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Superior Tactics #20: Ikoma Ken'o

"Don't make me open a Ken'o whupass!"

Bad puns aside, Nevin Longardner (aka Hiruma Nevo) comes this week to speak of a Personality that made a lot of Lion players happy, after several bleak expansions.

Every set seems to have a couple of personalities that make you stop and go, "Whoa. Let me read this card again." In Honor Bound, two such personalities belong to clan Lion, and one of them happens to be the uncommon

Ikoma Ken'o - Uncommon Personality (HB) - 2F - 3C - 4H - 7G - 2PH
Lion Clan Cartographer. Samurai. Tactician.
Battle: Bow Ken'o. All opposing units with Force less than Ken'o's are bowed. This is considered Ken'o's use of his Tactician trait for this battle.

Five things stuck out to me when I first saw Ken'o:

  1. Those wonderful words, "All opposing." Any card that affects all anything, whether your own or your opponent's, is worth noting.
  2. "Units." Ken'o isn't going to stop Toku with Medium Infantry in tow unless he gets a little help. More on that in a bit.
  3. He's a Tactician.
  4. He's not Unique.
  5. His ability is not targeted. Kaagi's Journal? Ken'o reads maps not journals. Enemy of My Enemy? Ken'o doesn't get involved with politics.

Certainly Ken'o is the kind of personality that you can build deck around. Map maker, map maker make me a map...

Unless he's facing a horde of Follower-less Tokus, Ken'o's awesome ability is not going to do too much without some force boosters. While he's not quite honorable enough for Strength of Purity, the list of potential force boosters is considerable, and is not limited to your Fate deck either. Ken'o is all ears to what the Retired General sitting back in your fief has to teach him.

Since Ken'o can use all the force you can throw at him, he's a natural to wield a weapon. The Ono provides +2F, making Ken'o a respectable 4F/3C, and at 3G is within reach of the Lion player. A personal favorite is Gohei's Daisho, a rare Honor Bound item that for 5G gives +2F/+1C and bows as the personality is assigned to a battle to let you draw a card. [Oni no Megada may well be the cheapest way to permanently boost Ken'o's force. I'm sure Kitsu Okura would be only happy to oblige. -- ed.]

The common Honor Bound weapon, Kaimetsu-Uo's Ono, is a natural for Ken'o. The Ono provides a base +1F/+1C bonus, and an additional +1F to any other force bonus its personality receives for the same duration from a card outside its unit. A Charged Ken'o wielding the KU's Ono is a monstrous 7F, enough to bring Oni no Akuma to its knees.

And don't forget about armor! Ken'o will look positively buff (+3F/+2C when attacking) in The Ancestral Armor of the Lion. Finally, the Ancestral Sword of the Lion will make Ken'o an absolute beast. If you're packing cards that can unbow a personality during battle, like Inner Fire, Rise Brother or Dying Effort, Ken'o can straighten and contribute his considerable force to the battle.

Ken'o is a dynamite card to combo. Here are some of the better ones that jumped out at me:

Ken'o is a natural addition to Lion Tactician decks. But his usefulness to other clans cannot be ignored. Oath of Fealty directly helps Ken'o's ability, and if he's wielding Kaimetsu-Uo's Ono during the ceremony, he becomes a base 4F/4C personality (5F/5C with the Ono attached).

Once Oathed, Ken'o can wield a Die Tsuchi, a nice weapon that provides +3F. A Crab player can use Kuni Yasashii to drag Ken'o around the battlefield to where the action is. Lieutenant Sukune will gladly stand by his side and do the dirty work for him in battle, allowing Ken'o to remain straightened thereby contributing his force to his army. Attach The Damned to Ken'o and then blow them up to give him a whopping +5F bonus.

Combine Ken'o with Hida O-Ushi exp 3 and watch O-Ushi get really big, really fast. The only drawback for Crab players is his minimum honor requirement, making The Great Walls of Kaiu the stronghold of choice for Crab players looking to use Ken'o in their decks. [Of course, nothing keeps O-Ushi from going in a Lion deck. The fan club is always looking for new members. Note also that Ken'o needs a larger force then O-Ushi in order for the bully to get much use out of the combo. -- ed.]

Ikoma Ken'o is the kind of personality that immediately command's respect when he hits the table. Build a deck around him and Ken'o the cartographer will gladly "map" up the table in battle for you.

[Additional: Boosting Ken'o's force is a predictable way to use a predictable card. But lowering your opponents' force may be just as effective, and might catch him off guard. Moat does wonders at lowering force en masse. Narrow Ground at the Osari Plains (or followed by A Samurai's Fury) is another way to hit a lot of folks.

A personality like Ken'o is a great way to draw fire. Your opponent will likely concentrate her efforts (Kolat Assassin, Block Supply Lines, etc.) on getting rid of Ken'o, while leaving a personality with several followers alone. If your deck doesn't actually produce very many force bonuses, Ken'o may be worthwhile anyway. George Bush made a similar move.

Also, beware of Energy Terrain -- if your calculations for Battle depend on Ken'o, you may be disappointed. Of course, since when do Lion players worry about Terrains? Of course, he's a second turn personality for most clans and can destroy a 5 Strength Province on his own. -- ed.]

Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright Nevin Longardner, 2000, edited by Trevor Stone.

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Last modified by Trevor Stone