Legends of the Three Kingdoms

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Legends of the Three Kingdoms
LTK
Origin China
Type Strategy
Players 2~10
Age range 12+
Cards 108
Play counterclockwise
Playing time 30+ minutes
Random chance medium
Legends of the Three Kingdoms (LTK)
Simplified Chinese 三国杀
Traditional Chinese 三國殺
Literal meaning Three Kingdoms Kill

Legends of the Three Kingdoms[1] (Simplified Chinese: 三国杀, literally Three Kingdoms Kill), or sometimes Sanguosha, LTK, 3KK for short, is a Chinese card game based on the Three Kingdoms period of China and the semi-fictional novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (ROTK). The rules of LTK are similar to the rules of the Italian card game Bang!. LTK is released by YOKA games (游卡桌游) on January 1, 2008, and till date has spun-off a total of seven official expansion sets, an online version LTK Online, as well as a children's version LTK Q Version. There are self-created cards by players, but these are mostly unofficial.

LTK initially began with a strong following in China only because the entire game is in Chinese. Sales of LTK totaled 20 million yuan in 2009, and 100 million yuan in 2010.[2] However the game has begun to reach an international audience after players began translating the game into the English language and posting these translations on blogs and forums. Site visit statistics from one of these blogs showed that readers outside of China come primarily from Singapore, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Malaysia, and New Zealand.[3]

Relevance to History[edit]

The cards and characters of LTK are all related to the ancient history of China, the most telling of which are the characters and their abilities. Each character is given an ability in the game which usually mirrors the historical character's personality, actions, strength/weakness, cause of death, and historical events in which the character was involved, etc. For example, Liu Bei's ability Kindness(仁德) allows him to give away his cards to other players, mirroring the benevolent and kind nature of Liu Bei in ROTK. Cao Cao, on the other hand, is given the ability Treachery(奸雄), which allows him to keep any card which causes him damage. This mirrors Cao Cao's style of coaxing able advisers of his enemies to defect and join him, then utilizing them for his cause.

The relevance of these abilities to ROTK and the Three Kingdoms history is interesting enough to inspire players to discover more about ROTK and Three Kingdoms history for themselves. One blog author describes his knowledge of Three Kingdoms evolving from uninterested to semi-expert after immersing in the study of LTK abilities. In August 2012, UC Berkeley offered a course in LTK.[2] The faculty sponsor of the course, Professor Robert Berring, wants to get undergrads "acquainted with essential philosophy dating back to China's ancient dynasties".

Basic Rules of the Standard Mode[edit]

Number of players Monarch Minister Rebel Traitors
2 1 0 1 0
3 1 0 1 1
4 1 1 1 1
5 1 1 2 1
6 1 1 3 1
1 1 2 2
7 1 2 3 1
8 1 2 4 1
1 2 3 2
9 1 3 4 1
10 1 3 4 2

The standard mode of LTK can be played by 2 to 10 people. Each player plays one of these four roles: Monarch (主公), Minister (忠臣), Rebel (反贼) and Traitors(内奸). There can be only one monarch in the game at all times, but the number of ministers, rebels and traitors are determined by the total number of players, as shown in the table on the right. Each player may have 3 or 4 Health points (see below), depending on their character.

  • If there are 5 or more players playing, the player playing as the Monarch may increase his/her total Health points by 1.
  • At the beginning of the game, each player must draw one "Role Card" to determine his or her role.
    • The player who draws the card "Monarch" must immediately show his or her role card. Others must keep their role card hidden until they are killed in the game.
  • When the role card has been distributed and all players know their role, each player draws 4 cards.
  • The Monarch begins the first round. He will draw 2 cards from the deck use the cards on hand appropriately.
  • When a rebel is killed, the killer draws three cards.
  • If the Monarch kills a Minister, the Monarch has to discard all of his cards including equipment cards.

Objectives[edit]

Different roles have different victory conditions:

  • Monarch: Death of all the rebels and traitors.
  • Minister: Protect the monarch no matter the cost (victory conditions are the same as the monarch).
  • Rebel: Death of the Monarch (without leaving one Defector as the sole survivor).
  • Turn-coat: Death of every other player (including the other traitors), with the last death of the Monarch.

The game ends immediately if:

  • The Monarch is killed, or
  • All the rebels and turn-coats are killed.

As long as one of the scenarios listed above occur at the endgame, the associated roles can claim victory even if the character has already been killed. In general, the Monarch and his ministers must work together to kill the rebels and turn-coats, while the rebels can cooperate to kill off the ministers before attacking the Monarch. Meanwhile, the turn-coat(s) can guise as a minister and help to kill the rebels, before revolting against the ministers and finally confronting the Monarch.

