A Game Complete

A Game Complete

“Fall seven times, get up eight.” On the end of the LCG and new beginnings.

In February Fantasy Flight Games announced the upcoming deluxe box for the year, “Under Fu Leng’s Shadow”. A Shadowlands focused box with both a single player variant and a Siege style version where one player plays a Shadowlands deck against 2 to 4 other players working together. This is exactly the kind of story based box I’ve been hoping for since the LCG first released. It’s due for release in May 2021 and while May 2020 would have been the perfect release date, most players will still be respecting COVID restrictions for months after. You get a bunch of cards and slot straight into competitive play, but you also get a nice ‘kitchen tabletop’ experience where you add this box to some core boxes and you have an enjoyable experience. Honestly, I think this has been the key element missing from the LCG system. Boxes like this form entry points for new players giving them a relatively cheap way to buy in and if done correctly varied and engaging sub-games that are whole within themselves. Children of the Empire becomes Test of the Emerald Champion with a duelling focused game variant where players try to have one of their characters become Emerald Champion. Clan War becomes the Scorpion Clan Coup with a mini-campaign variant where 2 or more players play a series of games to determine whether Shoju is ousted or retains the throne. Exciting stuff! 

Unfortunately, this announcement came with some bad news, FFG have decided that this box will ‘complete’ the game. A nice way of saying they’re cancelling it. There’s a lot of speculation around why they would decide to do that. Obviously cash is a consideration, FFG are a company and companies are only really interested in money at the end of the day. In the announcement post Tyler suggested similar “Ultimately, the game’s greatest strength—its intricate complexity of decisions—proved to be a barrier to its success in the gaming marketplace of the late 2010s.” I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed at his claim that the complexity of the game was what lead to this cancellation, especially as the up and coming Flesh and Blood TCG is being praised for it’s complex interactions. Prior to 2020 any FFG staff member I talked to in person did say the game was still making money. Arguably as the game went on, players who stopped playing weren’t being replaced by those who started to play. While the game has a steep learning curve, the buy in curve is a unassailable cliff to most. So the challenge of learning the game is limited to only those players willing to spend thousands to even start. That flaw of the LCG system is one players have been calling out since day one and I suspect had greater impact than the games complexity. Despite this killing multiple LCGs up to now, FFG took the decision not to release a core 2.0 or make any efforts to make it easier to buy into the game. Obviously, 2020 is likely to have had a bigger impact than anything else, but FFG had already put things in motion before anyone had heard of COVID. Now Keyforge is the only competitive card game FFG still produce and their organised play team have been gutted to what seems like 1 or 2 people at most. Although Keyforge players are still optimistic, it looks like FFG has decided to step out of the competitive card game market.

So what now? Although FFG are no longer going to be making the LCG, that isn’t the end for L5R. Aconyte have confirmed that they’ll still be publishing novels in the setting with more titles to be announced at the end of the month. Edge Studio will still be making RPG books. So the setting isn’t going away, just the LCG. FFG have even hinted at other games due to come in the setting. So it won’t be long before we can pick up a katana or fan again. The LCG still has releases up to May and even if FFG were continuing with the game we probably wouldn’t have seen anything until maybe July. So we still have a good few months of game, even if the worldwide situation mean in-person tournaments aren’t an option.

As I’ve talked about in earlier articles, Tyler has been in an unenviable position where he is the sole person in charge of designing the game, running the playtest team, and releasing the restricted/banned lists to balance issues. With FFG no longer supporting the game, discussion has turned to a player run alternative. Initially, it’s likely that would look like updated banned and restricted lists. Maybe some minor rules tweaks. In fact, all the things we’ve been talking about in the last few articles about tournament organisers developing their own formats. Further down the line, we could end up in a similar situation to the Netrunner players. NISEI (nisei.net) is a player run organisation for Netrunner, another FFG LCG that was cancelled. NISEI is a real success story, they initially set up caretaker group that had the sole goal of getting the best possible people on the board to run the project. So this avoided splintering or lack of representation.

Remarkably, the L5R community not only responded quickly, but multiple groups were already working on things in the background prior to the announcement. This included a team working on a banned / restricted list to balance the game for tournaments (https://www.jadecourt.org) and a separate team that was considering what a Core 2.0 rotation might look like. Even before FFG dropped their support, players had realised we needed more. While FFG were producing new cards, arguably sets like the dominion cycle did more damage than good for the game. The game was already in trouble, and we knew it. While it would still be a stretch to say the cancelling of support for the game is a good thing, we still have some new cards on the horizon and with these new player teams working hard to balance the game we have the potential for the next half year to be some of the best L5R we’ve had yet!

Myself, I took a bit of a break after the announcement (hence the lack of updates). After stepping away from the discord and Facebook group I’ve found it very hard to know what’s going on within the community, an unfortunate reflection of our somewhat insular nature. Over the next few months I planning to do a little house cleaning across the site to keep it as a resource that will still have some use to players interested in the game down the line.

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.

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