Children of the Empire

Children of the Empire

Children of the Empire is the first premium expansion we’ve seen for the game. It contains 234 cards, giving you all the copies you need of the 82 cards it adds to the pool.

This is a pretty exciting pack that introduces new themes around duelling and bidding. Currently it looks like it will make a great first purchase for new players after the 3 core packs.

This review is listed in card order, so if you’re only interested in one clan you’ll find the dynasty cards grouped together and then you can skip to the conflict cards further down.

01 Kiku Matsuri

Shameful Display is one of the best provinces we’ve seen so far and this province makes a reasonable attempt to reach that. Rather than honoring your character and dishonoring their character, you end up honoring a character of each player. Unlike with Shameful, you need to be able to honor both targets which does make it a little harder to use. The goal with this province is to honor your high glory character and their low glory character. It is strictly worse than Shameful display despite the extra 1 province strength, but as an air province, it is not competing for the same void slot. Any deck with high glory that is interested in honoring their characters should consider it.

02 Illustrious Forge

Fire provinces don’t have a great number of viable options with the neutral Meditation on the Tao the most popular. Dragon have Restoration of Balance and those with fire roles can choose to run the restricted neutral provinces Feast or Famine. Illustrious Forge gives another option, after it is revealed you look at the top 5 cards of your deck and get to attach, without paying the fate cost, an attachment revealed to one of your characters. As a one-off effect, you would expect a pretty powerful effect and this could be if you’re run a high density of attachments which have a fate cost. That unfortunately is a pretty niche deck. Even Dragon decks don’t always reveal an attachment in their top 5 cards and even when they do it typically is a 0 cost attachment.

03 Midnight Revels

Only a few water provinces currently see play, typically we see Rally to the Cause appearing as a stronghold province. Midnight Revels is similar to Rally in some regards. In both cases the effect can save the province or can be useless, but you get to choose to resolve it or not. With Midnight Revels, it is likely both players will have characters with the highest printed cost and the owner of the province can choose to bow their opponent’s character. Depending on whether than character is attacking or not, this could protect the province by bowing an attacker or could remove a future defender by bowing a character who has not been assigned.

As a bonus, this reaction ability is when a conflict is declared against it, rather than when revealed. So this isn’t a once off like Rally to the Cause but instead will trigger once per turn like the Scorpion province Secret Cache. So if you manage to save Midnight Revels the turn it is revealed, it will not be a safe ‘farm-able’ province for your opponent in later turns.

04 Temple of the Dragons

Getting to resolve a ring can be a big deal, if your opponent is on their last point of honor and was hoping to trigger Ring of Air for some room, then this will win you the game. An Earth, Fire, or Water ring effect might be enough to win you the conflict. If your opponent is attacking void it could be to prevent you from triggering it yourself. All pretty cool scenarios. Unfortunately, this is a once off and the effect is unreliable as it depends on your opponents choice of ring. It certainly has some use, but as a void province it is unlikely to beat the current options.

05 Vassal Fields

Fate is the key resource in this game which is one of the reasons the air province Manicured Gardens is so effective. Vassal Fields is the opposite and suffers because of this, you can always gain a fate, but you can only remove an opponent’s fate if they have any. In this way Vassal Fields is similar to Meditations on the Tao which can have a big impact in the first conflict but can be played around in later turns. This is one of the more effective Earth province as the other options typically are not proactive. One exception is Upholding Authority, which does require you lose the province unlike Vassal Fields. This is a card that will see play but it won’t take much for it to be replaced.

06 Daring Challenger

Daring challenger is the first of a range of 2 cost characters across all the clans with a duel ability. If you are lower honor than your opponent then he gets +1 military making him 3 military. His duel gives the winner an extra fate, allowing this character to potentially stick around every turn. Unfortunately the challenger has a – political skill meaning he cannot be assigned to political conflicts. It does, however, make him immune to political duels which could be a benefit.

As the Daring Challenger has the first duel in the set, it is worth taking an aside to talk about duelling. The seemingly common opinion is you get your duellist loaded with attachments and boosts so they are 5 skill higher than their opponent so you cannot lose. This is sometimes called bully duelling and while it is an option it is not the only way to duel and this set actively encourages other styles. As with conflicts, the important thing is to focus on what you gain as sometimes losing is better than winning and you can set up no-lose scenarios for yourself.

With the Daring Challenger, if you’re 1 skill point above the opponent and you bid 1 your opponent needs to decide whether it is better to let the Challenger get +1 fate or if they should gain that fate on their character but lose some honor instead. In the classic style Crab deck, pressuring honor is a core component and the Daring Challenger plays directly into that.

07 Yasuki Procurer

As the dishonor effect isn’t going to reduce the Procurer’s stats, the ability essentially is: lose 1 honor (eventually) to reduce the cost or a card by 1. Unless you have a way to rehonor the Procurer, this is going to be a once off effect. Is a blank 2/2 Courtier for an effective 1 worthwhile? For some clans maybe, for the Crab probably not, at least not yet.

08 Siege Captain

A character costing 3 is a good number as you can spend 3 fate on them first turn and still have a fate left over to spend on conflict cards. For this investment you get 5 military, which is a champion level stat, but no ability. We will have to see how this plays out, as stats without abilities haven’t always been a success. Crab already have access to the Intimidating Hida and he doesn’t often see play. That said, this is a pretty impressive skill to fate ratio.

09 Hida Yakamo

Not bowing due to conflict resolution is amazing, but you have to stay less honorable than your opponent to achieve this which is a change from the current Crab deck style. That said, we could see Crab players Assassinating people to drag their honor down once Yakamo is on the table. His inability to lose duels doesn’t prevent your opponent from winning them, so there are still a bundle of duels that he will still have to worry about. That said, it means he can issue duels where the loser suffers without any risk to himself forcing your opponent to make difficult decisions.

10 Heavy Ballista

The Crab already have some great holdings that struggle to see play. The Heavy Ballista does defend all your provinces rather than just that province it is at which is good, but it still ties up a province. As it only counts during military conflicts, it can be neutralised by making a political conflict, something the current top clans are adept at. It might be considered a decent one-off to fetch with a rebuild at the right moment but even then there often will be better options.

