A Perfect Turn
We have now seen an almost full set of the Crane Dynasty and Conflict cards. The reality, however, is we still have no real idea how to play this game. I don’t mean the rules, we might be missing a small detail here or there, but we have a decent idea of the rules. I mean actually making decisions during the game, what cards to recruit, how much Fate to spend, where to assign, etc.
To delve into this a little, I’m going to use the Crane card pool for a thought experiment. This can be seen as a follow-on from my first article, The Tides of Fate. What is the perfect turn 1 for a Crane deck? The start of turn one is stable across all games, the Crane player will always start with no characters in play, 7 Fate to spend, and 4 provinces. The difference is in the cards drawn from both decks and the decisions made. In addition to the Dynasty deck, we’re also going to look at the first 4 cards of the Conflict deck. This reflects the cards you would draw at the start of the game rather than the cards you would have after the draw phase. This should give an idea of what cards to mulligan for.
The Clan Champion start
Make Doji Hotaru for 5 with no Fate on her. Make Daidoji Nerishma for 2 with no Fate on him. Discard the second Doji Hotaru to gain a Fate on her. Discard the second Nerishma to gain a Fate on him. Use Daidjoi Nerishma to reveal another Doji Hotaru. Discard the third Doji Hotaru to gain a second Fate on her.
This is the most unlikely and ridiculous of starts. It maximises the generation of free fate from discarding uniques to effectively be a 10 Fate turn. Turn one Nerishma can threaten a Military conflict while Hotaru threatens a Political conflict. You could simplify this into a far more likely first turn Doji Hotaru with 2 Fate invested and cycle to get the free fate from duplicates of her.
As this opening leaves us without any fate our conflict hand will want to be all free cards. Way of the Crane and Voice of Honor seem like strong choices from the Crane pool of cards. Honouring Hotaru brings her from 3/6 to 6/9 and Voice of Honor can be used to prevent your opponents options. The lack of Fate really does limit options in the Conflict deck.
Turn 1: 6 Military and 9 Political
Turn 2: 6 Military and 9 Political
Turn 3: 6 Military and 9 Political
Strengths — Hotaru can most likely win a Political conflict on the attack herself breaking a province.
Weaknesses — Only one attack and no defenders. Either way, big characters are vulnerable to control strategies. A well timed I Can Swim or Noble Sacrifice could discard Hotaru before she ever makes an impact on the table. Sending home or bowing effects such as Doji Gift Giver are extra effective when they target big characters such as Hotaru. Larger characters mean fewer characters, making it hard to split skill across the 4 potential conflicts. Where we have only one character, without having a way to unbow them only one of their two skills (Military of Political) will be relevant).
Maximum skill turn one
With seven Fate to spend, what can we get out of a turn one rush? We want a decent spread of Military and Political. The Doji Whisperer is hands down the most efficient Fate to Skill generation at 1 Fate for 3 Skill. The Asahina Artisan’s ability is comparable and useful, but the bowing requirement doesn’t seem as useful this early. In the earlier example, our perfect turn included a Way of the Crane in hand, assuming we go for the same here the Savvy Politician may actually be better as the one honouring effect is turned into two and the Savvy Politician has slightly better Military stats. In this instance we will go for a second Doji Whisperer as this will free up a point of Fate for the conflict hand.
On the Military side, the Brash Samurai contends with Daidoji Nerishma for Fate to Military skill efficiency. Nerishma’s 3 skill is better than the Brash Samurai’s 2, however, the easy ability to honour the Brash Samurai could consider it a 4 Military skill character instead. As the Brash Samurai need to be solo, the optimal output is two Brash Samurai, one to attack and one to defend.
With 1 Fate, options are opened up slightly. The previously mentioned 0 Fate cost cards are still good, but we can now aim to win a fire ring to dishonour an opposing character and use Noble Sacrifice at the end of turn to remove a Brash Samurai who was leaving anyway to discard the dishonoured character who hopefully is full of Fate.
Turn 1: 11 Military and 13 Political
Turn 2: 0 Military and 0 Political
Turn 3: 0 Military and 0 Political
Strengths — We have lots of characters giving the flexibility to attack and defend multiple provinces. There is also a decent split of Political and Military skill and some control with Noble Sacrifice.
Weaknesses- The big drawback here is that everything is gone at the end of turn one. As characters are cheap, costing 1 or 2 Fate only, they are vulnerable to control cards such as Assassination which can only target Characters of 2 or less Fate. Hopefully, Voice of Honor will mitigate this somewhat. With no Fate on characters, they are vulnerable to the Ring of Water. If your opponent has the initiative and attacks for Ring of Water you must either win the conflict on the defence or accept that one of your characters are going to bow.
Optimal turn 1 and 2 play
For the following examples, I will be pushing out extra characters rather than keeping the fate in hand for conflict cards. I’m doing this because getting an extra Character on the board during the first turn will help the first turn board more than it would the second turn where characters are getting carried over anyway. There are hands where the impact of one Conflict card will make holding onto a Fate more effective than making an extra character, but for purposes of this turn, we will keep it simple. As such conflict cards will need to be free.
