The Adept’s Path – Show me the Way

The Adept’s Path – Show me the Way

This is the second article from contributor Tony Gleeson. Tony is a friend of the team who is starting fresh into Legend of the Five Rings. Reading his experiences will hopefully help other new players who wish to learn about this game and world we all love.

Hey gang, it’s been a while since my 1st article and a lot has happened in that time. We’ve had the Kiko Matsuri in Gen Con, the L5Honored event in London, the Winter Court in Minnesota and of course, we’ve had the release of the game where I’ve selected a Clan…the Scorpion.

I’ve come to this game from Game of Thrones LCG where my main faction was Targaryen. Their hallmark playstyle was “burn” – reducing the strength of your opponents to minimise their effectiveness or even remove them from the challenge completely. The game has some effects of this nature built in as standard (Dishonor/ Bow) and Scorpion has a few more in faction along with some ways to force these lines. The downside is that Scorpion play lots of effects that Dishonor themselves, so you spend a lot of the game walking the tightrope of Dishonoring your opponent or yourself.

I’ve been playing a lot, and I mean a lot. Between the Launch events, our weekly games nights in my playgroup, weekly tournaments at my LGS and online matchups I’ve been playing almost every day. Some would say it’s because I obsess about my hobbies, but mostly it’s because I need it in order to get my game to the level that I want it to be.

I’ve also been teaching my daughter how to play the game (Unicorn, but moving towards Crab until Unicorn get better options) and it has struck me how difficult it is to learn how to play. The rules are straightforward enough, but the card interactions, the tactics, the decision points which are the very heart of the system are exceptionally complex. It was in trying to come up with a better way to explain these concepts to her that I decided to write this article, the inspiration for which started a while ago during the wait for the game launch when I picked up a copy of “The Five Rings: Miyamoto Musashi’s Art of Strategy”.

Musashi was a 17th Century Japanese master swordsman who was undefeated in over 60 bouts, master of several weapons, artist, poet and creator of the Ni Ten Ichi Ryu (Two Heavens One Style) in which practitioners wielded both the katana and wakizashi.

Musashi outlines the “rules” of his Way; the key tenets by which he believes that one can achieve mastery over any adversary or discipline.

Musashi’s Method

Make your thinking free of evil.
Train diligently in the Way.
Become familiar with all of the arts.
Understand the Ways of all the professions.
In all things, discern profit from loss.
Learn to evaluate everything.
Realize and understand that which cannot be seen.
Notice even the slightest thing.
Don’t do things that serve no purpose.

Unsurprisingly, I realized that these doctrines can be applied to the game of L5R and I’ve been trying to use these to influence how I play and how I learn from my games. Hopefully, after this, you will be able to find something to take away and improve your gaming experiences as you delve further into the lands of Rokugan.

Make your thinking free of evil

At first blush, this would appear straight-forward, be a decent person and play by the rules. Seek an honorable victory, be clear with your actions and try to not take advantage of your opponent.

However, in practice, this can be taken a step further regarding your personal in-game headspace and what you can do to avoid “tilting” (allowing mistakes or being in an inferior position to snowball into more mistakes or negative experience). The very nature of the game means all game states are temporary and your poor position will almost always reverse as you draw/ flip into stronger cards and your opponent’s strong board will empty as fate is removed from their characters. By taking your time, clearing your mind, accepting certain losses and evaluating the board, you can often hold out until your fate reverses and you gain the upper hand.

Train diligently in the Way

Practice makes perfect and you will need to practice a lot to learn all the interactions and the different lines of play that can be taken. Take Scorpion’s Yogo Hiroue for example. His ability (known as a Harpoon effect) allows you to bring a character into any conflict where he is present and dishonor them if Hiroue wins. Potential uses for this effect are: –

  • Pull someone into a challenge that they have no hope of winning to force more Dishonor on them.
  • Pull someone into a challenge that Hiroue cannot win, just to bow the character and stop them from using their abilities on the counter-attack.
  • Pull a friendly character into the conflict to force a win where your opponent was not expecting it.
  • Pull a character into a challenge just to force them to bow so that your opponent cannot attack you or ensure that your 2nd challenge will be unopposed.
  • Take advantage of the fact that your opponent will expect to be forced to defend and take an unopposed province (and with Hiroue’s Political strength of 4, this will break most provinces).

These are just some examples of how one character (granted one of the best in the game) on his own can be used and that it is only by practicing will you learn more and be able to recognize the best one at any given time.

