Title : Bandit Kings of Ancient China
Publisher : Koei
Genre : Turn Based Strategy
Players : 1 Player (up to 5 simultaneously though)
Release Date : 1990
Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $50
Back in 1989, while I wasn't obsessing over my NES system, I was also getting involved with PC gaming. I didn't have many PC games back in 1989, but I do remember having some absolute classics. Prince of Persia, Populous, Kings Quest, Ultima, Maniac Mansion, Sim City, and this little gem right here. Bandit Kings of Ancient China.
This is one of the first Turn Based Strategy games I ever played, and as a 7 year old kid back in the 80's trying to play this was like trying to understand calculus as an elementary school kid. In fact, I'm still horrible at math, hence why I write lol. This game isn't one of those fast paced action games you'd be playing when you were a kid. No, this was a game of critical thinking and plotting.
If you've played old school strategy games, you know it isn't as simple as building units and sending out your army to vanquish your enemies. No Starcraft zerging here. You have a lot of problems to contend with including taxation, troop morale, camp placement, weapon maintenance, and even troop unrest and desertion. All this while dealing with the surrounding armies.
You start the game by choosing your character, each of which has different stats from a stat roll. You are then brought to the province map screen where you're told that the Emperor needs your assistance in capturing the EVIL, yes that's right I said EVVVIIIILLLL Gao Xiu. The challenge is, you don't have much time to accomplish this feat. In fact you only have until the year 1127, which may seem like a lot but each province move takes up ONE MONTH of time. You need to build your army, spread out your rule, gain popularity and bolster your weaponry. Very little time,(only a few years game time), and is there A LOT to do.
I'm not even joking when I am saying that I could go on for hours explaining the intricacies of this game. Think of it as a role playing version of RISK. You need to manage so many things, that if you're not patient enough or willing to sit down and think things through, this game is going to drive you absolutely insane. And that's one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much. There isn't just one method of winning this game, as you can go about it so many different ways.
The main task is to just build your army by recruiting followers either through defeating their armies and capturing them, or gaining enough popularity and territory where people just come crawling to your doorstep. When you decide you want to attack an opposing army, you setup your army, distribute resources and go at it. After 30 days pass in the battle, a winner is determined by whether or not the defender was able to hold off the attack or not. There's so many variables that determine a winner, such as resources and army sizes, but each battle proves to be an insane challenge.
Surprisingly enough, there's been a huge following for this game since it was released and as we speak this game is also one of the most expensive to acquire in the NES library. It averages around $50 now, but I've seen it go for upwards of $100 just for the cart.
The market for this game is very niche though. As I've said throughout the review, if you don't have the patience, you won't be able to sit through the opening 5 minutes of this game. But do yourself a favor and try to sit down and appreciate what this game has to offer. It's a true marvel of turn based strategy and really helped set the stage for future generations of Asian warfare.
Just call me, Tattooed Priest.
Final Score (out of 5) :
Until next time. Keep on gaming!