Aug 07

War of Honor (Legend of the Five Rings CCG Multiplayer) Review

My name is Steven, and I’ve relapsed into a dreadful addiction. You see, I used to play a collectible card game called Legend of the Five Rings (for anyone unfamiliar with Rokugan, it’s a psuedo-feudal Samurai era but with some magic. And demons and other monsters, of course.) and I got reasonably good at it but then it stopped being as popular in my area and the cards sat unused, gathering dust and my bank balance managed to creep closer towards having no student overdraft again. But then I got talking with a certain local gentleman who’s the gaming equivalent of a dealer ā€“ he’ll give you enough to get you hooked and then before you know it you’re wanting just one more booster because this one might have that rare you’ve been seeking for weeks and he mentioned he’d recently purchased the new multiplayer L5R game War of Honor (As a Brit, that offends me a little to type. And calling said gentleman a gaming dealer is all in good heart, but he is responsible for many people I know taking up many new games šŸ˜‰ ) and he was looking for people to give it a test run and see how it worked. Oh, and coincidentially the next arc, Emperor Edition, is coming up soon and the latest and next sets (Before the Dawn and Second City, as well as a Direct to Player set Forgotten Legacy) are legal for it so if anyone’s looking for a new CCG it’s an excellent time to consider L5R….

But yes, I caved and gave it a shot. For those used to L5R, War of Honor has some important differences that’re important to take note of: Honor and Dishonor victories are now very different and Military and Enlightenment victories are slightly different too. Basically you can advance a maximum of one step on each victory path per turn (so if you play four rings in one turn for Enlightenment you still only move one step closer towards Enlightenment), and some other things have changed: There are tiles which mean you can get small benefits for attacking someone or restrict who can ally with who. Three of the five tiles you have for your clan have actions on them that you can use as long as the fortress isn’t destroyed and the tiles make up a game map that means each game should end up differently (because of the aforementioned allying restrictions). Also, the Ring of Fire isn’t in War of Honor but is replaced with the Ring of Flame (which comes into play if you destroy two personalities belonging to someone else in a battle instead of the Ring of Fire having to be part of a duel).

Speaking of tiles, War of Honor has a set of Fortress and Plains tiles for all nine Great Clans of Rokugan and they all (I believe, I didn’t get a chance to look at the ones we didn’t use) help support a clan’s ‘standard’ theme: Phoenix tiles support defensive honor, Dragon supports Fate manipulation and Enlightenment, Lion supports aggressive Military, Scorpian for Dishonor, etc. So, even though the box comes with four pre-constructed decks, you can use any clan with War of Honor if you bring your own deck. From the one game we had, the decks seem relatively balanced against each other and fit their themes well. The rulebook covers everything you need and there are some extra tiles with rules on them (such as the conditions for each Ring, something I’d have found very useful when playing the Dragon deck as I could’ve used Changing Paths more effectively; Changing Paths is an action that means when you meet the conditions for putting a ring into play, you can search your discard pile and fate deck for it, add it to your hand and then play it, meaning you don’t need to have it in your hand to get a step closer to victory) that make it a little easier.

Now, there are some downsides ā€“ even though most of the cards are reprints, they aren’t legal for core play. As said before, this is mitigated somewhat by being able to use your own decks, but just annoys me a little but at least means you can keep War of Honor together even after playing with your own decks. When opening your deck, it’s important to check it against the card list ā€“ we didn’t have a Scorpian player but if we had we may not have noticed one of the Scorpian cards was packed into the Dragon deck. All the cards were still there and correct, it was just that one was put in the wrong pile at the packing stage. As much as I love the game, it does need to be said, it’s a complicated game to play. Once you get used to it and the interactions and are familiar with the cards, it’s much quicker but it still takes a while to get fairly proficient with it.

Overall, I’m very happy with War of Honor. If you can, I’d recommend getting an experienced player to help you with the rules and learning the game but it fixes a lot of the problems that existed in multiplayer before (building up huge armies, everyone ganging up on someone when they got close to winning, then the next player killing the last person to attack and so one until only one remained) and I could see it becoming very tactical with four players or a few more games under our belts. It’s the same core game with minor changes that are there to make it work as a multiplayer game (changes to victory win conditions, Ring of Flame, allying) and the decks are well balanced and could even make a good side event at larger tournaments or a fun introduction to the game (or even just a way to resolve the classic problem of an odd number of players at your casual gaming night). I really enjoyed the night, the other guys seemed to as well and it’s helped respark our love of L5R, including the idea of doing some drafts, more War of Honor and getting back into L5R at some point and I already want to build decks again for L5R. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a phone call about extending that overdraft…

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