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Superior Tactics #28: Imperial Surveyor

How would you rate Rokugan's landscape?
(a) High.
(b) Hello!
(c) Good evening.
(With apologies to Monty Python.)

This week, the pen and wit of Yogo Onokae (Roger Giner-Sorolla) come to Superior Tactics. The turnaround time for this article from topic request to publication was one day. You too can take advantage of the short queue -- submit an article today!

Imperial Surveyor - Common Holding (F&S) - 3G
Limited: Target a Region in your discard pile. Attach the Region to one of your Provinces, discarding any Regions currently attached there. A Region cannot be taken from the discard pile by Imperial Surveyor more than once per game.

Imagine the scene at Winter Court:

"So, what do you do?"

"Well, I'm a Hida bushi. I stride forth into the Shadowlands under a howling moon, fight vile Oni spawned from the very earth of the place until my skin is riven with the scars of their acid ichor, and then lay watch for my fallen friends and brothers, that I may behead them when they rise from the tainted ground as gibbering zombies. And you?"

"Uh, well, I'm an Imperial Surveyor. I am carried around the Empire in a little box, with some rather nice cushions, really. And every so often I tell my bearers to stop, and I peer out with opera glasses, look at my map and adjust a boundary line here or there. Thus I dispose of the land and fortunes of Samurai. It's not a bad gig, though. Really."

Don't be fooled by his Elton John demeanor, though. The Imperial Surveyor is a powerful addition to any deck that relies on regions for its survival.

Oddly enough, he's not a Retainer. For the moment this is a good thing, rendering him immune to Kolat Assassin and Hiroru. (It's that damn box, Boss...)

Otosan Uchi players should also note the golden word, "Imperial." This doesn't make him free, but does make him Farm- or One Koku-worthy. Most other clans can hire him off the stronghold or a clan holding, which makes him widely usable.

The Surveyor's ability can be broken down into three parts: 1) Resurrect a destroyed or discarded Region. 2) Attach the Region to any of your provinces you like. 3) Destroy an existing Region in the province.

Of these, the ability to bring a destroyed or discarded Region back is clearly the most beneficial. Regions that have an effect then destroy themselves - Mystic Ground, Refuge of the Three Sisters - get a second lease on life with the Surveyor. With Mystic Ground, this can buy a defensive deck the crucial one or two turns it needs to win, creating a province or two that just won't die quietly.

Regions can also end up in the discard when their Province dies, or through measures like Bandit Attack. In particular, regions like the follower producers, Kuni Wastelands or Golden Sun Plain tend to be marked for early destruction. Even Mystic Ground can be destroyed along with the province by an army fighting on more Deadly Ground. But the Surveyor brings it all back.

The Surveyor also can help you deal with region glut. No more frustration at getting a second region in the same Province; just discard it and let the Surveyor retrieve it for you. For regions with a cost (again, the most obvious example is Mystic Ground), the Surveyor lets you stockpile the region in your discard, freeing up the province until a cost-payer comes around. And yes, you do have to pay the region's costs as part of Surveyor's attachment ability.

Surveyors can let you comfortably transcend the conventional 3-region limit in a 40/40 deck, an especially useful feature now that multiple strong defensive regions are available. Also, if your strategy depends on a single region (I'm thinking of those Leaning Tower of Fate Decks with 500 cards and a Palace of the Emerald Champion) the Surveyor lets you run other regions more safely.

This brings us to the second useful function of the Surveyor: custom region attachment. This is particularly important for those regions that convey a benefit to cards coming out of their province, such as Plains Above Evil, Hub Villages or Crossroads. Such regions are notoriously unreliable and thus not seen much in highly competitive decks. Surveyor makes them just a bit more useful, as a one-shot anyway, and provided you can get them into your discard. [Unfortunately, the Imperial Surveyor cannot zone Rokugan's next MegaMall with As Far As The Eye Can See, since each construction crew trashes the existing buildings. -- ed.]

Finally, keep in mind that the Surveyor does not only create, he destroys. His ability to replace one Region with another has one obvious target: Shinsei's Shrine, in situations where the defender becomes Shrine-locked and unable to bring out new personnel. If you play with enough Regions, you'll eventually get one in the destroyed or discarded pile, for any of the reasons mentioned above. It's harder if you don't play with a lot of Regions, because you usually can't just discard a Region; they pop into play automatically. Refuge of the Three Sisters, as a side note, is perhaps the best Region for intentional discarding. [This strategy is somewhat difficult to pull off with Shinsei's Shrine. A region can't show up in the Shrine's province by accident (since it holds no Dynasty cards). It'd be easier to replace the lonely Clan Heartland with a Shrine, but most players prefer to have their Shrines show up early and not get in the way late rather than the other way around. -- ed.]

Anyway, the discarded Region can both unlock your Province and go to work for you, if it's something useful like Mystic Ground, Campsite or even the Refuge (go get an Entrapping or a Rain). Also keep in mind that Surveyor can get rid of dead wood like an expired Silk Route, or regions that become more of a liability mid-game, like Doji Plains. [Imperial Surveyor conveniently discards the Doji Plains, keeping the holding safe. -- ed.]

Now that we've seen the Surveyor's capacities, what's the cost-benefit analysis? Surveyor is obviously worth his pay in gimmick decks that rely on multiple different Regions, like the Agasha Tunnels/Palace of the Emerald Champion mega-Fate deck. His ability to fish out Mystic Ground is also well worthwhile in shugenja or monk heavy defensive decks, possibly in combination with other power defense regions. Shrine decks and users of multiple defensive regions would also be well advised to at least test out two Surveyors in the mix.

I tend to doubt the usefulness of recycling Refuge with him, unless you have a LOT of weenie personalities and a lot of 0-1 focus cards you really need. Attack decks definitely don't need him, as their regions tend to be resource providers like Golden Sun Plain or follower factories. Not worth the 3G and extra Dynasty cards, though Otosan Uchi decks have more latitude to experiment here.

All in all, the Surveyor is quite a delicate and pampered character. You'll probably only see him invited to the most elegant dinner parties in Kosaten Shiro, the House of Tao and the Dragon and Phoenix lands. But as new Regions are being discovered all the time, it's always well for anyone to keep him in mind.

Roger Giner-Sorolla
aka Yogo Onokae
Scorpion Clan Property Easement Coordinator

[Additional: Note that each Imperial Surveyor can grab each Region once. That means that three Imperial Surveyors and three Mystic Grounds can prevent a grand total of 12 province destructions. This applies to similarly worded cards like Sysh and Sunabe. The Soul of the Empire rulebook lacks any comments about Kaiu Kenru (or anything else in the old errata sections), so he should come under this ruling as well.

One might wish to let the Surveyor investigate Exile's Road [ST#2], but once it's entered play it cannot copy another region. -- ed.]

Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright Roger Giner-Sorolla, 2000, edited by Trevor Stone.

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