Underhand of the Emperor and Whispers of Shadow and Steel Preview - L5R LCG

Published: October 22, 2018 1:00 PM /


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Last week was a big week for Scorpion players in the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) Living Card Game (LCG). They not only had the Clan Pack for the Scorpion Clan in the Underhand of the Emperor released, but also a Scorpion L5R fiction in Whispers of Shadow and Steel.

Underhand of the Emperor is the second Clan Pack for the L5R LCG by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). Underhand follows the release of the Core Set and other expansions. Our coverage of all the L5R LCG products can be read here:


For anyone interested in L5R, or FFG's LCG system, we advise you to check out the Core Set review first.

The previously released Dynasty Packs contain sixty cards (three copies of twenty cards), which means that players don't need to purchase multiple packs as the maximum copies of each card are available to everyone on purchase. The Clan Packs continue this theme, adding seventy-eight cards (three copies of twenty-five cards and three unique cards).

The Underhand of the Emperor contains cards predominately for the Scorpion clan, but also has cards for the other clans, themed around dealing with Scorpion tactics or their cards specifically. The way the Clan packs are handled are very interesting in that rather than focusing on adding to existing Clan playstyles, they focus on adding new styles of play. The Underhand of the Emperor pack adds a few Shinobi to the Scorpion clan, as well as a lot of cards focused around being on less honour that your opponent, and specifically 6 or less honour.

As with our other L5R LCG articles, we're going to focus on some of our favourite cards from the pack. They might not necessarily be the best cards from the packs, they're just our favourite either mechanically, or thematically.

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Our Scorpion Clan card picks from the Underhand of the Emperor.

Our favourite Scorpion Clan cards from the Underhand of the Emperor are Shosuro Takao, Soshi Aoi, Duty and From the Shadows.

We really like Shosuro Takao's mechanic in terms of theme. He can freely move into or out of a conflict if a dishonoured character is participating (yours or your opponents) and along with having the Shadow keyword, makes him very thematic. We're looking forward to a Shinobi deck with lots of movement that makes it difficult for your opponent to keep up with or work out.


Shoshi Aoi is able to add +1 military or political and add the Bushi or Courtier keyword to a character you control for the cost of 1 honour. It's not a groundbreaking ability, but it allows some depth and options in terms of the types of conflicts your characters are useful in.

Duty is a 1 per deck limited card that allows the Scorpion to cancel an effect that would make them lose their last honour and instead gain one honour. It's a card that if you draw at the start of the game, will sit in your hand until you need it, but you can fail to draw when you need it by only having one copy in your deck. At zero cost it's a card that will be an auto-include for just about every Scorpion deck that relies on them losing honour and especially if in your meta honour loss is a strong deck type.


From the Shadows is the same as Charge, but specific for Shinobi and also allows them to enter dishonoured, opening up other abilities and actions further boosting the Shinobi deck.

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Our non-Scorpion picks from Underhand of the Emperor.

The two standout non-Scorpion cards from Underhand of the Emperor are Doji Fumiki and Utaku Tetsuko.

Doji Fumiki is a purely political Crane clan character that allows you to bow a dishonoured character from conflict, which is great against some of the characters that require them to be dishonoured for their abilities, but it's also good if combined with dishonouring cards to really focus her ability.

Utaku Tetsuko is a Unicorn 3 cost character with 3 military and 1 political. While she's attacking it increases the cost of your opponents cards played from hand by 1, which can really hamper their plans and counters, especially if they've mapped out their card costs at the beginning of the turn.


The Underhand of the Emperor is a great pack for the Scorpion. Crane and Unicorn players (or players who include them as splash cards) will probably pick it up for Fumiki and Testsuko but it feels like the first very specific card pack for the L5R LCG that does allow some players to skip. Most competitive players will pick it up anyway, but we would advise casual players to check out the card list to see if there's anything that will find a place in your card pool before picking up. We've been looking forward to a viable Shinobi deck for a while, so for us it's an incredible pack.

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Since acquiring the L5R licence, FFG have 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, they have been producing hardback novellas, the first of which was The Sword and the Spirits. Whispers of Shadow and Steel is the second of these hardback novellas.

Whispers of Shadow and Steel, like the Sword and the Spirits before it, is a product of three parts. The first part is the short story Whispers of Shadow and Steel by Mari Murdock, which comes in at over 100 pages and centres around Bayushi Yojiro, known as the 'honest Scorpion'. Yojiro is an Imperial Magistrate, an upholder of the Emperor's laws, and is sent to investigate a murder in the City of Lies. The City of Lies is controlled by his clan, the Scorpion which a expected results in some conflict of interest and some hard choices for Yojiro.

The second part of Whispers of Shadow and Steel is the background information on the Scorpion, as well as some details about Shinobi, including their recruitment, training and equipment. The third part of the product are the two alternative full art cards for use in the L5R LCG.

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The alternative full art L5R LCG cards from Whispers of Shadows and Steel.

The novel section of Whispers of Shadow and Steel, like all the fiction before it is extremely well written, and doesn't demand too much knowledge of the L5R setting, but those with an appreciation of the setting will find it a lot more enjoyable. As a long-time Scorpion player, I found much to love in Whispers of Shadow and Steel, and the dual nature and demands of Scorpion characters is well put across. As before, the story characters are also LCG character cards which adds some real depth to them and the setting.

The background details at the end contains some beautiful illustrations and the information is well presented and informative for L5R LCG or RPG players.

The two full art cards have been available previously. Bayushi Yojiro was in For Honor and Glory and Infiltrator was in The Fires Within. In the previous Novella players got a preview of an unreleased card that wasn't tournament legal until it was released, but it gave a great incentive for purchase. As this pack was released at the same time as the Scorpion clan pack, it's understandable not to include a preview card, but disappointing.

Whispers of Shadow and Steel is a great looking product, with some beautiful illustrations and details. Collectors will pick it up for the alternative art cards and anyone with an interest in the setting should pick it up for the story and background details. Scorpion fans will find a lot to love in the story.


Both the Underhand of the Emperor and Whispers of Shadow and Steel are great for Scorpion fans and fans of the setting. Others may want to look at the products to see if there's anything for them to add. Both contain the usual high quality of FFG L5R products.


These copies of Underhand of the Emperor and Whispers of Shadow and Steel were provided by Asmodee UK.


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