Posted by: markfender | January 14, 2014

L5R vs. Star Wars LCG

Last week on the podcast, Dale mentioned that the edge battles of the Star Wars LCG (by Fantasy Flight Games) reminded him of the duels from the Legend of the Five Rings CCG (by Alderac Entertainment Group). I thought I would unpack that a bit more, since there are a lot of similarities between the two (and not just the Star Wars -> Hidden Fortress comparisons).

Star-Wars-Japanese-EditionAt its simplest, L5R is the card game War, but with a heap ton more rules. A player in L5R has four provinces that are being warred over. Each turn, these provinces are populated with locations or characters that can be put into play as they are drawn from one of the two decks. The Star Wars LCG also has two decks in play, an objective deck and a command deck. The two L5R decks are larger, 40 cards each, whereas the Star Wars decks are more dissimilar – 10 objective cards and 50 command cards. However, the objective deck works similarly to the Dynasty deck in L5R. In both games, the player replaces the cards removed from play with new cards from that deck until the limit is reached (4 in L5R, 3 in Star Wars). In Star Wars’ case, these objectives provide resources to play cards from the command deck. In L5Rs’, the dynasty cards are income-providing cards or characters. Regardless of the minor differences,these are the primary battlegrounds of both games.

When engaging in a battle in L5R, there are a couple common ways to eliminate the strength of opposing units – direct damage, kneeling cards, or sending cards ‘home’ (out of the conflict). This occurs in an alternating manner – the defending player uses one of their cards in the conflict to do one of those common abilities (depending on the card chosen and any special rules on that card), followed by the attacker. This continues until every character has been activated and a final winner is determined. In the Star Wars LCG, this same idea applies. Each character has a variation on three different types of attacks – direct unit damage, focusing an opposing unit (meaning it cannot activate), or doing direct damage to the objective being attacked. This occurs in a similar structure to L5R – one player uses one of their units to do their attacks (in whatever form they come in), followed by the other player, until every character has activated. There is not a final strength comparison in Star Wars, as units have direct objective damage in that game, but the principals of play are the same.

How one determines the first attacker in Star Wars is determined by an edge battle. In these battles, players play cards face-down from their hands until both players consecutively pass. Then, the cards are revealed and the force icons are counted with the player with the most force icons going first in the upcoming conflict. There are also special fate cards that only activate if played into an edge battle with other effects. The interesting bit is that some of the attack strength of a side is determined by who won the edge battle as unit cards have some of their unit damage, objective damage, or focusing potential determined by whether their side won the edge battle. This coincides with the duel in L5R. Dueling is a special type of attack that certain cards and characters can activate. The two participant cards are engaged in a singular struggle within the larger conflict. Players play cards from their hands in an alternating order, counting their focus points on the cards to determine the final winner. The winner of the duel usually kills the opposing card, although there are other types of duels in the game. The duels of L5R informed the edge battles of Star Wars and provide a fun ‘mini-game’ within the larger game. I feel like the edge battles of Star Wars are more integral to the overall experience, however. Dueling in L5R sometimes feels like an afterthought or something you build a deck around to take advantage of. Every player in Star Wars needs to be concerned with the edge battles.

Of course, there are other similarities but these are common to most of these types of games – needing income cards to bring other cards into play, event cards that interrupt the current action, deck construction, tapping, etc. I’m not trying to imply through this comparison that either game is inferior to the other – they both accomplish different goals. L5R also has four different paths to victory and an ongoing storyline, which distances it from many of its other CCG siblings. The Star Wars LCG has the struggle for the Force, an entirely separate conflict that is occurring at the same time as all the other blaster/lightsaber action, as well as the fixed-card distribution model of the Living Card Game. But I thought the similarities were interesting and how similar game ideas could be accomplished with similar-seeming mechanics while still creating two wildly divergent games. It’s almost as if Eric Lang (creator of the Star Wars LCG) was deliberately channeling L5R in his game design.

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