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Bandit Kings of Ancient China (水滸伝・天命の誓い, Suikoden: Tenmei no Chikai, translated as "Water Margin Oath of Destiny") is a turn-based strategy game based on the classic novel Water Margin.

Kou Shibusawa is the producer. His goal for this game was to recreate a "life of free-flowing adventure" to distinguish itself from other KOEI historical simulations. Noriyoshi Ourai illustrated the game's cover. Music was composed by Shinji Kinoshita, Kazumasa Mitsui, and Yoichi Takizawa.


The objective of the game is to overthrow Gao Qiu before January 1127. To accomplish this, the player must select a hero to build a sizable army and become popular enough to gain the emperor's support. Popularity is earned by obtaining new prefectures, managing them efficiently, and aiding their inhabitants through charitable deeds.

The player can lose by failing the deadline, having their selected hero die, captured, or labeled a convict, or allowing another hero to overthrow Gao Qiu.


The player is expected to select a prefecture to inhabit and rule. Once they have settled, their goal is to provide sufficient food, gold, and loyalty to their followers. Territories and followers who are neglected have a higher chance of triggering civilian riots or desertion at the start of a month. Turns proceed by the month.

Prefectures fund armies. Their actions for altering parameters are limited by their commander's available body points each month. Five body points are regained each month. Experience points for raising one or more of stats can be earned from successful commands. Commands can only be issued by the player's chosen hero and their sworn siblings. Exiled characters are unable to perform a majority of them until they settle down and form a faction.

Throughout the year, events may help or hinder the player's progress. The game divides them into three categories: annual, seasonal, and monthly.

Annual events occur every January. They typically include tributes from functioning prefectures, increased tension between followers, and resource depreciation. The emperor may also request for a hero who can stop Gao Qiu. If the player's hero is chosen, they will receive a decree that authorizes them to fight the minister directly. This authority can be lost if the player's hero is forced into exile.

Seasonal events happen every three months. Their effects range from changes in climate to territorial decline. Summers have typhoons, and winters have snowstorms to inhibit progress in the effected provinces. Epidemics may come and go in any season to decrease troop count and health. Spring and fall festivals raise support and loyalty values while decreasing rate.

Monthly events are randomized. They include market rate changes and personnel expenses.

Attribute Description
Smithy Smithy Denotes the presence of a smithy where weapons can be bought.
Shipyard Shipyard Denotes the presence of a shipyard where ships can be bought.
Gold Gold Currency used for paying followers. Earned as tribute each year.
Food Food Nourishment used for sustaining men. Earned as tribute each year.
Metal Metal A necessary resource for making additional weapons.
Fur Fur A valuable resource sold for profit.
Rate Rate Indicates the market prices for resources. Fluctuates each month.
Heroes Heroes Indicates the number of heroes within a prefecture.
Men Men Indicates the number of soldiers within a prefecture.
Skill Skill Indicates the fighting prowess of men within a prefecture.
Arms Arms Indicates the amount of weapons men have access to.
People People Indicates the number of people in a prefecture. Fluctuates as time passes.
Castles Castles The amount of castles or lairs available. One can hold up to 5 individuals.
Support Support Indicates the people's support. A minimum of 40 is needed to earn tributes.
Flood Flood A prefecture's ability to protect itself from floods.
Land Land A prefecture's ability to produce food. Affects the amount of tribute earned.
Wealth Wealth Indicates the total wealth of the people. Affects the amount of tribute earned.

There are about 49 different prefectures in the game, though Gao Qiu's domain can only be accessed if the player receives an imperial decree from the emperor. Prefectures highlighted in red have smithies, those in blue contain shipyards, and the ones in green come with both.

  1. Lan
  2. Dai
  3. Zhen Ding
  4. He Jian
  5. Cang
  6. Huan
  7. Lai
  8. Mi
  9. Yi
  10. Jun
  11. Da Ming
  12. Da Yuan
  13. Yan An
  14. Qing
  15. Wei
  16. Feng Xiang
  17. Dan
  18. Wei Sheng
  19. Long De
  20. Ji
  21. Xu
  22. Hai
  23. Kai Feng
  24. He Nan
  25. He Zhong
  26. Jing Zhao
  27. Shang
  28. Deng
  29. Cai
  30. Ying
  31. Si
  32. Tai
  33. Su
  34. Xuan
  35. Shou
  36. Guang
  37. An
  38. Xiang
  39. Fang
  40. Jin
  41. Xia
  42. Ding
  43. Jiang Ling
  44. Yue
  45. Jiang
  46. Hong
  47. Shu
  48. Yao
  49. Jiu

* results highlighted in red only apply if the command fails.

