Starting the Legend of the Five Rings LCG

Starting the Legend of the Five Rings LCG

Although for many of us the L5R LCG is still new and shiny, getting into the game has already become quite challenging. The core set released in October of 2017, nearly half a year ago, but the accelerated release cycle means we already saw a full cycle and are now eagerly await the first clan pack. To be fully competitive, a player needs to pick up 3 core sets, all 6 packs from the Imperial cycle, and soon the Phoenix clan pack. That is an impressive amount to spent to just try out a game. Especially if you find out you don’t enjoy the game after spending all of that. The goal of this article is to propose a tiered entry point into the game. A slower pace rather than diving headlong in, allowing new players to enjoy the game without being overwhelmed by it.

The Core Set – Solo play

For most of us, getting into a new game is often a solo affair. You might have a spouse or a friend who is willing to tag along, but with so many different games around normally when you get an itch for a game, you’re on your own. Luckily, there is plenty you can do to become familiar with the basic rules of the game to start you on your way.

The first step should be working your way through the learn to play book. This also includes the stories and background which for many players are a key part of their enjoyment of the game. When working your way through this it might be useful to put together one of the sample decks on page 6 and go through the motions of a game following the steps in the pages that follow. When playing  games, if you have any questions refer to the rules reference document. This is only online and you do not get a copy of it in the core set.

At this point, you should start reading some of the background and stories. We’ve prepared a quick primer on the background to get you started. The first story you should read after that is Her Father’s Daughter, we’ve provided an annotated version which explains some of the words that won’t make sense to a new reader. After that, you can work your way slowly through the fiction list provided at the bottom of the main webpage. Take it slowly and enjoy them, they aren’t required reading but are fun. You might want to pause before the Imperial Cycle fiction, as those stories will be in the packs as you buy them.


Solo challenges

After reading some of the fiction and once you have a grasp of the rules, try out some of the following challenges.

In this solo format, some of the rules have been modified. Unless otherwise stated the following apply. Your opponent starts with just that one province; this province is blank with 0 province strength. Your opponent starts with 0 conflict cards in hand, 0 fate, and 10 honor. During the Dynasty step, your opponent will pass without taking any actions. During the draw step, your opponent always bids 1 but draws no cards and has no hand. Your opponent will always pass their conflicts. If the description gives your opponent characters, those characters start in play and do not get discarded at the end of turn if they do not have fate.  Build your deck using the ‘Out of the Box’ deck building rules on page 18 of the learn to play, so normal rules but 30 cards in the dynasty and 30 cards in the conflict decks.

Capture the Fort – Take the Entrenched Position province and 3 copies of Otomo Courtier character out of your pool of cards before you assemble a deck. Your opponent’s province is Entrenched Position, and they have the 3 Otomo Courtiers in play. The Otomo Courtiers will always defend political attacks but cannot attack military conflicts. The goal is to make some characters, go over there and crush that province. You can either go military, so the Courtiers cannot assign or political, so the province doesn’t get the +5 province strength.

Honorable Victory – Your opponent starts the game with 2 Otomo Courtier, 2 Seppun Guardsman, and 2 Wandering Ronin all without fate. The Otomo Courtier will defend against political attacks. The Seppun Guardsman will defend against military attacks. The Wandering Ronin will both defend against your first attack. You win only when you hit 25 honor.

Test of the Emerald Champion – Select the following characters: Akodo ToturiDoji HotaruShiba TsukuneShinjo AltansarnaiBayushi Shoju, and Togashi Yokuni. These are the clan champions. Select your clan champion for your deck leaving you with a pile of 6 characters. Your opponent starts with all their characters in play, but the clan Champions will not defend. At the end of the conflict phase from turn 2 onwards, there will be a duel as part of the Test of the Emerald Champion (a very prestigious dueling competition). The first duel will be one of Military skill. The second duel on turn 3 will be one of Political skill. The third duel on turn 4 will be one of Glory. To participate in a duel, the character must be unbowed. On each occasion, your opponent will select the unbowed character with the highest of that stat to participate. Using the normal duel rules, your opponent will try bid the lowest number they need to win if you bid 5. However, if your opponent could hit 0 honor if you bid 1 they will bid the highest number they can without hitting 0 honor (if you bid 1). If there is no chance of them winning they will bid 1. You win the challenge if you win 2 or more of the three duels.

If you have any further suggestions on Challenges please post them in the comments. There is definitely some potential to make more complicated challenges that have story elements.


The Core Set – Two Players

Hopefully, you will be able to get at least one other player interested in the game so you will have a sparing partner to practice against. The core set is relatively limited in card pool. The demo decks in the rulebook are very limited and give just a taste of the game without allowing many options.

To add a little more variety, we present here a ‘Rokugan Civil War’ variant. Here, two of the clans are battling for control of Rokugan, and each has gained the support of two other clans leaving just one clan uncontrolled.