11 Ichigenkin Soloist

This 1 cost courtier character is 1 less political skill than the Doji Whisperer but trades that for an immunity to certain effects if you have composure. While ability isn’t really of much interest, the option of a cheap 1 cost courtier to supplement the Whisperer is worth considering.

12 Courtly Challenger

Any character with an innate way to self honor is of interest to the Crane. If they can win that duel, the Courtly Challenger becomes an impressive -/4 but if they lose a duel they will become dishonored at -/0. The innate duel itself gives the winner 2 cards which is a pretty awesome effect, but you have to win. At 2 cost you don’t really want to invest in this character as a single Assassination could ruin your day. If you do however, this challenger could easily get you 2 cards every turn! This character definitely has the potential to be the Agasha Swordsmith of the Crane but not without risk. Due to the Crane Stronghold most clans will avoid having characters with 2 or less political skill in a political conflict so you will need to work to win this duel.

13 Paragon of Grace

Bushi isn’t a trait the Crane are much interested in, but dual trait characters like this do help make trait specific abilities a lot more reliable and when relevant Bushi cards do appear the Paragon’s status will improve. In the meantime, we have a 3 cost 2/3 character which when solo forces your opponent to discard a card and if the Paragon is honored that discard is random. The obvious comparison is to the Kitsuki Investigator who is one of the best characters in the game. The Paragon’s ability is much weaker, you have to be solo, you don’t get to see the opponent’s hand or pick the card. You need to get the Paragon honored before it is even close. In a game with honor tight where both decks are bidding 1, this effect could be great, but its effectiveness diminishes in typical high bid games. This is a character that will prove it’s worth over multiple turns with patient cuts wearing down your opponent rather than a single use that will win a game.

Note: The current wording needs an update, Tyler has confirmed this works similar to the Brash Samurai. So in this instance ‘Participating alone’ means without any other friendly characters, rather than without any other characters.

14 Kakita Toshimoko

Kakita Toshimoko, the sensei of the Kakita dueling academy, is the Crane’s entry for the big story characters in this box set. His ability negates a loss in a conflict. If Toshimoko is the only defender against a horde of attackers, he can hold them off. Unless, that is, someone can win a military duel against him. This could result in a battle of boosts as each player prepares for the inevitable duel. Banzai! goes onto the attackers biggest character rather than split between their lowest military characters. This makes that one boosted character even more vulnerable to any tricks the Crane player might have. If Toshimoko can successfully hold off military attacks, the Crane can then focus on winning the political conflicts where they have the advantage. Interestingly, it is even harder to win a political conflict against Toshimoko as you need to have enough political skill to win the conflict, but also need a character who can successfully win the military duel against Toshimoko.

Toshimoko is another example of the new approach to duels, how much do you want to break that province? If you bid 1 and Toshimoko bids 5 then the province is saved, but if you bid 5 and Toshimoko bids 1 then you’re moving 4 honor over to the Crane player. Either outcome is a benefit for the Crane player. Honor didn’t matter as much prior to this set but a heavy Crane duelling deck might be playing Way of the Chrysanthemum along with bid modification to get big blowout.

15 Kakita Dojo

Stopping an opponent from triggering their ability can be relevant, but more often than not you’ll want to have a duelist who can use this duel to make sure the loser bows. As you get to pick the individuals duelling, you can select a duelist who has already used their ability and an opponent who is not a duelist. If you win, they bow and if you lose nothing effectively happens. So this can be setup to be a win-win solution either stealing a few points of honor or bowing your opponent.

16 Kitsuki Counselor

Dragon don’t currently play enough Courtiers to utilise For Shame or other Courtier cards. Kitsuki Investigator is a staple, Kitsuki Yaruma saw some play but is no longer popular. Now we have a new 1 cost Courtier option. Although the base stats are 1/1, if you have composure this becomes a 2/2 making it a poor version of Doomed Shugenja. One cost characters like this open up options for decks, so while this isn’t a card that will necessarily go straight into an existing deck, it is a nice addition to the Dragon’s overall card pool.

17 Prudent Challenger

The Prudent Challenger might be one of the better of the challenger cards. Although 2 cost like the others, this character has Courtesy so you get 1 fate when it leaves play, essentially making this a 1 cost character. The duel ability lets the winner of the duel destroy an attachment attached to the loser. Weirdly, this means if you have a negative attachment such as Fiery Madness on the Challenger you can intentionally lose the duel to destroy it. Alternatively, if you duel with the challenger and have no attachments then you don’t mind if you lose the conflict but your opponent has to worry if their character does have an attachment. Should they bid 1 and risk losing the attachment or bid 5 to keep it safe and risk losing honor? The big issue with this form of attachment removal is that it is very limited; the attachment has to be in the conflict, it isn’t going to get rid of a Cloud the Mind, it needs to be on a character you can win a duel against. This isn’t going to replace Let Go or Miya Mystic, but a duelist focused deck could easily find an place for this Challenger.

18 Tranquil Philosopher

We have seen a similar ability in the form of Jade Masterpiece which for a while saw 1 copy in Dragon decks. Being able to move fate from one ring to another effectively gains you a fate each turn. Unfortunately, to keep the Tranquil Philosopher around more than 1 turn you need to invest more fate in him, unlike the Jade Masterpiece which you are placing on a character already worth the investment. That means the Tranquil Philosopher effectively is a 2 cost 2/2 monk that returns back the fate you invested in him each turn. That fate still is denied to your opponent and multiple copies (or with a Way of the Dragon) the ability can be triggered a second time each turn. It is also notable that it is an easy way to generate honor, either giving Dragon a little protection from dishonor decks or potentially as the start of an honor deck. A deck dedicated to this kind of fate control could make some use of Written in the Stars which for 1 cost places fate on each unclaimed ring without fate. The question is whether making the sacrifices to play these cards is worth the eventual gain.