Main Commands
  • Fight - Commands involving conflict and warfare. Requires above average strength to succeed.
    • War - Invade a neighboring faction's prefecture by deploying up to 10 units. Requires food and gold to prolong the campaign. Cannot be issued during a snowstorm. (BP -10)
    • Beasts - Hunt down beasts terrorizing the people. Success is determined by the character's dexterity and troop count. Increases popularity if done right, but failure may result in lower popularity, loss of men, or even death for the hero. There are four different beasts in the game, each one ranked from weakest to strongest: wolves, leopards, tigers, and bears. (BP -10, STR +50, DEX +50)
  • Service - Perform manual labor to help stabilize prefectures. Requires above average strength to succeed. Increases popularity, though the amount earned depends on the hero's mercy level. (BP -15, STR +10)
    • Flood - Construct dams and canals to elevate prefecture's resistance against floods.
    • Farm - Cultivate land to increase the number of food harvested each year.
    • Build - Develop infrastructure to promote wealth, earning more gold in the following year.
  • Make - Make ships or weapons instead of purchasing them.
    • Ships - Build ships. Can only be done by a character with the Steersman ability and 70 dexterity points. A sum of gold is required for every ship built. The higher the individual's dexterity is, the more ships can be made per command. (BP -15, DEX +15, WIS +10)
    • Weapons - Use metal to forge military arms. Can only be done by a character with 60 dexterity points and 50 wisdom points; the amount of each stat determines how much weapons can be made. (BP -15, DEX +10, WIS +10)
  • Move - Relocate characters or supplies to different prefectures.
    • Hero - Transfer heroes from one district to another. Good Fellows can move any of their followers with this command whereas Chieftains are limited to those stationed with them. Any hero left behind may become the prefecture's new Chieftain in accordance to their position within the group. Food and gold may be transported with this command. (BP -10, WIS +7)
    • Supplies - Bring resources to another prefecture. Heroes with above average wisdom perform better with this task. (BP -10, WIS +15)
    • To Exile - Force hero to go into exile, abandoning all current territories and suffering a massive drop in popularity. If an exiled hero enters another ruler's prefecture, they will automatically vie for it if support levels are low. (BP -15)
  • Ally - Commands involving diplomacy and recruitment. Requires above average wisdom to succeed.
    • Treaty - Request an alliance with another Good Fellow by sending a messenger with gold. If successful, both parties will not fight each other for 3 years. Does not apply to Good Fellows in exile. More wisdom lessens the amount of gold needed. The messenger's courage value may become a deciding factor if both factions are equally matched. Payment is not required if the other party is the one requesting. (BP -25, WIS +45/+18)
    • Invite - Recruit a Good Fellow and their followers by inviting them to the player's lair. Only those with less than 2 territories can be invited. More wisdom lessens the amount of gold needed whereas popularity and compatibility levels have an impact on success. While negotiations for travel expenses will occur, paying it may not be enough to convince the intended party to join. The command will fail if there is not enough space to shelter more heroes. (BP -25, WIS +60/+23)
  • Travel - Visit the local town's facilities. (BP -10)
    • Market - Purchase or sell food and fur. Prices rise and fall in proportion to the prefecture's own rate of value.
    • Downtown - Enter downtown. Contains a list of three commands.
      • Recruit - Persuade people to join the player's faction. Only Good Fellows and their sworn siblings can issue this command. Popularity and compatibility have an impact on success. Failure to recruit lowers popularity level.
      • Divine - Learn the chances of recruiting a person for 1 gold. Provides advice on how to persuade said individual.
      • Rumor - Pay 10 gold to view a list of 7 random people willing to join, displaying their position and current location for the player's convenience.
    • Smithy - Purchase weapons. Price varies with rate.
    • Shipyard - Purchase ships. Price varies with rate. Once a ship has been bought, the player must choose which hero will use it.
  • Solicit - Solicit resources from the people. Requires above average wisdom and dexterity to succeed. Repeated use of this command may cause support levels to go down. (BP -15, DEX +5, WIS +13/+10)
    • Gold - Acquire gold from civilians. The maximum amount is 9999.
    • Metal - Collect metal from civilians. The maximum amount is 999.
  • Hunt - Obtain resources by hunting. Results can be sold for gold. Requires above average dexterity to succeed. (BP -20, DEX +15)
    • Food - Hunt animals for food. The maximum amount is 9999.
    • Fur - Hunt animals for fur. The maximum amount is 999.
  • Heroes - Commands involving personnel management.
    • Brother - Swear an oath of brotherhood with a fellow Bandit. The target must be present in the player's home prefecture and have a loyalty value of 95 or above. There can only be 9 sworn siblings at a time (5 if playing on the highest difficulty level). The bond is nullified if the individual becomes a Criminal or Prisoner.
    • Exile - Cut ties with a Bandit by sending them to exile. Doing so reduces popularity levels.
    • Promote - Appoint a Bandit as Chieftain. Does not use up a turn.
    • Orders - Inform a Chieftain how to run their prefecture. The character in charge may perform as they like, prioritize more on region development while supporting the player's domain with provisions, or focus on occupying vacant ones for further expansion.
  • Organize - Commands involving military organization.
    • Hire Men - Recruit men using gold as an incentive. The price for recruitment varies with rate.
    • Give Men - Reassign men among heroes within a prefecture.
    • Ships - Reassign ships among heroes within a prefecture.
  • Train - Train men to improve dexterity levels. Both strength and dexterity have an impact on the training's effectiveness. (BP -10, STR +11, DEX +11)
  • Feast - Hold a feast to celebrate. Costs 10 gold per individual, though amount may vary according to rate. Raises body points and loyalty; high integrity values may mitigate the command's effects.
  • Rest - Regain 10 body points by resting for one turn.
  • Give - Commands used for keeping citizens and followers content.
    • Citizens - Donate food to civilians. Raises support level; has more impact if the hero's mercy rating is high.
    • Hero - Pay followers their salaries. Keeps loyalty high; the amount of gold required depends on the character's compatibility with the player's chosen hero. Does not apply to sworn siblings.
  • View - Commands used for surveying data on every character and prefecture. Uses up a turn when viewing rival factions.
    • Home - Examine the player's home prefecture, displaying a list of characters classified as heroes, people, or exiled.
    • Other - View the heroes, people, and exiled characters of other prefectures.
    • Domain - Read overall data on territories owned by the player.
    • Alliances - View current alliances and their duration period.
  • Other - Allows the player to save their progress, adjust message speed, or quit the game.
Exile Commands
  • