As with almost any good RPG these days, Legend of the Five Rings has its own Beginner Game, a starter set containing almost everything that you need to play (just add pencils and rubbers). This box is a brilliant way to get your first exposure to the world of Rokugan and the adventures and intrigues that you might have there.
Featuring a stripped-down version of the full rules, this box features four pregenerated characters (with two more available online as a web enhancement) to give yourself an introduction to the world and the gaming experience.
Each character is a young samurai from one of the six Great Clans, showcasing both the general premise of the game, as well as allowing you to experience your character’s gempukku (or coming of age). Of course, things are never as simple as that, especially not when your gempukku takes place, not in the safety of your own clan lands, but at the prestigious Test of the Topaz Champion- your clan honour rests at your feet as well as your own future.
Once done, you can download the free web enhancement ‘In the Palace of the Emerald Champion’ to continue the storyline as well as setting up future adventure seeds.
Built in Fantasy Flight Game’s traditional style, this box contains a miniature rulebook with stripped down versions of the rules including some NPCs (some of whom do not feature in the Core Rulebook). It also contains:
- Four pregenerated characters (Crane Courtier, Lion Bushi, Phoenix Shugenja and Unicorn Bushi).
- 10 custom dice (five skill and five ring dice - essentially one full ‘player’ set).
- The Topaz Championship (an introductory adventure).
- A double-sided map (included a map of Rokugan, one adventure site for the box and one for the web enhancement).
- A selection of tokens that can be used to represent PCs and NPCs.
Using the same system as both Genesys and FFG’s Star Wars line (see the review of the full game) this system privileges storytelling over specific actions, and the beginner adventure really focuses on this.
Building from a few basic rules introduction encounters, the scenario does become a little repetitive at times (players have a series of tests to complete and so each scenario requires them to decide how they will deal with the test and roll some dice, record a score and then move on), but these are interspersed with an unfolding intrigue that the players become embroiled in and may well have a hand in stopping.
Final Thoughts on the Beginner Game
Not as broad as the full game, this Beginner Game offers an excellent entry into the Legend of the Five Rings game and world, teaching players the game as well as many details about the world, it's especially good for those who don’t know the extensive world of Rokugan.
Sadly, there are a few let-downs: firstly, the adventure, at times, is a series of test after test (you need to wrestle, how? Okay roll this… next up you need to answer some heraldry questions, how? Okay roll this… etc.) and doesn’t always represent the full rules (for example the duels at the end of the test are single rolls; secondly, the one spellcaster (the Phoenix Shugenja) doesn’t actually have any rules-ability to cast anything so is simply a second-rate courtier unless the GM and player can work together.
That said, the Beginner Game is a good introduction to the world and system, and is an excellent way to get the custom dice for the system that can often be hard to purchase.