Review – Coils of Madness (L5R CCG)

                Coils of Madness, the latest expansion for the Legend of the Five Rings, shakes things up for the CCG in a few ways. It’s the first expansion that’s (mostly) legal for the next arc, it’s being released in two different formats, and one of those formats is a “direct to retailer” set. So what might the casual, new, or prospective L5R player be looking for here?

Make Way for Ivory Edition

Yup, I’m Emperor-only.

Like the granddaddy of the CCGs, L5R has a legality window of about two years for its expansions. This legality turns over with a new base set released every two years, but in order to smooth the transition the 2-3 expansions prior to the base are legal for the following arc (it turns out that no one wants to buy CCG product that stops being legal in three months). The next base set for L5R – Ivory Edition – is scheduled to come out at the beginning of 2014, and Coils of Madness is the first expansion to included cards that are legal for Ivory Edition. Not everything is legal for Ivory Edition, however – 18 of the cards are not, to be precise. Even without the legality symbols, it’s not too tough to identify the Emperor-only cards – just look for the ones that seem crazy overpowered. 😉

Release Format

Partially because of the split legality on the cards, Coils of Madness is available in two formats. First, it’s available is a “direct to retailer” set. This is like a normal L5R “direct to player” set, except your FLGS buys it directly from AEG and then sells it to you, instead of you buying it directly from AEG yourself. There’s a playset of (almost) all of the cards from Coils of Madness, a story book, and a collector’s tin. These come out in late May (if your FLGS isn’t dealing with them, then they’ll eventually be available for purchase from AEG, but it is unknown when). I say “almost” a playset because there are nine cards that are only available in the other format …

Sorry boys, booster packs only.

… which is a more normal booster box. Not quite normal though. The booster packs do not include any of the cards that are not Ivory-legal. So, basically, you can get the tin for playing now, but then you’ve got normal boosters of all-legal cards sitting on the shelves for later in the year when folks are only interested in Ivory Edition. The packs also have a different rarity scheme than normal. Instead of common/uncommon/rare, the slots are just Unique (cards you can only play one of in your deck) or non-Unique (cards you can play three of in your deck). Each pack has two Uniques and five non-Uniques. It still works out that the Uniques are a bit scarcer than the non-Uniques, as far as getting a playset goes. Nine of the non-Uniques (one for each Clan) are available only in the booster packs.

Foils and Full-Bleeds

Coils of Madness also sees the return of foil cards to L5R, and also the first appearance of full-bleed art in booster packs. About one in three boosters will have a foil Unique card in one of the two Unique slots, and every booster has a full-bleed art card in one of the non-Unique slots. Foils and full-bleeds do not appear in the direct-to-retailer version.

Rules and Templating Improvements

With a new edition on the horizon, L5R is taking steps to remove unnecessary complication from the game and make it easier for new players to grok, without stripping away strategic complexity. Some of these changes are evidence in Coils of Madness, while others are implied.

Here we can see the new bow and pay gold cost icons.

There are templating changes, which can be seen most prominently in abilities, which have picked up more icons and more keywords. The cost of “bow this card” now has an icon, as does costs of “pay X gold.” Keywords come in to replace commonly used bits of text like being able to use a Battle ability without presence (Absent), without being at the battle (Home), while bowed (Tireless), or even if you’ve used the ability previously this turn (Repeat).

There are also a few rules changes. Followers are losing their Honor Requirement, which basically didn’t come up in gameplay except as a way to hose some Follower decks playing against dishonor or to make it so that Spider Commander decks needed workarounds to have a functional set of Followers. Another change is to Events, which will no longer be resolving in their own special phase, but will instead just have abilities that let you resolve them during the action phase (this rules change, combined with there being no Regions in the set, and with all of the Celestials being Emperor-only, has led to speculation that those two card types are not long for this world).

An Interrupt ability. Also, consider this your example of a False Ring.

Reactions no longer exist – instead of being able to potentially play a Reaction at any time imaginable during the declaration or resolution of other actions, all “reactions” are either now Interrupt (played after an action has been announced/targeted/paid for, but before it resolves) or Engage (played when armies engage at the start of a battle). This should lead to the elimination of many esoteric timing rules that could confuse even veteran players.

You can find out more about the changes coming to L5R by checking out the Ivory Edition Designer Diaries, or catch the Lead Designer when he appears on the Strange Assembly podcast.

P’an Ku v. Fudo

Tying into the story presented with Coils of Madness (and the next expansion, Gates of Chaos, and the big L5R events at GenCon), we see the present menace of the Mad Dragon P’an Ku, and also the Fudoist Monks who, while opposing P’an Ku, present a spiritual menace of their own. Each of these ‘factions’ gets its own Stronghold (but since they’re only Emperor-legal, they only appear in the collector’s set, not in the booster boxes). Fudo gets to bring in Monks from other Clans, and manipulates the False Rings, while P’an Ku hands out Madness tokens and has a crazy-looking Stronghold that’s just begging for some creative deck-building.



















The Fallen … or those who might be

Part of the threat of P’an Ku is that his madness will spread and consume the samurai of the Empire. There are a lot of these Fallen Personalities in Coils of Madness (including the nine booster-only cards), but the most prominent are a series of Experienced versions of existing, and sometimes major, characters who are not yet, but might become, Fallen, depending on how future storyline tournaments progress – a Clan Champion, an Elemental Master, the Shogun, the Colonial Governor, the great-grandson of the Kami Togashi. There are some high stakes that the Clans will be playing for this year.










Oh, and the Egg itself is back too:

The “Flashback” Personalities

The story book for Coils of Madness includes a series of vignettes of some of L5R’s most popular characters from the past, depicting times in their lives when P’an Ku attempted to influence them (sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn’t). Some are obvious, characters that we already knew had an interactions with P’an Ku (specifically, the artifact the Egg of P’an Ku) – Bayushi Kachiko, Doji Hoturi (although not appearing in exactly the way you might think), Matsu Nimuro. Some we were not aware of before – Tsuruchi, Togashi Mitsu, Hantei XVI.

The Dark Naga is Back

The Dark Naga, a supernatural threat introduced way back in the Forgotten Legacy direct-to-player set, has somewhat languished in the story, but he’s back in Coils of Madness, along with Experienced versions of some of this helpers from Forgotten Legacy.

The “Relationship” Cards

One of the nice things about L5R is that you get to seem the story reflected in the cards. Sometimes that’s big plot points, like I talk about above. Sometimes that’s small plot points, like two magistrates kind of having a thing for each other while they’re working together. Coils of Madness features five pairs of these intersecting characters, each with a minor mechanical effect relating to the other one.










Everything Else

Of course, Coils of Madness just includes random other goodness as well (plus lots of inspirations for sifting the tea leaves on how Ivory Edition is going to be different from Emperor). There are, for example, a lot of Unique Personalities in here – storyline choices from the Top of Clan selections at GenCon and EuroChamps last year, the Kuni and Susumu daimyo, and so on. Check it out!




Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.

4 thoughts on “Review – Coils of Madness (L5R CCG)

  1. Has AEG said if the new rarity system is a one off thing or here to stay? It sounds… Beautiful. I hate having to search all over for a playset of rares. I would play next arc for that.

    1. I think the rarity system here is just part of the Direct-to-Retailer format, since these cards weren’t designed with rarity in mind.

      AEG has learned from direct experience in the past (Rolling Thunder) that for every player that hates having to search for playsets of rares, there are far more players who miss the thrill of chasing down rares.

  2. They should just switch to an MTG rotation system. It’s so much cleaner and easier for new players to get into.

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