues illuminate the path of Rokugan’s most mystical Great Clan, the keepers of the Tao of Shinsei and caretakers of the Empire’s soul.
The Phoenix are the masters of magic in Rokugan, but they are also staunch pacifists with little interest in warfare. Wise players will use the clan’s shugenja to trigger powerful effects against your opponent from the safety of your home area. The clan’s mastery of the elemental rings will also help to deny your opponent the effects they aim to use against you while ensuring you can use the rings you need to win. This clan’s distaste for violence can also be used as a calming influence upon your opponent, making overt aggression and military conflicts much less effective against you.
The Scorpion Clan
With six terrible words, the Kami Bayushi set his followers in the newly founded Scorpion Clan on a dark and dangerous path. Enemies loomed beyond Rokugan’s borders, but they also lurked within them. Bayushi swore to protect the Empire by any means necessary. Where the Code of Bushidō tied the Emperor’s Left and Right Hands—the courtiers of the Crane and the mighty legions of the Lion—the Emperor’s Underhand could still reach. To combat the liars, the thieves, and the traitors within the Great Clans, Bayushi’s followers would have to lie, steal, and cheat in turn. The weapons of the Scorpion became blackmail and poison and sabotage. The Scorpion dirtied their hands so that others’ could remain pure.
Yet in spite of—and perhaps because of—the clan’s fearsome reputation, there is none more loyal than a Scorpion. In a clan of deceivers and manipulators, trust is a hard-earned treasure to be cherished and guarded. Such fierce loyalty is a small consolation, at least, given the dangerous but vital role the Scorpion have played in the Empire from the moment their Kami spoke his fateful words: “I will be your villain, Hantei.”
While playing the Scorpion Clan, you’ll want to make high honor bids in order to draw extra cards and surprise your opponents with potent tricks and traps. Yet you must always maintain your deepest loyalty, lest you lose all honor and the game. Dishonor is also a powerful tool when turned against your foes to keep their skill low and their hopes of beating you in conflict even lower.
The Unicorn Clan
For 800 years, the Ki-Rin Clan journeyed beyond Rokugan’s borders, in search of external threats to the Emerald Empire. In these foreign lands, the clan learned to adapt, to do whatever it took to survive. The clan eventually returned to Rokugan, rechristened as the Unicorn Clan, its members speaking foreign tongues, wielding strange weapons, and drawing upon the kami using sorcery known as meishōdō.
The Unicorn’s return was greeted as a barbarian invasion, carving a place in Rokugani society by breaking through the defenses mounted by the Crab and Lion clans. Reintegration has not been without difficulty, but there are lights in the darkness. An ancient treaty with the Crane was honored, providing the Unicorn a strong ally within the Empire. The Phoenix watch Unicorn magic with equal parts interest and concern. The Dragon perceive the wisdom of Shinjo’s children, the Scorpion see the advantage in a pliable ally, and all Rokugan marvels at the speed and might of their magnificent steeds. Perhaps they are, finally, where they belong.
The Unicorn are an aggressive, practical, and nomadic clan that has mastered the arts of mobility and warfare. You must use the clan’s powerful cavalry characters to outmaneuver your opponent during conflicts, brining your characters into and out of conflict to keep your opponent on edge. The Unicorn are strongest when they are first to act, and much more comfortable attacking than defending, so be sure to play aggressively and get to your opponent before they get to you.
Enter the Emerald Empire
The world of Rokugan is spread out before you—choose your clan and uphold your honor with Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game!
What are the major changes from the Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game?
As part of the transition for a collectible card game (CCG) to a Living Card Game (LCG), Legend of the Five Rings had to go through a significant transformation, and although there are many familiar elements within the game, the gameplay itself is very different. Because of this, Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game is incompatible with the CCG version of the game. Below, we’ll highlight a few of the most important differences with the new version of the game.
Provinces — Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game uses a very familiar game layout, with a dynasty deck (containing characters and holdings) on your left and a conflict deck (containing a limited number of characters that can be played from your hand, attachments, and events) on your right. Between these two decks are four provinces that hold cards from your dynasty deck, as in the CCG. However, each province is now represented by its own individual card. Province cards offer different strengths and abilities, and choosing your provinces is an important part of deckbuilding. Furthermore, when a province is broken, it does not disappear, preventing a “snowball effect” that weakens a player who starts losing provinces.
Characters — Characters in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game take on a different form than the characters in the CCG. First, characters now feature different stats reflecting their military and political skill instead of the force and chi stats. These new skills are used in the revised conflict system that we discuss below. Characters no longer have honor requirements, and their personal honor is incorporated into their glory and the Honored / Dishonored status cards.
Conflict — The conflict system for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game has been completely redesigned. There are now two different types of conflicts—military and political. The conflict type determines which skill your characters will use. In other words, during a military conflict, you will compare your characters’ military skill against the military skill of your opponent’s characters.
During the conflict, you and your opponent will manipulate the skill of your characters by triggering abilities from cards in play and playing cards from your conflict hand. Like events, the attachments and characters in your conflict deck can be played directly into a conflict to affect the result of the ongoing struggle.
