My LGS has been running casual Multiplayer Friday Night events for nearly the last 3 months, we’ve been testing different ideas & strategies, refining decks and changing the norms of how we play the game. From the accumulated knowledge, I built the first oppressive Multiplayer deck at our LGS, early in the elemental cycle (see Phoenix deck list at the end of the primer). This deck was powerful but short lived as it ended up being banned by the other players, so started brewing other clans.
What makes Multiplayer special?
Introduces Alternative Win condition
Rings remained claimed
It is common to defend more than 2 conflicts a turn
Other players at the table can (and will) attempt to affect your conflicts
Your board can be affected without being involved in the conflict
Changes to the fate phase rules with each player assigning 1 fate to an opponent’s ring
First player is the player to get the additional fate
No honour is loss when unopposed
What does this mean?
Changes the way that player must evaluate cards that work with claimed rings and cards who care about element of a conflict
Provinces which are hard to break are great "Ring Stores"
Turning characters into towers aren't viable
Changes the way that players evaluate conflict cards that require your participation
Win Condition Difference
The primary win condition of Multiplayer is Enlightenment (Claiming one ring of each element), but it’s possible to win via breaking each opponents' Stronghold. From all the games at my LGS, we’re currently at over 95% wins via Enlightenment.
Game Duration Differences
From play experience Multiplayer lasts only 2 to 3 rounds until an Enlightenment victory occurs. A Unicorn or Lion Hisu Mori Toride deck may be able to sneak a victory on their 3rd conflict of the 2nd turn.
Fate Economy Differences
As with the 1v1 format, Players only have 7 fate each turn to work with, to buy characters, however you may participate in up to 6 conflicts a turn in a 3 player game. As it is expected the game will lasts 2 to 3 rounds, you will only have 14-21 fate per game.
Additional methods of gathering fate:
Seeker fate – Reliable but max 2 per game
First player – Unreliable, see Note below
Ring fate – Reliable however only 1 per round unless it becomes archenemy (1 vs everyone else)
Passing fate – Unreliable due to additional players
NOTE: Being the starting player is both blessing and a curse as you get 1 additional starting fate, and probably the passing fate. However, in our playgroup the following trend has developed:
Need to pass your conflict or be the first player to expose your defences
In the second round, you’ll be last player
If the game lasts a third round, you won’t get the first conflict (and chance to win the game)
Card Value Differences
The bidding system has changed; hence the honour cost of drawing cards has changed. In 1v1 if 1 player bids 5 while the other bids 1, the cost is 4 honour. However, in a 3 player game if 2 players bid 5, and 1 player bids 1, the cost is only 2 honour. (50% Discount)
Meanwhile, if 2 players bid 1, while the other player bids 5, the cards still cost 4 honour like 1v1 but your hand can be larger than the total of all opponent’s hands. The math does change with more players, but the premise generally holds that players can draw more cards for less honour compared to 1v1. So it’s recommended to bid high, and draw as much as possible.
But before you bid 5 on every reveal, our LGS has evolved to bidding 4 if they believe a player will bid 1 & another will bid 5. This means that the bid 4 player’s cards will cost 0 honour, while the bid 5 player needs to pays 4 honour.
Format of the Small
This format is not suitable for investing heavily, and creating towers out of characters. Players can make treaties, trading rings (See Politic section of primer) to remove fate and/or bow characters. Players can also send numerous small attacks until the tower is bowed, as there is no ring claim on a defensive victory. Similarly when Feast or Famine is broken, players can remove all the fate off any other player’s character to their own.
Once the tower is neutralised, hence that entire player’s fate expended. They’ll be an easy target for conflicts and ring claims, helping your opponents achieve an Enlightenment victory.
During the dynasty phase being able to buy 2-3 characters, allows the player to participate in as many conflicts as possible. Similarly, the importance of 1 cost Conflict characters is greater than ever. Therefore characters will not be staying in play for numerous turns, and the recurring value of attachments, and honour/dishonour status tokens is limited.
Joe’s 2 fate rule
The 1v1 norm is that all 3 cost or higher characters should get at least 2 fate, but this does not work in multiplayer, for following reasons:
Greater fate restrictions
Only 2-3 rounds
Players can trade void rings
More conflicts being declared a turn
More conflicts as a participating player a turn
Feast or Famine can steal fate while you’re not the participating player
Though putting 1 fate on a character is useful to stops it being bowed via the water ring.
