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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mǎ Sù 马谡

Posted by Ricky Chua On 5:46 PM 9 comments
Translated Description:
The Conceited Talent 怀才自负(huái cái zì fù)

Who is he:
Imagine having to sent your good friend to the gallows. That was how Zhu Ge Liang 诸葛亮 must have felt when he ordered the beheading of his good friend, Ma Su. Throughout most of his life, Ma Su was a loyal general and tactician to Shu Kingdom 蜀国. His military knowledge was incredibly impressive, and Zhu Ge Liang became fast friends with him, often discussing military tactics and matters from dawn till dusk. In fact it was said that a couple of Zhu Ge Liang's military victories were tactics proposed by Ma Su. So trusted was Ma Su that Zhu Ge Liang made Ma Su his very own advisor!

Yet just before Liu Bei 刘备 died, Liu Bei warned Zhu Ge Liang that Ma Su was not as capable as he seems. Zhu Ge Liang chose not to listen, and entrusted Ma Su with an extremely important mission in their Northern expeditions. That was when the turning point occurred, that led to Ma Su receiving capital punishment. What exactly happened in that expedition? Read on to find out!

Character ability 1: Winning Hearts 心战 (xīn zhàn)
In your action phase, if your number of on-hand cards exceeds your maximum health units, you can view the top 3 cards of the deck. Of these 3, display any number of cards that are of the heart suit, then keep them in your hand. Replace the remainder of the 3 cards (if any) in any order back on the top of the deck. Limited to once per turn.

Character ability 2: Tears of Reluctance 挥泪 (huī lèi) [Enforced ability]
The player that kills you must discard all his or her cards (both on-hand and equipped) immediately.

Ability's relation to story:
"Winning Hearts" actually refers to Ma Su's philosophy of winning the hearts and minds of the enemy through non-military means. Yet the ability title is a wordplay to make a connection with the suit of hearts in this game. There does not appear to be any direct correlation between his philosophy and the mechanics of the ability.

"Tears of Reluctance" has strong links to the famed phrase "Zhu Ge Liang sheds tears of reluctance as he executes Ma Su 诸葛亮挥泪斩马谡". It has decent links to the story since losing Ma Su was a big loss to Zhu Ge Liang. Though tragic, this mechanics of this ability is probably more aptly described as "Curses of Frustration" by other players.

Additional info based on story:
1. Most famous achievement - In the Battle of Jie Ting 街亭之战, Ma Su was to face the formidable Zhang He 张郃 from Wei Kingdom. Despite Ma Su's military knowledge, he made an elementary error of placing his forces atop a hill to gain a vantage point, yet being isolated from his source of water. His follower, Wang Ping 王平, cautioned against his strategy and pointed out the critical flaw, but Ma Su failed to take heed. Sure enough, Zhang He exploited the flaw and cut off Ma Su's troop from the water supply. Once Ma Su's troops were thirsty and weak, Zhang He crushed his enemy easily. Ma Su barely escaped from the battle with his life, but his army was completely decimated. He returned to Zhu Ge Liang in defeat.

2. Cause of death - The severity of Ma Su's blunder was apparent. The Fort of Jie Ting was strategically important to Shu, and Ma Su's defeat quickly led to further losses of adjacent cities. Zhu Ge Liang was furious that Ma Su, a man of such glib tongue and quick with military wisdom, should so utterly fail. After promising to take care of Ma Su's children, he sentenced Ma Su to death whilst brushing away tears of sorrow. In the minutes that follow, other generals came to plead with Zhu Ge Liang that a talent such as Ma Su be spared, so as not to lose any advantage to the enemy. However Zhu Ge Liang was adamant that Ma Su be executed to abide by the Laws of the military. After the beheading was done, the head of Ma Su was brought to Zhu Ge Liang as proof of his death, and Zhu Ge Liang wailed more than ever. He cried both for losing a close friend, as well as failing to listen to Liu Bei's last words.

