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Old vs. New: The Changes To ‘Legend of the Five Rings’

Old vs. New: The Changes To ‘Legend of the Five Rings’

Game the Game is Geek & Sundry’s tabletop board game show that airs every Wednesday starting at 4PM PT on Twitch and Alpha. Join host Becca Scott as she breaks out some of the best board games the industry has to offer, with new guests each week! This week, she’s playing “Legend of the Five Rings LCG.” Be sure to check out her How to Play video before tuning in.

Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) has been a long time staple in the card playing community, having been around since 1995. The game centers around a fictional land called Rokugan, which feels very much like feudal Japan. There are seven Great Clans at war with each other. Every clan has their own flavor: Scorpion are the sneaky underhand of the Emperor while the Lion are the military might.

The game universe has evolved over time. Players could affect the overall storyline of the game by winning tournaments and earn their name on a card if their actions influenced its creation. It was not uncommon to see players dressed in kimonos matching their clan’s colors. The story drove the card game, which in turn drove the story and altered future supplements of the roleplaying game.

When the news broke that Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), the original publisher of L5R sold the property to Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) in 2015, a lot of fans waited with baited breath. How different would the new Living Card game (LCG) be from the old Collectible Card Game (CCG)?

For new players, this is a great time to get into the game if you were hesitant due to the amount you’d need to spend to catch up. The rules are well laid out and there is a tutorial in the box set. For longtime players who are nervous about getting back into the game, here are some of the updates the game received.

Two decks


This was one of the main worries with the update: would FFG keep the two deck system? This was always an integral part of the game, and it was kept in the new game. The only change that was made was the name change of the Fate deck to Conflict deck.

Provinces and Strongholds

FFG kept the four province layout, but added a new mechanic to play: each of your provinces holds a province card that tells its strength instead of that being determined by your stronghold. Your stronghold also has a province card because it to must be broken for your opponent to win the game.

Dynasty Phase

The buying of your personalities has been moved to the beginning of the round. This is because personalities without fate on them are discarded at the end of the round. You now need to decide if you want to spend your all fate on a big guy that will go away at the end of the round or buy a couple of smaller guys, drop a point or two of fate on them, and keep them around for a few more rounds.

Turns vs. Rounds


In most card games, each player takes a full turn before play moves on to the other player. In the new version, the game is broken into rounds where both players take actions. The first player plays a character from their provinces, triggers card abilities, or passes. Then the other player does the same.  This leads to a lot of social deduction. Do you pass early to gain the extra fate point or do you snag another personality to ward off an attack?

Gold vs. Fate

Gold has been replaced with fate, so you no longer have to balance gold producing holdings with personalities in your Dynasty deck. So long Copper Mine! Your Stronghold determines how much fate you acquire at the beginning of the round. While it is limiting, there are a couple of ways to gain a bit more: passing first on buying personalities and using an elemental conflict that hasn’t been played in awhile.


The draw phase is where you secretly choose how many cards you want to draw on your honor dial. After revealing, the player with the higher honor dial gives the lower player the difference between their dials. Then you draw the number of cards you chose.

The attacker chooses what elemental type their conflict will be and what type (Military or Political). They then pick where they will be attacking. Defending player declares defenders and both play cards out of their hands to influence the conflict.  If the attacker wins, they get to resolve if they broke the province and gain the element’s effects. Then it’s the other player’s turn to attack.

Losing vs Breaking Provinces

The worst part of losing provinces was the loss of the possible card that went with it.  In the previous version of the game, it tipped the scale in the favor of the player that scored the first major victory. FFG corrected that power imbalance by turning the province card 180 degrees but allowing dynasty cards to continue to be laid there. If a face-up card is still on a broken province, it is discarded at the end of the round.

While the rules have changed to accommodate new ways to play like political combat, the game still feels like the Rokugan we’ve come to know and love. FFG is keeping the tradition of tournaments driving future storyline events and posting new fiction on their site if you want to dive headfirst into the world of L5R.

Interested in learning how to play? Join host Becca Scott every Wednesday as she breaks out some of the best board games the industry has to offer, with new guests each week! This week, she’s playing “Legend of the Five Rings LCG” starting at 4 PM PT – catch the show live every Wednesday on Twitch and Alpha


Image Credit: Dawn Dalton

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