The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Updated 31 May, 2020
While card games are best enjoyed with two players eying one another closely across a table, in practice it can be difficult to make regular contact with local play groups or travel to large tournaments. Recent global events have also made online play something of a necessity.
Tabletop Simulator was the first method made available to play Legend of the Five Rings online. It must be purchased on Steam and can be a little tricky to set up at first. Despite this, users have made some beautiful tokens and tables to use, and this platform remains the best place to enjoy alternate versions of the game such as Skirmish, Multiplayer, and Draft.
For players hoping to become more competitive, however, Jigoku is the best available resource. This community-based project is developed on the same platform as Jinteki, the still-popular engine for playing Android: Netrunner: The Card Game online. Sister sites also exist for other FFG LCGs such as The Iron Throne for A Game of Thrones and The Crucible for Keyforge.
This guide looks at how to get started on Jigoku, some of the etiquette for online play, the use of Manual Mode, and ways to support the platform.
Unlike commercial platforms such as Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering Arena which have dedicated tutorials for beginners, it can be daunting to begin playing the fan-developed Jigoku so it is best to take things slowly.
Begin by registering for the site (it is free to use), and setting up your profile.
When starting out it is recommended to have all boxes checked in the Action Window Defaults. Although the majority of cards in any given game are played in the Conflict Phase, some are best played in other phases so it is best to have these options available. While this can slow the game down a little, it is best to mirror the framework of the physical game as much as possible while learning. Later, as your confidence in using the site builds, you can look at unchecking the boxes of some of the less-frequent action windows.
In a similar vein, it is best to give yourself the most possible help for the Timed Bluff Window. As the text states, this provides a forced buffer that gives you time to react to an opponent's play, even if you have no available options. Without this, an instant pass would signal to an opponent that you have, for example, no cancel cards in hard. This is the equivalent of waiting to say 'pass' in a physical game, something you are well within your rights to do.
While learning it is probably best to have your options checked as above. Note that this will draw your attention to potential plays in a way that is not possible in a physical game. Be careful of becoming too comfortable with this on Jigoku as you will not have these reminders in actual tournaments. Later, you might consider switching some of these off.
Finally, select your prefered background and card size. While clan loyalty is important to many Legend of the Fives Rings players, you may find the blank background most helpful while learning to reduce visual 'noise'. Note that if the 'blank' image appears to be a broken link on your screen, you can still click just about the 'None' label.
Regarding card size, remember you can hover over cards for a zoomed-in version so you don't need to make them too large. If you switch between computers or monitors between games you may need to reset this in your profile each time before playing.
More than reading any of the guides on this site, the best way to improve at Legend of the Five Rings is to simply watch others playing on Jigoku.
There is a flow to Legend of the Five Rings that can, over time, be learned by osmosis. While the intricacies of competitive play may not be appreciated immediately, one learns to avoid simple mistakes by watching others make good decisions in online games.
Clan loyalty can help here. Once you have pledged your loyalty, spend some time watching others play your chosen clan. After a while you will start to get a feel for the popular deck archetypes and how they interact with different opponents. Most players (and sometimes other viewers) are happy to answer questions if you introduce yourself as a beginner.
When you are ready to start playing, select 'Beginner' under the game type.
There are plenty of veterans who are happy to take new players through their paces while they are starting out. That said, no matter how hard they try not to, the more experienced player will still win the game, and the new player will feel bad because they lost.
This will happen repeatedly, and no matter how nice and helpful the experienced player is, losing still feels bad.
Legend of the Five Rings is a complex game. It is also a game where small mistakes can be compounded over time. While 1 fate for passing first in the dynasty phase may not seem like much, it may allow one extra card to be played in a key conflict, which leads to the earth ring being claimed, which leads to a crucial card being discarded before it can be used, and so on.
One learns these lessons over time, and the most important thing is to simply see each play, of each round, of each game, as a learning experience. Making mistakes is not a problem; it is taking steps to avoid repeating these mistakes that matters.
Honest reflection is crucial here. After (inevitably) losing your first few games, reflect on what your opponent did to win the game, and how you could have worked to prevent this. It may be that you ran out of fate, went for the wrong ring, or forgot that an opponent's card could 'blank' your character's ability at a key moment. Make a note of this (mentally or physically), and take the lesson with you into your next encounter.
When learning, then, the important thing is to 'lose well'. Every outcome is a learning experience, and keeping such a mindset will see you play a little better in each consecutive game. And, when you do claim your first victory, it is an uplifting experience and you should feel proud of your achievement.