Wiki Link:
Ma Su Wiki

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yú Jìn 于禁

Posted by Ricky Chua On 11:52 PM 5 comments
Translated Description:
Mainstay of the Wei Military 魏武之刚 (wèi wǔ zhī gāng)

Who is he:
Loyalty transcends time and geography, or so Yu Jin thought. Yu Jin was thought to be one of five most important generals serving under Cao Cao 曹操. In his prime, Yu Jin was responsible for the battles that led to Yuan Shao 袁绍 being vanquished, and he was also known as a man of steely integrity. Yu Jin once defeated a rebel leader who happened to be an old friend. Despite this old friend surrendering to Yu Jin, Yu Jin knew that Cao Cao would execute this friend anyways because he only surrendered after being defeated. Yu Jin decided that he would order the execution himself, and he had a tearful final meeting with that friend before the execution.

However the drama that Yu Jin is remembered for begins only after his defeat by Guan Yu 关羽. After coming to Cao Ren 曹仁's rescue, both Yu Jin and Pang De 庞德 found themselves stranded in the flooded fort of Fan Cheng 樊城. Guan Yu was mobile on boats and quickly captured both the Wei generals, whereupon Yu Jin surrendered and joined Shu Kingdom 蜀国 whilst Pang De refused to betray Cao Cao and chose death over surrender. Cao Cao was greatly grieved that his trusted general of 30 years would switch sides to help Shu Kingdom.

Yet fate still has not run its course. Eventually Yu Jin did return to Wei Kingdom, but why? And when? Read on to find out!

Character ability: Resolute 毅重 (yì zhòng) [Enforced ability]
When you have no armor equipped, black-suited ATTACK 杀 cards have no effect on you.

Ability's relation to story:
Sadly, the link of this ability to the story is nearly non-existent. True, Yu Jin was a resolute and firm general under the Wei Kingdom, however I really do not see how his ability ties in with the ability title. I must say I am somewhat disappointed. However if i'm wrong and there is a good relation to the story that I missed out, I will update this accordingly.

If anyone knows the relation, do inform me!

[Update!] Indeed there is a link to the story. Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu in the story and thus left Wei for Shu. For his ability, it does leave him completely susceptible to Guan Yu's ability, where all his red cards are ATTACK.

Additional info based on story:
1. Most famous achievement - After surrendering to Guan Yu, Yu Jin seemingly had his allegiance to Shu Kingdom, but it was believed that he simply wanted to stay alive so as to return to Cao Cao's side someday. This is very similar to Guan Yu joining Cao Cao's side for a period of time before returning to Liu Bei 刘备. However after Guan Yu was defeated by Lu Meng 吕蒙, Yu Jin again surrendered to Wu Kingdom 吴国, where he became the subject of ridicule for a period of time. Eventually, Yu Jin managed to return to Wei Kingdom when Cao Pi 曹丕 declared himself Ruler and Wu Kingdom became allies. Yu Jin was "returned" to Cao Pi, but by then Yu Jin was a already an old man.

2. Cause of death - Cao Pi gave Yu Jin a chance to still serve in the Wei military, but asked him to first pay a visit to the tomb of Cao Cao. Upon arriving at the tomb, he saw the carvings in Cao Cao's tomb that depicted a shameless Yu Jin bowing down to Guan Yu whilst a heroic Pang De being executed. It was a reflection of Cao Cao's feelings of sorrow and betrayal when Yu Jin left Wei for Shu. Yu Jin was so grief-stricken by the carving that he fell ill and never recovered. He died before serving another military campaign in Wei.

Wiki Link:
Yu Jin Wiki

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Xú Shù 徐庶

Posted by Ricky Chua On 11:18 AM 40 comments
Translated Description:
The Loyal Gallant 忠孝的侠士 (zhōng xiào dè xiá shì)

Who is he:
By now you probably know how significant Zhu Ge Liang 诸葛亮 was to Liu Bei 刘备 and the entire era. Yet if not for Xu Shu, Zhu Ge Liang would probably still be a simple scholar residing in peaceful solitude. Xu Shu was one of the friends of the mysterious Si Ma Hui 司马徽 and was Liu Bei's first military advisor. In his first military role for Liu Bei, Xu Shu helped crush Cao Ren 曹仁's forces and sent Cao Ren weeping back to Cao Cao 曹操 in shame. Upon knowing that Liu Bei has found a formidable advisor, Cao Cao made plans to entice Xu Shu over to Wei Kingdom 魏国.

