Future L5R Releases and Tournaments

Future L5R Releases and Tournaments

Although the new Legend of the Five Rings card game is only just about to come out, we’re already looking to the future. The Alderac version of the game survived for over 20 years and for many players it has been an important part of their life. We want this game to be strong and vibrant for at least another 20 years. The Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) Living Card Game (LCG) model has a lot of benefits, but over the years it has had some difficulties.

In 2008 FFG released the Game of Thrones LCG. The game continued until 2015 when the second edition was released. During that time, 12 sets of 6 chapter packs were released. Each chapter pack contained 20 cards (with 3 copies of each card). During this period 6 deluxe boxes were also released, each box contained 55 cards (with 3 copies of each card). In the end, there were close to 2,000 cards available. A massive card pool can result in multiple problems. The below list is directly from FFGs page discussing rotation.

  • An overwhelming card pool intimidates and turns away players who may otherwise be interested in the game.
  • As a game’s card pool grows unchecked, its metagame begins to stagnate, and the game falls apart under its own weight.
  • Players aren’t the only people who are impacted by large card pools, and as retailers need to carry more and more products in order to support a game, it becomes harder for them to do so.

In 2015, to many players relief, FFG released the second edition of Game of Thrones, resetting the entire game and starting from scratch with the lessons they had learned. At the same time, they announced a new rotation policy to stop the issues of a massive card pool happening in the future. Android: Netrunner, which started in 2012 was to be the first of FFG’s LCGs to rotate.

Unfortunately, it took Netrunner up to this year to rotate, and that rotation is still a few months away. Netrunner has had 7 sets of card packs, 4 deluxe expansions, and a narrative campaign expansion. There are just under 1400 cards, and to many, it feels like too many. Recently FFG announced that they would be releasing a new core set for Netrunner, removing some problem cards and adding some cards that were due to rotate from earlier sets into the new core set so they would stick around. They also announced a banned and restricted list, addressing existing issues even further. Again, this has been seen as positive step resolving some issues, but there are still concerns that maybe the card pool is just too big.

This year, FFG is releasing Legend of the Five Rings. As players, we are hoping FFG learns from previous LCGs and has a more aggressive strategy to keep the card pool reasonable and the game alive. There also is the hope that the game will always be inviting to new players.


Releases

The Core Set. Released October 2015.

There has been plenty of debate around this already. As each clan card only appears once, you need to buy 3 of the core set. The negative is the considerable investment from the get-go, but the perk is a large card pool straight away.

The Imperial Cycle. To be released December 2017 to May 2018.

The standard release schedule for an LCG is a new pack of 20 cards every month with 6 packs in each cycle. In L5R packs are referred to as dynasty packs. We know the first cycle is called the Imperial cycle and we know the first pack is called Tears of Amaterasu. After each cycle there is a 3 or 4-month break, then the next cycle begins.

The first deluxe expansion. Estimated June 2018.

In addition to the dynasty packs, we also get these bigger box sets that add around 150 cards. There are a couple of different ways to approach these. For previous LCGs these tended to focus on just one or two factions giving them more options. The benefit is new players can pick up the deluxe box for their faction and get a decent starting card pool. The negative is that the factions which have had a deluxe box end up more powerful. FFG have tried to mitigate this by focusing on secondary deck themes, but this doesn’t eliminate it. In L5R where faction loyalty is a central focus, this sort of intentional imbalance would really be a problem.

Luckily, there is another option already present in FFGs products. The current recommendation for new players in Netrunner is to pick up a core set(s) and the Terminal Directive ‘Campaign expansion’. Terminal directive was an effort to design a legacy style game similar to Pandemic Legacy. In a legacy game, you play a series of linked games. The results of those games impact the next game, unlocking cards and using stickers to keep track of things. So let’s take that idea and strip it down, no need for stickers or non-tournament legal cards just for this. The goal here is to allow two players buy their core sets and then pick up this deluxe expansion as their next purchase.

Example: The Emerald Championship story expansion. This deluxe expansion adds 150 new cards with cards for all clans. In this alternate format, two players play a series of games to determine who will be the new Emerald Champion. Each game has a special rule changing the way that game is played with rewards for achieving specific objectives.

Dynasty cycle 2. Estimated September 2018 to March 2019.
This will be similar to the first cycle. One of the issues here is that only part of the cycle will be released once the Worlds tournament in November happens. We’ll look at this in a little more detail in a later section talking about tournaments.

World’s finals decks. Second quarter 2019.

The world champion in addition to other prizes has their deck immortalized in a special extended art version. Unlike with promos, these extended art versions use the same art as the normal version.

Deluxe expansion 2. Estimated April 2019.

For the second deluxe expansion, we want to go with a similar idea to the first deluxe expansion. This needs to be a good stepping point into the game, so the core sets plus expansion should be playable and fun as a standalone game. As we already have the first story expansion, this should be doing something different or as an add-on to the earlier. FFG were foresighted in wording all the cards to be usable in a multi-player variant, this seems like the perfect opportunity to add this in.

