Types of Cards

Types of Cards

When playing San Guo Sha, you will need four types of cards: character cards, role cards, health cards, and playing cards. The base game pack contains all of the cards that you need to play San Guo Sha, but there are additional expansions that include more playing cards and more character cards which add complexity to this already exciting game.

Character Cards

The first set of cards that you need are the character cards. Below are a few examples of character cards:

Character Card
Cao CaoZhuge LiangLu MengDiao ChanGod Guan Yu 
Name Cao CaoZhuge Liang Lu Meng Diao ChanGod Guan Yu 
AllegianceWei (Blue)Shu (Red) Wu (Green) Hero (Neutral) God (Yellow)
Units of Health Four Three FourThree Five 
Gender Male Male Male Female Male 
King Status King Not King Not King Not King Not King 

Each character card gives the allegiance, number of units of health, gender, and abilities of the character. The allegiance of a character is determined by the symbol in the upper right-hand corner and the color of the border of the card. The number of units of health that a character has is shown at the top of the card next to the allegiance symbol. The picture of the character on the card (usually) makes the gender of the character obvious. The abilities are written in Chinese in the box at the bottom of the card. The abilities of all of the official characters and many unofficial characters created by eager fans can be found on this website. 

One can also determine if a particular character is a king choice by looking at the border around the picture of the character. If this border is the same color of outer border around the card, the character is not a king choice. If the border is gold, the character is a king choice. Also, the health and allegiance symbols are gold in the case of king characters. Of the five characters shown above, only the character on the far left (Cao Cao) is a king choice. The only difference between king choice characters and non-king choice characters is that king choice characters have extra abilities know as 'king abilities' that they have if they are selected by the player who has the king role. 

At this point, it is important to make a note about the 'God' allegiance. Characters with the 'God' allegiance choose any of the other four allegiances (Wei, Shu, Wu, Hero) at the beginning of the game when all character choices are revealed to all players.  Even though the border around the character picture of these cards is gold, none of these characters are king choices. It is up to the players whether or not to add God characters to the character deck. Many players feel that God characters are too powerful. While it is true that God characters usually have extremely powerful abilities, they also often have extreme weaknesses too. Also, the 'God' status of these characters gives them a higher profile than other characters, so it is not uncommon that these characters are killed quickly by other players that fear their powers. With all of this considered, we have found that the God characters are well balanced with the rest of the San Guo Sha cast. 

Role Cards

While the character card of a player determines their character's abilities, the role card of the player determines their objective. Note that while a player can choose the character they use, they do not choose their role. 

King 主公 
Conditions for Winning: Survive until all rebels and spies are dead.
Conditions for Losing: Die while at least one rebel or spy is still alive.

The game centers on the king, as the objectives of the other roles revolve around the player with this role. The game ends immediately when the king dies. As noted earlier, there are some 'king choice' characters that have an extra ability that only goes into effect when the character is in the king position. Also, if there are more than four playing in the game, the king receives an extra unit of health. One final unique feature of the king role is that the player that is dealt this role places it face up next to their general card, while all other role cards are placed face down until the death of the player.

When playing this role, it is impossible to keep a low profile. Actively work toward killing the rebels, but do not pursue them so much that you leave yourself open to their assaults. Survival should always be the highest priority.

Loyal _ the three countries to kill loyal
Loyalist 忠臣
Conditions for Winning: The king survives until all rebels and spies are dead.
Conditions for Losing: The king dies while at least one rebel or spy is still alive.

The loyalist can be thought of as the king's 'deputy.' They support the king and want them to accomplish their objective of ridding the field of all rebels and spies. Note that the objective of the loyalist is identical to that of the king. If the king wins the game, the loyalists also win. Keep in mind that a loyalist can still win even if they die before the game ends. They only lose if the king dies. There is no reward or punishment if a rebel or spy kills a loyalist, but if the king kills a loyalist, he must immediately discard all hand and equipped cards.

When playing this role, keeping the king alive is the top priority. Actively work towards killing the rebels. Spies may target loyalists in pursuit of keeping the game balanced, but it is often best to ignore them and continue the pursuit of the rebels if at all possible. 

Rebels _ the three countries to kill Rebels
Rebel 反贼
Conditions for Winning: The king dies in such a way that a spy does not win.
Conditions for Losing: The king survives until all rebels and spies are dead or the spy kills the king after all rebels and loyalists are dead in a one-on-one battle.

The rebels have only one objective: kill the king. All other actions taken by rebels support this one goal. Like the loyalist, the rebel can still win even if they die before the game wins. So long as the king dies in such a way that the spy does not win, all rebels win. When a player successfully kills a rebel, they immediately draw three cards from the deck. Note that the role of player who kills a rebel does not change this bounty. For example, if one rebel kills another, they draw three cards. This is a good tactic if one of the rebels is about to die and the rest of the rebels do not want the king or a loyalist to get the additional cards.

When playing this role, keep in mind that all other goals are secondary to killing the king. It is sometimes helpful to kill a loyalist if the opportunity presents itself, but this goal should not distract the pursuit of the king. Also, if you can ensure that you will deal a large amount of damage to the king, it may not be a bad thing spend all of your resources on doing this. In games with many players, one rebel can be considered expendable if they deal a lot of damage to the king before dying.

Spy 内奸
Conditions for Winning: The king dies in a one-on-one battle with the spy after all rebels, loyalists, and other spies are dead.
Conditions for Losing: The game ends in any other way than listed in the 'Conditions for Winning.'

The objective of the spy is to keep him/herself and the king alive until the end of the game, then kill the king in a one-on-one battle. Note that if there are multiple spies in a game, they are not on a team. Only one spy can win. There is no reward or punishment for any player that kills a spy.

It is very difficult to win with this role. Being successful requires patience, longevity, and a little bit of luck. Like the loyalists, the spy needs to protect the king from the rebels. However, they do not want to give the king's team too much of an advantage. Keep the king alive, but feel free to pursue the loyalists if the king's team gets too much of an advantage. If the other players are smart (realize that often are not), they will not try to kill you if they know you are a spy. In order to win the game, the rebels must kill the king. Killing the spy wastes their time and cards. For the loyalists and king, killing rebels takes a higher priority to kill the spy, as there is a three card bounty for killing a rebel. Keeping the two teams balanced is the key to success with this role.

Remember, if you are playing this role, you are NOT a loyalist. Many novice players act like a loyalist for the entire game until the rebels die. When this happens, the king can just sit back at the end of the game while the loyalists and spy fight each other. If the spy somehow survives, they will surely be weak enough for the king to kill quickly. Playing this way as the spy will surely irritate all of the players who are rebels. If you are a rebel and the spy is acting like a loyalist instead of keeping the game balanced, say something. Remind them that they will likely lose with this tactic. We have been known to give 'Public Service Announcements' when we are rebels and the spy is acting like a loyalist for the entire game. 

Health Cards

Health cards are somewhat self-explanatory. These cards are used to keep track of how many units of health a player has remaining. Below is a picture of a health card:


As you can see, this health card has four units of health. There are variants of this card with three and five units of health. Whenever a player takes damage during the game, they can slide their character card over one unit of health to signify the fact that damage was taken. The number of health units visible on the card corresponds to the number of units of health remaining. 

Playing Cards

The final type of cards that are used in San Guo Sha are the playing cards. Unlike many other popular card games, San Guo Sha only uses one deck of cards. This is quite nice, as players do not have to worry about spending money to get the best possible cards to stay competitive. In the deck, there are three types of playing cards: basic cards, tool cards, and equipment cards. You can find more thorough explanations of these card types in other parts of this website.