Jared Voshall
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Missouri
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There doesn't seem to be much discussion about the strategies of the newest remake of a much loved classic, so I'm going to go ahead and put up my initial thoughts on the strategies of the game and what sort of thought processes go into it. Full disclosure, I've not gotten to play many games yet, and I've yet to dive into the full deck creation system, but I think I've seen enough to get some idea of the play and counterplay that the game involves. So, without further ado... Here's some thoughts on the Strategies of L5R.

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Part 1: The Art of Conflict
Part 2: Put a Ring on It
Part 3: Winning the Battle
Part 4: A Call to Arms
Part 5: A Matter of Honor
Part 6: The Deck Building Game
Part 7: The Dragon Clan
Part 8: The Phoenix Clan
Part 9: The Crab Clan
Part 10: The Unicorn Clan
Part 11: The Scorpion Clan
Part 12: The Crane Clan
Part 13: The Lion Clan
Part 14: Rushing the Goal
Part 15: Like a Surgeon
Part 16: Hold the Line
Part 17: For Honor
Part 18: Dishonorable Curs

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Now that we've looked at the tactics and strategies that the game entails, it's time to take a look at how you want to support that. This is going to be a more generalized look at the process - if you want a more detailed analysis, look for the clan specific threads that I'll be posting up later. For now, though, we need to look at how you build your deck.

The first thing you need to decide is if you're going to use a Role, and if so, which role are you going to use? With the core game, you have access to a Keeper and a Seeker for each of the 5 elements, and you can only choose one for your deck. Each gives you access to a nice set of Neutral province cards - one that can keep playing itself for free when you win the matching conflict element, the other essentially letting you pick a card from your Conflict deck to add to your hand under the same condition.

The biggest difference between the two is how they affect deck building. Keepers can pull on more out-of-faction Conflict cards, making them very good for some of the more specialized strategies. They also gain fate for defending against attacks in their chosen Element, which can give them quite a lot of extra buying power over the course of the game.

Seekers, on the other hand, let you double up on your chosen element during deck building, and gain extra fate when the provinces of that element are revealed. This is a much more reliable gain for them, but you're only going to get, at most, 2 fate from it.

So far, I would say that the Keeper roles are a much more interesting set. You have a lot more extra Conflict cards that could be useful than Province cards, and there is very little overlap between Provinces of the same element.

The next thing you really need to know is what Clan you'll be playing. Right now, that will dictate your Stronghold and what clan Province you have available to choose from, and will have a significant impact on what you're going to do with your deck. However, this is a pretty big subject, so we'll save it for the specific clan threads - however, the rulebook does have a nice summary of each of the clans, so I would suggest looking there while you wait for my in depth clan analysis.

Up until now, I haven't spoken much about the Provinces that you're attacking throughout the game, other than to say they may have a nasty effect when revealed. However, choosing what provinces you bring into your deck can have an enormous impact on your defensive game.

When building your deck, you have access to 5 provinces. You must include one of each Element, and can only include one copy of any given province, no matter how many of each element your role lets you bring in. In general, you want to consider the areas that you would be most vulnerable to attack and use your provinces to shore up those weaknesses, or use them to punish your opponents and set up the other cards in your deck to do their best work.

Now that we have all that out of the way, let's get to actually building our decks. You have two decks to worry about - your Dynasty deck and your Conflict deck. The bulk of your characters will come from the Dynasty deck, and this is what's going to really define the bulk of your board strategy - if you're going to focus on a Rush strategy, a Defensive strategy, or take a more Surgical approach.

Your Conflict deck, on the other hand, is going to have the bulk of your tricks and surprises in it. You can have a few characters in here, but you have a hard limit of 10-11 throughout the entire 40-45 card deck, so it's best not to rely on them too much (though they can certainly make for a nasty surprise). This is also where the bulk of your support for an Honor/Dishonor victory is going to come into play - though those strategies don't really have a lot of support in the core game.

Generally, when focusing on a Rush strategy, you want a higher number of high cost cards to guarantee that most important first turn province break. You're not likely to have much free Fate during the Conflict phase, so you shouldn't put in too many of the high-cost Conflict cards, focusing on smaller effects to support and protect your big attackers instead.

You want a bit more diversity with a Probing strategy. You want enough low-cost characters to effectively scout out your opponent's provinces at the start of the game, then enough mid-to-high cost cards to deliver you the win mid to late game. You'll have a bit more Fate floating around, so you can afford to bring in some of the higher cost Conflict cards to help you win the day. Because you're focusing on getting exactly what you need to break the opponent's province, cards that Bow or send your opponent's characters Home are definitely very nice to have.

Finally, if you're running a defensive strategy, you want to run mid-cost characters with a couple points of fate on them. Cards that let you play out of your provinces for free, or bring additional characters into the conflict are always nice to have, and can help keep your opponent off guard long enough to assure your victory. If you can build up a large enough force to break some provinces along the way, all the better - but that's not the focus of the deck, and you don't want to sacrifice your defenses to win a conflict or two.

As always, I look forward to seeing the discussion around this topic, and tune in next time when we take a look at one of my favorite clans - the Dragon clan.
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