Split the cards into the clan piles. Then add the neutral cards to the clan piles as follows.

  • Crab: Fallen in Battle, Imperial Storehouse, Spies at Court, Miya Mystic, Rout, Seppun Guardsman
  • Crane: Contingency Plan, Court Games, For Shame!, Ornate Fan, Otomo Courtier, Outwit, Wandering Ronin
  • Dragon: Cloud the Mind, Favorable Ground, Fine Katana, Good Omen, Miya Mystic, Wandering Ronin
  • Lion: Banzai!, Charge!, Fallen in Battle, Imperial Storehouse, Seppun Guardsman, Fine Katana
  • Phoenix: Cloud the Mind, Court Games, Good Omen, Miya Mystic, Outwit, Otomo Courtier
  • Scorpion: Assassination, Contingency Plan, For Shame!, Ornate Fan, Otomo Courtier, Spies at Court
  • Unicorn: Assassination, Banzai!, Charge!, Favorable Ground, Rout, Seppun Guardsman, Wandering Ronin

Did I miss any?

Randomly decide which player gets to pick a pile first. The first player picks a pile and then the second player picks two piles. The first player then selects the second pile. This will leave one pile unused.

Now take the role cards. The person who was second to pick a pile of clan cards gets to pick the role card they wish. If both players select Keeper roles, they get one Keeper Initiate each. If both players select Seeker roles, they get one Seeker Initiate each. Otherwise, the player who picked Keeper gets two Keeper Initiates, and the player who picked Seeker gets two Seeker Initiates.

Finally lay out the 10 neutral provinces grouped by elemental type. The person who picked the first pile of clan cards gets to choose 1 province. After they make that choice, their opponent gets the other provinces of the same element. Then the second player selects 1 province and like before their opponent gets the other province. This continues until all the neutral are assigned.

Each player builds a deck using 1 of the 3 strongholds they have. The decks being built have a minimum of 30 cards rather than the normal 40. Normal deck-building restrictions for the dynasty and conflict decks are removed. This means if you pick Crane, Dragon, and Scorpion as your 3 clans, you can include characters from any 3 of those cans in your Dynasty deck. It also means you don’t have to worry about influence.

After building your decks, play 3 games against your opponent to see how the decks perform. Between each game, you can make changes using the cards you have available. After those 3 games, sort the cards out again, so you are ready for another selection. This should add enough variety to keep it interesting for many replays.

Expanding to 3 Core Sets

While a single core set gives a taste of the game, the first real bite is when you expand your collection to 3 Core Sets. As each clan card only appears once in the box, this will give you a full set of all the core cards ready to play. As many of the neutral cards have 2 or 3 copies in the box this will give you enough neutral cards to support two decks. So if you do have a buddy learning along with you, you will be able to keep building two independent decks.

At this point, you (and your buddy) are ready to attend your local store tournaments. It is likely your local store will have some weekly or month tournament that you can join. Go check the deck-building site where you can put together your deck and make sure it is legal. Make sure you select the role which has (Current Clan Role) after it. You can limit the cards to just the core boxes by selecting packs on the top right and making sure the drop-down at the top is ‘3 Cores’ and the only item ticked from the list is ‘Core Set’.

You will have solid decks that will be able to win games. Right not you still have tons to learn, so even if you had every card out there you would still be losing games. So just enjoy the experience, meeting new players, and learn something from each game. Don’t be afraid to ask your opponent’s for advice after the game. The L5R community is super friendly in person.

Getting competitive

If you’ve made it this far and you’re still enjoying the game, it is worth your while pushing to get a complete set of all the available cards. If you want to just splash with everything, that is great. If it looks like a bit much of an expense then you might consider picking out the best packs for the clan you’re interested in.

With just a few packs you’ve got a far more effective deck. You’re also only a few more purchases to having a complete set. If you check out the Meta Check articles on this site you’ll see some of the decks the top players are using. Based on those, you’ll be able to work out the next few packs you need. To go further, start practicing online using the awesome Jigoku online website. Join the Discord group. Win a Kotei or two. Become Shogun. How far do you want to go?

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.

10 Replies to “Starting the Legend of the Five Rings LCG”

  1. Hi,
    Thank you very much for this. I feel like that kind of content is much needed yet too scarce on the web — No doubt because of the effort this demands. You managed to keep it very simple, yet thorough. A true labour of love 🙂 I will be sure to recommend this to friends interested in getting into the game.
    Cheers to you dear sir !

    1. Whoops! 40 was the old game, 25 is already hard enough! Thanks for pointing that out, I’ve updated it now.

  2. Hey wonderfull article. Just wantrd to say you didnt included the 3 wandering ronin into the boxed 2 person play. And you included 1 province into the dragon deck. Which leaves 9 provinces on thr table.

  3. Noob checking in. Have been on the fence about this game for a bit. This article was great and really helped point me to the next stop.

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