In addition, the titular “five rings” are inherently tied to conflict, rather than taking the place of cards in the deck. When you declare a conflict, you will choose one of the five rings. If you win the conflict as the attacker, the ring that you chose determines the rewards that you claim. In addition, the loser of a conflict no longer loses all of his characters. (For more information on conflicts, read the “Face Your Enemy” section further up on this page.)
Resources — The resource system for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game has also been completely redesigned. The resources that you obtain are no longer based on holdings—instead, you will receive a set quantity of fate (the game’s central currency) at the beginning of each round. The amount of fate you receive is decided by your stronghold. There are multiple ways to gain more fate over the course of the game, but these are built into the game mechanics, unrelated to holdings. In addition, you are now able to carryover excess fate into future rounds, rewarding you for choosing to save some of your fate in order to have more flexible options in the future.
The Fate Phase — Unlike in the Legend of the Five Rings CCG, your characters no longer remain in play indefinitely (unless removed by a card effect). Instead, when you play a character from your province or your conflict hand, you may choose to place any number of additional fate tokens on it from your supply of fate. During the fate phase at the end of each round, one of these fate tokens will be removed, or, if the character has no fate tokens, the character will be discarded. (For more information on the fate phase, read the “Embrace Your Fate” section further up on this page.
Honor — Honor plays a significant role in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, but fundamentally, honor effects are tied to conflicts. You will need to engage in conflicts if you’re planning to advance your agenda, whether you’re attempting to increase your own honor or dishonor your opponent. In addition, a character’s status as honored or dishonored can have a significant impact on its military and political skill. An honored character adds its glory to its military and political skills, while a dishonored character subtracts its glory from its military and political skills.
Dueling — Mechanics for dueling are present in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, but it will function completely differently than in the collectible card game.
What is happening with the Legend of the Five Rings storyline?
It is an era of sudden change and upheaval in the Emerald Empire. Mortal schemes, elemental imbalances, and celestial turmoil have disrupted the political, military, and spiritual equilibrium of Rokugan. Long-simmering rivalries and fresh betrayals ripple through the courts and on the battlefield. The Chrysanthemum Throne is beset by threats from without and within, and the honor of the seven Great Clans shall be put to the test.
After a devastating tsunami strikes their coastal farmland, the Crane Clan balances on the precipice of famine and war. Doji Hotaru—the young Crane Clan Champion who grew up in the shadow of her father, the legendary Emerald Champion Doji Satsume—must defend her clan’s artistic legacy, political clout, and extensive borders with honor alone.
While the Crane have been laid low, the Scorpion Clan has ascended to the height of glory. Bayushi Shoju is the trusted friend Emperor Hantei XXXVIII, while his impossibly beautiful wife, Kachiko, serves as the Emperor’s Imperial Advisor. No word is whispered in the Imperial Capital that escapes the Scorpion Clan’s ears, and no plot is hatched that evades the notice of its agents.
The Scorpion maintain a tenuous alliance with the Lion Clan’s leader, Akodo Arasou, who seeks to carry out an age-old vendetta against the Crane at the side of his beloved, the warrior Matsu Tsuko. No army can withstand the ferocity and tenacity of the Lion’s warriors or the stratagems of the clan’s brilliant new general, Akodo Toturi.
The Lion’s unconventional neighbors, the Unicorn Clan, struggle to reconcile their foreign customs with the laws and traditions of Rokugan. Shinjo Altansarnai believes she has brokered a peace with the Lion Clan at last, but the fiery Utaku Kamoko may not be able to leash her hatred for the Lion, whom she believes murdered her mother.
The Phoenix Clan cast a wary eye on meishōdō, the talismanic name magic practiced by the Unicorn, and fear the imbalance that foreign sorcery has wrought among the spirits. Phoenix Clan Champion Shiba Ujimitsu must prepare to defend his clan’s borders while the prayers of the Phoenix’s mystical shugenja go awry. The Council of Elemental Masters cannot explain the disquiet affecting the elemental kami, and so they turn to forgotten or forbidden lore for answers.
In the secluded mountains of the far north, the Dragon Clan—beset by a failing birthrate and the surging popularity of a potentially dangerous and heretical sect of Shinseism—looks to the guidance of its enigmatic champion, Togashi Yokuni, to restore the clan’s enlightened way of life.
Amid this infighting, the largest and most dangerous Shadowlands army ever recorded marches on the great Carpenter Wall in the south. A combined force of goblins, ogres, undead, and legendary demons known as oni threaten to spread their darkness and destroy civilization in the name of Fu Leng, the fallen Kami. Hida Kisada of the Crab Clan and his children must gain the support of the entire Empire to turn back the tide of destruction or risk being broken beneath the evil Shadowlands onslaught.
Who among the clans will prove strong enough to guide Rokugan in these tumultuous times? Will their names be lifted up beside those of the honored ancestors, or will they fall among the ranks of the empire’s most infamous villains?
From this starting point, the storyline of Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game begins! Look for the story to continue through fiction found in inserts in the Living Card Game, articles posted on our website, and at major tournaments.
45 – 90 minutes