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Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Economic-based Speculation on Game Flow rss

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Eugenio -
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Not having played the game, this is purely speculation on my part - reasoned speculation based on what we know so far, but speculation nonetheless. Read at your own peril!

I guess with the recent drought of information, it might be a good time to have some fun trying to figure out something more about the Clans.

I think the most significant decisions in the game will revolve around: 1) The Rings 2) The amount of characters played 3) The fate placed on those characters 4) The importance of the Conflict cards for your deck 5) The Path to Victory you choose to take.

The Rings

Air: This will be the ring you're after when you'll want to close the game (for certain decks more than others, presumably). Since it is inefficient when compared to other effects (see below), it will be a good choice only when you can afford to forgo a more signifcant benefit.

Earth: This to me looks like the strongest ring; contrary to the other ones, its ability will be very useful in every situation. It's often going to be immediately useful by allowing you to draw an impactful card while also discarding another from your opponent's hand, but it could also be very strong in the long run by providing you with more pieces for combos/synergies and reducing your opponent's options at the same time. Note that, if we rate a card at 2 honor, the effect is worth an astounding 4 honor.

Fire: Another ring that's very strong. The benefit it gives will be akin to that of a cheap conflict card (+1/+2) but it will stick for as long as the character does, improving your board position for the next rounds as well. In addition to this, it will give you 1 honor in a future round. It also synergises with cards targeting honored/dishonored characters.

Water: The bowing condition is rather situational, so the main point here is the readying effect. The effect is as strong as the strongest character you have in play; however, due to the conflict limitations, its best use will be on a character that's strong both in political and military conflicts (or one with a very powerful ability activated by bowing). Potentially very strong, but requires a specific board position to shine.

Void: It's an investment for future rounds, netting you no immediate gain, except if you're trying to pull out a combo with the Water ring. Even then, it's good only if your opponent has a really powerful character in play that you have trouble dealing with. Very situational.

The Characters

The core dynamic governing playing characters will probably be trying to achieve the right balance between short-term gain and long-term board position. Every additional fate you elect to place on a character strengthens your position for the future round(s), but at the same time limits your options for the current round – which, in turn, could easily lead to losses compromising the very advanatage you were trying to achieve.
In theory, due to how the fate system works, more expensive characters tend to be a much better long-term choice, in that a single additional fate placed on them is worth their whole cost for that round.
However, in practice, it seems to me that 1-cost characters (which are the ones theorethically you wouldn't have much of a reason to bolster with extra fate) tend to be more cost-efficient, meaning that they'll still be a decent option.
From what we have seen so far, the formula to determine "standard" stats for higher cost characters (2-3 and above) with a good ability seems to be: Mil + Pol = 2 * Cost – 1.
Now, take for example the Doji Whisperer (1 cost, 0/3): it provides a hefty boost to your political strength, way beyond its price. It doesn't have any ability of course, which has to account for something, but she undoubtedly is a very helpful political workhorse. This means that you can easily afford to place extra fate on such a low-cost character without sacrificing too much of your board presence for the current round.
There are however two critical aspects left out of that picture. The first is the presence of strong removal/bowing effects that can target only characters with a printed cost of 2 or lower (for example, Assassination). The second one, is the card cost: playing a 1-cost fate character costs you one of the spots on your four provinces for the round, the same as more expensive characters.
The former means that investing more than 1-2 additional fate into a low cost character is probably too risky of a gambit; the latter means that, if you fill your deck with 1-cost (or generically cheap) characters, you won't have any options at all to spend your fate: you'll just play everything that pops up for the round, regardless of its usefulness in the current context – not to mention that if you were able to afford an expensive character, that would make for a better option to invest extra fate on. The conlcusion is that one cannot rely on low-costers alone, despite their efficiency.
In addition to the above, there is another type of cards in your Dynasty deck that competes for province slots, i.e. the Holdings.
In fact, holdings allow you to give up province slots in exchange for a benefit, meaning that a deck that chooses to focus on spending their fate on fewer dynasty cards can benefit from an increased efficiency. Thus, cards with a higher cost (3+) not only benefit from being more difficult for your opponent to remove and a better long-term investment (even a single additional fate on a very powerful character can be game breaking, if you can afford it), but also allow you to play with more holdings in your deck.
But this is not all, as there's still one piece missing.

The Conflict Cards

Given the general lack of tools to permanently increase your production, Fate is a scarce, precious*, commodity. Investing it into characters from the dynasty deck means being left with very little for the conflict phase, which in turn means shutting oneself from the powerful effects that can be found on expensive conflict cards. Thus, a deck that focuses heavily on costly conflict cards will be unlikely to make use of all the province slots every round, potentially freeing up room for holdings.

*But a single conflict card is arguably more valuable than a single fate.

The Paths to Victory

From what we know so far, the main path seems to be the "Conflict victory" (i.e. breaking four provinces). This is due to the fact that winning conflicts is inherently rewarded by being able to claim a Ring's benefit, whereas – mechanically speaking - you will not experience any such benefit for being close to a Honor victory or for you opponent to be close to a Dishonor loss.
There are two main objections to this: 1) there might be more cards like the Steadfast Samurai (1 cost, 1/1, cannot be discarded during the Fate Phase if you have 5 or more honor than your opponent) and 2) despite no "mechanical" advantage, being close to a win/loss threshold forces your opponent's hand (for example, being close to 0 honor forces your opponent to be very cautious when bidding for cards/duels).
While I think both have to be kept in mind, right now it seems to me working towards a honor/dishonor win might lead to a significant tempo loss while you wait to get close to the 25/0 honor mark, whereas for Conflict wins it's the opposite, since you benefit from a "positive feedback" dynamic.

Game Lenght

The game was stated by the designers to last between 3 and 7 rounds. Expected game length will be a fundamental thing to consider in decision making, both when choosing how much fate to place on a character and which ring abilities to trigger.
For example, the Air ring might be generally subpar, but if you're close to the end of a lenghty game in which many honored characters left play and both players played very defensively, it might very well be invaluable in making sure you hit the 25 honor threshold before your opponent does.
In general, I think most Clans will be able to convincingly attempt to break a Province with a single type of conflict from round 2-3 onwards, thus meaning most games will revolve around trying to thwart your opponent's plans to sneak in an additional win in one round (or a honor win at the very last moment).

Final Note: Another article coming soon, in which I'll attempt to extend the speculation to each Clan's playstyle, basing the analysis upon the above criteria.
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