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The game itself has an input system in which cards are placed on a sensitive playing area. Movement in-game is done by moving the cards on the playing field, and card behaviour on the battlefield depends heavily on the card type.
This game is played one-on-one and online play is available.
There are some LE (legend) cards in this game, based on different manga portraying the Three Kingdoms era. These include Sangokushi by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Tenchi wo Kurau by Motomiya Hiroshi, and Ryurouden by Yoshito Yamahara, among a few others.
In Sangokushi Taisen, the main objective of the game is to lay siege upon the enemy's castle with various generals, while eliminating the enemy's generals along the way. A player wins when he manages to reduce the opponent's fort health completely. A player will also win if his fort has more health than his opponent's when time runs out. The game is not won by complete elimination of the opponent's generals, as all dead generals will revive after some time.
A "Smash" is a situation where a player's general(s) causes one of the enemy general's health to reach zero through battle, forcing the enemy general to retreat. An "Evacuation" is the opposite of a "Smash", whereby a player's general retreats due to his or her health reaching zero.
A retreated general takes 35 real-time seconds to return to the battlefield (24 if the general possesses the Revival ability, 27 as of version 2.11), and another 10 seconds to return to the battlefield by emerging from his or her own castle. When a general is about to emerge from a castle, the enemy will be notified by smoke clouds emerging from the player's castle.
8 orb limit
Each general in Sangokushi Taisen is assigned an orb rating of a minimum of one orb, to a maximum of three orbs, with most of the cards falling in anywhere in between. Additionally, particularly famous generals such as Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Guan Yu have multiple cards (and thereby different orb rating of cards) of the same name, thereby adding to gameplay variety. The orb number of each general is based on three factors: The general's strength (which determines the strength of the unit during battle), intelligence (determines the unit's susceptibility to enemy skills, and the strength and/or length of effect of the general's skill), as well as the general's skill . The orb limit, if you would use all 8 orbs, allows for a minimum of three generals (in a 3-3-2 or 3 - 2.5 - 2.5 combination) and a maximum of eight (all one-orb generals) when maxed out, thereby bringing with such a feature, extreme varieties to gameplay styles. A player is not required to use all 8 points. If he/she desires they can spend only 1 point on a single general as their entire team.
Skills and morale bar
During a game, generals on the field can cast spells or execute special skills through use of a morale bar (the equivalent of mana energy when compared to other games). The morale bar rises slowly, and has a cap on its accumulation depending on the number of factions/countries the player has selected his generals from. The maximum is 12 morale orbs (when using only one faction), and is reduced by 3 morale orbs for each additional faction, to a minimum of 6.
For example, if the player uses an all-Shu combination of forces, he would possess, and is able to utilise, a maximum of 12 morale orbs. In contrast, a player using a mixture of forces from Shu and Wei can only utilise a maximum of 9, and a player using a mix of forces from three or more factions/countries can only utilise a maximum of 6.Skills require anywhere between 2 to 12 mana orbs to use, and the strength and effects of these skills vary widely. The more commonplace skills such as "Power Up", "High Speed" and "Long Range" strengthens the generals for a short duration, and sometimes act as aids to the generals in their field of specialties. Less orthodox skills, the bulk of which comes from higher cost Generals, include "Flood", "Burning", and "Thunderbolt", and are usually offensive spells (and therefore damage is calculated by comparing the skill-caster's intelligence rating and the affected enemy generals') or an effect that would last as long as the general remains on the battlefield.
A Single Combat
During the game, a scenario can occur in which two generals move towards the same spot simultaneously. The two generals that clash would be engaged in "A Single Combat", which basically means dueling. Those with the "Courage" (勇) have an increased probability of Musou (無双) occurring. A chance of a full bar Musou (無双) is also higher.
In Single Combat, bars either in the form of strips of blue or a thick block of yellow will form across the screen. The length of strips of blue is relative to the general's strength rating. The players' task is to hit the bars as close to the tail end as possible without completely missing the strip (for strips of blue) or just atop it (with thick yellow blocks). Depending on how the bars are struck, the result could be "Failed (失敗)", "Weak (弱)", "Strong (強)", "Very Strong (激)" or "Musou (無双)(unrivalled)". When the five strikes from both generals are matched against each other, a circle (denoting a stronger strike than the opponent's), a cross (a weaker strike) or a triangle (denoting a tie) could form. When one general has won more strikes than the opposing general, the opposing general is eliminated completely regardless of the amount of health he or she had prior to the duel. This system generally emulates how an actual duel between two generals of varying strength would result.
Since v2.1, the timing for Single Combat has change. The result is based on when players release the button.
Special abilities are special characteristics pertaining to generals which give them added advantages or abilities, and which are not affected by enemy spells or statuses. A general can have up to a maximum of three Special Abilities, or have none at all.
Some of the Special Abilities are listed below:
- Revival [活](復活): Revives in 2/3 of the time (i.e. 24 real-time seconds, 27 as of version 2.11）after a retreat.
- Charisma [魅](魅力): Increases your starting Morale bar by 0.5 orbs.
- Recruitment [募](募兵): Allows recovery of lost troops by remaining on the battlefield instead of having to return to your castle. Only available in ver 2.0 and onwards.
- Ambush [伏](伏兵): Begins the game hidden to the enemy player, denoted by grey dots on the player's screen. The ambushing troop is not revealed until an enemy general comes into direct contact with the ambushing troop, when the ambushing general arrives at an enemy fence or enemy castle, or when the ambushing general uses a skill. The amount of damage caused by an Ambush is determined by the Intelligence difference between the two generals. While hidden, the unit's speed is greatly reduced.
- Courage [勇](勇猛): Increased probability of entering "A Single Combat", furthermore, gains one to five thick yellow bars during "A Single Combat", each an almost-guaranteed "musou(無双)". Furthermore, the regular non-musou bars are increased in length, hence making it easier to achieve a better result.
- Fence [柵](防柵): Gains the ability to place a wooden fence for placing during the start of the game. Can only be broken down by physically clashing with the fence. Destruction of a fence depends upon how many times it is struck, not by the strength of the attacking troop.
- Link [連](連計): Certain skills can be linked with characters who carry this ability. If the spell is cast, the distance between the caster and the linked character becomes part of the area of effect. Only available in Ver. 2.0 and onwards. Removed in Ver. 3.0
- Awaken [醒](覚醒): The character possessing this ability will raise his/her strength and intelligence by 1 at the 33rd and 66th counts (thus giving them 2 extra points for each stat at the end. p.s. Each count equals 2.4 seconds). Only available in Ver 2.1. Removed in Ver. 3.0
Upcoming Version Special Abilities:
- Awaken [醒](覚醒): The ability value goes up to the combat end when the fixed time (count 50) passes. (Value of increase is to be confirm) (Ver. 3.1)
- Shoot [射](崩射): When Generals (Busho) with Shoot [射] does a roll-over shot at enemy General (Busho) using Spearmen, the Spear-wall ability of that General (Busho) is removed during that period. It does not affect other types. (Ver. 3.5)
- Army [軍](大軍): The General (Busho) with this Special Ability starts with the maximum forces 130%. The recovery speed in the castle is faster and can reach the maximum force of 130%. (Ver.3.5)
- War [乱](暴乱): When your General (Busho) with War [乱] uses "War tactics", your other Generals (Busho) with War also receive the same effect wherever on battlefield they are. It does not affect generals (Busho) in the castle. (Ver. 3.5)
At the start of each game, each player will pick a Strategy (兵法), which can only be used once per game. Apart from Recovery(再起の法) which is obtained by finishing the tutorial, once a player fulfills certain conditions, they will obtain scrolls after a battle, which grant them access to other Strategies. Strategies' levels can range from Level 1 to Master Level (the equivalent of Level 10), the higher the level the greater the effect. Advancing Strategy levels occurs via Strategy Orbs, which each player has a chance to find after each battle (a player cannot choose which Strategy the Orb is for, however the Strategy used in that battle is more likely to be advanced). Several examples of Strategies are as follows:
- Recovery (再起の法): Reduces the revival time of your currently defeated generals in your castle.
- Regulars (正兵の法): Temporarily increases the strength of your generals currently on the battlefield.
- Speed (速軍の法): Temporarily increases the speed of your generals. This also affects how fast your generals emerge from your castle.
- Binding (連環の法): Temporarily decreases the speed of enemy generals. This also affects how fast enemy generals emerge from their castle.
- Reinforcement (増援の法): Heals your generals currently on the battlefield by a certain amount.
- Strike (衝軍の法): Temporary increases the strength of your generals, but greatly reduces their speed.
- Rebuild (再建の法): Rebuild all your destroyed fences on the battlefield, and strengthens the remaining fences.
The Strategy system was completely remade in version 3.0 of the game, utilizing a `General' system, each of whom possesses 2 ‘Ougi'（奥義）, or `Secrets', one of which is chosen to be used at the start of every game. It is identical to the Strategy system of previous versions except that there is now an Ougi bar which determines the strength of the Ougi when used. The starting level of the bar, as well as the rate it increases, is dependent upon a new trait that every character possesses.
There are a total of 6 unit types in this game, namely:
- Cavalry (騎兵) - High mobility and possesses the 'Dash' ability and 'Rush' attack. They can form an Aura when moving to long distance. When the Aura is formed, they take less damage from Archers (弓兵) and produces the "Rush" message when a successful strike hit at an enemy General (Busho). The faster the unit moves, the Aura appearance changes and the damage increases. Wei (魏) possesses most of the strongest cavalry Generals (Busho), next is Shu. Most of Wei (魏) and Shu (蜀) and some of Others (群) possess 'High Speed' Special Tactics that increase mobility and damage of the 'Rush' attack. Strong Vs Bowmen.
