“The Empire has enjoyed a generation of relative peace, all save the Lion. Not because they have known war, but because they have not enjoyed peace by any means. The Lion are warriors, and it is war that they crave.” —from the Lion Clan description, Legend of the Five Rings
I’ll be honest that Tony Foti has quickly become one of my heroes in the fantasy art world. Though his Star Wars art was what first caught my eye, I also fell very much in love with his art for Wizards of the Coast and for Legend of the Five Rings. Five Rings is a customizable card game from Alderac Entertainment, featuring a epic-scale fantasy world inspired by feudal Japan. The game features clans and warring factions as well as magic and monsters. I’ve not played Five Rings, so I can’t offer much discussion about the game-play, but the artwork is exceptional all around and Tony’s smart heroines stand out as strong, competent casters and warriors.
Tony’s awesome portrait is a promotional image for the Gates of Chaos expansion for Five Rings. Our platinum-haired heroine is Akodo Dairuko, the “Steel Lion,” a champion of the Lion Clan. According to the game lore, the Lions are a warrior faction making up the greatest military force in the known world. As a daughter of the Akodo, Dai is a Lion commander, leading her samurai cohorts into battle for the protection of the Empire.
Dai’s armor is a suit of Japanese-style lamellar armor: overlapping iron or steel plates laced together for solid but flexible protection. Her cuirass is a solid plate with the sculpted device of a lion as an emblem of her allegiance. Lamellar plates keep our heroine’s shoulders and hips well protected in the heat of battle. The front lamellae offer additional frontal protection in melee, but could be a potential hindrance when mounted. Like any plated armor, the lamellar design offers excellent absorption and deflection against blades, as well as deflection from enemy arrows.
I like as well that our heroine knows to layer up in combat. Her arming tunic should be either light linen or wool for flexibility in fast-paced Bushido combat. Dai’s bracers protect her hands and forearms during melee, leaving her hands bare for unhindered katana use.
At first Dai’s use of dual katana struck me as an odd choice for an infantry commander. I reminded myself, however, that samurai combat style is vastly different from Western formation combat, where there’s rarely room for the footwork required in using two weapons. Samurai, on the other hand, were known for squaring off against their rivals on the battlefield, engaging in quick duels in the midst of combat.