Legend of the Five Rings – Emperor Edition
Emperor Edition gives new breath and life to the second longest running collectible card game (CCG) on the market, Legend of the Five Rings (L5R). Emperor Edition resets the most common tournament format and brings with it some of the most streamlined and intuitive rules the game has seen in its sixteen years of print. Emperor Edition offers something for everyone, from the casual CCG player to most competitive tournament player.
Note to readers: Much of this review is geared towards those already familiar with The Legend of the Five Rings CCG.
The Starter Decks
From the foundation of the game’s two-deck format, to the iconic Stronghold card type and the recently introduced Border Keep/Bamboo Harvesters mechanics, there is already more to L5R in the starter decks than many other CCGs.
The game’s publisher, AEG, has labeled Emperor Edition with the descriptor of “Premium,” which is very evident in the new starter decks. Much more than a stack of cards, they are the perfect start to your Emperor Edition card collection. The beautifully illustrated box is thick and sturdy, with more than enough space for two complete sleeveless decks, or one deck in your favorite sleeves.
Included with every starter deck is your pre-constructed (and fully playable) deck of 80 cards, the Stronghold and starting Holdings for the deck, three additional alternate Stronghold cards, four random Rare cards from Emperor Edition, 36 assorted cardboard tokens to aide game play, a short story centered around the faction of the starter, the gorgeous full-color rule book (complete with a set checklist and another, more generic short story), eleven “Bio” cards that give you a short backstory of all the characters contained within your deck, a couple of redemption cards you can collect and trade for special promos, and on top of all of that, three sealed booster packs to get you started on the collecting aspect of the CCG game model.
Two of the boosters are from previous expansions, each containing 11 cards which are legal for the Emperor tournament arc. The Emperor Edition booster itself contains 15 cards (one rare, five uncommons and nine commons) as well as an extra Premium card. In addition to being the key to drafting L5R, it can also be rules on how to draft, a proxy card for created cards, a redemption card, or extra Koku.
Looking at the cards that make up the set itself, L5R’s Emperor Edition breaks away from the mold that previous base sets have embraced and introduces several new cards in the Rare slot. Previously a veteran player could expect to fill the majority of their rare sets with cards from their collection, but with the new rares in Emperor Edition, the base set gives a bit of trading power to the newer player by forcing the entire player base to seek out these exciting new cards.
Emperor Edition also brings back a lot of cards from across the sixteen year span of L5R. Older players will recognize memorable cards from games past returning to haunt their new games. One of the biggest benefits of these nostalgic inclusions is that the game immediately feels familiar to returning players.
Emperor Edition boasts some of the best new art for a CCG in years, and with some of the older cards returning with their original art, it’s a wonderful slice of the game’s artistic journey over its lifetime.
Mechanically, the base set has something for everyone to enjoy. Cards for every type of player exist and give you the freedom to create the deck you want, rather than being forced by the game’s mechanics. Each of the nine Clan factions has a selection of four themed strategies players can use to guide their deck construction. While not all of these themes currently can field a competitive deck, there is certainly no reason each theme cannot be realized in a complete and fully constructed deck.
The strengths and weaknesses of the themes and the factions feels very balanced for such an early point in a tournament arc. There are weaker decks, but the typical Rock/Paper/Scissors (RPS) competition for top decks with a competitive CCG field feels more like a RPS match with about fifteen other options available to the players. It really is an exciting time to be a competitive player in L5R.
Who would enjoy this game?
Due to the complexity and depth of this game, it probably isn’t ideal for the family, casual and social gamer types.
Where does the release of Emperor Edition leave Legend of the Five Rings overall? The gameplay is the most accessible it has been in years, the card pool has something for every level of player, and the community is more involved and active now than ever before. Thanks to the attention to the extras in the starter decks, and the unique aspects of L5R and its community in general, there is no other CCG that allows the dive-right-in feeling that Emperor Edition provides. While often times a significant gap in deck strength exists between competitive and casual L5R, it is by no means insurmountable, and shouldn’t impact a newer player’s enjoyment of the game. The L5R community is a very welcoming environment for new players.
With the release of Emperor Edition, my expectations for the future of the Legend of the Five Rings CCG are high. Veteran players are reinvesting, former players returning, and new players are being converted everyday.
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