Hello everyone and welcome to Wardens of the Midwest !
I am Joe From Cincinnati and this is my website where I post articles about things.
Those things are usually cards, but on occasion they are about the tokens that you use while you’re playing with cards.
And that’s where I’m going with this. I was having a discussion on the CardgameDB.com forums (I, too, was surprised to find out that they still exist) as well as the Discord Group Chat for Crab players about how to allocate fate during the dynasty phase, how much fate to “bank” and how to go about doing this.
After a few of my points were well received, I decided to throw together a quick(-ish) article discussing my philosophy on managing my fate pool and why I feel that way.
As with everything I write about this game, my opinions will be tinged in cobalt blue, for I see everything through the eyes of a Crab player.
How much fate do you put on characters?
Before we get to the guidelines, really quick, here’s my philosophy on fate being placed on a character: When you purchase a 4 cost character you are, presumably, getting 4 fate’s worth of value out of that character. 1 round’s worth of actions and conflicts with a 4 cost character is worth 4 fate. Makes sense to me.
If we apply that value to characters with fate on them, for each fate that you place on that character, you are theoretically purchasing another round of that character, and any value that character comes with. So, if you place 1 fate on a 4 cost character, over the course of the two rounds that it is in play (assuming they don’t run into a Meditations or get hit by a Void Ring or whatever), you get a value of 8 fate out of that character. For the cost of 5 fate when purchasing them. The value of that character increases at that rate for each additional fate you place on them. A 4 cost character with 2 fate is worth 12 fate, a 4 cost character with 3 fate is worth 16 fate etc.
And, as always with articles like this, there will be exceptions to these kinds of rules. These are meant to be general guidelines that you may need to deviate from in unusual circumstances. Context is always important and you can’t 100% broad stroke key decisions in a game like this. But I can write some guidelines, so here we go!
Guideline #1: If you’re purchasing a 3 fate character or higher, I recommend placing at least 2 fate on them
Right off the bat, there are exceptions to this rule.
Exception #1: If that character is played with the intention to be discarded in that round for a particularly powerful effect, this guideline does not apply. Not that anyone is playing her, but this could potentially apply to characters like Hida Tomonatsu, who have a sacrifice effect that you’d like to trigger as soon as possible. This allows for future design space where there could be potent sacrifice characters with higher price tags. Assuming the sacrifice effect is worth the higher cost (It isn’t with Tomonatsu), then I would suggest purchasing those characters with 0 additional fate, or maybe 1 fate if you’re willing to sacrifice a fate to give yourself two opportunities to trigger the character (in the case that the opportunity doesn’t arise on the round that you purchased them.) (EDIT: Shosuro Actress is a great current example of this exception. – Kiseki)
Exception #2: If you are playing Crab (Cobalt tinted glasses engage!), if you have 7 fate, you could purchase that 4 cost character with 1 fate, which will then allow you to purchase a Vanguard Warrior on the same round. This means that, even if your opponent hits your character with a Ring of Void, you can still use the Vanguard Warrior at the end of the round to keep the character around for an additional round. The same can be said, to a lesser extent, about Reprieve or Good Omen (Though I personally don’t like Good Omen much. That lower bid restriction can be tough in dishonor games). Reprieve is reliant on your opponent not having attachment control like Calling in Favors or Let Go, which is not guaranteed, and Good Omen is reliant on you bidding lower than your opponent (which is currently impossible if they bid 1), but the exception still holds in the case that you are able to successfully trigger these cards.
Exception #3: At the end of the game, when you or your opponent is close to breaking the stronghold province, dishonoring out or honoring out, fate on characters becomes less valuable, as it is less likely that there will be 1 or more rounds after the current one. In those scenarios, less fate on a character may be the better choice.
So why 2+ fate and not 1 fate? To explain the reasoning for this, I’d like to refer to the game that I played at Gencon that was published to Youtube here. In the first round, I purchased my Steadfast Witch Hunter with 2 fate and a 1 cost character. My opponent purchased a 3 cost character with 1 fate and 2 1 cost characters. Because he was first player, he had the first choice of rings. Despite the fact that he had a board that could very easily be wiped with the simple loss of a particular ring (the Void Ring), he chose not to declare (and thus block me from using) the Void ring because the only fate I had on board was the 2 fate on the Witch Hunter. So, in order to block me from winning the ring, he would have had to declare a ring that had absolutely zero impact on the board state for at least 1 full round.
That’s the first reason why you want 2 fate on your big characters. It disincentivizes (is that a word? Spell check disagrees…) your opponent from taking the Void ring, because it will result in virtually no board state change going into the following round. This leaves you the Void ring, should you choose to use it.
In the case of this particular game, I did choose to use it and, after winning the void ring and discarding the lone fate from his 3 cost character, I ended the round with a 4 cost character with a fate (theoretically worth 8 fate) plus a keeper initiate I picked up along the way and my opponent ended the round with no characters on the board (theoretically worth 0 fate). The placement of that 1 additional fate created a board state where I was up 2 characters to none. Not a bad exchange.
“But the solution to that problem is simple,” I hear you say. “Your opponent should have just taken the Void ring in that scenario. It may not be the best play, but it would have kept their 3 cost character around, which is what they want to do going into the next round. It was merely a play mistake by your opponent to allow you to take the Void ring when his board was so weak to it.”
Well, that’s fine. But, at the same time, there are other ways of losing fate off your characters. You could purchase a 4 cost character with 1 fate, block the void ring and then happen to run into a Meditations on the Tao. Or maybe your opponent plays Togashi Kazue as an attachment during a conflict and removes a fate from them that way. Or maybe you’re second player and have no control over whether or not your opponent chooses the Ring of Void before you have a chance to declare a conflict. Purchasing a big character with 1 fate, defending/blocking the Void ring to keep them around an extra round and then running into Meditations on the Tao can be extremely disheartening. And that’s just with the current card pool. There are almost certainly going to be more ways to remove fate from characters as more cards are released. That will only increase the risk of purchasing a big character with 1 fate.
Guideline #2: Think past what the characters you purchase are going to do this round
Thinking ahead is one of the most crucial parts of this game, in my opinion. Sure, you can purchase 3 characters that will last just this round and maybe 1 lasts until next round, or you could purchase 2 characters that will last up to 2 full rounds. Or, in some cases, even 1 character that will last 3 to 4 rounds.
One question I pose when discussing fate management is this:
Let’s say, round 1, you have a bad flop. You flip a 4 cost character, 2 3 cost characters and a holding. You’re first player.
What characters do you purchase?
In my opinion, the correct answer is one big character with 2 or 3 fate and then pass for the fate (Except against Crab, because of Way of the Crab. That scenario vs Crab is a whole other discussion). Which character depends on what they are and what they do, but by putting multiple fate on a big character and passing, you may have a relatively poor conflict phase this round (I’d recommend playing defensively that round anyway), but you’ll almost certainly enter the next phase with a big character with fate on them. Then you can use that additional fate from passing (and under-buying) to purchase more characters that support that character from round 1. Then, in the third round, you can continue to build the board presence that will ultimately win you the game.
A lot of new players will think a 4 and a 3 or maybe a 3 and a 3 with a fate is the right choice. This is a trap. You may have a more successful round 1 but, in all likelihood, you’re building from the ground up again in round 2, in which you only have 7 or maybe 8 fate to work with. Meanwhile, it isn’t uncommon that your opponent kept 1 or maybe 2 characters from the previous round and then they can build their board state and quickly overwhelm you.
I consider any time my board is completely cleared and my opponent’s is not to be a failure. And I suggest everyone adopt that viewpoint as well :). Especially for Crab players. The entire theme behind Crab is outlasting your opponent. And this is a scenario where that ideology will come in very handy.
Guideline #3: When purchasing a 2 fate character or lower, I recommend placing either 1 fate or 0 fate on them
The reasoning behind this guideline is relatively straight forward.
If your opponent assassinates a character with 1 fate on them (typically a 2 cost character like Hiruma Yojimbo) you paid 3 fate for your opponent to lose 3 honor. The value of that trade depends entirely on your strategy in this game. If you’re putting no dishonor pressure on your opponent, that is a pretty bad deal. If you are putting dishonor pressure on your opponent, they may have just fucked up bad. Crab, once again, really likes seeing their opponents play Assassination. Not only are they choking their own honor but, at least the way I play, that was often the ideal outcome when I purchased that character to begin with. Often times, I purchase a 1 or 2 cost character with 1 fate on them with the sole purpose being to bait my opponent into assassinating them. Even if I lose a conflict because of that assassination, I still got a great tempo play out of the deal. Imagine if the Ring of Air could remove 3 honor from my opponent instead of just 1. Getting your opponent to assassinate your character is the equivalent of winning that theoretical ring, at the cost of the character leaving play.
If you are not intending to pressure dishonor, the value of placing a fate on a 2 or lower cost character decreases significantly. In this scenario, you want to make your opponent not want to assassinate your low cost characters, as they represent potential broken provinces, which is presumably your win strategy of choice if you have no interest in pressuring dishonor (unless you’re going for an honor win for some reason…) So placing 0 fate on a low cost character means your opponent will either not assassinate it, allowing you to use them to win conflicts/break provinces, or they are assassinating a character that is going away at the end of the round anyway, which is generally not a good use of 3 honor. In both of the scenarios mentioned above, it’s a bit of a win win for you.
There is, of course, something to be said about building a lasting board state. Putting 1 fate on a low cost character is a good way to ensure you have some characters the following round and, since participating in conflicts is half the battle (the other half being winning said battles…), having more bodies on the board is never a bad thing. However, from a pure fate efficiency stand point, placing more than 1 fate on a low cost character is generally not worth the investment (unless the character is really powerful, like a Shrewd Yasuki or Agasha Swordsmith). That 1 fate could have been a fate placed on a higher cost character purchased the following round, increasing its value over time.
As I said in the beginning of this section, I define the value of a fate on a character to be approximately equivalent to the value of that card. A fate being placed on a low cost character is, by that definition, worth less than a fate that is placed on a high cost character. For each fate placed on a 1 cost character, you are getting one additional round of a 1 cost character. For each fate placed on a 4 cost character, you are getting one additional round of a 4 cost character. So a fate on a 4 cost character is theoretically worth 4 times the amount as a fate on a 1 cost character.
This is all assuming that a character is worth exactly their printed fate cost, which may not always be true. There will be times when a 1 fate character is worth more than their printed fate value (like in the case that they are blocking your opponent from Way of the Crabbing your Tsukune.) Or, there are times when a character is worth less than their printed fate value, like a Shrewd Yasuki when no holdings are on the board. But, as I said, we’re speaking in general terms here :D.
There will also be times when placing 2 fate on a 2 cost character may be prudent. One example I can come up with off the top of my head is if your opponent is at a point where assassination is not an option for them (typically, 6 honor. And even then, they’re pushing their luck hard if they use it when they’re that low), I would be happy to put 2 fate on either a Hiruma Yojimbo or a Shrewd Yasuki if I have a holding I plan on protecting in play, like a Karada District or Funeral Pyre. The Yojimbo’s stats are just so efficient for a defender (especially if you can honor her with Shameful Display), it’s hard to pass up such a great deal. There are a handful of other 2 cost characters from other clans worth long term investments as well in the situation where your opponent doesn’t have enough honor to play Assassination.
How much fate should I save for the conflict phase and how do I accumulate excess fate?
As we know, there is a fixed income in this game. Your stronghold provides a certain amount of fate per round and, barring a few select cards (Like Kaiu Shuichi and Manicured Garden) that generate fate, that’s essentially all you get for the whole round. So how do you accumulate more fate without compromising your board state? This is how I do it.
Guideline #4: If your opponent allows you to, pass aggressively in the dynasty phase
One thing I’ve noticed a lot of people do during the dynasty phase, when it’s their turn to purchase or pass, is they look at my fate pool and they look at the remaining cards in my provinces. If I have enough fate to purchase a character, they’ll often purchase a character with their remaining fate, expecting me to purchase a character, allowing them to pass and gain the fate. In these scenarios, I almost always pass. Let me give you an example.
I don’t have video of it because it was at a local tournament, but I was playing against a Scorpion player this past weekend. His flip was Sinister Soshi, Seeker Initiate, Young Rumormonger and Shosuro Actress. My flip was Shrewd Yasuki, Vanguard Warrior, Kaiu Envoy and an Imperial Storehouse.
He was first player, so he purchased a Sinister Soshi with 2 fate on her, leaving him with 4 fate. I purchased the Kaiu Envoy for 1, leaving me with 7. He purchased a Seeker Initiate with no fate (don’t worry, he admitted he hates that card and can’t wait to remove it). I purchased a Shrewd Yasuki with a fate, leaving me with 4 fate. Now, he had a decision to make. He could either pass first and only have 1 character that could actually participate in conflicts (and a bad one at that), or he could purchase the Young Rumormonger for 2 with no additional fate and then he’d expect me to purchase the Vanguard Warrior. If I were him, I would have passed. It would have been a relatively bad conflict phase for him, but he’d have fate going into the second round. But, he did buy the Rumormonger. He believed I would buy the vanguard warrior, since I had so much fate.
