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Legend of the Five Rings – Gates of Chaos - Board Game Box Shot

Legend of the Five Rings – Gates of Chaos

| Published: 2013
Expansion for Legend of the Five Rings
8 1

Gates of Chaos provides an amazing point of entry for returning and new players alike.

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Gates of Chaos is the first booster pack only expansion for Legend of the Five Rings as they continue the transitional period of tournament arcs begun with Coils of Madness. Introducing 150 new cards to the game, Gates of Chaos begins tying the final bow on the Emperor Edition story arc, while opening up the packaging on next Spring’s Ivory Edition arc.

Continuing the story of the Emerald Empire’s assault by the mad dragon P’an Ku, Gates of Chaos flushes out the themes of the madness corrupted Fallen Personalities and introduces us to two new mechanical keywords, Invest and Destined.

L5R Gates of Chaos package

images © AEG

In with the New…
The first thing players will notice upon cracking a handful of packs is the radical change in the display boxes; gone is the sturdy cardboard cube that doubled as fantastic card storage solution for multiple decks. Now players who drop their money on a 48-pack display of the 11 card boosters are treated with a high quality tin, complete with a hinged and embossed lid that showcases some of the great art found in the set.

After that, you’ll be treated with another new feature of the packaging, a new easy to open booster wrapper. A thinner foil combined with the pre-notched crimped end of the boosters make opening Gates of Chaos a refreshingly easy experience; gone are the days of scissor-assisted pack cracking! A video demonstrating the new booster wrappers can be found on
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Looking across the cards, the new keywords of Invest and Destined provide the clans with two easy-to-grasp but fairly impactful mechanics; Invest brings versatility and Destined gives us some raw card advantage. These two mechanics also solidly reinforce the design focus seen in Coils of Madness, where a handful of new keywords provide tangible mechanical themes that run through the expansion. It has been a successful model for Magic: The Gathering and it is nice to see Legend of the Five Rings providing their own spin on it.

L5R Gates of Chaos Hida Gojiro invest card

Invest gives players the option: bring a Personality in to play for less, or provide him a “signing bonus” and get a little more power from the same card. In Gates of Chaos, we see Personalities with Invest that have one-off effects (such as gaining honor) and more permanent bonuses (gaining Force and Chi bonuses via tokens), which is encouraging as a player, as it shows us that design has lots of room to play within such a seemingly small mechanical space. The only awkward issue with Invest is in its timing. “After the Personality enters play,” means under the current game economy system of most Holdings producing even amount of Gold, these odd value Invest costs mean a fair amount of Gold will be “taxed by the Emperor,” the game’s flavor explanation for saying it is lost if unused. This minor issue should be worked out come Ivory Edition, where it has been spoiled that this taxation without representation will be removed from the game in favor of being able to split up Gold produced during the game. It will be interesting to see how the playability of these cards changes with the change in arcs.

L5R Gates of Chaos Daidoji Tobei destined card

Destined uses the three most powerful words found in a collectible card game, “draw a card.” Card advantage is a term any seasoned cardboard flopper throws around like it’s the end-all, be-all of success, and this new mechanic seems like it will help provide that at a very reasonable cost. The Personalities with this new Keyword all seem to be a Gold or two more than they would be without the ability to draw an additional Fate card, so it’s very clear that design has seen the potential power level of these Personalities and has adjusted accordingly. Where the Destined keyword really shines however is on the level of its flavor. In a game where the setting is heavily influenced by gods and kharma, giving the mechanic such a loaded keyword as Destined really drives home to the player-base that these are characters to care about. Coupled with the fact that much of the art for these cards hints at a deeper story (look how Daidoji Tobei’s armor is either that of the hugely popular Daidoji Uji, or at least a spectacular homage…), these Destined cards draw you in to the rich story of L5R without even trying.

Returning with this expansion are foil versions of cards at the Rare slot. From our sample, these chase cards replace a regular Rare just about 1 in every 6 packs. While these cards certainly aren’t for everyone, they are infrequent enough to no bug those opposed to a bit of shine on their cardboard, but frequent enough to satisfy the most diehard collector.

…And Out With The Old.
The mostly dual-bugged Gates of Chaos also brings us a few cards that will not be tournament legal come Ivory Edition. Blood of Shahai, Glassworks, Spawn of Vritra, Shard of the Great death’s Bones, The Thunder Resounds, A New Perspective, and The Tomb of Sun Tao will not be following us come this Spring. While this makes sense for Blood of Shahai, as the Celestial card type is being retired then, the other cards feel like they might have been at home in the lower powered environment of Ivory Edition. They don’t feel potent enough to see any competitive tournament play at the end of Emperor Edition, and most of them appear to be booster draft all-stars rather than solid constructed cards. Still, it’s nice to see that the crossover sets are being looked at with both tournament arcs in mind, and that behavior is key for the game to have a successful rotation come this Spring.

One of the best changes to Gates of Chaos is a move away from the perceived practice of Unique, often Experienced Personalities automatically being slotted in to the set’s Rare card slots. Gates of Chaos boasts an unprecedented 13 Unique cards at Uncommon, 12 of them being Personalities. This does two very good things for the future of the game. First it makes these iconic characters more accessible to the casual player. When a player buys only a few packs at a time, the instant gratification for nabbing these higher-end cards to supplement their decks with means they are more likely to buy in to the game more. Second, it frees us more Rare slots for non-Unique cards, which drives the secondary market. No longer will players have countless copies of a Unique Lion Clan Personality taking up wasted space in their trade binders, and players will buy more product to find the Rares they need to complete their sets and their decks. It’s an inspired marketing move that should make AEG and its customers very happy.

Final Thoughts

Coming off the success of the Coils of Madness “Direct to Retailer” box set, the Gates of Chaos expansion hits all the right notes a standard booster expansion needs to. From the packaging upgrades to the solid design focus of its individual cards, Gates of Chaos stands poised to deliver a knockout punch come Ivory Edition, while there are enough great cards to make sure it doesn’t go unwanted and unnoticed under the Emperor Edition arc. The marketing decisions tied to the return of chase foil cards at the Rare slot and the move of some Unique cards down to the Uncommon slot give promise to a more vibrant secondary market for a game that has struggled to even have the shadow of one for a long time. If the recent expansions of Emperor Edition have felt lack luster to you, Gates of Chaos provides an amazing point of entry for returning and new players alike.

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