Designed by Bryan Reese
Artist – Edwin David
2-4 players age 12+
Note – Thanks to AEG for providing a review copy of this game
I’d heard bits and pieces over the years about the Legend of the 5 Rings RPG and CCG’s and was always somewhat fascinated with the theme – fantasy, ancient Japan, Samurai, Ninjas and all that. Trouble is, I’ve never had the inclination to really invest time or money in either genre of game so I just let it pass. Lo and behold, AEG comes along with War of Honor, an entry into the world of L5R and my interested increased. After all, it was supposed to have 4 fixed CCG decks, and simpler rules to get stuck in.
Lucky for me, Mark from AEG was a vendor at this year’s UK Expo and brought along War of Honor so we could film a live demo. Even better, I got to play a learning demo game with him in the evening. I still didn’t quite get the system until I managed to get a copy of the game and finally had a chance to learn and play it with a friend who really loves the theme.
The first thing that I noticed about War of Honor is the standard of the artwork by Edwin David. “Outstanding” just doesn’t do it justice. The artwork is just gorgeous and fully evocative, pulling you right into the world of L5R. As with all AEG’s games, the quality is first class. The main components are the 4 card decks supported by various tokens and board/map tiles which you use to create the land being fought over. There is also a small board with tracks showing the pathways to victory. The information is clear and nicely laid out and the rulebook is a feast of lush artwork amongst the rules. VERY Nice!
The next thing I noticed is that there is a lot to take in to come to grips with War of Honor.
It took us some time to get through the rules and understand how to play. This isn’t a simple game so be warned. However, we worked through them, learning the concepts. The rules are thorough and explain things pretty well.
Basically, you will have a deck of cards that represent one of four clans – Dragon (martial arts following the path of enlightenment), Lion (samurai following the military path), Phoenix (elemental magic using priests following the path of honour) and the dastardly Scorpions (predecessors to the Yakuza I suspect, following the path of dishonour). The cards provide information for combat, purchasing power, Chi, abilities and there will be cards for personalities, events, strategy, the 5 Rings, followers, items, resources, etc. Everything you need to use in various combinations to win the day. The process is straightforward – straighten all bowed cards already in play, check for events, take actions, Attacking, Build your dynasty, end phase, Path to Victory phase.
As with other Collectible Card Games, you need to learn what the cards do and how to use them together effectively. Trial and error at first until you build familiarity but we didn’t find it too difficult and as we got into things, we were able to move through the turns faster as we understood things more and more.
This is an interesting game as your each card deck has a specific impact due to the nature of powers of the specific clan. You will need to think things through as you plan how you use your cards. It is really cool to try and get one over on your opponents, hoping to use your resources and powers to take out their forces before they have a chance to strike. This a game of strike and counterstrike and yes, the cards drawn add a randomness to the proceedings, but it keeps things more interesting to know not everything is under your control.
Your emotions will swing from frustration and desperation for not having what you need to get at the enemy, to delight when you do. And if you can manage to get the Rings into play, and this isn’t easy, you will see their powers can be brought to bear to devastating effect. The tiles provide lands and the fortresses give each player extra abilities so the focus of attack will be to destroy the other players’ fortresses to handicap them.
You win by progressing to the 5th step of any Path to Victory or you can lose by having all of your provinces destroyed. There are advanced rules which will challenge you as you become more experienced.
Did it work for me?
For days after we played, I just kept on thinking about War of Honor. I could see the cards, and I pondered the different powers and what I could have done differently. Most of all, I wanted to play again right away! Quite a statement about the game I would say as this rarely happens for me. The theme is excellent, supported by wonderful artwork and atmospheric content of the cards. The four distinctive clans require different approaches to winning so this is quite a diverse game. It isn’t an easy game to learn so it may put some people off, but it is so interesting that I didn’t mind this at all. I would say that this is definitely a game for those interested in the theme and in Collectible Card Games. It is a good point of entry into the huge world of L5R created by AEG and definitely worth a try but I do recommend with others who have a real interest in the theme and CCG’s as this should make the learning experience very satisfying.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10
This is a game for CCG players. Not a family game by design.
For further information go to – http://www.alderac.com/