Example: The Clan Coup story expansion. This a multi-player variant allows 3 to 5 players compete over the emerald throne. This expansion includes 150 cards with cards for all clans. Included are 4 new provinces representing the Imperial City Otosan Uchi and Imperial forces which players can choose to attack or defend.

Dynasty cycle 3. Estimated July 2019 to December 2019

Deluxe expansion 3. Estimated Jan 2020.

At some point, the deluxe expansions need to come to a stop. In the old model, they are used to quickly expand out the card pool for each faction. Once the card pool is large enough, these deluxe expansions are no longer as important. In this model, the deluxe expansions serve a different function. Really, they are a stepping point into the game and a variant way to play to give more variety for existing players. Making new ones and cycling out the old ones allows for a little more card variety and allows new story elements to be added.


Tournaments

Everything starts in the store. We know from the FFG site, that FFG will provide deluxe quarterly tournament kits with promos and special prizes like tokens and playmats. This can be played as weekly or monthly events. This is where players will build community and test their decks. Next up are the regional championships which will be called Kotei. At Koteis players will have unique prizes and the chance to become Hatamoto, a prestigious title with an invite to the Worlds tournament. The next level up, the national championships, will be Grand Kotei which in addition to the prizes of the Kotei will have flights and accommodation for worlds awarded to the winner. Then everything culminates in the big storyline tournament at Worlds every year in November.

If we leave October as a gap while players prepare for Worlds, then August and September could be the months for the Koteis. The issue here is that packs continue to be released throughout these months. We believe cycles are designed as a whole, rather than individual packs. This means one clan could receive a card which gives them a significant advantage unbalancing the environment just before a major tournament. There really is no way to fix that under the current release scheme. A drastic solution would be to align the release schedule with the calendar year. So November is always a deluxe expansion release. February to July are always the dynasty release months. The major tournament cycle happens August to November without any major changes. This is unlikely, as it would mean a significant reduction in the release rate for the game.

At every Worlds, the top player of each clan will get to pick the new role for that clan. From the previews of the first dynasty pack, we know that some cards are seeker or keeper role only. As we get more of these cards, this will have a greater impact. Currently, Worlds is the only tournament where this choice happens, so it only changes once a year. If for example, the top of clan for the Crane picks a keeper role twice, that will mean 2 years where the Crane cannot play seeker only cards. Limitations are good, but such a long stretch could be a problem. After this years GenCon, FFG altered the Role selection process slightly to allow Hatamoto to choice only up to 4 of either the keeper or seeker roles. Some have speculated that as this will leave at least 1 seeker and 1 keeper role unclaimed, in the future players may be able to select their clan’s role or any unclaimed role.


Rotation

Although rotation hasn’t been announced for L5R yet, there is a standard policy for rotation across LCGs. Once the 8th cycle starts, the first two cycles phase out. A cycle occurs roughly every 8 months so the 9th cycle would come out near the end of the 5th year. In contrast, the old CCG model typically had a 2 to 3-year cycle. Reducing the LCG rotation down to around 3 years would mean rotation every 4 sets, so on the 5th set, the first set would cycle out. Alternatively, on the 6th set, sets 1 and 2 could cycle out. This slightly more aggressive cycle would, I believe, be welcomed.

Also, under the existing policy, the core set and the deluxe expansions always remain legal. FFG recently announced they would be printing a new core set for Netrunner. One of the reasons for this was to remove problem cards from the core set and include some important cards from the cycles rotating out. There may eventually be some similar issues with the deluxe expansions also. Including deluxe expansions in the rotation and leaving the window open to reprint the core seems to be a good idea.

For new players, it would mean having to invest in 3 cores ($120), 3 cycles ($270), and whichever of the deluxe boxes ($30 each) are available. Assuming only 2 deluxe boxes are legal at any point, this would still be an intimidating $450. Looking at this another way, the entry point for a player would be the base set at $40, this would give them a taste. Assuming they weren’t scared off, the next step would be to buy the story expansion at $30 and perhaps another core set at $40. At this point, the player would have spent $120 so they would expect and should have a pretty good board game experience. If they want, they could shelve this away and pull it out once in a while to play through the narrative story experience with a friend. The next step would be to get into the competitive scene. Rather than buying every available card, instead they hit FiveRingsDB.com and work out the deck they’d like to play. They will most likely want that third core set for another $40. Getting 4 dynasty packs at $15 adds another $60 onto the total, which at this stage is near $220. Then as they continue to play, they buy the most recent dynasty pack and one additional pack every month. With an investment of $30 a month, they should remain competitive. After a year, they will have a full cardpool and can drop down to $15 a month.


