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After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 9 November 2017

Thoughts from Yellow Meeple:- Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

Game: Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Designer: Brad Andres, Erik Dahlman, Nate French

Year: 2017

The Legend of the Five Rings is a re-boot of an old collectible card game into Fantasy Flight's living card game (LCG) model. In a living card game, you are still encouraged to buy additional content and customise your decks, but you kow exactly what you're getting inside every expansion box. Core sets, like this game just released are the starting point and should include enough for you to play a full game and they are, of course, designed to get you hooked. We have not been hooked into any licing card game franchise so far, having tried Android Netrunner and The Lord of the Rings, so is Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game one that will grab our attention and open our wallets?

Legend of the Five Rings is an asymmetric, 2-player card game. You each pick a faction and in the base set you'll receive two pre-made decks - a dynasty deck and a conflict deck. Your dynasty deck contains people and holdings who you use to start conflicts or defend from conflicts, whilst your conflict deck contains a mixture of items, events and weaker people who you can pull out as a surpise to use during conflicts. Each player has four provinces and a stronghold and your goal is to be the first player to break 3 out of 4 of the other players provices and break their stronghold.

The rules and trun sequence are a little complex at first, but there are a few main concepts and mechanics that make it work and after that it's up to you to identify combos, select the right moments to attack and defend and push your luck and predict your opponent to ensure you have enough power to overcome their defences.

Each turn you draw one card per province from your dynasty deck. You then gain an income of fate tokens which you use to pay to put forward different characters and then pay again to give them a number of life points - the number of rounds they will stay active for. Your first big decision is to judge the right number of characters, how long they should live and how many fate tokens you should hold back. The tokens you hold back will be useful in allowing you to play cards from your conflict deck during the conflict phase - some cards are free, but the biggest and best ones can cost 1 or more fate tokens. You add to your hand of conflict cards each round in a small bidding phase where you bid on the honor dial. It's important to keep a watchful eye on both yours and your opponent's honour becuase you lose if you have zero honor and win if you have 25. This hasn't happened to us so far, but honour has been an inportant factor in decisions made in two of our four games.

The game setup. My favourite component have to be the honour dials, which are just so very pretty!
There can be up to four conflicts each round - one military and one political conflict initiated by each player. Most decks have a bias towards wither miltary or political prowess, although some seem to have a bit of both. A military attack needs to be defeded by a military defence so it's important to pick the right characters in each conflict. Each attack is aimed at a specific stronghold and it's your choice whether to use characters to attack or defend. This reminds me of the few games we've played of Magi the Gathering - once a character has defneded it can no longer be used for attacking that turn and vice versa.

By the later turns of the game you are both pulling off some amazing combos, using your characters to boost each other and thinking of clever ways to interrupt attacks or send the other players characters home using cards from your conflict deck. I've seen this conflict phase compared to Munchkin, which for most gamers has a negative connotation, but for me, you have enough control in the game to decide when is the right time to attack or to save your cards for something else you have planned. Sometimes in a two-player game it's all or nothing and that's the way I've both won and lost some of our play throughs. Unfortunately, in our more recent plays, I've started to notice how the combat phase can start to feel like accountacy. I wonder if a dial to keep track of your current strength might be helpful addition to the game.

I'm really impressed by many of the mechanics in the game and the variety in the base box. For me it's not a concern that I can't make a tournament legal deck, but the base box allows me to play, and try to master many of the different factions - all of which you can make a starter deck with from that box. We've tried four different factions and they all play very differently, but we have observed that with the starter box some factions do seem to have advantages over others.

A selection of provinces, four of which will be selected as your standard provinces and one will be your end game province which will also have a holding to boost its defence and give you an ongoing special ability.
I'm in two minds about whether we'll continue to play Legend of the Five Rings. It's definitely the best LCG we've played to date and I do look forward to playing it. However, by around half way through the game, the player who is losing tends to start to get quite frustrated, especially if that losing player is me... In my opinion Legend of the Five Rings is quite an accessible LCG but at the same time it has a lot of mechanics to sink your teeth into. The beautiful artwork and vaiability in the base set definitely mean that I'd give it a reccommendation to players who want to dive into this style of game. With many, many new expansions already announced, I don't think I'll be expanding much further, but nows the time to jump on board for another LCG ride, if the game sounds interesting to you!

For the Yellow Meeple, Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game is a 6.5/10.

Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is be available for an RRP of £36.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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