This week, I'm honored to introduce the best known name in Legend of the Five Rings strategy, Zen Faulkes. Zen's been with the Crab Clan through thick and thin, and has thus learned a few things about the Rokugan's construction industry.
Entrench is one of those rare cards that actually benefit the player who goes second. During your opponent's first turn, you've got an unbowed stronghold that can produce gold. Why not spend it on something, like a big ol' wall? Just use the second action on Entrench. Even though the cost is increased by 3, fortifications that cost zero (e.g., Trenches, Barricades, Temple of Blood) to one gold (e.g., Garrison, Watchtower) are within the reach of most strongholds. Of course, with its built-in fortification discount, Kaiu Crab can pull out one fortification with a printed gold cost of 5 or less, *and* as many 0-1G Holdings as you have copies of Entrench in your hand. Putting out a Moat out *before* your first turn on any province you want is not a bad deal.
Even if you don't get this card in your hand on your first turn, there are benefits to getting fortifications out with this card later in the game. In general, you want to pull out the fortifications as quickly as possible, because it increases the chances of you getting other card types, like Personalities, later in your draws.
In multi-player, there can be much bigger benefits to retrieving a fortification as an Open action. How many times have you been leading, and watched as the other players figure out how to destroy your provinces? They count the force totals, ask how many cards you have in your hand, guess if someone has a Superior Tactics to break your Entrapping Terrain. In a situation like that, saving a fortification until it's the turn of the *last* player on your right can be devastating. It can utterly turn everyone's estimate of just how much force, or how many turns, is going to be enough to take you. In other words, if you're at 40 honor all of a sudden, Entrenching for a Bridged Pass is pretty sweet.
One cute way to use Entrench is to slap a fortification on a province containing a Personality you plan to buy that turn. That makes it a lot easier to play Teach the Mountain (+2F/+2C when he's in battle where there's a fortification).
Let us not forget that there is a win condition based around getting fortifications into play, too: The 38th Hantei Falls. Entrench is a natural addition to a deck trying to win that way. If anyone ever pulls off "The Time is Now + Entrench" for that fourth and final Wall of Otosan Uchi just as The 38th Hantei Falls resolves, write and tell me about it. [Write me and tell me about it too, so I can tell him to read his cards more closely. Entrench only allows the retrieval of non-unique Fortifications. Always read all your cards at least twice before putting them in a deck. -- ed.]
One unexpected bonus of using Entrench as an Open is that by increasing the cost by 3, a fortification can become immune to Plague of Locusts.
Using Entrench's Battle action may well be trickier than using its open action, because you still have to meet the cost. A lot of times, you just can't leave two to ten gold lying around in those early turns. Most 0G fortifications do things before battle, not during it (e.g., Temple of Blood), though there are some (e.g., Palisades, Trenches).
The benefits of using Entrench in battle are surprise. Your opponent normally sees a fortification before the battle starts, and opponents normally pick on the least-well defended provinces first. Throwing up a wall in the middle of battle is as effective as swinging force totals as any battle action. Suddenly finding yourself up against an unanticipated Moat, or Barbican, or Dragon's Teeth can really take the spring out of an attacker's step. These fortifications also serve as a reminder that Entrench as a Battle action is most effective if you fetch a fortification with a good trait. A trait affects the battle immediately, but you're going to lose a tempo if you get a fort with an action you can't use until your next shot (e.g. Pitch and Fire). [Having the people on watch at a Garrison build a Bridged Pass or Unscalable Walls will surely confound the attacker. -- ed.]
With either action, a big plus is that Entrench allows you to puts a fort where *you* want it. Most other methods of fetching them from your Dynasty deck are either random (showing up in your provinces, Architects of the Wall) or pile them up in one place (Kaiu Castle). That makes Entrench particularly useful if there's a fortification you like so much that you play with multiple copies of it. It's also a useful feature in cases where you're fighting battles on several fronts at once: you can pull fortifications that are helpful only if you've just lost (e.g., Bridged Pass or Trenches).
Fortifications will never be a critical type of card in L5R, not like gold-producing Holdings, or Followers, or even Kiho. Nonetheless, Entrench is a decent support card that increases their utility several notches. P.S. -- Bonus note that [just] crept into Jeff Alexander's Most Recent printing list. When combined with Fort on a Hill, Pitch and Fire produces a "Ranged 6 Attack" in Pearl Edition, not "the strength of these ranged attacks is six," as it did in Anvil of Despair. It matters, because the current wording means you can turn those into Ranged 12 Attacks with Blessing Upon the Lands. [It also says "... if you control a Fort." Fort on a Hill is the only Fort card, but you get doubled effectiveness. Of course, the MRP list implies you need the Fort present. Additional: Players drawn to Entrench may want to consider, in addition or as an alternative, Isawa Taeruko. Like Entrench, she can fetch Fortifications at just about any time, including during battle. Taeruko doesn't have the advantage of possible first-turn forts, but she does let you buy them at a discount. -- ed.]
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