Importantly, make sure you enjoy your experience. Legend of the Five Rings is a deeply-involving game that rewards time and patiences, but it also has some ridiculous moments that it is important to laugh at with your opponent. Choose your own level of investment in community and competition and you will find that Legend of the Five Rings rewards like few games can.
While players are (sadly) no longer required to bow to an opponent at the end of their turn and say 'the table is yours', there are a few customs for Legend of the Five Rings, and online gaming in general, that it is worth being aware of if you are new to the experience.
Players will usually begin games by typing 'gl hf' (good luck have fun), and end with 'gg' (good game). If nothing else, this acknowledges the other player and the time you spend together.
It can be hard, though, after a rough game to acknowledge the experience as 'good', and it is tempting to just leave the session. This is understandable, and happens occasionally enough, but part of the experience of 'losing well' is to still type the 'gg' before exiting. Nobody flukes a win in a game as complex as Legend of the Five Rings, and it is respectful to acknowledge an opponent's victory. You can also add 'wp' (well played), which is always appreciated by both winners and losers.
If someone does leave a game before winning, losing, or conceding it may be that they had technical difficulties, or that they 'ragequite' (left before conceding). In the case of the former, it is good etiquette to put a post in the lobby on the front page explaining what happened. In the case of the latter, well, consider this a victory and don't let it get to you. Jigoku does not log game outcomes and you don't no need to worry about win/loss ratios or anything like that. You do have the option to block players if you come across repeat offenders, or have a particularly bad encounter.
In the vast majority of games on Jigoku players are friendly and respectful, behaviour which helps to build and sustain the Legend of the Five Rings community.
Jigoku does not have an 'undo' function for misplays. Instead, there is the option to use manual mode, although there are a few things to be aware of with this.
To turn manual mode on, click the red spanner button in the bottom right corner of the screen. Don't forget to switch it off when you are done.
Once manual mode is on there are a number ways you can interact with the framework of the game. These are detailed in the How to Play section of the site and are not discussed here. Regarding when (and if) to use Manual Mode, however, there are a number of schools of thought on the matter.
First, it is helpful to consider the difference between a mistake and an error. A mistake can be as simple as misclicking a card because of a lag spike or spilling some sake on the keyboard. In such cases, the player is not responsible for the undesirable outcome (unless they've clearly had too much sake).
An error, on the other hand, is misplay that can be attributed to a lack of knowledge or understanding on the part of the player. This could be a misreading of a card or unfamiliarity with the framework of the game, and the player is responsible for the undesirable outcome.
If a game is set as 'Beginner' it is generally fine to use manual mode in both cases. Given that one is still learning, a more competitive experience is a better outcome than a regulation win or loss.
If a game is set as 'Casual' then most players will have no problem allowing Manual Mode to fix a mistake, but the issue becomes more complex for errors. Some players would like the game to follow the framework as closely as possible (after all, the framework dictates how the game is to be played). For others, a more enjoyable, interactive game is important, and a negative play experience resulting from unfamiliarity with recent rulings, or a particularly obscure aspect of the framework, is not a desirable outcome.
In such cases, the best thing to do is make your case and ask your opponent if you can use manual mode. Some players will assent, while others may insist on sticking to the framework. If they choose the later, it is recommended that you move on and take the lesson with you into future games.
This reinforces the idea that each game is a learning experience. There is a school of thought that insists manual mode should never be used, as such abstinence encourages players to have a deeper understanding of the framework and to maintain good habits such as reading all cards in play carefully before passing. While such a playstyle is not enforced (Manual Mode does exist, after all), it is worth considering the benefits such a school of thought promotes.
Finally, if a game is set to 'Competitive' (or is part of an online tournament) there is an expectation that manual mode will only be allowed for obvious misclicks.
Jigoku is an community-based project that relies on the time and effort put in the developers and the goodwill of those who use it.
There is a jigoku_feedback channel on the Legend of the Five Rings Discord where bugs can be reported and suggestions made. Note that it is always worth some scrolling and searching to make sure your query has not been addressed already.
For those wishing to know more about Jigoku and its production, episode 22 of the (sadly defunct) Hidden City Roller Derby podcast has an interview with Jadiel, the previous head developer of the platform. Here on The Emerald Dojo we interviewed the two current developes Ikoma Tomoya and Zarzuckett in the December 2020 edition of The Imperial Herald.
Jigoku and its selfless development can be supported through donations on PayPal, and it is always nice to show your thanks and appreciation for updates and maintenance on Discord.