Something is stirring in the ancient land of Rokugan, the clans grow restless within their temple walls, and the Emperor sits uneasily on his Emerald Throne. The time for chaos has come again. The world of The Legend of the Five Rings is returning with a new Fantasy Flight game: Battle for Rokugan, bringing strategy mechanics to the land of honour-bound samurai and warring clans as they seek to conquer the Empire and unite it under a new age of peace.
How do you play Battle for Rokugan?
Battle for Rokugan, designed by Tom Jolly and Molly Glover, takes place in an ancient Edo-inspired fantasy world where samurai clans fight for the Emperor’s favour and domination of one another’s provinces. You choose between seven ancient clans: Crab, Crane, Dragon, Pheonix, Lion, Scorpion, and Unicorn, each with their own unique territory and legendary daimyō leader. The clan you choose will determine your special ability, as well as your home province from which you spread your armies and influence.
Your goal is to conquer the many provinces of Rokugan, bringing honour to your clan and leading its people into a new age of prosperity through daring battles and clever diplomacy. The game ends after five rounds whereupon the player with the most honour wins, yet though conquering the map might be tempting taking provinces isn’t so a straightforward guarantee of victory as you might think.
Claiming every province within a territory will grant players access to new abilities and undermine their opponents, but seeking such power can also lead to dishonour with Rokugan’s mysterious realm of the Shadowlands: single-province territories which promise great powers but bring no honour to the daimyō who claims them.
Like The Legend of the Five Rings, Battle for Rokugan brings roleplay elements to its strategy foundation, and it’s fitting that players will be judged not only on their merit in battle but also on their honour as a samurai.
In a set-up which will be familiar to players of Game of Thrones: The Board Game, each of the five rounds are broken down into three phases:
- Upkeep - Where players address and respond to the most recent events in play, using tokens and abilities to boost defences, seeking peace or divine blessings, bluffing, initiating military attacks, or raiding provinces.
- Placement - Placing combat tokens to fortify defences now under siege, attack neighbouring clans, engage in diplomacy, or send out scouts and shugenja to spy on opponents’ plans.
- Resolution - Players reveal their combat or bluff tokens and resolve all conflicts to turn the tide of influence across the board.
In addition to fighting for provinces and earning honour, each daimyō has a secret objective to complete in order to receive bonus points in the final scoring. Strategising well and outwitting your opponents will be a difficult task, but Battle for Rokugan also offers an opportunity for the disgraced daimyō who loses all of their provinces: the path of the ronin.
Without control tokens ronin players become wildcards: unable to raid or use diplomacy, the outcast has to battle to regain a province and with it their honour. The possibility of multiple ronin punishing each step of the winning clans in Battle for Rokugan’s late game will hopefully mean maintaining influence will be a tricky, yet balanced, task.
With an estimated playtime of 60-90 minutes, it looks promising that Battle for Rokugan’s five-round limit will mean more concise and focused games in comparison to Game of Thrones: The Board Games’ much longer playtime. Battle for Rokugan will also support as little as two players, so one-on-one daimyō standoffs will be a possibility. Meanwhile, with a five-player maximum there should be some real replay-ability as the seven different clans, and their unique abilities, won’t all be in play at the same time.
Battle for Rokugan looks to be a good pick for fans of strategy board games which offer a fantastical setting and roleplay elements, but won’t take you the entire night to get through. We’ll be looking forward to seeing whether Battle for Rokugan delivers on real strategic challenge, but in the meantime players eager to return to the world of The Legend of the Five Rings can pre-order the game here.
Who will rise to lead the Emerald Empire, and who will succumb to dishonour? Only the Battle for Rokugan will decide.