19 Mirumoto Hitomi

When dueling more than one character at the same time, you combine their relevant skill (in this case military) and treat them as a single duelist. The loser, or losers, of the duel, have to decide between dishonor and bowing. For Shame! has been a staple card in Courtier decks since the start of the game so we know this is a great effect. As Hitomi has only 1 glory, becoming dishonored isn’t as big an impact as it might be for some other high glory characters. This potentially adds her into the Dragon theme of not caring if they lose duels. If she duels two 2 glory characters, if she wins she reduces the opposing skills by 4, if she loses it’s a reduction of only 1.

After winning Hitomi’s duel the first time, you now have dishonored targets which willto bow if they lose a second duel against her. If you have other ways of dishonoring, such as the Master Alchemist or Court Games, you can reliably set up characters to bow. Alternatively, she can be used to set up characters for cards that require dishonored characters such as I Can Swim.

20 Mirumoto Dojo

Similar to the Prudent Challenger, if you choose a character with no fate as your participant in the duel, then you suffer no penalties for losing. This forces your opponent to bid low and risk losing fate from the character or bid high and risk losing honor. This can be used to setup a kill action with Mirumoto Raitsugu or just used as an overall fate denial ability. Although bouncing a fate back to pool might not seem like much of an impact, not all fate points have the same worth and point of fate on your clan champion is worth far more than a fate in your pool. The Mirumoto Dojo does draw a comparison to the Dragon holding Secluded Temple which also removes fate from characters. Each trigger once per turn. The Temple doesn’t require winning a duel but does allow your opponent to choose which character loses the fate. I would argue that Secluded Temple is the better option for a deck focusing on fate control, but playing both is an option and decks more interested in duelling can use the Dojo as a way to generate duel effects.

21 Honorable Challenger

Another 2 cost Lion character with 2 military and 1 political. Although this is in line with the Challenger series in this set, I’m sure many Lion players will groan to see even more of this stat-line. That said, the Honorable Challenger has Pride which can turn her 2 glory into +2/+2 and the military duel ability essentially is an unbow action which is one of the most valuable effects in the game. If this was a 5 cost champion character with better military and political skill it would be fantastic. Even at 3 cost and some slightly better skills it would be out of the Assassination level. This is actually a great character, if you invest in her. Some extra fate to keep her around for a few turns and a Katana and she will be a big beat-stick that is likely to be in two conflicts a turn!

22 Ikoma Orator

A simple 2 cost Courtier that will usually be 2 military and 3 political. It’s not very exciting, but it could help round out the Lion’s Courtier characters which seems to be the direction they are headed in.

23 Student of War

The student of war is essentially a bigger version of the Steadfast Samurai. Unfortunately, the Steadfast Samurai is not a popular card, possibly due to its poor stats. The Student of War has bigger stats, but not really great ones for the cost. Having the ability active with composure rather than just for being higher honor is a difficulty. More often than not dials end up both being equal and with an increase in dueling in the environment, retaining Composure may be tricky.

24 Matsu Tsuko

Tsuko has an ability that reduces the cost of a card by 2. Unfortunately, it is contingent on being more honorable than your opponent which while it typically does happen isn’t guaranteed. If you use her ability once a turn for the full amount she will refund her cost (plus the 2 fate extra fate to keep her around those turns). That does mean having cards for the 2 fate to play, but it goes to show how great she is. She may be able to shift Lion decks into playing a few more two cost cards without worrying as much about them being cancelled or destroyed. That said, those cards will end up being a liability if Tsuko doesn’t appear and will mean Lion need to play around their own attachment destruction (see Hand to Hand later).

25 Tactician’s Camp

Kuni Laboratory managed to defeat impressive holding competition in Crab decks with its +1/+1 bonus. Unfortunately for Lion, Tactician’s Camp isn’t like that at all. The bonus is only military, which Lion are pretty good at already, and it only applies to honored characters requiring an extra step to work. If you do manage to honor up all your characters so this bonus will have an impact, you probably have enough of a board that this holding doesn’t matter!

26 Fire Tensai Acolyte

A typical 2 cost character currently is a 1/2 or a 2/1 for skill, so this is a +1/+1 above the curve. As a Shugenja the Tensai fits directly into the current Phoenix build and the Fire trait might be enough to start seeing some cards like Katana of Fire see play. The limitation unfortunately reduces the utility of the Tensai who has no ability to redeem him.

27 Sincere Challenger

The Phoenix clan have been developing two sets of personalities, those with the Shugenja trait and those with the Courtier trait. Currently, the primary deck runs Shugenja but the Courtier range continues to grow. The Sincere Challenger has the potential to be a 4 political skill character for 2 cost. His innate duel is political, but as the +2 bonus comes from having a lower bid dial than your opponent you could lose that bonus depending on how bids go. The duel’s effect isn’t amazing, being immune to events is useless if your opponent wasn’t going to play an event or can target another character. Interestingly, losing the duel can be a better option as it means the winner cannot be targeted by beneficial events such as Banzai!

28 Sage of Gisei Toshi

If you have more honor, move the Sage home and move your opponent’s character home. As this doesn’t bow characters they can assign later to another conflict, but it does prevent characters from being in the conflict they want to be in. This has the potential to be a very effective character. Early in the game, the Sage can remove military characters from military conflicts and then the Sage can assign to a political conflict. Late game, the Sage can remove key defenders on the last province.

29 Isawa Ujina

At 4 cost, Ujina is one of the cheaper elemental masters we’ve seen who typically have been around 5 cost. The ability removes a character with no fate from the game, since it happens after the void ring is claimed, the chance of a target is increased. The Phoenix player doesn’t have to claim the ring themselves, just declaring a void conflict means Ujina is likely to happen (unless it is a 0 skill tie). As Ujina’s ability is a Forced Reaction, you have to trigger it as soon as the condition are met, this gives it the potential to be a two edged sword. As the Phoenix player will be the one picking the target, the cases where it will harm the owner will be slight. The ability is unlimited, so every time the void ring is claimed Ujina’s ability activates. While this doesn’t normally happen, the Phoenix do have abilities allowing the void ring (or a ring with the void trait which would also count) to be claimed multiple times.

