David Lee
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I've played Bang! for many years now, and when I heard that there was a Chinese version based in the Three Kingdoms, I HAD to have it. Last summer, I went to China and picked up everything, the base set and all 6 expansions. I note that there hasn't really been a very thorough review of the actual gameplay here on BGG, and people do seem a bit mixed up on the copyright issue, so I'll try to give as many examples as I can.

Components
There are a lot of cards in this game! With all expansions combined, there are 88 characters (not all of whom are different, I might add) and about 140-150 playing cards. In addition, there are role cards (as with Bang!) and lifepoint cards, used for marking health. The art is fantastic.

Now, I got the base set as a bootleg for 20 RMB, and I have to say that the quality is actually quite good. All my expansions were bought legit for 20 RMB each (I know, a rip), and to be honest the cards are identical quality. The cards are pretty glossy, though, so fingerprints and stuff might seem to dull them over time. I would recommend sleeving.

Besides the base game, there are 6 different expansions: Battle, Fire, Woods, Wind, Hills, and "OverKnight Fame," as the folks at San Guo Sha English call it. The latter 5 come in booster packs, and consist of new characters, along with one of two new "demigod" characters (more on that later) and a holographic card from the base set. In addition to these, the Chinese Board Game Magazine releases a special edition card every issue, of which I have one of these characters. And if you've still got more cravings, you can go onto the streets and buy bootleg character cards: Wraith, Demon, Art of War, and the list goes on. These characters and cards are EXTREMELY unbalanced, so I don't recommend it.

By the way, if I haven't mentioned (or if you haven't noticed), this game is EXTREMELY popular in Mainland China and Singapore. I hear SGS Online is pretty hot right now too (although I've never been).

Rules and Gameplay
The rules and most of the cards in the base game are identical to Bang! Like Bang, you try to fulfill your role's winning conditions, but going along with the theme, you have Rulers, Loyalists, Defectors, and Rebels instead of Sheriffs, Deputies, Renegades, and Outlaws. Mechanics of gameplay like range, what goes on in a turn, flipping cards for a result, and the like are unchanged. In that respect, SGS is a Bang! "ripoff": The basic gameplay is the exact same.

The way gameplay cards are classified in SGS is a little different than with Bang! Instead of having brown/green/blue bordered cards, there are "basic" and "tool" cards that can be instantly played, in addition to weapons, armor, and horses. I would say barring unofficial expansions, there is no equivalent to green cards in SGS, only "brown" and "blue" cards. However, the game makes up for this by:
1. Adding a whole slew of basic and tool cards.
2. Making every weapon and armor have special abilities.

These special weapons and armors are actually one of the things that really make the game. Your 2-range Scimitar, for example, deals 1 more damage if your opponent has no cards in their hand. If your 3-range Axe misses, you can discard a card to force that damage on the opponent.

SGS adds some unique cards to the board, of course. The base set has a card that let you negate tool cards used against you, as well as a card that let you disarm people of their weapons. The Battle expansion pack added a slew of unique cards, including "elemental kills." Think "Bang!" cards imbued with the powers of fire and lightning. This may not seem like much, but another card lets you "shackle" multiple opponents together and hit them both with fire and lightning.

One of the unique rules I like best addresses something that Bang!'s "shadow gunslinger" in Gold Rush attempted to address: That one person who dies first in a big game. Reincarnation is where players can pass a card once during their turn to a dead person. Once that person gets 4 cards, they return as a different character of the same allegiance (more on that later) and can play again! For the purposes of winning, the role is still considered dead, but reincarnating a player can provide that extra push to victory. Officially, it's if there are 8 or more players playing, but in practice it's fine even with 5 people. It works well thematically, and it's always fun to have that gamble to bring that ally back to life!

There's also a competitive SGS scene involving an original ruleset. Known as 3v3, it involves a group of 3, a ruler and his bodyguards, trying to kill an opposing ruler. It's actually very fun: The dynamic is totally different, but for a gamer who games for the social interaction, the teamwork is awesome. I've even tried this gametype in Bang! and found it a complete success.

Characters
Each character has an Allegiance, or what side they were on historically. There are 5 allegiances: Shu Han, Wei, Wu, "Heroes," and "Demigods." The cool thing about this is that the Ruler chooses their character first, with the option of choosing special Ruler characters with special Ruler powers regarding their allegiance. Liu Bei, for example, can ask other Shu Han characters to play a Kill/Bang! for him. The infamous Cao Cao can ask other Wei characters to play a Missed for them. After they've chosen, the other players choose their character. As you can see, this really does have potential to open up teamwork or backstabbing tactics.

Now I mentioned there were 88 official characters. The characters is really where this game goes to a whole new level. Basically, the only reason why the game is balanced is because the characters are so powerful. Most characters have two different abilities, some less, some more, but for the most part very powerful. Here's a sampler of several characters with simpler powers:

1. Zhuge Liang can rearrange the order of cards on the top of the deck before drawing. In addition, he can't be targeted by Duels or Kills/Bangs if he has no cards in his hand.
2. Si Ma Yi not only has El Gringo's power, he can play cards from his hand to replace "judgment" cards: Cards flipped over for Lightning/Dynamite, Acedia/Jail, Eight Trigrams/Barrel, etc.
3. Lu Xun not only has Suzy Lafayette's power, but can't be the subject of Steals/Panics or Acedia/Jail.
4. Xiao Qiao can deflect incoming damage to other people by discarding cards from her hand in the suit of hearts.
5. Hua Tuo can discard a card to heal anyone in his turn, and he can save anyone from the brink of death with a red-suited card.

Some characters have extremely complicated, convoluted powers as well, with potentially devastating effects. The most overpowered characters are probably the "demigod" characters, legendary versions of some of the Three Kingdoms' greatest heroes. They are much too complex to describe here, but if you want to imagine the horror, imagine a demigod Lu Bu creating a gigantic shockwave that damages everyone and makes them lose all their equipment and basically all their cards. Exceedingly fun to use, and teamwork wise, fun to team up against.

Yes, there are some characters that are very powerful and rightly to be feared. Yes, the game does take longer than Bang! because it's more complex and because people are harder to kill in general (although most characters only have 3 life to compensate). But the tactical depth and the sheer mayhem you can do is something that even the burliest brawl in Dodge City is unable to replicate.

Theme
But perhaps the best thing about this game is the theme. The art is fantastic. The character selection and the way the powers match up with their stories is extremely well done. Even little touches like putting "titles" on their cards--"The Dancer with Unrivaled Beauty", "The Meek Scholar of Valiant Talents"--goes a long way. The gameplay cards reference many Chinese sayings that found their origins as quotes from heroes in the Three Kingdoms. I think the brilliant retelling of Bang! in SGS disqualifies it from "ripoff" status; if anything it's a brilliant relocalization of Bang!.

Pros
1. Amazing integration of theme with gameplay.
2. Increased tactical complexity leads to some intense battles.
3. Crazy characters.
4. Weapon and armor have special abilities.
5. 3v3, their own original gametype.

Cons
1. Some characters are too complicated or too powerful.
2. Games can regularly stretch on for 1-2 hours.
3. Learning curve is a lot steeper due to all the different abilities.
4. Only available in Chinese.

The Bottom Line
Is it better than Bang!? I can't make any judgment. The two take very different approaches. Bang!, with its green cards and events, is generally much more straightforward and sometimes a bit more random. SGS just gives you a battlefield and a lot of opportunities at the expense of time and complexity. Both are equally good at what their focus is. If you ever get the opportunity, check this game out!
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ziyun guan
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This game is very popular in China.And now more characters can be used at the game and there are more gametypes in this game. Maybe you can try them next time.




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Ryan Yan
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Glad to find a SGS review from a Bang! fan's view.

Personally I have been playing SGS for 3+ years, and became a BG geek after playing SGS for about 1 year. I have also a Bang! (basic set only) in my collection and I've studied it, but failed to play it even once - if this doesn't count: once I got killed very early in a 8-player SGS, and I played my Bang! in duel mode (1v1) with another early victim.

I have a lot to say about SGS, but didn't know how to put it. Until seeing this post. Hope you don't mind if I comment your post section by section.
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Ryan Yan
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Parsat wrote:
Components
There are a lot of cards in this game! With all expansions combined, there are 88 characters (not all of whom are different, I might add) and about 140-150 playing cards. In addition, there are role cards (as with Bang!) and lifepoint cards, used for marking health. The art is fantastic.

To put it exactly:
base set: 108 playing cards, 25 character cards;
Battle (or Maneuvering): 52 playing cards;
Wind, Fire, Wood, Hill(or Mountain): ~10 character cards each, with 0 or 1 of the two corresponding demigod cards (good luck here..).
These four expansions were released with intervals of about half a year. Exception: Mountain was released one year after Wood, with OverKnight Fame in between.
OverKnight Fame: 12 character cards, no demigod.
An official release of fans' designs. Yoka named 12 famous characters and there was an open competition on character design as well as art design.

Plus 1 SP character per each issue of Chinese Board Game Magazine (8th issue has two cards, representing two statuses of the boss Lv Bu, introducing a special Hu Lao Gate mode for 4 players only, 1 vs 3). You are right at the moment you visited China, there were exactly 88 character cards.

After you returned, another OverKnight Fame (OverKnight Fame 2012) was competed and released. And there're more SP characters of course.

Parsat wrote:
Now, I got the base set as a bootleg for 20 RMB, and I have to say that the quality is actually quite good. All my expansions were bought legit for 20 RMB each (I know, a rip), and to be honest the cards are identical quality. The cards are pretty glossy, though, so fingerprints and stuff might seem to dull them over time. I would recommend sleeving.

If you insist calling SGS a rip, the base set is the one. So you are right buying a bootleg here
The expansions' official price shall be 10 RMB each... I can't even imagine where you can get it for 20. I'm talking about Wind, Fire, Wood, Hill(or Mountain). Battle (or Maneuvering) has more cards thus is more expensive.
As you see in the BGG Gallery, Yoka also published their official sleeves for SGS, in about 32 RMB / 300 pcs. The quality is fair and I use them on other 88*60mm cards as well (e.g. Dominion).

Parsat wrote:
Besides the base game, there are 6 different expansions: Battle, Fire, Woods, Wind, Hills, and "OverKnight Fame," as the folks at San Guo Sha English call it. The latter 5 come in booster packs, and consist of new characters, along with one of two new "demigod" characters (more on that later) and a holographic card from the base set. In addition to these, the Chinese Board Game Magazine releases a special edition card every issue, of which I have one of these characters. And if you've still got more cravings, you can go onto the streets and buy bootleg character cards: Wraith, Demon, Art of War, and the list goes on. These characters and cards are EXTREMELY unbalanced, so I don't recommend it.

Those bootleg versions are not only extremely unbalanced but also less rigorous. They're not well-known or accepted even in China.
However fan's design(we call it character DIY) is a very HOT topic in SGS forums. The two OverKnight Fames are good examples. The Chinese Board Game Magazine also began to collect and publish fans' best design as their special edition (SP characters) from March on.

Parsat wrote:
By the way, if I haven't mentioned (or if you haven't noticed), this game is EXTREMELY popular in Mainland China and Singapore. I hear SGS Online is pretty hot right now too (although I've never been).

True. SGS Online has 7 or 8 server clusters in China, with 10,000+ players in each.
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Ryan Yan
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Parsat wrote:
Rules and Gameplay
The rules and most of the cards in the base game are identical to Bang! Like Bang, you try to fulfill your role's winning conditions, but going along with the theme, you have Rulers, Loyalists, Defectors, and Rebels instead of Sheriffs, Deputies, Renegades, and Outlaws. Mechanics of gameplay like range, what goes on in a turn, flipping cards for a result, and the like are unchanged. In that respect, SGS is a Bang! "ripoff": The basic gameplay is the exact same.

The way gameplay cards are classified in SGS is a little different than with Bang! Instead of having brown/green/blue bordered cards, there are "basic" and "tool" cards that can be instantly played, in addition to weapons, armor, and horses. I would say barring unofficial expansions, there is no equivalent to green cards in SGS, only "brown" and "blue" cards. However, the game makes up for this by:
1. Adding a whole slew of basic and tool cards.
2. Making every weapon and armor have special abilities.


Officially there are 3 types of playing cards in base set:
"basic": Sha/Bang, Shan/Missed, Peach(Tao)/Beer
"tool"("Jing-Nang", I prefer calling it "trick"):
"equipment": weapons, armors, and horses.

As you see, "basic" cards are basically the same as Bang!, except that Peach can be used to save another dying character.

"Tool" (trick) cards are similar with 2 or 3 differences, see below.

Parsat wrote:
These special weapons and armors are actually one of the things that really make the game. Your 2-range Scimitar, for example, deals 1 more damage if your opponent has no cards in their hand. If your 3-range Axe misses, you can discard a card to force that damage on the opponent.