And to be fair to him, the idea of going into the conflict phase with 5 fate and a character sitting in my provinces seemed pretty farfetched if you aren’t familiar with the aggressive passing strategy. But, the beauty of this game is that fate rolls over from round to round.
So I had to ask myself “What would be more beneficial? Having a 2/1 character that I can sacrifice to keep my easily assassinate-able Yasuki around for an additional round (which he wasn’t even going away that round anyway), or denying my opponent 1 fate (Leaving him at 0 fate, mind you) which will really hinder how many actions he can perform this round and also buffering my fate production for the next round?”
It took me about 2 seconds to answer my own question and I quickly passed. I now had a 5 fate advantage on him going into the conflict phase. And then, once the Envoy left, it became a 6 fate advantage.
Now, had I played the Vanguard Warrior, I would have had 2 fate going into the conflict phase, to his 1 fate. And my board state the following round would have been approximately the same (1 more fate on the Yasuki who, again, could be assassinated at any moment.) So the decision kind of made itself in this scenario, but it won’t always be this cut and dry.
I spoke to the scorpion player after the game and he said that he did not think I would pass and had a few 1 cost cards in hand that he would have loved to play during the conflict phase. So by passing early, I not only ruined my opponent’s plans, which won me the conflict phase handily, but also I strengthened my later rounds by gaining additional fate when it was made available to me.
A general rule I have when making decisions like this is I ask myself what my opponent would want me to do. Or what they are expecting me to do. And, depending on the board state at that point, I will often do the exact opposite of what I believe they want me to do. In this scenario, the scorpion player clearly expected and wanted me to buy that Vanguard Warrior. Therefore, I did not. And it significantly contributed to me winning the game.
Something to remember when making decisions like these: In a game that you are intending to play to completion (I.E. you’re not worried about the game going to time), provinces are just resources. If you pass aggressively and that lack of a character results in you losing a province but, in return, you caused a 2 fate swing by passing early and setting up a better round coming up, then you aren’t really in that bad of a position. Losing provinces doesn’t matter in this game as much as it did in the old L5R, where a broken province no longer received dynasty cards. In this game, losing provinces is part of the game and sacrificing a province for a fate, hand or board advantage is often worth the price. Just like any other resource, managing your provinces (when is it okay to lose one, when is it imperative that you defend them) is a key part of playing the game efficiently. Poor resource management extends beyond just honor and fate. Your hand, characters and provinces are all resources that you must manage during the game as well. So, as always, take these guidelines with the grain of salt known as “game context.” I could go on a rant about avoiding the “sunken cost fallacy” when deciding how many cards/fate/characters to play/spend/use in a conflict, but that would likely be worth its own article somewhere down the road.
Guideline #5: Utilize cards that specialize in fate efficiency
(NOTE: Charge is now restricted, so this section just became a lot more sad for me)
I remember when FFG announced that they were going to play a sample game on one of their FFGLive videos to further showcase the gameplay of L5R. This was relatively early in the spoiler process (I think it was between Dragon and Crab being spoiled, so around early July) so not a whole lot of cards were known at the time, especially the neutral cards, since they weren’t part of the spoiler articles.
And during that game, one of the players used the card known as Charge! He paid 1 fate…and then brought a 3 or 4 cost character from his province into the current conflict.
The chat immediately exploded with requests for the full text of the card. “Surely, it is restrictive in some way. It can only be used on offense perhaps? Or was it just used on defense? Maybe it goes away right after the conflict? What if it can only be played out of the attacked province? The players must be short handing the wording of it, because there’s no way it’s that good.”
Well, it was. You literally pay 1 fate during a military conflict to play a character from your provinces into the conflict.
The level of fate efficiency available in this card is incredible. If you charge in a 4 cost character, you just converted the card in your hand into 3 fate. Which I hear is a good deal.
