I drooled over this game for years, and the core box has been dirt-cheap on Amazon for a good year or two now. FFG did eventually make a solo/coop expansion but printed maybe 5 copies that instantly sold out and they don’t seem to be reprinting L5R anymore, so if you want it, it’s a $150 expansion.
I found some solo rules that looked pretty solid and got the core box for my birthday, so it was time to give it a whirl. Note, there were a number of mistakes running the rules and the AI, but it was a first game, so it’s to be expected, learning both the main rules and a complex AI.
Fan-made solo AI: Link
Setup with Lion vs. AI Crane.
Had a rough round. AI broke a province and my military attack was swapped to political. My lone attacker had a “-” for politics and immediately went home bowed. At least the political attack against me wasn’t undefended, though I lost. Note, I misread the opponent’s ability and gave them Honored when they shouldn’t have. I corrected this after, but the province was a 3 anyway and would have broken (I might have fought a little more for it, but it was an acceptable outcome). Also lost my champion from discard and the enemy takes Imperial Favor…
Things improve. I got out a big hitter and broke an enemy province with a military attack, stacking up the goods on my honored general. The AI makes a political attack, but my province reveals and gets a fat +5 political defense. Defended! Thanks to my banner attachment, my honored general stays ready and we claim Imperial Favor.
We’re back as first player with Favor. Time to go on the assault! I get a couple more small characters out to help hold the line while my big guy goes for the attack. Unfortunately, the next province allows my opponent to honor one of his characters and dishonor one of mine. The old general is caught making out with the enemy and loses honored. The opposing character gets honored, but his glory is 0, and won’t get a skill bonus. But this really ruins my plans. I was hoping to wipe my opponent’s Honor to 0, and I have a card that can rescue an honored character by discarding their status token instead of discarding them when they have 0 fate. Plans ruined!
I make a change of plans and re-honor the old general after our victory so I can keep him around. Fate phase comes around, I lose the small guys and lose honored but keep the general another round. The opponent loses 2 honored characters which helps bring them back from the brink (they get 1 Honor when an honored character leaves play). An Honor victory is slipping away. I’m still a ways from 25 Honor so it might be time to focus back on provinces. I’ve broken 2 so far. If I can get 2 victories in the next round, it’s game over, but my politics is poor.
I toss out some unwanted cards from my provinces to try and get some better politics. It works, and I might have a window open! With the general and some of the cards in hand, I can just about guarantee a military victory, now it’s all about getting a political victory. I have to do a dance with the enemy, making sure my attacks are advantageous. The enemy gets an undefended attack; I can’t afford to commit defenders. Military has to be without the general, he was unceremoniously bowed and cannot join! But, I unload in the battle, removing an enemy, bowing the other, and doubling my attacker’s military skill. 6 to 0. The 3rd province breaks, so now it’s down to politics. When the moment comes, the enemy only has a guardsman available, but his “-” in politics means he can’t defend. My venerable historian becomes honored, giving me a total of 6 politics, just enough to crush the opponent’s stronghold.
It’s a messy victory with a lot of asterisks, but it was fun. Next time, things should run smoother.