The Scimitar (Gu-Ding Broadsword) is in the Battle pack instead of base set.
The Crushing Axe needs to discardd 2 cards (not only one) to force the damage.
The 4-range Fang-Tian Painted Halberd can target up to 3 players if your Sha/Bang! played is your last card in hand. But you need to plan carefully to achieve this massive effect.

Parsat wrote:
SGS adds some unique cards to the board, of course. The base set has a card that let you negate tool cards used against you, as well as a card that let you disarm people of their weapons. The Battle expansion pack added a slew of unique cards, including "elemental kills." Think "Bang!" cards imbued with the powers of fire and lightning. This may not seem like much, but another card lets you "shackle" multiple opponents together and hit them both with fire and lightning.

In the base set, Wu-Xie-Ke-Ji (Unassailable) can nullify another tool(trick) card, including another Unassailable, while Jie-Dao-Sha-Ren(Borrow a Weapon to Kill) demands another player to either play a Sha/Bang on your chosen target or get disarmed (give the weapon to you).
No doubt "Shackle" is the core element in the Battle pack, it can link or unlink up to two players. All linked players share an elemental damage on any of them and then get unlinked. Note that a fourth type of basic card, Alcohol, was also introduced in the Battle pack, to add one damage to the next Sha/Bang you play - if it works. Imagine if you, equipping a Gu-Ding Broadsword, drink an Alcohol and then Sha/Bang an opponent with no hand and linked to three others...
Another armor, Teng-Jia(Rattan Armor) makes you immune to all physical damages - as well as adds 1 to every fire damage you take. Think twice!

The Battle pack is a brand new expansion that makes SGS different from Bang! It adds strategy variations and speeds up game progress (because of damage enhancements not limited to those listed above).

Parsat wrote:
One of the unique rules I like best addresses something that Bang!'s "shadow gunslinger" in Gold Rush attempted to address: That one person who dies first in a big game. Reincarnation is where players can pass a card once during their turn to a dead person. Once that person gets 4 cards, they return as a different character of the same allegiance (more on that later) and can play again! For the purposes of winning, the role is still considered dead, but reincarnating a player can provide that extra push to victory. Officially, it's if there are 8 or more players playing, but in practice it's fine even with 5 people. It works well thematically, and it's always fun to have that gamble to bring that ally back to life!

The Reincarnation was a concept in the first edition of SGS, but not so well recognized by players unfortunately. In later editions it disappeared from the rule booklet. Nor did it appear online. As said above, the introducing of expansions speeds up game paces, making it looks unnecessary.
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Ryan Yan
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Parsat wrote:
There's also a competitive SGS scene involving an original ruleset. Known as 3v3, it involves a group of 3, a ruler and his bodyguards, trying to kill an opposing ruler. It's actually very fun: The dynamic is totally different, but for a gamer who games for the social interaction, the teamwork is awesome. I've even tried this gametype in Bang! and found it a complete success.


You're basically right on 3v3... missing only one detail which makes the game totally different - the drafting mechanism of characters:
32 character cards from the base set and Wind pack(except Yu Ji) are used in 3v3. Randomly revealed 16 character cards are used per game.
Toss a coin to determine which lord goes first (exactly: decides who draft first; later the other load has the right to choose who play first after selected characters are revealed). (P.S. Lords in 3v3 are NOT Rulers in regular games, they can't have Rulers' special ability on character cards.)
The first lord takes 1 of those 16 character cards; the other takes 2 and the drafting goes in 1-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-1.
After that, both lords select 1 character card from the 8 cards he took for each player on his side.
Then both sides reveal individuals' character cards at the same time, and the play begins.

In advanced 3v3 games, drafting is even more important than card-playing. Some may argue on how many percents of success lie in drafting, but no one doubts it's over 50%.
It's always challenging to identify potential powerful combos out of the revealed 16 characters cards at the beginning.
And during drafting, to go for your own combo or to break your opponent's? It's always a dilemma.
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Parsat wrote:
Characters
Each character has an Allegiance, or what side they were on historically. There are 5 allegiances: Shu Han, Wei, Wu, "Heroes," and "Demigods." The cool thing about this is that the Ruler chooses their character first, with the option of choosing special Ruler characters with special Ruler powers regarding their allegiance. Liu Bei, for example, can ask other Shu Han characters to play a Kill/Bang! for him. The infamous Cao Cao can ask other Wei characters to play a Missed for them. After they've chosen, the other players choose their character. As you can see, this really does have potential to open up teamwork or backstabbing tactics.


There're only 4 allegiances: Shu, Wei, Wu, Qun(independent heroes). A Demigod must choose one of the 4 allegiances as his allegiance during the whole game, when character cards are revealed.
I can't agree more on your understanding on "Ruler choosing character first". Indeed it leads to character collaboration and suppression. One more example: Zhang Jiao (in Wind pack) is powerful because he can assert 2 points of lightning damage on any chosen player when he plays a Shan/Missed, and then (on his ability) flips a spade (in addition, his other ability is to substitute a flipped card with a black-suited card of his own!). But he is not so over-powerful in the Ruler position, because the Rebels can easily choose suppressing characters - those with special abilities in discarding/stealing cards or Duels.

Parsat wrote:
Now I mentioned there were 88 official characters. The characters is really where this game goes to a whole new level. Basically, the only reason why the game is balanced is because the characters are so powerful. Most characters have two different abilities, some less, some more, but for the most part very powerful. Here's a sampler of several characters with simpler powers:


Early characters tend to have only one ability for a 4-health one and two abilities for a 3-health one. Later the routine was somewhat broken because advanced players want more variations. But Yoka is doing well on character balancing. Example: Demigod Guan Yu has 5 HPs, but his all hearts are always regarded as Sha/Bang!, making him less possible to run out of Sha/Bang! meanwhile unable to use most Peach/Beer, because 7 of 8 Peaches (or 9 of 12 incl. Battle pack) are hearts. This is also an example of "Locked Ability", which is always effective out of your choice.

Parsat wrote:
1. Zhuge Liang can rearrange the order of cards on the top of the deck before drawing. In addition, he can't be targeted by Duels or Kills/Bangs if he has no cards in his hand.
2. Si Ma Yi not only has El Gringo's power, he can play cards from his hand to replace "judgment" cards: Cards flipped over for Lightning/Dynamite, Acedia/Jail, Eight Trigrams/Barrel, etc.
3. Lu Xun not only has Suzy Lafayette's power, but can't be the subject of Steals/Panics or Acedia/Jail.
4. Xiao Qiao can deflect incoming damage to other people by discarding cards from her hand in the suit of hearts.
5. Hua Tuo can discard a card to heal anyone in his turn, and he can save anyone from the brink of death with a red-suited card.


Xiao Qiao is just not the one you described. While deflected a damage, the victim also gets as many cards as the current HPs he/she loses. if u deflect to a 4-HP char into dying and then he is fed a Peach/Beer, he can draw 3 cards immediately (ability resolves after dying resolving). When to deflect to an opponent and when to an alliance, it's a tactical choice.
P.S. her other ability is also a "Locked Ability", regarding all her spades as hearts, thus she has 50% chances of each of her hand ready for a deflection.

Parsat wrote:
Some characters have extremely complicated, convoluted powers as well, with potentially devastating effects. The most overpowered characters are probably the "demigod" characters, legendary versions of some of the Three Kingdoms' greatest heroes. They are much too complex to describe here, but if you want to imagine the horror, imagine a demigod Lu Bu creating a gigantic shockwave that damages everyone and makes them lose all their equipment and basically all their cards. Exceedingly fun to use, and teamwork wise, fun to team up against.


Demigods are NOT over-powerful. They are just usually more complicated and many of them need special tokens. To continue the Demigod Guan Yu as the example: his other ability is to put another chosen player to immediate death when he dies and flips a card that is NOT a Peach/Beer or a Peach Garden (a tool/trick card to recover 1 HP for all). The victim can be only chosen among those who have dealt the most damages to him. So you need some Meng-Yan (Nightmare) tokens, a player gets one Nightmare per each damage he/she deals to Demigod Guan Yu.
(Background
Demigod Lv Bu needs to collect another kind of tokens (Rage) - per each damage he takes or deals - before he can create the gigantic shockwave you mention, consuming SIX Rage tokens each time.

Parsat wrote:
Yes, there are some characters that are very powerful and rightly to be feared. Yes, the game does take longer than Bang! because it's more complex and because people are harder to kill in general (although most characters only have 3 life to compensate). But the tactical depth and the sheer mayhem you can do is something that even the burliest brawl in Dodge City is unable to replicate.

The game does NOT take longer than Bang!. If eight experienced players are playing with just base set, the assertion might be true. But as mentioned before, expansions tend to add more hurting means and speed up the progress. Many full-expansion games can finish within 2 or 3 rounds, but the first round, indeed, is very slow, with identity probing, massive tool/trick cards resolving and etc.
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