Codex Gamicus

Bandit Kings of Ancient China, also known as Suikoden-Tenmei no Chikai (水滸伝・天命の誓い) in Japan, is a turn-based strategy video game published by Koei and released in 1989 for MS-DOS, Amiga and the Macintosh and in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1996, Koei issued a remake for the Japanese Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation featuring vastly improved graphics and new arrangements of the original songs.


Based on the Chinese novel Water Margin, the game takes place in ancient China during the Song Dynasty. The Bandit Kings of Ancient China—a band of ten bandits—engage in war against China's Minister of War Gao Qiu, an evil person with unlimited power. The objective of the game is to build, sustain, and command an army of troops to defeat Gao's army before January 1127. Players hold certain attributes such as strength, dexterity, and wisdom. Players must also deal with other situations such as taxes, care for the troops, maintenance and replacement of weapons and equipment, forces of nature, and troop unrest and desertion.

Battlefields take place on hexagonal grids, where players move their armies across various terrain in order to strategically engage and defeat the enemy army. Troops have the capability of fighting with either melee weapons, bows and arrows, magic, or dueling swords. When a player defeats an enemy army, they have the option of recruiting, imprisoning, exiling, or executing the captured enemy troops. Every individual battle lasts for a month, and players have until January 1127 to defeat Gao's entire army.


Reviewing the NES version of Bandit Kings of Ancient China, Nintendo Power suggested some players might find the game's pace slow compared to action oriented games, while others would enjoy the game's "depth, involvement, and attention to detail." Compute! magazine praised the game as "one the most complete and entertaining role-playing simulations available", and gave it an honorable mention in the War/Strategy category of the 1991 Compute Choice Awards. A reviewer in the Austin American-Statesman suggested the game's depth was overwhelming, calling the game "the richest, most complex role-playing game ever published" but saying he "had trouble figuring out ... what [he] was supposed to be doing and to whom." PC Magazine reviewed the game positively, concluding that Bandit Kings of Ancient China "is an addictive game, brought alive by a mixture of computer-driven personalities, the romance of a departed culture, a large battery of options, and the unpredictability of game play." The Amiga version received positive reviews in Amiga magazines. Computer Gaming World named Bandit Kings of Ancient China antagonist Gau Qiu as the twelfth most memorable game villain.

The game was reviewed in 1994 in Dragon #211 by Jay & Dee in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Both reviewers gave the game 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


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