Did Cao Cao succeed? Did Xu Shu betray Liu Bei and hop over to Wei Kingdom?

As you can see, Xu Shu's character colours are in blue, representing that he belongs in the Wei camp. But strangely, his allegiance is Shu 蜀, as can be seen in the red 蜀 character in the upper left corner and his red life units. This is the ONLY character in the entire SGS game that has this abnormal colour coding.

Why is this the case? Read on to find out!

[2011 Old version]
Character ability 1: Silence 无言 (wú yán) [Enforced ability]
With the exception of Time-delayed tool cards, all other tool cards used by you have no effect on all other players. Similar tool cards used by all other players have no effect on you.

Character ability 2: Dragon's Advocate 举荐 (jǔ jiàn)
In the action phase, you can discard up to 3 cards, then allow 1 other player of your choice to draw an equal number of cards from the deck. If you discard no less than 3 cards of similar type (basic, tool card, equipment card), you regain 1 unit of health. Limited to once per turn.

[2012 New version]
Character ability 1: Silence 无言 (wú yán) [Enforced ability]
All damage caused by, or received from, tool cards is prevented.

Character ability 2: Dragon's Advocate 举荐 (jǔ jiàn)
When the ending phase of your turn begins, you can discard 1 non-Basic card (ie: Tools cards, equipment cards, etc). If you do so, you let another player choose 1 of the following 3 possible actions:

1. Draw 2 cards.

2. Regain 1 unit of health.

3. Flip over the character card such that it faces right-side up, and rotated in the vertical orientation (ie: chains are broken).

Ability's relation to story:
The concepts of both ability are related closely to the story, however the mechanics are not congruent. "Silence" mirrors Xu Shu's refusal to offer Cao Cao any advice whatsoever after hopping over to Wei Kingdom. However it is clear that the mechanics of this ability provides a high level of immunity against all other characters, and not just against Cao Cao. Besides, Xu Shu refusing to advise Cao Cao almost got him killed instead of offering him protection.

Xu Shu never offered any advices to Cao Cao(cannot use TOOL CARDS against others). In RoTK, Xu Shu found out that Pang Tong wanted to shackle Wei’s ships to burn them all, but he does not remind Cao Cao. Instead, he stayed away from the battlefield to keep himself safe from the fire, so he is immune to other players’ TOOL CARDS.

I gave the ability translation "Dragon's Advocate" a slight twist. The direct translation of 举荐 means "to recommend". But put into the context of the ROTK story, Xu Shu made one of the most important recommendations of all chinese history: he recommended Zhu Ge Liang and Liu Bei to each other. At that time, Zhu Ge Liang was known by his moniker "Sleeping Dragon 卧龙", thus the name of this ability deserves the Dragon prefix.

Similar to "Silence", the "Dragon's Advocate" ability does have its links to the story. Discarding your cards and allowing another player to draw mirrors Xu Shu's departure from Liu Bei (and withholding his ability thence forth) while creating an opportunity for Zhu Ge Liang. However this ability is not specific towards any character related to the story (such as Liu Bei, Zhu Ge Liang or Cao Cao). Regaining 1 unit of health is completely unrelated to the story/

Additional information based on story:
1. Most famous achievement - Getting tricked by Cheng Yu 程昱 to leave Liu Bei and join Cao Cao. Cheng Yu was one of Cao Cao's advisors and was tasked to entice Xu Shu over to Wei Kingdom. Knowing that Xu Shu is a very filial son, Cao Cao summoned Xu Shu's mother and wanted to win her over, so that she could convince Xu Shu to hop over to his side. Unexpectedly, Xu Shu's mother cursed and insulted Cao Cao, so much so that Cao Cao ordered her executed for her insolence. Cheng Yu quickly intervened and instead ask Cao Cao to treat her like a guest. Cheng Yu then wrote a false letter, in it Xu Shu's mother uses loneliness and old age to convince Xu Shu to return to her side, which happens to be in the Wei Kingdom. Xu Shu reluctantly decides to leave Liu Bei and thus went over to Cao Cao's camp.

