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Subject: First try with the Ivory preview decks rss

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Randy Shipp
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Carl and I sat down last night to test-drive the new decks and Ivory Edition rules for the first time. Both of us had dabbled in the game many years ago, but had never been very experienced players, so lots of time was spent making sure we understood various rules and situations; we fully expect the game will be snappier on future plays.

Carl's Crab forces were up against my Scorpion deck for this first outing, and I quickly felt like I had the more difficult task ahead of me. The ability of the Impregnable Fortress of the Crab ("Your Crab Clan Personalities have +1F while opposed.") was an obvious boost that Carl wouldn't have to even think about, while the ability of my Shadowed Estate of the Scorpion ("All other players have –1 maximum hand size. Tireless Open: Name a Fate card, or name a Dynasty card in play. Negate the effects of the next action from a card with that title.") was going to require a little more thought to use effectively. Sadly, my brain wasn't strong this late in the evening, and I failed miserably to use this effectively, and I didn't see how my "going second" bonus of restricting Carl to a 7-card hand versus an 8-card hand was going to make the difference.

Carl pretty much immediately recruited Hida Saiyuki, 3F/2C, "Increase by 1 all Force bonuses Saiyuki receives," and Hida Iguchi, 3F/1C, Cavalry. I despaired a little at the doubling of his stronghold ability for Saiyuki, and I did a poor job keeping track of Iguchi’s Cavalry ability. My only early Personalities were a pair of Bayushi Akane, 0F/3C, "Political Home Battle, BOW: Target a Personality. His controller may dishonor him. If he did not become dishonorable (or was already dishonorable), give him –3F," and Yogo Nobukai, 3F/3C, "Open: If it is your turn or you control a Courtier, give a target Personality –2F." That Courtier synergy was nice, but it only partially made up for the huge Force of the Crab’s little army. The Akane twins were nice in that they could do stuff from home during battle, but Carl quickly realized that he was perfectly safe allowing the Courtiers to dishonor his samurai rather than accept the -3F, since he would easily defeat my defenders and rehonor them in lieu of gaining family honor. And if I didn’t send defenders, then I’m sure he would have accepted the Force loss. Lots of other stuff happened, including me missing a fairly sizeable victory in a battle by one lousy card (Carl sent a guy home twice with Incapacitated, and I couldn’t answer the second one), but in the end it was pretty much a rout.

Some issues and questions we had:
- The Basic and Advanced Rulebook documents they’ve provided on the web site are not very good for reference during play. The Basic rules, in particular, are a triumph of concept over functionality and usefulness. This sort of “example of play” rules illustration belongs in the sidebar of a rulebook, not as the actual rules.
- I wasn’t clear last night, though I believe I understand now: There is no problem recruiting more than one Personality with the same name (unless he’s Unique), right? We played this correctly, I think, but it was not a simple thing to look up in the book at the time.
- Has there been a change to the way Force contributions are counted during battle resolution? I could have sworn that if a Personality was bowed at resolution then his entire unit contributed zero Force to the army’s total. A strict reading of the rules seems to suggest that Followers that are unbowed contribute their Force regardless of their Personality’s status, which feels different than I remember. This I know we played incorrectly.
- I’m pretty sure I could have made better use of the discard ability at the end of my Dynasty phases to get at some different cards.

All in all, it was a fun, if fairly lopsided and drawn-out defeat. It took longer than I would have liked, but about 60% of that was our unfamiliarity with the rules and another 30% was the fairly significant amount of arithmetic that must be done when evaluating the capabilities of enemy units. (I’m seriously considering how to come up with a set of counters of some sort to show updated Force and Chi, the presence of special effects, etc.) And I’m looking forward to playing with some of the other decks and trying to get a better handle on the game.

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Jarek W
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Thanks for your insight. I'm going to teach L5R to some new players next weekend and since I play for a few years I lack the perspective of what can be difficult in Ivory and what to explain better.

As for your doubts:
- you can have multiple non-unique cards in play
- I've heard the ancient tales about followers not contributing force while the Personality is bowed. Straight followers do add their force regardless of Personality state

Couple of dice come in handy. My impression is that in Ivory you have to track more changes. Force bonuses apart from penalties (in case of breaking a rhythm) and tokens. In previous Emperor Edition it was simple: kill, bow and kill, send home, bow and kill.
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Todd Rowland
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Well, coming back in fresh the Scorpion deck isn't the easiest to pilot. It does require a fairly extensive knowledge of the cards available (i.e. studying the other Clan PDFs) to make the best use of it's card canceling effect. Of course that's sort of thematic, Scorpions are all about knowing the enemy's secrets.

But yes, Crab is heavy force out of the gate, no doubt. Sometimes an effective strategy is simply to let them have the early province or two, at which point you then force them to focus their attacks, and you have built a solid hand of removal/defense rather than allowing them to bleed those cards out of you across several smaller skirmishes. Forcing your opponent to overcommit when you have serious cards to deal with them is an important thing.

So yes, you can bring out more than 1 person with the same title, barring any that specifically say "Unique" on them. And it has changed now that followers do contribute to the army even if their personality is bowed. People were hesitant to use expensive followers with cool abilities because they would just be negated by bowing their personality. This allows them to see more play.
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