Become familiar with all of the arts

Legend of the Five Rings has existed for over 20 years (a fact I learned from the stellar L5Honored coverage) and this has created a legion of players with a wealth of experience. Many of these have collaborated to create podcasts, some have written articles, while some just play the game and pass on their wisdom through experience.

Immerse yourself in these resources; listen to different opinions on cards, strategy and deck design. Watch tournament coverage to learn from the best out there and see why you were right to include some cards over others.

Understand the Ways of all the professions

The best way to understand your opponent is to put yourself in their shoes and with the card pool available to you from the LCG model, you should have the potential to construct 2 separate decks (barring shared clan splashes). Use this to build test decks from each of the Clans (or borrow from your friends) and play outside of your comfort zone.

It is too easy to class some clans as too strong against others, we’ve all been there and it certainly feels that way at times, but by actually thinking about and working out how their decks play, you can gain a better understanding of how to disrupt them and make the match-ups easier for you.

For example, when I first saw Dragon, I was terrified of their Champion Yokuni as he was very strong with the ability to copy anyone else’s actions. However, in practice, it is the Niten Master which is the secret Clan Champion as he is cheaper, relatively strong and has the potential to be involved in multiple challenges thanks to his action that allows him to stand when a weapon is attached to him – something that there is no shortage of in the game.

In all things, discern profit from loss

It is true that you can learn from victory, but it is far easier to learn from defeat as your misplays are more evident (and trying to talk through misplays as the victor can come across as poor sportsmanship “These are the other ways I could have won”, etc.). It is not enough to learn from the result of the game, but from each aspect of the game which leads to your victory or defeat. Did you bring out the right characters in the dynasty phase? How relevant were your honor bids? Was there any other combination of cards or abilities that could have won conflicts more efficiently? Did you adjust your plans in time? If necessary, did you change your victory condition from honor/dishonor to conquest at the right time?

Only you and your opponent can answer these questions with the benefit of hindsight, but you need to get into the habit of asking these questions and once you do, you will see an improvement in the quality of your games.

Learn to evaluate everything

A common theme of this piece is that you need to take your time with your decisions and in that time, you need to evaluate not only your board, but your opponent’s as well. What characters have they not brought into play? How much fate have they invested in those that they did? How much fate have they kept back? How high did they bid for honor? How many conflict cards do they have? What have they played already? What is their likely plan for the upcoming turn?

And in response, what can you do with your cards?

A lot of the time, the consequences are outside of your control, but so long as you are aware of what can happen and what you may or may not be able to do to compensate, you will be on the right track.

Realize and understand that which cannot be seen

At the time of writing, there are only 2 cards which allow you to look at your opponent’s hand of cards – Scorpion’s Meek Informant and Dragon’s Kitsuke Investigator – so without these, you will never have perfect knowledge of what can happen. If this is the case, you must always assume the worst (based on the board state), that they have that Display of Power, Voice of Honor or Way of the Crab and play accordingly. I am always more willing to be surprised when they don’t have these cards than when they do.

Notice even the slightest thing

Always maintain an understanding of the board state. How much Honor do you and your opponent have? How much fate do you each have? What provinces have you seen and what are likely hidden and where are they likely placed?

Never be afraid to read your opponent’s cards yourself to make sure you and they understand how they work and what their limitations are (Banzai! Being once per conflict and Assassination being once per round for example). Based on how your opponent has played so far, how likely are they to bid high/ low for cards and can you capitalize on that?

Take note of their discard piles. If 2 copies of a card have been played in the first 2 rounds (approximately 10-15) cards, then the chances are low that they’ll see any more. I know that this seems like a lot, but as with all things, but forcing yourself to take note of these pieces, they will soon become second nature.

Don’t do things that serve no purpose

This is probably the hardest to explain and the hardest to give an example of as it is all anecdotal. The best that I can do is to remind you that everything in L5R is a resource and your resources are finite. Don’t play out half your hand to win your first conflict of the game – especially if your opponent isn’t.

It’s ok to back out of a fight and lose if it cost your opponent cards and presence. It is far better to not perform an action that does not affect the result than to use it “because you can” when you may need it later if an opportunity presents itself.

That’s all I have this time around folks. I hope you gain something out of it and if you have any comments, feedback or requests for specific topics for future articles, please let me know in the comments below and until next time, take care.


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


One Reply to “The Adept’s Path – Show me the Way”

  1. Really enjoyable and insightful article, Tony Thanks for that. Always after ways to improve and this has lots of great tips.

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