Types of Cards[edit]

LTK consists of a few types of cards, which serve different purposes in the game.

  • ROLE Card 角色牌 - These cards determine the individual player's role (Monarch/Ruler, Minister/Loyalist, Rebel or Defector/Turncoat) and his objectives. Aside from the Monarch, other players must keep their role cards secret throughout the game and reveal it when their character is killed in the game.
  • LIFE Card 体力牌 - These cards serve as an indication of units of health of a player. Players typically use their character cards to cover the health cards such that the remaining points of health are revealed.
  • HERO Card 将牌 - These cards determine the character that a player shall be using. The player assumes the allegiance and gender of the character selected, and also acquires the special abilities of that player. All characters in LTK are characters which appear in ROTK.
  • BASIC Cards 基本牌 - These are playable action cards which can be used on other players or themselves. Basic cards include Kill (杀), Dodge (闪), Peach (桃) and their variations, and can affect the health of a player. Kill is used to cause damage to other players, Dodge is used to deflect a Kill attack (or the player loses 1 point of Health), while Peach is used to recover 1 point of Health or save a dying character. Basic cards can be identified by a diamond logo behind Chinese characters in the twelve o'clock position of the card.
  • SCROLL Cards 锦囊牌 - These cards are cards which perform strategic actions or can affect multiple players. all strategy cards can be neutralized by a Ward (无懈可击) strategy card. There are also Time-delayed scroll cards that only take effect during the target player's turn.
  • Equipment Cards 装备牌 - These cards are placed in front of the player and serve to modify distance and range calculations, as well as contribute to attack or defense attributes.

Play[edit]

Placement of Personal Cards in a LTK Game

There are six main phases to playing when it comes to any player's turn.

  1. Initial Phase (Beginning of the turn)
    • Before the judgement phase, certain characters (such as Zhuge Liang or Zhen Ji) may use their special abilities to manipulate their own statuses or the cards in the deck.
  2. Judgement Phase
    • Players with Time-delayed status cards directed at them must draw and reveal cards on the deck to judge if they pass or fail certain tests, starting from the last status card played. Failure will result in penalties such as unable to draw cards, unable to play cards, or lose 3 health points from a Lightning attack card. Before the judgement, however, players may reveal a Ward (无懈可击) strategy card to cancel the status cards played on them, and skip the judgement phase.
  3. Drawing Phase
    • The player draws two cards from the deck. Characters with special abilities (such as Zhou Yu or Zhang Liao) may use them to take more cards or draw cards from other players.
  4. Action Phase
    • Any number of cards may be played, but generally, each player may only use the Strike card once, unless otherwise determined by their character or equipment.
  5. Discard Phase
    • After playing, the player will have to discard cards in his hand such that the remaining number of cards is equal to his current Health points.
  6. End Phase (End of the turn)
    • At the end of every turn, certain characters (such as Diao Chan or Cao Ren) may use their special abilities.

Death[edit]

When a player's Health points is reduced to 0, he faces imminent death and must instantly take action: he may request to be saved by a Peach card (thus letting other players play the card), or may use one immediately if he has it. If he is successful, his health will be recovered to 1 point. Otherwise, he dies(except some special character like Zhou Tai), and must reveal his role card and discard all other cards. If he is a Rebel and killed by a card from another player, that player may draw 3 cards.

It is possible for a player's health to have a negative value (such as suffering from a Lightning attack). In this case, the player will need as many Peach cards as he requires to raise his health back to 1 point in order to continue the game (for example, a Health point of -1 requires 2 Peach cards). The abilities of certain cards or characters may involve healing more than 1 points of health, or even prolonged living below 1 Health point.

Point duels[edit]

Certain special characters (such as Xun Yu) may initiate point duals to unleash their special abilities. This is done when the initiator plays a card, and asks another player to do the same. "Ace" is the smallest value and "King" is the largest value. This is where it is slightly different from Poker numbering. The numerical digit on the upper left corner of the playing card. The player with the larger point value wins. In the case of ties, the initiator of the duel is considered to have "lost" the duel. Suits such as diamonds, hearts, etc. do not matter. Both cards are discarded into the discard deck; players cannot retrieve back the cards into their hands.

Character allegiance[edit]

All LTK characters are separated into four historically relevant allegiances. They are Shu Kingdom, Wei Kingdom, Wu Kingdom, and Neutral Heroes. In the original LTK, there are no repeated characters. However as later character expansions are introduced, some characters are duplicated in different allegiances. This is because of the complex changes of each historical figure. Some characters, such as Jia Xu, were under the allegiance of different kingdoms through the course of their lives.

