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In the early days of the Emerald Empire, the Rokugani daimyō battle for control of the realm and the honor of their clans. The responsibility placed upon these individuals is overwhelming. Some may falter in their duty and lose their hold on the realm, failing their clan, while others feel the pull of the dark Shadowlands and the powers they promise. If a daimyō gives in to the temptation, they may destroy their honor… but they may also lead their clan to victory.
We’ve already explored the heart of the game with our previews of control tokens and an example of gameplay. Now, as you prepare to launch your conquest of the Emerald Empire, we offer a closer look at what it means to fight without honor in Battle for Rokugan!
Command the Shadowlands
Battle for Rokugan is a turn-based strategy game played over the course of five rounds in which two to five Rokugani daimyō must form their strategies, distribute their forces, and battle for control of the provinces that make up the Emerald Empire. By bluffing, using diplomacy, and placing combat tokens, the daimyō expand their Clans’ territory and move closer to victory. With each province they conquer, the daimyō earn honor for their Clan, and if they take over an entire territory, they further bolster their strength. In the end, the most honorable daimyō will win the day, but temptation and the fear of failure are ever-present.
To the south of Rokugan lie the blighted Shadowlands, a dark realm under the sway of Fu Leng and the corrupted armies from the realm of Jigoku. The only safeguard between the Shadowlands and Rokugan is the mighty Kaiu Wall and its builders and defenders, the Crab Clan. Should the Wall ever fall, goblins, ogres, undead, and legendary demons known as oni would spill forth from the Shadowlands to destroy civilization. Yet the call of these dark lands is undeniable.
The Shadowlands are divided into two single-province territories, each of which has its own territory card and defense bonus. These cards grant dark, powerful abilities to the daimyō who use them, but they require sacrifice. No matter the benefits, surrendering to temptation does not reflect well on your virtue—and you will never gain honor for controlling Shadowland territories or for having faceup control tokens in either Shadowlands province.
If you control a province within the Shadowlands, you take the appropriate territory card as normal. However, unlike other areas of the Emerald Empire, these territory cards are not played during the upkeep phase. Rather, they are played at the start of the controlling player’s turn during the placement phase. If you take over the northern area of the Shadowlands, which are more heavily surrounded by the Crab Clan’s territory, you may choose to Animate the Dead and add them to your forces. By using this ability, you can remove one of your control tokens from a non-Shadowlands province and reaplace it with a combat token from your discard pile. Then, after using this ability, you place a combat token from your hand as usual.
Meanwhile, if you claim the area further south, where the clans of Rokugan have little power to stop you, you may murder as you please, keeping only the strongest warriors within your ranks. If you Purge the Weak, you will not place a combat token during your turn. Instead, you discard one combat token from your hand. You may then choose two combat tokens on the board to reveal and discard. With the powers of darkness at your call, not even the strongest clan can stand against you. But will brute force be enough to win the day?
A loss of honor may occur if you willingly sacrifice it for power, but it can also happen if you fail those who have placed their faith in you. As a Rokugani daimyō, your mission is to defend your people and conquer the realm in the name of your clan. If you fail—if you lose your hold on Emerald Empire—you and the warriors under your command become ronin.
In Battle for Rokugan, to become ronin means that you do not have any control tokens on the board at the start of the upkeep phase. You have lost all the provinces in your care, and are therefore left with no choice but to fight for any area you may hope to conquer. During the placement phase, you may place your army tokens on any land border as you struggle to regain your territory and your honor. However, as ronin have no territories and no influence, you are unable to place raid or diplomacy tokens until you can regain control of a province.
In the example shown above, the Unicorn clan’s warriors are ronin. During the placement phase, they can place their tokens on any border. In this case they are preparing to attack provinces controlled by the Scorpion and Crab Clans. If either Scorpion or Crab leave their provinces undefended, or if they place military units that are overpowered when the combat tokens are revealed, the Unicorn will gain control of the area and no longer be ronin. They are restored to the heat of conflict between the clans, but whether they are able to bring victory to their clan remains in the hands of fate.