In Multiplayer there are a few general categories which provinces can be broken up into:
Ring Stores (Safe place to put claimed rings):
Web of Lies
Feast of Famine
Appealing to the Fortunes
In this format the most useful category of provinces for your back row are: Ring Stores & Break.
Ring Stores allow a player to achieve the Enlightenment win condition consistently. As a player collects more rings towards Enlightenment, if they stack the rings on the province it becomes a bigger target. Hence, a safe storage location becomes essential.
Provinces that activate on break are useful as, rather than commit cards to defend the conflict, you concede the province and gain a benefit for your next attack. The mixture of ring stores and Break provinces makes it difficult for your opponents to farm rings and achieve the Enlightenment victory condition.
Powerful effects on provinces like Magistrate Station can make it reasonable to defend them, but provinces that defend themselves once a turn aren’t playable. It may be possible to defend Other provinces like Shameful Display for the first time a turn, but since there are potentially up to 3 more conflicts (in a 3 player game) targeting that provinces which has already expended its affect. This allows your opponents to farm rings and out race you to the Enlightenment victory.
Numerous Conflicts a Turn
It’s possible in this format to be involved in 2 x (number of player) conflicts a turn as a participating player. To get around this issue as previously discussed there are the following options:
Buying numerous characters in Dynasty Phase
No defence on provinces with on Break effects
Having many 1 cost Conflict characters
Stand and don’t bow effects:
Clarity of Purpose
Cards that require minimal investment to defend a conflict:
Note: Your conflicts don’t need to be against the person opposite you, always check everyone’s board before declaring your conflict.
Interacting when you’re not participating
There will be times when you’re not a participating player, but the result of this conflict will either affect your board position, or determine the result of the game. Since players are unable to trade fate via treaties (See Politics section), cards that allow interaction regardless of the player’s participation in the conflict are essential. Some of these include:
Cards you think should work but don’t:
Spreading the Darkness
Cards requiring claimed rings
Characters which improve as rings are claimed are deemed underwhelming in 1v1. But in this format they shine, rather than building up gas each turn, then putting the rings back and starting again, the ring remains claimed.
Hence these character which gain skill while a ring is claimed are always online, allowing you to spend 1 to 2 fate on a characters with skill closer to a 4 to 5 cost characters. However, there are some more unique characters which revolve around rings being claimed, that are uniquely affected by this rule change:
Tadaka – Terrible as players just trade earth rings (See Politic section) until no one is affected
Prodigy of the Waves – Underwhelming compared to 1v1, but still good although it requires you to have the water ring claimed
Solemn Scholar – Amazing an always active Murimoto’s Fury
Deck Construction Tenants
In Multiplayer, there needs to be different core tenants in deck construction compared to 1v1.
A Multiplayer deck should:
Minimise dynasty deck cost
Include cards to defend conflicts with minimal investment
Reduce number of conflict cards requiring player participation or play restrictions
Contain sufficient force pumps to break provinces and steal rings
Either (Ideally both):
Generate effective Fate
Efficiently draw Cards
Effective Fate Generation
In this format a method to victory is to generate large amounts of effective fate, and turn this into military or political skill for winning conflicts, stealing rings and achieving Enlightenment. This can be done using:
Appealing to the Fortunes
Feast or Famine
Charge & Appealing to the Fortunes may seem counter to the deck building advice of decreasing the dynasty deck fate cost. However, there is room to run 6+ cards reserved for being cheated into play, never paying their full price. Effectively treating these characters like a holding, waiting to be cheated into play. The claimed ring characters also make decent charge targets.
Meanwhile, Feral Ningyo allows players to generate more skill & bodies during a specific conflict element, while Feast or Famine & Reprieve allows a player to bring additional skill from one round to the next.
Stand and not bow effects allow for reuse of characters and hence generate effective fate as if the player bought another copy of the card. However, unlike the previously mentioned cards, they don’t allow you to generate more skill, instead it allow the player to use that force over additional conflicts.
Against the Waves is a great example of this, however due to play restrictions, weakness of towers, and being restricted list card, this sort of stand is not that viable in a deck compared to Clarity of Purpose.
NOTE: Appealing to the Fortunes also targets your hand, thus Kachiko and Political Rival are great targets.
