L5R Newbie Corner: Attack!! pt 1: Offense.

I have won games on this card. Horrible, stupid games.

Hello, and welcome to another newbie corner. Today we’ll be starting a discussion on one of the fundamentals of the game: Attacking. We’ll start today with the offensive: how to deal with the attack from the point of view of the attacker.

One of the hardest things for new players to this game to learn is the attack, especially when is it safe to do so. Everyone has that game where they’re playing another new player and you’re both too afraid to attack for fear of having your army wiped, leading to a massive build up over turns and turns until the player who included one copy of Hawks and Falcons in their deck not knowing better won the game anyway. Don’t fall into this trap.

As I mentioned last time, often the advice will boil down to “do it a lot until you learn better.” This is certainly the short version of my advice. Attacking is one of the more complicated aspects of this game, and it can’t be easily broken down into a simple article. Every deck has its own attack point: when it’s safe to be attacking and when you should keep sitting back building resources. The only way to learn for sure where this point is for your deck is to make mistakes and learn from them.

More importantly, only by attacking when you shouldn’t can you learn how to read the board such that you’ll know when it’s safe and when it’s not. This actually varies more on the enemy than on your own deck. A defensive deck is unlikely to kill your guys, or repay your attack with one of their own. Instead they will likely gain some honor/ make you lose some/ otherwise advance their board if you attack. The key is to make your board advancement (province destruction) better than the opponent’s (5 honor swing) such that you eventually win.

Ssshhhh, be vewy vewy quiet, we’re hunting samuwai.

Another aspect of attacking the defensive deck is knowing when it’s time for the last attack. Modern L5R has many of the large honor swings built into the attack phase to encourage engagement by both players. This has led to it becoming dangerous to attack after 30: if you fail to win you might have given the other player the opportunity to cross their threshold and win. Thus, while you should generally be attacking, another important board read is when does the honor deck have enough battle gain to cross. Once they reach this position, until they actually cross, you are likely better served not attacking and building your forces for that last push.

As you can see, I could easily write volumes on the different scenarios you might see in this game. Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to that. Besides, I am of the opinion that the best lesson is learned on the battlefield, not in the classroom. As such, I return to my basic advice: learn when to attack by doing so and failing. As you play games, pay attention to what’s on the board, how many cards are in each player’s hand (ie how many tricks they might do), what their likely plans are: will they chump block to try and gain a few honor or will they show in force to punish your temerity? Additionally it looks like with Ivory an important part of the board reading will be gold available: gone are the free powerful strategies replaced by powerful strategies with a gold cost and weaker free strategies, meaning a clever player who knows the environment can guess what sorts of tricks they might see based on gold available.

But that’s getting a little too complicated again, so let’s simplify. The goal is to learn to read the board and know when it’s safe to attack. Hopefully the last paragraph has given you an idea of what to look for when attempting to read the board. I’ll go into more detail in the future, for now let’s go with a very simple reading of the board: is your force on the table greater than their province strength? If you play every card in your hand and they only show up with their personalities and play nothing from hand could you win the battle? If you’ve answered yes to both, attack! Worst case scenario they wipe your board: hopefully in this scenario you’ve noted what caused you to lose so you can be properly wary of it in the future. With luck (or maybe bravado if you’ve convinced them you have some secret tech in hand so the don’t even bother defending) you’ll get a province.

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” – Sun Tzu Tao

As you can see, reading the board is a lot about knowing what cards are available, both for you and your opponent. if you have a weenie swarm while they have one big guy, knowing that there’s a card that will give all of your guys -1f making them useless is important. But that’s the type of thing that can only come from experience.

Before I finish this article on attacking, I should mention the military on military match. Often the culprit of the giant standoff: no one wants to take a province undefended just to lose two or even three in response. You should be wary of this scenario, as it will take your tempo away. That said, it’s the fear of it that most often causes the stalemate. Attack whenever you can. You should be buying at least one personality who can defend, meaning the opponent likely can’t swing for two. In the unlikely scenario where they can, take solace knowing that if they extend themselves for two you should be able to return that favor in kind, taking two of theirs. Since this started by taking one of theirs you now have the province advantage 2 to 1. If you are going to get locked in a staredown that’s where you want to be: outproducing your opponent 2 to 1.

So, hopefully this has given you at least some idea of when to attack: always. Always Be Attacking. You are playing a military deck: you can’t win if you don’t attack. As you gain experience with the game and stop being a newbie you can better read the board and know when it’s safe to attack, when it’s a horrible idea, and when it’s a bad idea but you need to do it anyway.

As always, let me know in the comments if you have any questions on this topic, or any other. I will gladly take suggestions on topics if there’s anything you’d like to see covered.

Thanks for Reading!

9 thoughts on “L5R Newbie Corner: Attack!! pt 1: Offense.

  1. Thanks for this! The few games I have played I attacked at the wrong time and it cost me the game. It seems if you lose a attack at the wrong time, it is very hard to get back into the match. I was going to take a defensive stance on future matches to see how it works, but after reading this, I think I am going to keep attacking when i feel I should be attacking.

  2. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that the winner in a battle doesn’t take any losses. In the several times over the years when I’ve tried to introduce the game to various friends, this has always made attacking without a “sure thing” feel very inadvisable, and battles felt very “all or nothing.” Plus, it’s thematically weird that two ten-thousand-man armies come together and the result is 10,000 – 0.

    I’ll have to dust off some old decks and try again sometime.

    1. The key is that you have to provide your own attrition. I don’t care how many courtiers show up: they’re not going to automatically defeat an army of warriors. But if they shoot him with a bow they can kill him.

      I’ll delve some more into this in the next article on tempo, but this is a game where you have to actively do something. If your 10,000 just hang out and stand there, yes your enemies are going to slaughter them without taking any loses.

      That said, there’s a reason ranged/melee attacks are showing up in the frequency they are: they make for great attrition.

      1. I assume you mean that newer card sets are adding more of those kinds of attacks? (I’m not familiar with melee attacks as something distinct from the normal Force on Force action or dueling.) I’ll definitely plan to pick up the two-player box for the new set when it comes out and see if I can get someone to play. Thanks for the feedback and I’ll keep an eye on the articles.

        1. Ivory is seeing a newfound focus on melee and ranged attacks for attrition/kill. Melee attacks were added recently and are basically the same as ranged attacks: melee X destroys a follower or personality without with X or lower force.
          Generally, this is one of the hard things for new players to the game to understand, that it’s bring your own attrition. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it once you’ve played for a while.

          1. Cool, thanks. I’ve never seen melee before, but was a little familiar with ranged. That sounds like a positive thing. I’ll definitely pick up the Ivory starter and see how it plays. Thanks again.

    2. Battles can sometimes tends towards all or nothing, although there the ability to engage in within-battle attrition, to send home opposing units, or send home your own, makes it less than it might seem. I think an important aspect, however, is that to whatever extent it’s all or nothing for you, it’s all or nothing for the other side to – you may be hesitant to attack, but your opponent could be just as hesitant to defend. Each side has to make a strategic calculation about whether to enter the battle, and has to be willing to risk the possibility of defeat.

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