The Battle of Beiden Pass

Looking back at the battle that shaped an empire.

“I shall keep this communication short. We both understand the need for action rather than talk. We have taken a solid position at Beiden Pass, the most important crossroads in the Empire. The clan that controls the Pass controls the movements of half the Empire. Once we hold it, we will be in a strong position to pursue our claim to the Emerald Throne.” – Hida Kisada, Crab Clan Champion

Today, we continue our series of articles reliving the highlights from the foundational story choices of the Clan War. These story choices, or opportunities for the game’s fans and players to determine the direction of the story, set the original Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game apart from its competitors in the mid to late 1990s. Through sanctioned tournaments and votes in the game’s official newsletter, The Imperial Herald, fans determined the fate of the clans and their champions. This week, we take a look at one of the earliest tournaments with a story prize: The Battle of Beiden Pass.

A Critical Crossroads

Hosted by IQ Games , this tournament featured a battle for control over Beiden Pass, the so-called “crossroads of the Emerald Empire.” The rocky pass was, and continues to be, one of the few crossing points for the Spine of the World Mountains, a steep and treacherous range that cuts Rokugan in twain diagonally. With the next closest crossing dozens of leagues away, whoever controlled the pass could control the fate of the Empire itself, as they could constrict the flow of soldiers and supplies between the northern and southern domains. As the six clans fought in the tournament, two clans faced off in the final round: the Crab Clan and the Dragon Clan. Their clash was recorded in the second-ever issue of the Herald.

In the early months of the Clan War, the Crab Clan’s army laid waste to the southern lands of the Crane Clan. Unable to defend themselves, the Crane were on the verge of defeat when a rogue Dragon army led by Toturi the Rōnin pushed the Crab back to the mountains. Hida Sukune of the Crab mounted a brave defense, but Toturi’s troops and a small force of allied Unicorn Clan cavalry managed to inflict heavy casualties while avoiding taking losses of their own. On the next day, an army from the Lion Clan arrived, eager to kill the disgraced Toturi, but the timely intervention of a Phoenix Clan host led by Shiba Tsukune forced the Lion to retreat. Once more training his attention on Sukune, Toturi used his tactical brilliance combined with the elemental might of the Phoenix to rout the Crab. The Crab Clan had no choice but to retreat to their territory in disgrace.

Narratively, things could have gone very differently for the empire had the Crab held and beaten back the Dragon to emerge from the pass, perhaps resulting in Crab Clan Champion Hida Kisada ultimately winning the throne for himself, which was his ultimate goal. But we will never know, for it was the Dragon Clan who defeated the Crab Clan to take first place. The names of the tournament’s top two are lost to the mists of time (despite our best efforts to sift through the dust-strewn records), but these players left an indelible mark on the story, as well as on the game itself. If you’re reading this and you do have those details, please reach out to us on Facebook, and we’ll get our Ikoma archivists to update the records!

“I know that you had not expected to fight under the rōnin Toturi, but trust me that everything is as it must be. While he is masterless now, Toturi was the greatest general in the Empire when he led the Lion armies. You will need all of his wisdom and the strength of the Dragon to drive the Crab Armies from Beiden Pass.” – Togashi Yokuni, Dragon Clan Champion

Basic Training

Sometimes, the tournaments’ outcomes affected not only the story, but the cards and products also. The two clans featured in the game’s learn-to-play starter set, released in November of 1996, were determined by the Battle of Beiden Pass tournament. The starter set allowed players to recreate the dramatic clash as the Crab Clan attempted to claim the critical mountain pass separating northern Rokugan from the south, and the Dragon sought to wrest it from them. The box set featured letters from the opposing clan champions, as well as a short story featuring the strongest personalities from the clans. Many players began their journey into Legend of the Five Rings with this product, cementing the importance of the Battle of Beiden Pass tournament for years to come.

Stay tuned for more chronicles of story choices past as we continue our series in future installments!

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