30 Ancestral Shrine

There are two ways to use this holdings ability, either return a ring you have captured so you can declare with that ring a second time or wait until after the Imperial Favor is assigned. As the favor is assigned in step 3.4.2 and rings are returned in 5.4, you can use the action in the windows between 4.4 and 4.5 or 5.1 and 5.2. This is a holding for decks focusing on honor. Unlike the Bonsai Garden of the Crane you’re not going to get any real benefit from having multiple Ancestral Shrines, but you could conceivably gain up to 4 honor if you manage to win all your conflicts.

31 Loyal Challenger

The Scorpion entry into the challenger arena is this 2 cost courtier with some decent stats and 0 glory. The Scorpion are making room in their decks without even looking at the ability. After this character wins the conflict you get an honor and you lose one if they lose a conflict. Not particularly exciting, but a clever Scorpion player may be able to get some leverage out of it. The ability is a political duel which inflicts a cloud the mind type effect on the loser until the end of the conflict. If the Loyal Challenger loses, they don’t really care. So this ends up being either a free cloud the mind on a 2 political or less character or it ends up as a few points of dishonor.

32 Midnight Prowler

The effect only triggers if you win a military conflict, which is two strikes against it as it doesn’t help us win conflict and the Scorpion prefer political conflicts. Discarding from your opponent’s conflict, also known as mill from a Magic card that had that effect, is not a win condition in L5R. At best, it’s a 5 point honor hit as an overall dishonor strategy. Some might argue that discarding a good card your opponent was about to draw has value, but the next card they do end up drawing could be better. From a conceptual perspective it is better to think of this effect as removing a card from the middle of the deck. In a long game, removing key cards can be of benefit. Removing 1 of your Crane opponent’s Voice of Honors could be key, but this is a long game strategy. Looking at the stats alone, this 2 cost character has typical skills of 2/1. The 0 glory is actually of benefit for the Scorpion who like dishonoring their own characters for specific effects. Overall, this is a relatively uninspiring character that may see play to round out the Shinobi trait.

33 Attendant to the Emperor

This is the Scorpion and political equivalent of the Crab’s Siege character. All stats, 3 fate gets 5 political skill and the Courtier trait. The 2 glory actually is a problem for Scorpion, especially for Forged Edict. If they can get past that, she has a pretty great fate to skill ratio.

34 Social Puppeteer

The social puppeteer has an ability that switches the honor dials, this means the Scorpion player can control which player has composure (but only if they are not tied). If the Scorpion player has composure then the Social Puppeteer must be the target for it’s opponent’s events if able. This means it ‘soaks’ any negative effects while also preventing the opponent from playing an beneficial events like Banzai! They could choose to play it, but the Puppeteer would get the benefit. Interestingly, given the rest of this set, the ability forces any duel events challenge the Social Puppeteer if able.

35 Shosuro Hametsu

Shosuro Hametsu is the Daimyo of the Shoruro clan and is the brother of Bayushi Kachiko. He is known for his love of Poison’s and previous incarnations had traits such as ‘Poison Master’. His ability is in keeping with this, allowing you to fetch a poison card from your conflict deck once per turn with a cost of 1 honor. The existing poison cards of Firey Madness and Tainted Koku are useful penalty attachments at a cost, but the Kirei-Ko event which we will look at later is likely to be the primary target with this ability. As a Shinobi character, Hametsu fits into the still developing Shinobi deck and does not have the Courtier or Shugenja traits considered useful for the current primary Scorpion deck.

36 Outskirts Sentry

With – political, this character can only be in a military conflicts which is a real limitation. If you’re moving in a 2 glory character who gets honored up then this Sentry has contributed a total of 3 military (at least). That bonus will increase if you manage to keep this character around for a few turns. You do have to support it with some movement tricks, but that certainly is an option for the Unicorn.

37 Honest Challenger

If you have composure this is a 4 military 2 political skill character for just 2 fate. The Honest Challenger has an innate duel which gives an opportunity to change dials again. If you win the conflict you get to move a character from home into the conflict, of greater interest, if you lose the duel your opponent has to move a character in! Harpoon effects are a surprisingly effect form of control, forcing your opponent to over-commit clearing the way for later attacks. Although you are not able to choose the character that moves, boards typically are limited enough in number that the effect will almost always be effective.

38 Ide Negotiator

With composure a major theme in this cycle, a card that allows you to modify your dial may be very useful. With just one Ide Negotiator on the table you can bid 2 and end up with either a 1 or a 3 bid or you can bid 4 and end up with a 3 or a 5 bid. The low bid will prevent your opponent from ever getting composure at worst they bid 1 and no one gets composure or they bid 5 and you get composure and draw only 2 less cards. Similarly, the high bid will let you grab composure while only sacrificing 1 card when you and your opponent are focused on drawing cards.

39 Shiotome Heroine

Abilities that ready cards are strong and the Heroine has the potential to be a great card. Unfortunately the condition is a little trickier than some of the other powerful straighten effects. Right now, the only sure way to trigger the effect is to use the Yurt to gain honor.

40 Utaku Kamoko

Another ready effect and another conditional one at that. In this case, however, there is a high chance your opponent is going to try break your provinces. If that happens you get to honor and ready Kamako, at 6 military and political skill while honored she will be ready to take swift revenge. One of the issues with the previous battle maidens is the liability their high glory can be making them 0/0 when dishonored. The design for Kamoko takes this into account and when dishonored the suffers no penalty for her glory.

41 Aspiring Challenger

This neutral character has both the Challenger innate duel and a composure ability. If both work out, you bid lower than your opponent and win the duel then the Challenge will get +2 glory and honored bringing him to a 5/5. Winning that duel though, can be tricky.

42 Seppun Hidden Guard

Character abilities that target are not very common, and the Hidden Guard will be obvious on the table when your opponent decides to take that action. Typically then, the Seppun Hidden Guard is going to act as a deterrent, forcing your opponent to target one of your non-unique characters instead. As a dynasty character you’re not always going to be able to get your Guard out at the right time, either because you don’t have a unique character to protect or because you’ve had to spend on that unique character instead of the guard. Definitely an interesting character, but I do think it misses the mark.

