Superior Tactics #34: Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry blossom is scattering
wind carries
short-lived feelings
-- Yukari

Towns throughout Japan in the spring celebrate the blooming of sakura, considered the national flower of Japan. Washington, D.C. even hosts the U.S. National Cherry Blossom Festival. Roger Giner-Sorolla (a.k.a. Yogo Onokae) brings us insights about Legend of the Five Rings' tribute to this custom.

Cherry Blossom Festival - Fixed Event (HoR)
No players can play Reactions until your next Events Phase.

Perhaps the samurai period holds such a fascination for me because of my early experiences playing the Heritage Games/Avalon Hill strategic wargame "Samurai." One of the most dreaded random events in the game was the "Kyoto Cherry Blossom Festival." The Festival required each clan to send one army to the Imperial city of Kyoto. Almost always, the presence of so many samurai in one place would lead to an alliance-defining bloodbath.

Well, L5R's Heroes of Rokugan set has given the game a Gold-legal Cherry Blossom Festival of its own - and its effects are just as sweeping and unpredictable. Is there any way a deck can turn the negation of all Reactions to its advantage? Let's take a closer look, and see what kind of decks the Festival hits hardest and which ones it leaves alone.

Gold production: Fate deck gold dries up - no Shady Dealings, One Koku or Nature Provides. This Festival is another reason for the original Shadowlands Horde stronghold to play There Is No Hope - it negates the stronghold's 4 Gold cost reduction reaction. The Hiruma Dojo is similarly inhibited.

Military: The Festival hits attack decks hard. No Sneak Attack (but Scout is still good), no Rallying Cry, no Call to Arms, and almost no protection against battle actions - Test of Courage, Flee the Darkness, The Sun Returns, Confusion at Court are all useless during the Festival. Purusha's archery is negated. Feign Death is out, as is Forced March. Avoid Fate and other anti-Event reactions generally favor the attack, given the number of annoying slow-down events that exist. The Festival takes care of these for a turn, although it's less likely that another event will come out for you in a subsequent province. Counterattacks are ruled out, but this is cold comfort to the attack deck. Apart from the regions of Sorrow's Path, Mystic Ground and Campsite, almost no useful defensive actions are Reactions. Consider this carefully.

Honor: Duels will have to be won by force of Chi or printed traits such as Double Chi, as most dueling-related tricks -- Togashi Yoshi, Pressure, Kitsuki Kaagi, Moetechi, the Double Chi and Void Strike Kiho -- are useless during the Festival. The Festival also eliminates a few fate-side Honor tricks that have become common, like Final Haiku, Remember What You Have Seen, and An Exhibition (but not Blessing Upon the Lands). For Cranes in Open, Kakita Shijin's poetry is shut down by the Festival. But the staples of an honor deck - honor holdings and personalities - are not affected, and the Festival even prevents a few anti-honor measures like Loss of Face, Shosuro Taberu Exp., and Imperial Ambassador.

Dishonor: The Festival is a real mixed bag for these decks. The case for it is that it negates the Reaction effect of the Imperial Favor, making it act almost like a Kachiko's Kiss or Kolat Courtiers with no downside. Defend Your Honor and The Wind's Truth, two popular dishonor defense cards, also take a powder. (Samurai, though, are free to spill their guts during the Festival, as "samurai seppuku" is not considered a Reaction.)

But the bigger case against is that many strong dishonor tactics use Reactions - again, The Wind's Truth, but also Martyr, Plea of the Peasants, Doji Shizue, and the abilities of Bayushi Goshiu and his Experienced version. And it's hard to tell when the Festival will appear, so it could either hurt or help the dishonor game.

Enlightenment: Putting Rings into play is no longer a Reaction, but Enlightenment should still fear the long-shot occurrence of Doom of the Brotherhood in the turn after the Festival; no Reactions can stop the event from destroying the Enlightenment option. Apart from this, the Festival reduces your options in trick dueling for Fire (see above), forcing out Earth through Will of the Emperor or Armor of Osano-Wo, and getting a quick but legit Ring of Water out through Touch the Lands or Oyuchi. On the positive side, The Sun in Shadow or One Life, One Action can't get at your Finding the Harmony if played while the festival is on. Minimal damage, overall.

Master of Five: If you're playing with Fires of Retribution, the Festival cramps your style, but it can also be a lifesaver against The Sun In Shadow or other action stoppers like Bad Kharma -- especially because you have some control over when you pull your Master stunt.

To go over every Reaction in the game and assess the impact of the Cherry Blossom Festival would almost rate a doctoral dissertation in Geek Studies. But from a quick look at the most prevalent reactions, it seems that Master of Five decks can benefit the most from this event, followed by Enlightenment and Honor. Certainly a more peaceful use for this time of meditation and nature appreciation than the samurai showdown I'm used to.

Yogo Onokae
Poetry Tutor to the Crane Children

[Additional: Cherry Blossom Festival may not warrant the risk in a Four Walls, Death of Onnotangu, or (to a lesser extent) Darkest Magics deck. Avoid Fate tends to be the only important reaction in these decks, but it's absolutely crucial.

Cherry Blossom Festival will maintain legality in the Gold environment. Many of the most-used reactions will be back, especially on the military side of things. Several "play as a focus" cards will be back as well, including Another Time and Kharmic Strike, neither of which are affected by the blooming of cherry trees. -- ed.]

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

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