The Fine Katana’s are of extra benefit on characters which will stick around more than a single turn. In cases where we only recruit one character both of the Fine Katanas will be played on that single character. This hand adds an extra 6 Military skill and two Political skill.
Here the goal is to have the best board possible as of turn 2. Whichever characters are made on this first turn need to still be in play turn 2, so each character needs to have 1 extra Fate. One option is to just bank everything and wait till the next turn, but in reality, this would be disastrous. Instead, there needs to be a balance between a good board on turn 1 and a future investment for turn 2. With 7 Fate there are a couple of options open.
One Fate added to a single character costing 3 or 4. The remaining 3 to 4 are spent on 1 cost or 2 cost characters with a possible 1 Fate left for conflict cards. The remaining dynasty slot is a holding or an extra copy of a unique. Here we make Kakita Kaezin with 1 Fate and Brash Samurai and Doji Whisperer with no additional Fate on them.
Turn 1: 13 Military and 10 Political
Turn 2: 9 Military and 4 Political
Turn 3: 0 Military and 0 Political
One Fate added to two characters costing 2 to 3. There may be a remaining 1 to be spent on a conflict card or 1 cost Character. As before remaining dynasty slot for a holding or unique. Here we make Savvy Politician and Brash Samurai both with 1 Fate on them, we also make Doji Whisperer with no Fate.
Turn 1: 11 Military and 10 Political
Turn 2: 10 Military and 6 Political
Turn 3: 0 Military and 0 Political
Strengths — This is similar to the previous case but also extends a little into turn two.
Weaknesses — Again issues are similar to the previous case. Characters are vulnerable to effects targeting 2 or fewer cost characters and we also have big targets, such as a potential honoured Brash Samurai with two Fine Katana.
Optimal turn 1, 2, and 3 play
Here things are getting tricky. We are looking to sacrifice options on turn 1 to benefit turns 2 and 3. When making a character, we will need to add 2 extra Fate onto them. With the limitation of 7 Fate for the first turn, we can keep one Character till turn 3 investing 2 Fate on them or we can keep two Characters till turn 2 investing a chunky 4 Fate. Assuming a similar conflict hand to the previous 0 Fate examples, we have the possible options.
A single 3 to 4 cost character with 2 Fate, the remaining is spent on 1 to 2 cost characters. Here we make KAkita Kaezin with 2 Fate and Asahina Artisan and Doji Whisperer each with no Fate.
Turn 1: 9 Military and 10 Political
Turn 2: 9 Military and 4 Political
Turn 3: 9 Military and 4 Political
A 2 cost character and a 1 cost character both produced with 2 Fate. Here we make Brash Samurai and Doji Whisperer both with 2 Fate.
Turn 1: 9 Military and 7 Political
Turn 2: 9 Military and 7 Political
Turn 3: 9 Military and 7 Political
Strengths — We still have two characters giving some options to attack and defend and we also have a reasonable Military and Political skill.
Weaknesses- With only two characters on turn one we can only participate in two conflicts. With so many attachments and fate on characters each one is a considerable investment and as they both are quite cheap they are vulnerable to discarding effects.
Are any of these the perfect turn? I don’t think so. It is hard to say without seeing what our opponent has. In a perfect world where our opponent makes no characters, being able to destroy two provinces on turn one is the perfect turn. Even then, our next time might be rough as our opponent has additional Fate to invest. Once our opponent starts to make characters it becomes a balancing act to make sure we are able to get more out of the turn than they are. After that, it becomes a task in resource management. Where can I invest resources for future turns without damaging my chances this turn? The priority is the immediate turn with consideration of the future where possible.
It is also important to acknowledge the importance of the conflict cards in these scenarios. The free skill coming from Way of the Crane and Fine Katana not only provide an early boost but stick around from turn to turn. That these cards can be played when needed allows us a measure of flexibility. If we keep 1 Fate free and you find we need it after all, we can play a 1 cost Noble Sacrifice (for example) and get the effect needed this turn. If we don’t need the support, we can keep that 1 Fate for a later turn. On the other side, control cards which discard or bow characters can have a big influence on how we play the game. If have already seen some cards and effects that specifically target 2 cost or less characters or characters without any Fate on them, the prevalence and quality of these cards will influence our choices once the full card pool is released.
In some respects, it may be better to look at L5R as a ‘4-dimensional game’. At the absolute minimum, there will be 2 turns in the game, we expect typical games to be 4–5 turns in total. My first instinct had been to look at the initial turn as a build opportunity, something to set me up for future turns. In doing this, however, I underestimated the importance of winning conflicts on turn 1. You can be 50% of the way towards victory on turn one and this is also true for your opponent if you leave them the opening. If we consider a game of 4 turns, there will be 28 Fate on the table spread across those turns, with a few more for passing early from rings. We will have a total of 4 Military attacks and 4 Political attacks. Treating turn one purely as a development turn wastes a Military and Political attack straight away. We can choose to pay Fate forward but not backwards and we need to balance that Fate to make sure we maximise our chances of victory across all turns, not just the first or last.
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