43 Humble Magistrate

Shutting out all characters with 4 or more cost from combat resolution is pretty big impact. Combine this with other magistrates for even more fun, for example with the Enigmatic Magistrate only cost 1 and 3 characters contribute their skill to the conflict! As high glory typically is on expensive characters, this also combos nicely with the Haughty Magistrate.

44 Righteous Magistrate

If you can’t lose honor then you can bid 5 in duels with impunity. This means you can bully duel with only 1 more skill than your opponent. It also prevents actions that have losing or gaining honor as a cost, such as Assassination. Is any of that useful? Probably not.

45 Akodo Toturi

As a Neutral 5 cost character this Emerald Champion version of Akodo Toturi competes with the best characters in the game. His 6 military, presumably a legacy from his Lion clan champion version, does live up to that. His ability is only useful if you have the Imperial Favor, so it could be said he is a ‘win more’ card. The effect is incredibly powerful, if you are ahead of your opponent you can essentially stop the conflict. Neither player can play cards from their hand, so the battle needs to be decided by cards already on the table.

As a unique card, you can only have one copy of a card of that name in play and only 3 copies of cards with that name in your deck. This means, the Lion clan need to decide how many copies of each version they run with a total count of 3. So it can be 3 of the Lion version, 2 Lion and 1 Neutral, 3 Neutral, and so on. Lion players may wish to run 1 copy of the Neutral version so give more Kitsu Spiritcaller options later in the game.

46 Hantei XXXVIII

With – military and political skills you’re unable to bring the Emperor into play using any tricks, you have to pay the full 6 to get him out. Once you have him he is never assigning to a conflict but he is making sure you hold the favor with his impressive 6 glory stat. Unfortunately, if your opponent has the favor he is discarded so you won’t want to make him unless you have the favor yourself or for some reason are risking making him turn 1. His abilities have an impact, he bows one of your opponent’s characters and can choose the targets for an opponent’s ability.

The risks in playing him come mostly from the Scorpion. With Fawning Diplomat they can steal the favor on you and with Kirei-Ko (to be seen later) they can bow the Emperor which could result in you losing the favor.

47 Miya Library

This holding lets you dig down into your dynasty deck and fetch our Imperial characters making it perfect for an Imperial themed deck. While it can be used in a deck without Imperial characters, getting to rearrange the top 4 cards at the cost of tying up a province slot probably isn’t worth it. If you do manage to find an Imperial character and use the effect the Miya Library will go back into the deck to be drawn next turn or the turn after depending on your placement. If you use this during the dynasty phase you’re costing yourself an action, and might lose out on that fate point, but will improve your draw slightly. If you use it during the conflict phase you can prep for a Charge! This is a fun card that will see play in fun decks, but not more than that.

48 Proving Ground

Some of the best holdings in the game draw you cards. In this case, proving grounds has the potential to draw you two cards each round. To trigger the card draw you have to win a duel, so it’s not reliably in two regards. You need to have a duel and you also need to win it. In a perfect world, you will be drawing two a turn, but theres also the potential that you won’t be drawing any. In a dedicated duelling deck, this might be worth it but Imperial Storehouse is guaranteed card draw which often will be better.

49 Guardian of Virtue

This 2 cost Crab conflict Bushi character has 2 military and 2 political along with 1 glory. If you have composure, the Guardian does not bow when defending which is fantastic. It could be especially useful in an honor deck which is keen to avoid honor loss due to no defenders. This character is limited to Air roles, which significantly restricts its play.

50 Honed Nodachi

Attachment hate is rampant in the environment currently making attachments that with fate costs a liability. This 2 cost attachment has a hefty +3 military bonus but Jade Tetsubo has similar stats and doesn’t often see play. The effect is a reaction to winning a military conflict and forces an opponent to choose a participating character they control and discard that character. This effect is similar to that of the Unicorn clan champion Shinjo Altansarnai who has not been popular in decks. To trigger the effect you also need to discard a fate from the character the Honed Nodachi is attached to, shortening the life span of both the character and this weapon. While there certainly will be situations where the effect is worth it, more often than not the cost will be greater than the effect.

51 Smuggling Deal

There are some incredibly powerful character abilities in the game, and the power of Smuggling Deal depends on which characters you have in play at any moment. The cost of giving your opponent 1 honor is no real cost in the majority of matchups. Looking at just Crab, there are a few abilities of note including Steadfast Witch Hunter, Kaiu Shuichi, Crisis Breaker and Kuni Yori. All have useful, but not necessarily game winning effects. Despite the 3 influence, this card may be of more interest for other clans which can generate more powerful effects.

52 In Defence of Rokugan

To play this card effectively, it needs to be during a conflict, only when defending, setting military skill to 0, while you have 1 fate handy and someone worth sacrificing. That seems a pretty specific scenario. An equivalent card that doesn’t see play is High Kick which can be used on the attack and only requires bowing a monk rather than sacrificing one. Note that this does not override the bid part of a duel, so if you duel a target of this effect they will start at 0 military but will add the bid dial to their final count for the purposes of the duel.

53 Iaijutsu Master

This attachment is only really playable with Dragon and Crane currently who both have a decent selection of Duelist characters. As a reaction, you can modify your bid value (not dial) by one to a minimum of 0. This allows you to make sure you win the duel but not lose too much honor in doing so. As you can modify the value to 0 it can allow you bully duel and steal a point of honor from your opponent in a duel.

54 Storied Defeat

Bow effects are strong. In a deck that regularly duels, this card could be a powerhouse with innocuous duels used to set up for a Storied Defeat. That said, if you don’t have a way to duel and the ability to win it, then this card is going to stick in your hand without any benefit. For an extra fate you can dishonor the target, which is a very nice kicker. More often than not you won’t bother, but having the option is nice.

55 Try Again Tomorrow

One fun part of the L5R roleplaying game is navigating the intricate social dance that is the society of Rokugan. Many groups have worked out who the bad guy is, approached their home, only to have the servant who answers the door say “I’m afraid my master is not home, you should try again tomorrow”. What really is being said is “You’re not welcome here, now or ever, sod off!” Despite knowing the bad guy is at home, the group need to find a different way to get to the bad guy, as barging in would just be rude!