Banned and restricted cards

Cards that are banned are ones that would be legal, i.e., they have not rotated yet, but have proven to be problematic and because of that have been ruled as not legal for tournament play. Many games and designers have gone to lengths to avoid banning cards, especially as players who have purchased these cards on the secondary market may feel. In an LCG there isn’t a secondary market, so players aren’t going to pay big amounts for powerful rates. If a card is banned, it will impact those players who are able to use that card, but it isn’t going to make an expensive rare worthless. Personally, I feel a banned list is a good thing.

Restricted cards are ones considered powerful but not so much so they should be banned. Instead, you get to pick 1 card from the restricted list, you can include as many of that card as you normally could, so for most that will be 3 copies. You cannot play any of the other cards on the restricted list. This lets you play with some of the powerful cards but stops you playing with all of the powerful cards. It also lets the designers place cards that combo in an overly powerful way on the list, that way decks cannot play both sets of cards but can play either so avoiding the combo.

Banned and restricted lists are ways to deal with problem cards. Despite the best efforts of design teams over the years, mistakes are made. Banned and restricted lists have been the best solution to this problem so far. Hopefully, L5R will embrace this approach early rather than struggling through like so many games before.


Summary

At this stage, FFG will have mapped out exactly where they want to go with this game. They will have considered these issues and problems and will have made their own plans to resolve them. Maybe they’ll have some better ideas than those presented in this article. Possibly, they’ve considered them and found issues that make those ideas not viable. When they do roll it out, we’ll be here having fun and waiting for the next release.


If you have any comments or feedback please post them in the comments section below. Join us on our Twitch stream every second Monday at 8pm BST, 9pm CEST, 1pm PST.

Check us out on the Imperial Advisor website, podcast, and YouTube channel for more discussion about the L5R LCG.

Bazleebub
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4 Replies to “Future L5R Releases and Tournaments”

  1. I agree with most of your points, especially love the idea of story-based deluxe boxes with cards for all clans.

    However, I just want to discuss the AGoT 1.0 card pool. While the buy-in for such a card pool is a major turn off for most new players, I was one of the exceptions, as I started to play 2 years before it ended. What I found is that the meta was rarely dull. With the variety of agendas, deck strategies for each house and the continous chapter pack release, you always had to adapt and adjust your deck. Even the ‘winning-est’ deck usually only had a 2 month lifespan as answers were available within the card pool or decks adapted by putting in countermeasures .

    What I’m hoping to see is a ‘super-booster’ box that sells a complete cycle for a discounted price 2 years after release. It would reduce the number of SKUs stores carry, retains the card pool size and allows new players to experience the card variety at an affordable price point.

    When it comes time to rotate, simply stop printing that ‘super booster’ box and look at releasing the next set of ‘super booster’ boxes.

    1. You make a good point about the variety. With a big pool like that it never is dull. I only played at the beginning of AGoT CCG (not even the LCG) but I did play a decent amount of Netrunner. I took a year out, while still buying the data packs, and when I tried to get back in I found myself completely out of my depth. There were just too many cards for me to have any idea what was going on. I’m sure if I put the time in and kept playing I’d get back in, but it definitely was a barrier.

      It is going to make for an interesting change from the old game where each expansion gave a big shift followed by lull for the meta to develop and settle. With the new monthly release approach, we’re going to see regular incremental change. Some sets will have a big impact, others won’t.

      I’ve seen people talk about ‘super-booster’ kits before. It feels similar to the core set ‘expansion box’ as a way to avoid multiple boxes. From a player perspective, it does make sense. For FFG, not so much. Although repacking wouldn’t be much in development, essentially just design new packaging, the logistics in the background of arranging the printing and product distribution would be more an investment. For the retailers, it essentially devalues existing stock of previous packs. So there are problems. That said, it is a solution for the problem of getting in new players, and maybe it is the best solution out there.

  2. So….
    That was interesting.

    FFG announced that they will be releasing the entire Imperial cycle over 6 weeks starting in November. So we will have 120 extra cards ready to go for the Kotei season which is pretty cool. It certainly solves the issue where the gradual release favors one clan or another. Although there will be a similar situation for later releases, it will never be as big as it would have at the start of the game.

    It also solves the issue that other LCG games have had, where the early environment became a little monotonous as options were very limited. Instead, we kick straight into a healthy meta. It looks like Warpcon in Cork Ireland will be the first one with the Imperial cycle legal so I’m really looking forward to that!

    There have been a number of complaints about this accelerated cycle. It did come a little out of the blue, so people have been caught off guard. It is going to mean buying 6 packs in the same time we would have previously bought 2, so that is an extra expense.

    From the previews of the first pack, it does look like the original plan was to go with the normal schedule. I’d imagine FFG are only now, following the release of the core sets, realizing what a massive success they have on their hands. That gives both an incentive to get the game on a good basis and a little bit of freedom as they know they have a large player base making this game a financial success.

    FFG are clearly taking some risks, but they appear to be solving problems.
    This is a good thing.

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