Yesterday, Fantasy Flight Games put out the first real information on their relaunch of L5R, which is probably my favorite all time game if I really get down into it. It struggled a bit after the “race for the throne” to hold a lot of people’s attention — which as a Megaevent where the card game players really got to shape what happened in its very in-depth storyline, a large part of why I loved the game so much. After that, it was hard to find that level of engagement, really it was an event that couldn’t be topped in gaming.
The game did suffer from some mechanical flaws to it that made for lopsided victories, taking too long to really build up the engine to get going, a “lose more” capability as if a person got behind early they didn’t have a lot of ways to come back, among other things. When FFG bought the property, much of the player base had shied away because of some bad design choices made in Emperor Edition of the game that made it unfun for many to play, and difficult for new players to get involved.
FFG opened the announcement with their “clans” or factions in the game that you can play. In the old version there were 9 playable factions, this is down to 7, a pare down that is necessary for game balance I think. 9 was very difficult, and a couple of the clans always ended up unplayable. I like this from the get go.
The first explanation gets into “how to pay for cards” in the game, which also has a cool mechanic called fate, in which it gives you currency. A card only stays in play for how much fate you’ve paid above its cost. This solves some of the problems of the game’s first iteration as someone’s massive build up could be impossible to overcome, also an issue in Magic The Gathering if you’re not playing the correct colors for board wipes. This is a solid idea, and I’m interested to see how it goes.
I love the redo of honor. Honor was a number that you’d get in the old game, and you’d just have it. If you got a certain number of points, you’d win the game. That holds true here but now there are drawbacks and uses for honor as well — it’s used to refill your hand and draw cards. If you sacrifice more honor you draw more cards, making it a very useful mechanic indeed, and it really makes you have to think if you want to use that as your victory path.
Then we get to the meat combat of the game. This is really where it’s become a much different game than the first iteration where you had cards with Attack values, and they’d go into a province (which is where cards are played from) and go up against the other army’s attack values. In the old game, if you had higher, you’d wipe out the entire army. The province then had a “strength” rating, and if your army had higher than that plus the defending army’s strength, it would be destroyed, and that player wouldn’t be able to draw cards from it anymore. Not the case now. You compare, all cards seem to be safe other than from card effects that give removal. It didn’t exactly define what happens with provinces in this gameplay page, but says that the winning player gets the Imperial Favor. I do like that there’s 2 different attack stats – military and political, and you choose which battle you’re going to pursue. It’s a lot like Game of Thrones in that regard for the stats, but still has a nice L5R flavor. Looks like the concept of Chi is gone, so there’s not going to be any annoying shenanigans on that like the old game had. Much simpler sounding, and decent enough. I’ll have to see how this is played in earnest.
Victory paths — honor is still a condition of victory possibility, so is dishonoring your opponent, and then destroying provinces is also the same, but they label it a bit differently. I see that getting all 5 rings into play is not a victory condition, which is sad, but it is probably better to pare it down to 3 for balance’s sake, at least to start.
I’m going to need to see a little bit more about how the destruction of provinces work and really how battle flows to draw a real conclusion. Here’s my thoughts on points so far:
- I like that political is a skill now and they attack via political means. That means we won’t be seeing passive honor decks that just sit there. That was a negative play experience and that honor does something useful and politics is an attack form and a stat now is very interesting, also thematic.
- I’ll note the cards they had didn’t have character names on them, but things like “Matsu Berserker”. These appear to be non-unique cards, meaning you can play multiple on a battlefield at a time. I appreciate that the non-unique aren’t named actually, because they’re supposed to be representative and it kinda didn’t make sense the way it was done before. I note that the unique names are shown, so they do exist. Interesting flavor, and fine by me.
- Story appears to be rebooted. This is good. The old story was a jumbled cluster to say the least. I hope they still allow player involvement in making story but that they’re a lot more careful about it. This needs to be the top notch dialed in aspect of the game.
- All the new mechanics look cool on the surface. I’m excited, personally. This looks to be shaping up to be something good. I trust FFG. They seem to do great to a point, which is where we’ll really see, which is when the cardpool for the game gets pretty big.
- Overall, the streamlining looks good on all fronts. It looks slick and fun. About as happy as I can be given the information that I have.