In this case, we have a 0 fate send home ability that requires a participating honored Courtier character and can only send home an attacking character. We know from Mirumoto’s Fury that defensive send home can be very strong, but that also bowed the attacker effectively neutralising them for the turn and could be used without any defenders. Try Again Tomorrow only stalls your opponent as they can attack in the next phase, but the ability comes at much reduced cost and the attacker sent home will often be a military attacker who doesn’t want to attack into the Crane stronghold in a political conflict. As a bonus, this can be used to send your own attacker home which can be useful. Currently the Crane are one of the few clans with easy access to Courtiers and honoring effects so although it is likely to go straight into Crane decks it is unlikely to see much splash under the current circumstances.

56 Civil Discourse

You pay 1 and duel to increase the cost of your opponent cards by 1. The Lion conflict character Ageless Crone is great for shutting down opponent’s cards and this is possibly a less reliable version, due to the duel, that doesn’t also increase your own costs. Sometimes this will not matter, other times it will completely shut down your opponent and guarantee a conflict. It is Earth role locked, which will limit the cards use. To effectively use it you need to have the right element and be able to reliably politically duel.

57 Solitary Strength

Another Air role only card. For 1 cost you get +1/+2 and can gain an honor if you win a conflict. This isn’t a restricted attachment which means you can stack 3 onto the same character. If you have two or more characters in the conflict however, then the Solitary Strength gets destroyed. This is the tower strategy in overdrive bringing with it great risk. There aren’t many ways for your opponent to drag another one of your characters into a conflict, but they do exist and do see play. There may be a deck where super towers and honor running are the focus, but I’m not seeing that yet.

58 Mirumoto Daisho

At 2 cost for a +2/+2 bonus this Daisho isn’t very exciting. As a 2 cost attachment it is a sunk cost to any of the increasing attachment destruction cards. It has a super ‘restricted’ ability meaning the bearer cannot have any other restricted cards. The cards effect prevents your opponent from bidding 1 or 5. While your opponent not being able to bid 5 can guarantee victory in a duel, it’s the not being able to bid 1 that is of real interest. If we bid 1 and our opponent can bid 2 as the lowest possible option, we get to steal 1 honor. That makes this card super interesting. Unlike Iaijutsu Master which is an ability and therefore limited to once per turn, you can keep duelling with the Daisho stealing a point of honor each time. Notably, it is the only way to guarantee composure as it forces your opponent to not bid 1. This makes a lot of cards that rely on specific dial combinations a lot more reliable.

59 Magnificant Triumph

You really want bonuses before you go into the duel and not after. Even then, +2/+2 isn’t amazing and the protection against your opponent’s events will happen after you’ve already taken at least 2 actions (the duel and this card) so your opponent will have had the time to play the events they needed to.

60 Karmic Balance

A few cards like Good Omen have conditions around whether your bid is higher or lower than your opponent, when more often than not you’ll have the exact same bid. This makes Karmic Balance’s restriction of having equal honor bid a lot easier to play. The effect is a reset of the hand; each player shuffles their hand, discard, and conflict deck together before drawing 4. Obviously, the player playing this is only going to do so when it is to their advantage. An attachment heavy deck, for example, might play all of it’s cards with this as the last one. A dishonor focused deck could keep bidding 1 until their opponent is forced to follow suit and then play Karmic Balance to remove their opponent’s card advantage. Alternatively, a deck could bid low and then use duels to force their opponent to match dials allowing Karmic Balance to be played. The 2 cost is a little rough for an effect that impacts both players, but this could easily become a 1-off in all Dragon decks purely for it’s situational impact.

61 True Strike Kenjutsu

This attachment is similar to the Crane attachment Duelist Training in that it gives the attached character a duel action which bows the loser. Where Duelist Training allowed discard cards instead of honor, True Strike Kenjutsu uses base military skill instead of total skill for the duel. This gives Lion an edge as they have some big base skill characters and also can use Way of the Lion to double their base skill. It does mean they can duel characters of great skill which have been boosted with weapons and events and still win.

62 Hand to Hand

Let Go has been one of the most splashed cards in the game up until now. There are some really amazing 2 and 3 cost attachments that if left unchecked would dominate a game. Even though those cards are no longer played, the number of 1 fate attachments that demand an answer such as Spyglass, Cloud the Mind, Talisman of the Sun, Reprieve, and Finger of Jade. Hand to Hand gives Lion some attachment control without being locked into a Dragon splash.

As the card gives your opponent an option to destroy an attachment themselves it lends itself to Lion decks running a little lighter on attachments than they otherwise might. That said, if your attachment is not in the conflict it cannot be destroyed and as you choose the timing you can play Hand to Hand first and drop your attachment after. The card can also be played only in a military conflict, so if your opponent never assigns their Talisman of the Sun to the conflict, then it will never get destroyed. This means Hand to Hand won’t always be available to deal with the problem at hand, but it does provide a reasonable substitute. At only 1 influence, this will make the Lion splash a lot more attractive for other clans.

63 The Fires of Justice

After you win a conflict, never happens if all the cards in your hand start with that line. This in many ways is similar to Fallen in Battle, it’s only when you win, your opponent gets to pick the character. On benefit, is if your opponent selects a weak character you can empty their fate pool onto that character, but even then you’re doing it by spending 2 fate yourself. This card is also Void role only, making it harder to play.

64 Glorious Victory

When you break a province you’re having a pretty good day. Unlike For Greater Glory which only gives fate to characters that were in the battle, Glorious Victory honors all the characters you control. That means your next wave of attackers that were waiting ready at home are all going to get a nice bonus. At 3 cost though, this comes with a pretty hefty price. Getting it cancelled would be heart breaking.

65 Unmatched Expertise

High glory characters are really punished by dishonoring effects, so much so that otherwise powerful cards like Shiba Tsukune and Utaku Yumino didn’t see play due to their high glory. This attachment appears to address that. Cheap at 0 cost, it gives you some skill boosts and importantly stops the character from being dishonored. The wording is the similar to Stewart of Law, an honored character can ‘become normal’ but a normal character cannot ‘become dishonored’. If your opponent has a dishonoring card, they’re not going to be able to dishonor your chosen character but unfortunately will still be able to go after another target. Even ignoring the Fire role lock and the forced reaction, despite being decent, this card probably doesn’t do enough to make the cut in already packed decks.

