Since Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) took over the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) franchise from AEG, they have been producing the L5R Living Card Game (L5R LCG), which has included several releases so far. FFG Have also announced the L5R Roleplaying Game (L5R RPG) that will be released later this year. Since taking over the franchise, FFG have also been producing short stories that were made available for free via their website. L5R has always been a franchise that valued its fiction; the game itself has always been driven by the stories and the player's changes to the ongoing narrative. FFG have continued this and along with their free fiction and the narrative driven by the L5R LCG tournaments, FFG have now also started producing hardback novellas, the first of which, The Sword and the Spirits we will look at here.
The Sword and the Spirits novella has three parts to it, the first part, and the major part is the story, written by Robert Denton III follows the journey of Shiba Tsukune on an unexpected investigation, after even more unexpectedly becoming the Phoenix Clan Champion. Tsukune visits Cliffside Shrine, home of the Kaito family, following a powerful shugenja that she had previously been the bodyguard for and begins an investigation into some unusual events there. The second part of the product are some background information at the end of the book, details about the Kaito family, the shrine keepers and some of the families' customs, traditions and artifacts. The third part is three copies of two different alternative art cards for the Legend of the Five Rings LCG.
The Sword and the Spirits is over 100 pages and follows the journey of the new Phoenix Clan Champion after being chosen by the ancestral sword of the Phoenix, Ofushikai. The story does explain a lot of the background of L5R as it goes on and doesn't expect too much knowledge of the setting, but an appreciation of the setting will increase your enjoyment of the story. The characters in the novella are also featured in L5R LCG cards, and it's great to add some real depth to them if you hadn't heard about them before from previous editions.
The background details at the end are extremely well-presented and anyone with any interest in L5R from either the LCG or the upcoming RPG will find some very useful information here, probably in more depth than we will get in any sourcebooks.
The alternative art cards included do have great art full card art (the L5R LCG cars usually have box at with the card text in their own box underneath). Kaito Kosori was originally available through Disciples of the Void expansion for the L5R LCG and the alternative art card is a very decent full length art card. Ofushikai is a preview card and won't be tournament legal until it's released in an upcoming set, but Phoenix players will be able to test the card in friendly games until it's released. The card itself is quite potent if attached to the right character and can send a powerful attacker home if being used in defense.
The Sword and the Spirits is a very well-presented novella with some interesting details, and completionists of the L5R LCG, those looking for any background detail they can, L5R RPG players and anyone who enjoys samurai stories will find a lot to enjoy here. The product isn't essential for either the LCG or RPG and feels more like a collector's item than gaming essential and if that was FFGs market, it's fits that perfect.
The copy of The Sword and the Spirits used for this review was provided by Asmodee UK.
Are you an L5R LCG player? What do you think of the full art cards? How do you feel abut them being included in a product like this? Are you an L5R RPG player from a previous edition of looking forward to the upcoming edition? What do you think of products like this? Let us know in the comments below.