Hello, And welcome to a new series for those just getting into Legend of the Five Rings! At the start of next year the new base edition of the game, Ivory Edition, will be released, and with it an overhaul of the game to make it more friendly for the new players. In preparation I’m going to do several of these articles introducing important concepts for the new player. I’m going to assume at least a basic familiarity with the rules. As such, please let me know if there is anything specific you’d like to see covered, or if you have any questions on the subjects covered. I fully expect to see more responses coming in once Ivory releases, so feel free to contact we who are still in the distant past with your questions. I can be paid with Ivory spoilers, starting with what my new Phoenix stronghold does.
On to the subject at hand: flushing! First, a definition. At the end of your Dynasty phase (at least in Emperor that’s when it happens) you are able to discard any cards remaining face up in your provinces. This is colloquially known as “flushing” and is an important skill to master in this game. It’s also one new players (and even some old players) have trouble with.
Why is flushing so important? Basically, it’s necessary to get the resources you need: every card you don’t flush is one fewer new card you see next turn, and by extension every turn after that. Why is it so hard? Cause those cards you should be flushing are cool cards. You put them in your deck for a reason. If you discard them you’ll not be playing them this game, and that makes you sad. It’s an understandable, common problem. Nearly everyone who plays this game has dealt with it at some point in time. That’s what this article series is for, though: showing you new players (and probably some old players) the common pitfalls so hopefully you can avoid them.
I’ve found one of the easier ways to define a rule is to look at the exceptions. Generally speaking you should flush all cards you don’t buy each turn to keep your deck flowing and get to cards you need. So when is this not true? Basically when it’s already the card you need to see. That said, if it’s really the card you want to be seeing you should be buying it the turn it flips. The only exception is if it’s the first few turns when you’re still getting your money together and therefore can’t afford/shouldn’t buy people yet. The rule of thumb for this case: if you can afford to buy it next turn, you can keep it. If you don’t buy it next turn (better cards flipped) then you need to flush it anyway. Ivory, with the return of hard honor requirements, will bring in a new exception: personalities with too high of an honor requirement to buy right now. This has the same go around: if next turn you’ll be high enough to buy them, you can keep them. Otherwise they need to go away. Don’t worry about decking yourself. Very rarely does a game of L5R last long enough for your deck to be exhausted. Even if it does, this isn’t Magic – you don’t lose the game just cause you’re decked.
Now that we intellectually understand why we need to flush, what’s stopping us? Again, these cards are awesome. Especially if it’s some power unique that we just can’t afford yet. Since this is an emotional attachment we need an emotional solution. Stop thinking of every card in your deck as the most important. Instead just start thinking of the cards as cogs, important but interchangeable. If it helps, imagine the card you just flushed was on the bottom of the deck instead or in a face down province that was taken such that you weren’t buying it this turn anyway. If your deck falls apart losing one specific card you’re in trouble anyway.
Many of these articles are going to devolve to this advice, but that doesn’t make it any less true: learning when and what to flush is an important skill that can truly only be developed in play. By making mistakes and learning from them. To help your learning curve, I suggest you go over board. If you start flushing aggressively it is much easier to scale back once you have a better idea what shouldn’t be flushed. Flushing more frequently if you start by doing it rarely is a much more difficult proposition. Rarely will you lose a game because you flushed an important person early. But many are the games lost because your last turn’s flip was without people, which maybe if you’d dug earlier in wouldn’t be the same problem.
So there’s the first article in the series. Let me know in the comments if there are any other subjects you’d like to see me cover, otherwise I’ll likely be back in two weeks or so with the next installment. Thanks for reading!