66 Gift of Amaterasu

The Path of Man is a 0 cost Kiho that gives you 2 fate if you win a conflict by 5 or more. It has this really nice promo version. It doesn’t see play. Phoenix have a lot of ‘win more’ cards that they can only trigger if they’ve claimed a ring or similar. Successful Phoenix decks are the ones that ignore those gimmicks and focus on cards that will help them win in the first place, unfortunately this card will get relegated to the binder for the same reason.

67 Severed from the Stream

At the end of the conflict phase, if you have more unbowed glory than your opponent you can return all their rings. This has two primary uses, letting you declare a ring again yourself or making sure you claim the Imperial Favor. It also has a niche use to give Shiba Tsukune more ring options for her ability. Censure already is a popular card for Phoenix and this could make it even more reliable. Watch out for The Imperial Palace though as it adds +3 to this glory account as well as the favor count. If you’re losing the glory count it does mean your own rings get returned which would allow you declare a ring again!

68 Subdue the Spirits

If you are more honorable than your opponent you can spend 2 fate to give all your characters in the conflict a bonus equal to their glory. Unfortunately, even the Phoenix can’t guarantee they will be the most honorable especially in an environment with City of the Open Hand. Although high glory was common for decks at the start of the game, increasingly those numbers have reduced, not massively but enough to notice. To maximise the effect you want lots of characters, something that Phoenix don’t commonly do. This might make a good one off card for a key conflict, especially with Isawa Mori Seido.

69 Infiltrator’s Tools

Covert is a really really good trait. Getting it as on free cost item is pretty amazing. You can drop it on any Shinobi just before you declare an attack where your opponent was not expecting it. This definitely makes the Shinobi trait a lot more attractive. Don’t believe any Scorpion’s protest that the Shinobi character’s aren’t great, Dragon were just recently saying that about Monks and then they got Void First and Hurricane punch. Infiltrator’s Tools is a fantastic card that significantly improves the value of the Shinobi trait, more cards like that will make Scorpion Shinobi decks a serious threat.

70 Kirei-ko

Bowing a character is a fantastic effect which is why this cards ends up with 1 cost. The question then is whether the requirements are reliably attainable or not. To play Kirei-ko you need an opponent’s character to trigger their ability. For some characters this isn’t too hard, Togashi Mitsu is pretty much always going to trigger his ability every chance he gets. For other characters, this isn’t going to be an option, Isawa Tadaka has no ability to trigger. How playable this card is will depend on the environment we end up in, if the top decks reliably have targets that are worth bowing and having triggered abilities then this will see play, otherwise it will end up as a niche silver bullet for specific matchups only.

71 Unmask

For 1 fate you remove all bonuses from a character and remove it’s status token. That your opponent gains two honor makes it less attractive to dishonor decks, but isn’t a massive cost. Being able to remove a Banzai! for 1 fate isn’t great but does have utility. Being able to remove multiple boosts and an honored token on the other hand would be a big deal. I believe it also works on attachments, negating their bonus until the end of the conflict which would make it a great way to deal with tower units. Of course there are limitations that go along with this, you have to have a void role and have to have a bid dial higher than your opponent. The utility of the effect is already pretty situational and these limitations probably keep it in the binder.

72 Miyako’s Undertaking

At 2 cost and a requirement to have 6 or fewer honor, you would expect the effect to be pretty good. Unfortunately, that effect is unreliable. You select a non-unique character in your opponent’s discard and one of your characters gets to be a copy of that character. All the best characters are unique and you’re relying on your opponent having discarded a decent character before can play this. In addition, you effectively blank your own character when you copy it as those stats are replaced not added. There might be some niche cases where this will do something cool, but more often than not this will not be worth the cost.

73 Shinjo Ambusher

On reveal provinces can be powerful but more often are passed over in preference for provinces that will work everytime they are attacked. On those provinces the Shinjo Ambusher can be an effective counter especially for provinces which trigger on breaking like Upholding Authority. The ambusher has 2 military for 1 fate which is similar to the highly effective Tattooed Wanderer, and also has 0 political skill so the effect can be triggered in both provinces. This isn’t going to stop a Shameful Display, but a careless player may take another action before triggering it. This is a very good card.

74 Jewel of the Khamasin

As a Meishido card, this attachment already gets some love from cards like Iuchi Shahai. The ability lets you turn a conflict you’re winning on the attack, but not breaking the province, into one that will break the province at the cost of some honor. While a nice idea, it might be better focusing on cards that will win you the conflict in the first place as they can also help you break the province!

75 Challenge on the Fields

This event is a duel that moves the lower home, but has a Unicorn style twist. Rather than compare military skill as normal, you also give the dueling characters +1 military for each other participating character in the conflict. This gives an edge to the Unicorn who already have an outnumbering theme. Although the effect only sends the loser home, like Outwit or Rout, it doesn’t have any fate cost making it a worthy consideration.

76 Leniency

This one is weird, you need to win a ring and give that up instead playing this card. Then you need to have a 2 cost or lower character in your province who comes into play. As the character comes into play with a card effect, you don’t get to add fate to them so you have a small window to use them in. Add the Air role only effect and you’ve got a pretty limited card. Charge! is good for many reasons, this is not Charge!

77 Kujira’s Hireling

This is the card designed in conjuction with the first Shogun Samuel Benies. The card is very flavorful as these are the ronin who brought Doji Kuwanan to answer to Matsu Tsuko. At the recommendation of Samuel, Tsuko choose the path of justice, so setting the course for the Lion clan in the story. The card itself reflects the allegiance of the ronin, to money and nothing more. If you have more fate than your opponent and are willing to spend it you can generate a decent chunk of skill from no where. If you’re already in that situation though, you might have better cards to spend your fate on. That said, this card does scale to your situation and you can spend 1 fate or 20 fate on it.