And it works even better out of Crab because, if you charge in a character while you have a Vanguard Warrior on the field, or if you have a reprieve in hand, that character is likely sticking around for at least another round. Or, for even more shenanigans, you can charge in a Vanguard Warrior and, after the conflict is over and the warrior is useless, you can sacrifice him to add a fate to a big character that would otherwise be going away at the end of the round, which feeds into the discussion we’ve been having about creating a lasting board state to ease your reliance on buying out your entire flop each round.
Or, if you don’t have those characters or attachments available, just getting a high impact character for 1 round is okay too. I’ve had multiple games where I’ve charged in a Steadfast Witch Hunter to help win a conflict and then, after the conflict, used them to sacrifice themselves (by the way, for those who don’t know, Steadfast Witch Hunter can sacrifice herself to ready another character. It’s ridiculous. That card is amazing) to ready one of the other characters from that last conflict. Or whatever other sacrifice effects you may want to use. Funeral Pyre, Stoic Gunso, Way of the Crab etc. The world is your oyster!
On top of all that, if you have Charge! In your hand during the dynasty phase, you can choose not to purchase a big character in your provinces, allowing you to pass early knowing that, once you or your opponent declares a military conflict you can bring that character into play for a massively reduced price (1 fate, which you got for passing early anyway, so virtually free). There are some minor drawbacks to this plan, of course. If your opponent is first player and attacks that province with a political conflict and breaks it, you won’t have a chance to bring the character out for your military attack. It could also be cancelled by Voice of Honor and Forged Edict. Game context, once again, is key when deciding whether to make these types of plays.
As more cards come out that offer fate efficiency like this, they’ll be key parts to properly managing and maximizing your fate efficiency to get the most value out of your cards as possible.
Guideline #6: It is often worth taking a ring you don’t care about if it has 2 or more fate
Finally, this may seem like a super obvious way to farm fate, and I apologize if reading something this obvious isn’t a good use of your time, but it’s worth mentioning all the same, as I know new players read stuff like this too.
Let’s say you’re playing a game and, during your turn to declare a conflict, all your characters are currently readied and your opponent’s board state has no high impact fateless characters. If the Ring of Water has 2 or 3 fate on it, I would strongly consider declaring that ring anyway, possibly with a low impact character like an Eager Scout of Kaiu Envoy. You don’t care at all if you win the conflict, but you got a nice bounty of fate out of the deal. This will allow you to roll over more fate into the following round, potentially opening the opportunity for an explosive round the following round. Hell, it often could be worth it if the ring has just 1 fate on it, especially if you have no intention of winning that conflict.
This ideology also feeds into my bias as a Crab player. Since Crab is relatively weak in political, but I still can only declare 1 military conflict per round, I often like using that political conflict to farm fate. If I win, great. If I don’t, that means my opponent must have done something to stop me from winning (costing resources) while I simultaneously gained the resources that were resting on the ring!
In addition, it is worth mentioning that it is also worth taking a ring with fate on it simply to deny your opponent the ability to get more fate during the conflict phase. If you’re trying to maintain your fate advantage, which should always be a goal of yours, making sure your opponent gets as close to the base 7 fate per round as possible is an important aspect of gaining and maintaining that advantage.
I had a game against Scorpion during the discord league tournament. I was 95% sure my opponent had an I Can Swim in hand because she was consistently bidding high and conspicuously keeping 2 fate at all times. It was, of course, all speculation, but I felt pretty confident that that was what she was planning, since every character on my board was dishonored at one point (reprieves are great to prevent I Can Swim, by the way).
In one round, around the 44 minute mark, I was first player and there were 2 rings with fate on them. I declared one of the two rings for my first attack and I was planning on just playing around the I Can Swim for an additional round, but then she played an Adept of Shadows to drop down to 1 fate (and, due to Miyako, dishonored Kisada). I still won and claimed the ring but, since I now had a character that I didn’t want to go Swimming who didn’t have a reprieve, I decided to play Know the World to switch my ring with the other ring with fate on it, for the sole purpose of denying my opponent that fate so that she could not afford I Can Swim that round. Know the World is not what I would call a “power card” and is generally not be worth including in your deck as a splash card, but for this particular game, it worked out pretty well :).
UPDATE: I actually had a game the other night that I feel helps exemplify a lot of what I am talking about in this article, so it’s worth linking here.
And that’s all I got for you right now! I know there was some basic stuff in this article, but I hope it helped…someone.
Until next time, I hope you enjoy the game and watch out for that Dynasty Phase Way of the Crab! 😀