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Anatomy of Failure: L5R
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FrankTrollman
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Joined: 07 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lokey wrote:
In short, it was keyword apocalypse and was pretty much the game was decided in the first battle, the player with one more appropriate kill x ability won the game.


I have heard legends of the keyword apocalypse, but the "single decisive battle" was a thing that happened even in Imperial.

The basics of battle was that every Personality, equipment, or group of followers contributed "Force" to their side in a battle and that force was reduced to zero if they got bowed, kicked out, or destroyed by battle actions taken by either side. And then, barring a few effects like ranged attacks or Crab Berserkers, the side with the larger Force kept all their cards and the side with the lower force lost all their cards. And the real kicker is that the winning side then gained 2 honor for each card.

So not only was being on the losing side of a major battle something that could set you back like 8 turns or more of production and empty your fate hand, but the winning side probably gained enough honor that when their turn next came around they'd win the game on the spot. Hybrid strategies were almost universally build-up strategies, trying to bait or force their opponent into a final showdown that would make them win on the spot.

There were always battle actions that could cause really big swings in battle force. Just the bullshit advantageous terrain that was rarely used gave your side +1F per dude. And there were all kinds of cards like Iajitsu Duel and Test of Might and Blocked Supply Lines and shit that could be used to outright remove one of your opponent's entire units. So big fights were always risky as fuck if your opponent had a reasonably full hand.

There were matchups like Lion where the attacking started before you got your second turn and individual battles didn't completely dominate the game. And there were matchups like Unicorn where they would attack you in a place your units weren't and you could crack back with more force than they cared to engage and you'd both lose a few provinces before getting down to business. But in many games, and every multiplayer game, the first really big battle was probably also the end of the game one way or another.

-Frank
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K
King


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Shadowlands deck!
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

K wrote:
Shadowlands deck!


The overarching storyline became increasingly obsessed with a war between the Empire and the Shadowlands. The Shadowlands in turn became increasingly "evil" while the Empire became increasingly "good" as things just generally got less complicated and more childishly black and white as things dragged on. You'd think this would be the opposite of the way things would go, but actually the authors got more and more invested in the factions represented by their self-insert characters.

Anyway, this all fit very poorly with the card game, which was of course the chronicles of different factions squabbling for control of the empire. No one represents the empire, no one represents the shadowlands. Imperial and shadowlands dudes are just cards that can go in any deck. And rather than accept that and keep writing intrigue, the authors attempted increasingly hamfisted attempts to get players to agree to play the bad guys so that they could finally get the errections they wanted by having a big clash between good and evil.

So the initial concept was that Crab was the least honorable faction and they were going to go evil. The problem of course is that in the game, putting demons and undead into play costs honor. You need to have honor in order to spend it on villainous mercenaries. Crab can make good use of the low and zero honor shadowlands units like Ratlings, Goblins, and the less human-sacrifice oriented oni, but they can't fucking afford to go in for the towering avatars of filth. Crab used Shadowlands creatures, but every attempt to get them to play the unambiguously evil cards also made their deck shit, so they kept refusing. So that was a giant bust.

The second attempt was the Scorpion Clan. They straight up did not lose the game when they ran into negative honor and could hire whatever soul eating edgelords they wanted. Except that of course if you can't win by honor you have no viable path to victory. So that was a giant bust too.

The third attempt was Yogo Junzo's Army. They fucking didn't even have an honor score and just stayed at -19 the whole game and couldn't do political actions anyway. They could buy whatever demons and zombies at whatever fucking discounts because honor wasn't even a thing for them. But they still went second and only had a province strength of 5, so they ended up getting routinely aggro rushed by fucking Crane decks and it was super embarrassing. They could only win a military victory and just weren't good enough on the ground or fast enough for that to be remotely viable.

But that did not stop them from continuing to make cards for the archetype and trying to get people to play it in tournaments so they could get their big good vs evil showdown.