78 Unveiled Destiny

Attachments that cost 2 or more currently aren’t seeing much play due to the heavily cost when they are destroyed, or even worse stolen. The skill bonuses aren’t great but certainly don’t hurt. That said, this card gives the option of winning two rings of the same type in a single turn. A dishonor or honor deck with Seeker of Air could win two air rings in a turn. The two cost elemental characters, Guardian Kami and Elemental Kami, did see play and required sacrificing the character so this card does seem to be in the right spot to see play in specific decks.

79 Defend Your Honor

This might be the biggest card of the expansion, it brings an event cancel into clans that couldn’t reliably run one before. The duel is a military duel so it favors clans that have big military characters. Your opponent does get to pick their character, but as duels can only be between participating characters their options are limited. The cancel is limited to during conflicts, so an opponent can play around it with many cards, but conflicts are where most of the action occurs. As this is a Keeper only card this gives a big push for that choice. Crab, Lion, Unicorn, and Dragon could all see this card heavily played.

80 Stay Your Hand

While this expansion has raised the number of available duels in the environment, a card like Stay Your Hand is still very specific meta. To call it a Silver Bullet might be a bit of a reach as Werewolves normally die to Silver Bullet’s rather than getting mildly irritated by them. Let Go and Forged Edict are both at their best when the target card costs 1 or more fate. If we start seeing high impact duels which costs like that, then this might be worth playing, otherwise it will end up as a dead card in your hand in many matchups and will give you little benefit in those where your opponent does have duels. On the other hand, if Defend Your Honor, Mirumoto Hitomi, and Kakita Toshimoko all start seeing heavy play at the top tiers, this might be worth considering.

81 Warm Welcome

Recursion is one of the pillars of degenerate play, and Warm Welcome is exactly that. There is some setup, you need to have your honor bid lower than your opponent, essentially you need to have composure. Typically this isn’t going to be an option as bids tend to be equal, however things are starting to change and we might see more variations with duels. There are also a number of other ways to adjust and modify dials that might make things more reliable. It costs 1 fate and allows you to play a card in your conflict discard as if it was in your hand. Characters and attachments are played as normal but events go to the bottom of your conflict deck after being played. Interestingly, this means, if you’re willing to pay the extra fate, you can Warm Welcome a Warm Welcome with the goal of sending it to the bottom of your deck in the hope of drawing it later.

82 Prayers to Ebisu

For 3 cost, you can stop yourself from losing to dishonor or stop your opponent winning through honor. If that gets cancelled, you’ve just spent 3 fate doing nothing. In some regards this is a silver bullet just in case either strategy get out of hand.

Every set has hits and misses and this set is no different, some of these will be evident straight away while others might take some time to fully realise. Below we have our best guess for the cards that will see play in each clan.

  • Crab get Siege Captain and Hida Yakamo who are both big chunks of force. Smuggling Deal is good, but might not be immediately useful for Crab.
  • Crane get Ichigenkin Soloist who is a solid cheap Courtier, Kakita Toshimoko looks like a lot of fun, and the Kakita Dojo is a great way to generate duels that will win conflicts. If the Crane can get Courtly Challenger working, it will be an amazing card draw engine and Paragon of Grace as a similar place for a hand denial deck. Storied Defeat is an extra action for the dueling decks while Try Again Tomorrow improves Courtiers for the Crane.
  • Dragon get Miutmoto Hitomi who is fantastic and the Mirumoto Dojo which will support a duel based fate control strategy. Mirumoto Daisho is an expensive but very interesting attachment that allows Dragon decks retain composure. Karmic Balance could make for a decent 1 of that could win games.
  • Lion get the Honorable Chalenger who is a decent 2 cost Bushi (even with the competition), Matsu Tsuko who opens up some options on the confict side. The Strike Kenjutsu may be the start of a duelling deck for Lion while Hand to Hand gives them some limited attachment destruction.
  • Phoenix get some decent Courtiers but initially will be more interested in Isawa Ujina to continue their love of the elemental masters. Severed from the stream might see play to make favor control more reliable for Phoenix especially in decks running Toturi and/or Hantei.
  • Scorpion get the Loyal Challenger and the Social Puppeteer who can mess with Composure. Infiltrators Tools push the Shinobi trait significantly while Kirei-ko and Unmask give the Scorpion some interesting meta choices.
  • Unicorn have a number of notable characters, the Outskirts Sentry, the Honest Challenger, and of course Kamoko all look like they could go straight into decks. The Shinjo Ambusher is fantastic and could be a reason to splash Unicorn while Challenge on the Fields fits neatly into their outnumbering theme.
  • Neutrals have the Humble Magistrate is a solid addition to seeker decks while Akodo Toturi and Hantei XXXVIII both provide interesting options. Defend Your Honor is a big push for the Keeper decks while Warm Welcome brings some recursion for those decks able to keep composure.
  • Provinces provide Midnight Revels which shoots straight to the top as the Water province of choice and will have a big impact in games. Similarly, Vassal Fields makes a strong contention as the Earth province of choice and will definitely see play.

This looks like a really exciting set that has plenty of depth to explore before we finally get down to anything like a settled meta. It also seems to open up a few extra deck styles for clans which had previously has only one deck. It feels like a positive addition to the game that will make it a lot more fun!

For another perspective, checkout the fantastic review of the set by some of the players from the Discord group posted on the MidWest Wardens site.

If you have any comments or feedback please post them in the comments section below. Check us out on the Imperial Advisor website, podcast, and YouTube channel for more discussion about the L5R LCG.

7 Replies to “Children of the Empire”

  1. Unless I’m missing something Kakita Toshimoko can also function in political conflicts as long as at least one character has a military skill. This almost seems stronger as he can solo defend political conflicts quite easily with his military score.

    1. You are correct, I already thought it he was great, but that is bonkers! I’ve updated the above to factor this in. Thanks for the spot!

  2. Thanks for this exhaustive review. Very nice to see that each clans can now head into different workable deck building strategies rather than always seeing the same decks.

  3. Unmask – i can play it on my debuffed/dishonored character and bring him back to his good stats. Then i get 2 Honor tokens. Thats GOOOD 🙂

    Oh, and its Ageless Crone, not Ancient 🙂

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