Efficient Card Draw
In this format another method is to generate card advantage while trading cards with your opponents. Although it’s rarely to empty an opponent’s hand, it’s possible to paralyse an opponent, by removing their ability to affect the outcome of a conflict. Thus allowing you to winning conflicts, stealing rings and achieve Enlightenment. These cards include:
Characters with the Sincerity keyword
Restricted List Choice
There are a few standout cards on the restricted list for Multiplayer, depending on style of the deck:
Pathfinder’s Blade – Negates Public Forum (Ring Stores) and steal Enlightenment Victories out of nowhere
Charge – Generate large amounts of effective fate
Murimoto’s Fury – Minimally defend conflicts
Given the way Multiplayer is played, several 1v1 staples are not as good, these include:
Honour/Dishonour, Large attachments & Cloud the Mind – The multiplayer decks contain numerous small characters which leave play frequently, thus limiting the possible value
Fate worse than Death and Noble Sacrifice - The multiplayer decks contain numerous small characters which leave play frequently, thus limiting the possible value given the large upfront investment
1 for 1 answers (Splash for Let go, Forged Edict, etc…) – If one player spends a card to negate another players card, the third player profits, given:
Players can just trade rings to remove fate and/or bow characters with strong attachments
It’s important to stop certain events like Cavalry Reserves, but majority of decks don’t contain these sorts of cards, so spending the restricted list slot on Forged Edict is hard choice. Voice of Honour is the much better cancel, as the player only needs to be more honoured than 1 opponent, with no downside.
It is important to have some 1 for 1 answers but do no rate them as valuable as seen in the 1v1 game such as limiting your splash or restricted list options
Imperial Favour – Can’t guarantee the imperial favour in this format, cards that require this are usual blank
One of the main benefits of the Multiplayer format is the deals and backstabbing enabled through the Treaty system. Unlike magic and other games, the politics in L5R is backed by an in game punishment and when broken, players don’t carry the betrayal from game to game.
Playgroups mileage on the treaties may vary, however it can create some of the following interesting situations:
Archenemy – Where all other players team up against a single player, this happens commonly when one player pulls significantly ahead, or when 2 players in a 3 player game make a treaty
Teams – Where multiple players team up against multiple other players, this happens commonly in 4 player and above games in reaction to a treaty being made by several players
Trading Rings – Where players swing undefended conflicts at each other to claim rings and resolve affects to affect another player’s board
Threat Assessment – 3 rings is the magic number at which point a player can break a province to steal a ring while claiming another ring to win the game, therefore causing the other players to treat this person as the Archenemy
Non-aggression – players agree not to attack each other, this may or may not prevent using cards or ring effects on each other
Trading rings / province break effects – See trading rings above.
Honour Trade – Making a treaty and initially breaking it to give another player honour, so they can use effects such as Assassination, draw more cards, or prevent a dishonour loss
Threatening – Using your in game board position advantage to convince another player to do you bidding such as “I will break your stronghold unless you…” or “I will bow down your entire board unless you…”. This allows you to keep players in the game longer but people take this different ways, some players will join forces looking for the opportunity to betray you while others will heroically defy your generous offer.
Don’t lose the game – See Threat Assessment
Phoenix (Pack 2 Elemental Cycle): https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/e830f824-86e8-11e8-9ce5-8e1ccf16fca4/view
Unicorn (Pack 6 Elemental Cycle): https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/f9d6ddde-a796-11e8-9429-8e1ccf16fca4/view
Lion (Pack 6 Elemental Cycle): https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/fe11abcc-b87c-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view
Scorpion (Pack 6 Elemental Cycle): https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/ff2f1e57-b87b-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view
Crane (Pack 6 Elemental Cycle): https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/f02e4d91-b87a-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view
Provided feedback in an earlier post: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/279264-local-store-meta-multi-player-feedback/
Another piece of feedback for FFG:
Player should assign fate to their own ring during the fate phase as when a 2v1 situation occurs, the person who’s alone not only has to defend all the conflicts, but will have less fate on rings going into the next round
Ring return rules need to be clarified, eg if a player breaks another player’s province but has the same ring already claimed. As the game progresses, it’s difficult to track whose ring you currently have in your claimed pool, and where it should be returned once the province is broken as per above example.
Written in the Stars and similar Dragon conflict cards that manipulate fate on rings probably need to be revisited with how the rules where changes with regards to targeting rings (Possible ban list?)
Looking forward to the next release of the Multiplayer rules