Now anyone who thinks about this issue for a few minutes will note that Lion, Crab, and Unicorn are plenty good at winning military victories and also have the option to switch gears and simply honor race after winning a big battle or crippling their opponent's economy. Which means that for a deck to be a reasonable tournament choice when it can only win a pure military victory it must necessarily be considerably better at winning military victories than those other clans. And then... hoo-boy. The Shadowlands Horde wasn't playable unless it was broken, so for them to write up enough hard hitting cards for it to place anywhere in a tournament it would necessarily be true that they had printed enough toys that it would be the favorite to wun. In Alderac actually got the big good versus evil fight they were looking for, evil was going to win.

Now I'm told that this is pretty much exactly what happened. They printed up some broken toys for Shadowlands and some enterprisingly Shadowlands player rode it to the finals easily. The story goes that they ended up bribing him to throw the finals to get the ending they wanted. Part of the deal was that they'd do up the Thousand Years Of Darkness set as an "alternate universe set" or some fucking thing.

Which is to say that the entire thing about having the storyline meaningfully directed by tournament results is and was always bullshit.

-Frank
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Lokey
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Shadowlands were always fun to play around with, but it was almost a decade before they were tournament viable. (I think it was some goblin/mujina/maybe ratling weenie horde deck that finally took GenCon). Too slow, too unfocused, specific cards too narrowly focused. Also the matter of lots of cards and game rules that were maybe meant for them turned out to be better in the squeaky clean rush attack/honor decks anyway.

I wasn't there at the beginning, so it's hard to say where card-type creep ruined which aspects of the game. There were always send home/end battle actions, but they weren't as important until you could practically have a fate deck of just that and your dynasty reliably held 40 honor on turn 5 or 6 while providing some static defense and presence for your denial actions.

ETA: the amount of kill actions got truly stupid a few years back, it went further than just bowing to blow up each other's armies.

I've written before about letting the game come down to one big battle kills the fun in a lot of ways; it took us a little while to figure out how the game could be fun too (same is true for lots of other games) Smile


Last edited by Lokey on Sun Jan 22, 2017 6:07 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Lokey
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I guess I can hit on the honor point Frank made.

Tournament 1v1 attack tends to be the best strat (especially when events can claim like 2 provinces)...RoboCrane in Jade excepted because nothing could stop that regularly. Something that can realistically contest the favor was a better bet than something that couldn't because you were talking 4 turns to prevent a win.

Even if you're talking Emerald - Jade...honor wasn't reliable enough until then, it couldn't quite compete (maybe taking 1 game in 3 vs attack decks that had the full crazy available). But local environment is also everything too.
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rasmuswagner
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Around Pearl edition, "Shadowlands cards" mostly meant Corrupt Iron Mines and Corrupt Silver Mines. EVIL silver mines that cost zero gold and produce 2 gold, 3 for the right clan. Oh, and a small honor loss. Because they're EVIL mines.

Actual zombie samurai and demons and shit? Go fuck yourself, we use eeeevil money to buy real characters.
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fectin
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lokey wrote:
Robo-Crane in Jade excepted because nothing could stop that regularly.

At the end of Jade, RoboCrane wasn't even a real contender. Depending on your local meta, you had a rack-paper-scissors between Robo-Spirit, Fox, and Shadowlands (any big force deck, really).

Spirit was like a fast version of Crane.