- Spearmen (槍兵) - Medium-low mobility with the 'Spear-wall' ability and does 'Thrust' attack. They can counter Cavalry 'Rush' attack with their Spear-wall producing a 'Counter' message, and generally strong against Cavalry units. Shu Generals (Busho) are usually adept to Spear Type, and some possess `Spear Slash' and 'Long Spear' Special Tactics that extend the effective radius of their normal attacks boosted up.
- Archers (弓兵) - Medium mobility, can shoot arrows at faraway enemies - can do roll-over shot when shifting to a short distance. Usually Wu (呉) Generals (Busho) possess 'Paralysis' and 'Evil Shooting' Special Tactics (With an exception of Sun Shang Xiang of Shu (蜀)). One of Wu (呉) adviser Field Tactic also increase distance to its offensive range and damage. Strong Vs. Spearmen.
- Swordsmen (歩兵) - Balanced basic unit type that does not have any advantages or disadvantages against other unit types, and usually possessing a wider variety of skills compared to the former three types.
- Siege Engine (攻城兵) - Extremely slow movement speed but with high attacking power during siege. Almost no offensive power in unit battles, however they are extremely difficult to destroy. Like Generals (Busho), Siege Engine Generals (Busho) possess little to no type-specific skills.
- Elephant (象兵) - Medium movement speed with the ability to push other unit types aside when charging. Nanman tribe generals are the only Elephant generals in the game. However, the more units an elephant pushes, the more damage it takes as a result. Elephant units were introduced in versions 2.0 and 2.1, and are no longer playable in Ver. 3.0. From 3.1 onwards, Generals (Busho) using Elephant Type are playable - This Generals (Busho) must be 3.1 onward Cards. From 3.1 onwards, only Others (群) and Shu (蜀) possess Generals (Busho) with Elephant Type - Elephant Type are tone down compared to 2.0 and 2.1.
Furthermore, different types of units cause different amounts of damage to an enemy castle during an assault. In general, Siege Engine > Spearmen > Swordsmen > Elephant > Bowmen > Cavalry.
From version 2.0 onwards, generals can equip items. Each item is specific to a general, and each general has a possible item, hence there are as many items as there are generals in the game. After each battle, there is a chance of the player finding an item on the battlefield, or encountering a merchant who will offer to sell the player an item. In addition, some battles may be designated as "Item Battles", the winner of which will receive a predetermined item.
Items generally provide such skills as reducing distance required for the Cavalry aura, increasing a Bowman's range, taking less damage from ambushes, speeding the morale bar's increase, among others.
When playing version 2.0 and using version 1 cards, those cards cannot equip items, nor obtain them, even if those version 1 cards have versions in v2.
The item system was removed in version 3.0.
Currently there are a few major versions of the game.
- Sangokushi Taisen 1.0 - No longer available in Schaumburg, Illinois, U.S.A. at Gameworks. 3.0 will arrive, but arrival date is not yet determined. Most employees of the gameworks say it will arrive somewhere between October (Of 2009) and January (Of 2010).
- Sangokushi Taisen 3.1 - Available in Shanghai, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.
- Sangokushi Taisen DS - Published by SEGA on January 25th, 2007 for the Nintendo DS. Based on version 2.0 of the arcade game.
- Sangokushi Taisen 3.5 - Available in Japan.
- Sangokushi Taisen Ten (三国志大戦·天) - Based on version 3.0 of the arcade game; published by SEGA on August 7th 2008 for the Nintendo DS.
There are 6 factions/countries in the game. The former three are the focus of the stories of the Three Kingdoms, while the latter three are minor forces featuring generals of either breakaway factions that were no longer central to the power struggle of the Three Kingdoms (such as Yellow Turbans, who were eliminated as a cohesive force at the beginning of the story), or characters who are not of great impact to the main Three Kingdoms storyline (such as the Ten Eunuchs, Hua Xiong, and Hua Tuo).
The factions are:
- Wei (魏)
- Shu (呉)
- Wu (蜀)
- Yuan (袁)(Combined forces of Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu) - Available starting from ver 1.1, removed in Ver. 3.0
- Liang (涼)(Combined forces of Ma Teng and Dong Zhuo) - Available starting from ver 1.1, removed in Ver. 3.0
- Others (群) (Combined forces of Yellow Turban, the Nanman tribe (e.g. Meng Huo) and others), removed in Ver. 3.0
- Others (群) - (Combined forces of Yellow Turban and most of the notable Warlords and Generals of the period) Ver. 3.0
- Han (漢) - Ver. 3.1
- Official Site
- Official English Site
- Japanese Wiki
- Forum for Schaumburg, IL, USA players with translations help, card trading etcja:三国志大戦