With the introduction of the first LTK expansion pack, a new fictional allegiance known as the Demi-Gods was introduced. Demi-God characters are typically very significant characters in ROTK and Three Kingdoms history, and these characters are given abilities that are much more powerful than regular characters. The presence of Demi-God characters can severely imbalance a regular game, and thus most players choose not to include Demi-God characters into gameplay. Since Demi-God characters are obtained by chance in expansion packs, Demi-God character cards have become collectible pieces. Prices of single Demi-God cards have been known to equal, or exceed, the price of the whole expansion pack.

In 2011, YOKA released collectible SP cards that comes with every purchase of Zhuo You Zhi 桌游志 magazine, a monthly magazine discussing board and card-games in China. Many SP cards are remakes of existing LTK characters with different allegiances, representing that character from a different time period in his or her career.

Expansion packs and collectibles[edit]

As of October 2012, seven different official LTK expansion packs have been released. Two different Collector's Editions have also been released. Beginning January 2011, ultra-collectible SP cards were released monthly with every purchase of Zhuoyouzhi 桌游志 magazine. As of October 2012, the SP Yang Xiu character released with the inaugural issue of Zhuoyouzhi magazine has been seen to sell for 500 yuan, which is over forty times the original price of the magazine.

Playing card expansion[edit]

  • Battle Expansion Pack 军争篇 - A playing card expansion that includes elemental attribute Basic cards and new Tool cards.

Character card expansions[edit]

  1. Fire Expansion Pack 火扩展包
  2. Wind Expansion Pack 风扩展包
  3. Woods Expansion Pack 林扩展包
  4. Hills Expansion Pack 山扩展包
  5. OverKnight Fame 2011 一将成名 2011
  6. OverKnight Fame 2012 一将成名 2012
  7. OverKnight Fame 2013 一将成名 2013
  8. OverKnight Fame 2014 一将成名 2014
  1. Kingdoms Wars 国战 Expansion Pack (2013)
  2. Kingdoms Wars 国战 2 Expansion Pack 2 (2014)
  1. LTK "1v1" Edition 一战到底 Expansion Pack (2014)

Collector's editions[edit]

  1. Black Collector's Edition (2010)
  2. Red Collector's Edition (2012)

Variations[edit]

Variations to the original game are played by people from all over China. The game has since been translated into English. Many people created different ways of playing LTK with no roles.

  1. For three players. Two things have to be concerned about: you must kill the one that is on your right (that player after your turn) and also try to save to one on your left (the player before your turn). If a player whose position is immediately before you dies, you also lose the game.
  2. Country kill (with five to 12 players) has the same rules without the roles. Everyone chooses their character (five characters to choose from). A few things are different from the original game. The objective is to find your ally (who has the same country) and team up to kill other ally. There are no king's abilities. First, put your character card face down and don't show it to others. Second, whenever one chooses to use the character's abilities or flip riskily to let other know who you are. You are permanently face up because your character card has been shown to them and everyone knows which country you are except when flip character abilities.
  3. Advanced Country kill: Same on Country kill. Difference are choose from (6 character cards), from those 6 character cards, you choose two character cards with the same Country. During the game, your first Character that is reviled is permanently your gender for the rest of the game.

Alternate versions (officially released by YOKA)[edit]

  1. LTK "Q" Edition (Kid's version) (2010)
  2. LTK "3v3" Edition (2010)
  3. LTK "Q God" Edition (Kid's version) (2011)
  4. LTK "3v3" Edition 2 (2011)
  5. LTK "High School" Edition 校园版 (2012)[4]
  6. Kingdoms Wars 国战 (2012)
  7. LTK "3v3" Edition 3 (2013)
  8. LTK "1v1" Edition (2013)
  9. 神话再临 Expansion (Renewed Version) (2013)
  10. 界限突破 - 新标无改 (2013)
  11. 界限突破 - 修改新将 (2013)

Criticisms[edit]

LTK is still being regarded as a copy-cat of Bang! in English-speaking countries, due to the similarities between the basic cards and tool cards. However, LTK has managed to entrench its position through the game's strong relations to ROTK.

Poor build quality of the Collector's Editions product is also a regular criticism, where the plastic tray holding the cards regular come crushed and the matt finishing of the box is prone to scratches. One online shop selling LTK was known to discourage customers from purchasing Collector's Edition altogether to avoid product exchanges and refunds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ LTK Official English Edition in Taobao
  2. ^ a b "UC Berkeley takes novel approach to card game". 
  3. ^ "Who in the world plays SanGuoSha?". 
  4. ^ Unpacking High School Sha

"Sanguosha". Baidu. Retrieved 22 March 2013.  "How to play LTK". 

See also[edit]