Couple things to notice about this stronghold:
First, six provinces is a lot. It gives you immense card advantage. Everyone else gets four (or fewer in one case). There are almost zero ways to even gain more provinces (one event that I know of, and one region that sort-of does). You normally expect to cycle all provinces every turn (either playing them or discarding them to get something playable), so this is a huge boost. It's very easy to destroy those provinces (win a battle there at all), but you have to do that twice to even get them down to where everyone else starts.
Second, to go with that immense card advantage, you get some additional card advantage. Instead of drawing a card to refill your hand, you draw two and keep one.
Third, to go with everything else, Spirit had good gold production. Most strongholds had either 3 or 4 production, and that actually made a bg difference to how quickly you could ramp up an economy. There are a lot of holdings that you want which cost four, and L5R's bland cookie-cutter personalities then looked like 2/2 for four gold, etc. It doesn't make a huge difference, but it's one fewer constraint.
Fourth, six is decent starting honor. Spirit has a very high likelihood of going first.
Between all these, spirit ran like a turbocharged RoboCrane. If I recall correctly, Crane usually won on turn 4-5, Spirit usually won on turn 4. Against RoboCrane, you probably wanted to play lion or unicorn, cut well enough to go first, get a good draw, and take a province right after their first turn. That's... not reliable, and means you're jumping right into turning out personalities instead of building economy. IF you pulled it off, you might have a tight game afterwards. Against Spirit, you were less reliably going first, but more reliably able to take the province (still iffy). If you did, you then were facing a deck only slightly faster than an unmolested RoboCrane. That's really not a great matchup.


Except it actually is a great matchup for Fox!
Fox were a weird, quasi-one-off clan. Storyline-wise, there were a bunch of tiny clans, and the largest tiny clan was the Mantis. The leader of the Mantis (Yoritomo) pulled a bunch of other tiny clans into an alliance (Yoritomo's Alliance). So in the CCG, the "Mantis" trait on a card implied the "Yoritomo's Alliance" trait, and vice versa (a few cards interacted with this, like the hilarious "Doom of the Alliance," which made them stop implying each-other. Screw you, Mantis!). Eventually, the Fox clan champion got tired of Yoritomo hitting on her all the time (yes, really) and broke away to form her own alliance. Presumably with hookers and blackjack. Eventually, Mantis absorbed all the other clans in the alliance, and the faction got a lot blander. I think Fox went crawling back at that point, but in between, they were awesome because they could beat Spirit!

So, you're playing Yoritomo's Alliance with some weird rules. Cool. There's basically only one thing to notice here: "Fox Personalities cost two less gold for you." That is also crazy town. Remember how Frank made a big deal about Toku earlier, because he cost zero? And remember how I said earlier that the cookie-cutter personality costs four gold? Here's another key fact: You can also choose to pay two less gold for anyone from your clan. So, that gives the Fox a small pool of dudes who enter play for free. I count two, but neither is unique, so out of a thirty card deck, you could have six dudes who hit the table for free. Your dudes have a mild theme of improving followers, so you give them even tinier people, and they go stomp around. They have a hard time taking normal provinces, but they can seriously just tear through Spirit's tissue-paper defenses.


The third leg of this rock-paper-scissors is roughly "anything else." I usually saw that as Shadowlands. It was too slow to catch Spirit, but it built ungodly amounts of force and just ran over everyone else.
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Lokey
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Have to remember Spirit Wars was the end of Jade/Gold (bleh), I was talking environment years before that Smile 30/30 was still played, sure, but full open? You had a lot of degenerate strategies to throw there (we played 40/40 mostly 3+ player games and didn't limit stuff except avoid the ridiculous cheese).

Assume you run Spirit with Shinsei Shrines and the event hoser Sensei (Kisada...events plug province for a turn if they resolve)? Granted open there's such a pile of send home/destroy by that point you could just run a fate deck of that as long as dynasty can reliably spit out the honor--which was pretty robo-Cranish...events did some heavy lifting there though.

Fox also had DiaperBoy at 2 gold for a 3/5 shugenja or a 3/4 samura too, but didn't seem overwhelming to us (then neither did Spirit). The Wasp focused Stronghold down the line seemed more reliable to us because it could survive the Phoenix token armies when not much else could (around the time I couldn't reliably find games and gave up on rings).


Last edited by Lokey on Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:26 am; edited 2 times in total
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fectin
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Agreed on all points. Jade was just more fun than anything after it.

The other big thing Fox did was take the Ratling sensei. I forget whether that made them all "Fox" personalities, or just generically part of your clan. Either way, it gave you a whole 'nother pool of cheap personalities.

I didn't want to explain Senseis though, especially when F.O.R.D. is just "the same thing, but much more so."

I miss that game.
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Last edited by fectin on Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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