However, upon seeing her son arrive in Wei Kingdom, Xu Shu's mother was enraged! She repeatedly scolded Xu Shu for being so stupid as to have fallen for such a simple ploy, at the same time giving up the opportunity to serve a noble such as Liu Bei. She leaves the room in anger, while Xu Shu ponders in disappointment. Within minutes, a maid alerts Xu Shu to terrible news. In a final act of defiance, Xu Shu's mother hangs herself, and thus Xu Shu is deeply overcome with sorrow. Although he is officially with Wei Kingdom, he never offered any advice to Cao Cao in his time there.

2. Cause of death - Unknown. The widely accepted view is that Xu Shu died of either old age or sickness. There was no mention of him dying in battle or anything honorary. In fact ever since his mother's death, Xu Shu received very little attention due to his reclusion.

Wiki Link
Xu Shu Wiki

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Zhāng Chūn Huá 张春华

Posted by Ricky Chua On 5:52 PM 30 comments
Translated Description:
Cold-blooded Empress 冷血皇后 (lěng xuè huáng hoù)

Who is she:
At first glance, you might probably think that this is one of Cao Cao 曹操's many wives who later became Empress of Wei Kingdom 魏国. Yet on closer scrutiny of history, her identity comes as a shock! Zhang Chun Hua is not wife of any within the Cao family. She is, in fact, the wife of Si Ma Yi 司马懿, the nemesis of Cao Cao! So why is she an Empress and given the colours of the Wei Kingdom in this character card? Since Zhang Chun Hua is the wife of Si Ma Yi, and Si Ma Yi was one of Cao Cao's most important advisors at the time, it is natural that her "allegiance" lies with the Wei Kingdom. However she never became Empress in her lifetime. It was only after her grandson, Si Ma Yan 司马炎, established the Jin Dynasty 晋朝 that she was posthumously honoured as Empress.

What about the "Cold-blooded" part of her description? Read on the find out!

[2011 Old version]
Character ability 1: "Ruthless 绝情 (jué qíng)" [Enforced ability]
All damage caused by you is viewed as "loss of health". (Character abilities or card abilities that are activated when damage is "caused by" or "received" will not activate).

Character ability 2: "Bereavement 伤逝 (shāng shī)"
With the exception of the discard phase, whenever your number of on-hand cards is less than the number of units of health loss thus far, you can immediately draw from the deck till your on-hand cards equal number of units of health loss.

Example of usage for "Bereavement" - When you have 1 unit of health left, the number of health loss thus far is 2 units. Suppose you have 2 on-hand cards, a WINE 酒 and an ATTACK 杀, and you use both simultaneously on another player, you will have zero on-hand cards left. You can thus immediately draw 2 cards from the deck.

[2012 New version]
Character ability 1: "Ruthless 绝情 (jué qíng)" [Enforced ability]
All damage you are about to inflict is converted to "loss of health".

Character ability 2: "Bereavement 伤逝 (shāng shī)" [Enforced ability]
With the exception of the discard phase, your minimum number of on-hand cards is X, X being the number of units of health you have loss and X has a maximum of 2.


Ability's relation to story:
The link to the story is more obtuse. "Ruthless" is supposed to describe her cold-blooded nature, however this ability does not intuitively describe cold-bloodedness. Instead the ability crafter mentioned that this ability was meant to counter her husband, Si Ma Yi's "Retaliation 反馈" ability. The aim was to demonstrate that Si Ma Yi was unable to outsmart his wife, which was what happened in the story. The mechanics of "Bereavement" has very little connection to the story. This ability apparently hints at the love that Si Ma Yi has lost for Zhang Chun Hua in her later years, especially after she was neglected in favour of Si Ma Yi's other love, Lady Bai 柏夫人.

Additional info based on story:
1. Most famous achievement - Cold-bloodedly murdering her own servant maid. When Si Ma Yi began plotting to overthrow the Cao family, he avoided going to battle by feinting illness. The malingering Si Ma Yi slacked away in his abode, so carefree that he put out his books to dry in the sun. Unfortunately, it began to rain and Si Ma Yi leapt out of bed to bring his books indoors. One of the maids saw his sudden burst of energy and was shocked that Si Ma Yi has recovered miraculously from his illness. The guileless maid informed Zhang Chun Hua that Si Ma Yi seems to have recovered overnight. Yet Zhang Chun Hua was no fool, she knew about Si Ma Yi's reasons for feinting illness. Fearing further complications if the maid were to speak of this to others, Zhang Chun Hua murder the maid there and then to ensure that Si Ma Yi's feint is safe from suspicion.

