At my weekly gaming group we recently added two new players, great adds I may … um… add, to the table. Among the things they brought with them (wit, wisdom, hilarious PC-hijinks, the occasional round of snacks) was a card game called LTK. Short for, and this took me a few weeks to remember, Legends of the the Three Kingdoms, the game is a Chinese styled competitive and partial-cooperative affair that pits up to six players against each other, or on each other’s side depending on the random draw of cards at the begining of the game. It’s a game based on the book Romance of the Three Kingdom’s which was written in 14th Century China by Luo Guanzhong and that details the part-historical, part-mythological lives of the feudal lords during the twighlight years of the Han Dynasty.
The premise of the book, and the card game, is that these lords vye for rulership in the fading era of a Chinese landscape and strategize to become the most powerful warlord of the day. Chiefly among these warlord’s were Liu Bei (Shu Han), Sun Quan (Eastern Wu) and Cao Cao (Cao Wei) and the mixing of historical fact and legend of both these and other warlords of the era gives the card game its fantastic feel. For those familiar with it, the game, which came out way back in 2008, closely mirrors the Italian game Bang! (in fact, most people, perhaps the creators themselves, admit that the game is nothing more than a Chinese version of the Italian) where players assume hidden roles such as the Monarch, the Turn-coat, Minister and Rebel, with each type of role either playing with or against the other roles. Variation from the Italian game comes from the fact that each player assumes Chinese-styled Heroes: characters with special abilities that have in-game benefits offering unique play. The basic goal of the game while playing one of these heroes is to whittle down your opponents health points(whomever they may actually be) and keep yourself and your allies (if you have any) alive. To do this, players utilize cards that attack and deal damage to opponents life totals. The rules are fairly straight-forward and the tactics vary depending on the role you are dealt.
Overall, the game does feel like a replica of the Italian Bang! but the thing which speaks to me is the flavor of the cards and the heroes that one assumes when you play it. Whereas Bang! put me in the shoes of a Western shoot-out, LTK, through it’s artwork and the introduction of heroes and the detailed card elements, put me on a journey into a new mythos that I had previously been unaware of. The game itself introduced me to the era of Chinese history that lead to these mythological heroes and touched upon a rich vein of fantasy and culture which I had heretofore be unaware of. And that to me, regardless of similarities, makes it a great game. Though it may simply be a repackaged version of another product, the uniqueness of its experience and its expression, gives it a worthy mention and I’d recommend you give it a college try. Coke and Pepsi both make dark sugary sodas, but they each have their ardent supporters and fans, and in the world of gaming, product differentation is a blurry line with Open Content system’s like Pathfinder, the opportunity to re-skin a game with a flavor beyond its original boundaries is something that I feel needs to not only sampled, but encouraged. So for that, when you get a chance, head out and buy a copy of LTK and,
Legends of the Three Kindgoms
Some WikiPedia Pages on the Historial Context of the Game: