When we talk about trading card games (TCGs), the titles that surely come to our minds are Magic: The Gathering, World Of Warcraft and of course, Pokemon.

What many fail to remember is that there are scores of other TCGs out there, with their own niche followings and communities.

One of these niche games is Legend Of The Five Rings (L5R) – one of the more established TCG titles. The game made its debut in 1995, two years after Magic was released. Set in the fictional land of Rokugan and based on the Japanese feudal era, the one thing that sets L5R apart from the other TCGs is its strong story-telling element. The decks are based on “clans” – the differing factions within Rokugan – thus giving each clan a unique set of advantages and disadvantages.

Instead of just having backstories and lore weaved into the various expansion sets, L5R players are also able to influence the game’s future expansions based on how they fare in tournaments and events. There has been several instances in which entire storyline arcs were developed based on the winning clans in tournaments.


Nippon go!

The “busy” season for L5R just kickstarted worldwide, and we had our own L5R Kotei 2012 regional-level tournament at Comics Corner in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, late last month.

Over that same weekend, players were also treated to the pre-release of Embers of War, one of the latest expansion sets in L5R.

The L5R card gaming community currently has about 30 members and most of them often play at Comics Corner. There are also smaller groups that gather at Comic Mart in Kuala Lumpur, and The Tavern in PJ.

But if you’re looking for a regular place to hang out and play L5R, then Comics Corner it your choice.

“I love it because it’s challenging. I still play other card games such as Magic, but every L5R game is unique. It has more variety, and involves a lot more thinking,” said Mohd Suffian Mohd Rousdin, 33.

He also said that the game made a comeback of sorts in the mid-2000s, after which it saw a decline in the number of players.

The Crane and Lion clan fan has been playing L5R since 2001 and has even ran a few Kotei tournaments himself.

Andyputra Zacharyutama, 35, is also a big fan of L5R. He has played Magic, WWE Raw Deal, Naruto, Versus, and Pokemon but finds L5R the most interesting game of the lot.

“I find L5R more fun, much more affordable, and challenging as well,” said the Crab clan specialist.

Having played L5R for four years, Andyputra now organises weekly tournaments. He also did well at the L5R Kotei 2012 last month where he emerged as the winner in the “honour” category.


Making it easy

L5R sudden popularity in Malaysia is quite a wonder. “The game now has a variety (of elements) and a mix of playing styles. That means that there’s something for everyone,” explained Mohd Suffian.

Recently, a group playing at Comics Corner tried out a new “system” where decks only have a limited number of rare cards. This was done in order to make the game more skills-based and the players less dependent on the power cards.

“We also give away cards in order to support the new players as much as we could. Additionally, we cut the pricing of our rare cards, no matter what the actual market rate is. That way, the game is affordable to everyone,” said Andyputra.

The L5R game also does not encourage high pricing in cards, as everyone runs two decks. A player can’t have more than one unique card per deck; a brilliant idea as it forces prices down, and makes sure that players focus on collecting a variety of card instead.

Apart from creating a regular playing community, a number of L5R players are also organising trips to play in selected regional tournaments now. The next one in their radar is the Philippines Pacific Rim Championship, which will happen in October.

If you’re looking for a deeper, more fun, and engaging card game that does not burn too much of a hole in your pocket, then go for L5R. Find out more about the the local L5R guys by searching for their Facebook page.

* The writer has an L5R deck somewhere at home and will find it if only he can pry himself away from the local Blood Bowl Team Manager Card Game league. E-mail for comments, questions, gaming news, tips, trading lists and deck ideas both Magic and World Of Warcraft. Check out his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @arcturus mengsk.

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