2. Cause of death - Old age, but probably suffering from disaffection before her death. Si Ma Yi once called her "old and ugly", whereupon Zhang Chun Hua decided to starve to death and take her own life. Upon hearing this, all of their children vowed to starve with their mother and die alongside her. Si Ma Yi then took back his words and his family did not go ahead with their suicide, but Si Ma Yi later told Zhang Chun Hua that he could not have cared less if she starved to death. He only took back his words to save his children.

Wiki Link:
Zhang Chun Hua Wiki

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cáo Zhí 曹植

Posted by Ricky Chua On 10:58 PM 43 comments
Translated Description:
Eight-Tenths of the world's Talent 八斗之才 (bā doù zhī cái)

Who is he:
Brother, or adulterer? Feeble poet, or crouching usurper? Genius, or drunkard? Cao Zhi is a contradiction that has romanticized the entire Three Kingdoms era. Wikipedia would sing his praises for his famed poetic ability, while on the same page hark on his lack of sobriety as if it were tabloid news. Cao Zhi was never much of a military person, and is usually belittled in comparison to his elder brother, Cao Pi 曹丕. Yet Cao Zhi has left his mark in ways that Cao Pi could never equal. If you love the vagabond wanderer without a care in the world, or the merry-making hippie culture that spun off incredible lyrical literature, you would probably fall in love with Cao Zhi. Maybe you would even grin understandably when Cao Zhi flirted with his elder brother's wife. Merry-making, eh?

Character ability 1: "Falling Bloom 落英 (luò yīng)"
When other players discard or flip judgement cards with "clubs" into the discard pile, you can take possession of these cards.

Character ability 2: "Drunken Quatrain 酒诗 (jiǔ shī)"
When your character card is facing up, you can choose to flip over your character card and this will be considered as having used WINE 酒 (under reasonable situations only).

When you suffer damage while your character card is facing down, you can choose to flip over your character card such that is faces up after the damage you received is concluded.

Ability's relation to story:
Brilliant!!! Cao Zhi's abilities are so well linked to the story that his first ability actually has double meaning! The chinese words for "Falling Bloom" is an olden way of describing the falling of spring flowers from the trees. This can be seen to describe Cao Zhi's youthful and care-free nature in his young adult days. On the flip side, the chinese words 落英 is actually a word play on Zhen Ji 甄姬's nickname 洛神, where 英 here can refer to 英雄 or hero. In other words, Cao Zhi is secretly Zhen Ji's hero and lover, a rumour that does seem to carry some weight historically. Notice how beautifully this ability pairs up Zhen Ji's "Goddess Luo 洛神" ability?

"Drunken Quatrain" is also deeply based on the story. In his later years, Cao Zhi became a drunken wreck. In fact he was so drunk that he did not attend his own father, Cao Cao 曹操's, funeral. Living in a perpetual state of despair, Cao Zhi continued to write poems that sank deeper and deeper into misery mongering.

Additional info based on story:
1. Most famous achievement - The Seven Step Quatrain (fictional). In the ROTK story, Cao Pi was furious at Cao Zhi for being so drunk he did not attend Cao Cao's funeral. At the same time, Cao Pi had been plotting for sometime to remove his younger brother so that there would be no more threat to his throne. Cao Pi gave Cao Zhi one final chance to demonstrate his ability: Come up with a poem within 7 paces, or die. Cao Zhi came up with not one, but two poems. The second poem made no direct reference to the two brothers, speaking of a pot of beans boiling atop a fire fueled by beanstalks, however the inference behind the poem moved Cao Pi sufficiently to pardon the execution of his younger brother.

2. Cause of death - Illness, probably brought about by depression and alcoholism. After Cao Pi's death, Cao Zhi argued valiantly to be re-instated in the court of Wei Kingdom 魏国, but the new emperor, Cao Rui 曹睿, would still view Cao Zhi as a threat to the throne. Cao Zhi never got to fulfill his desire to contribute to the Wei Kingdom, and he died as a depressed loner with little fanfare.

Wiki Link:
Cao Zhi Wiki

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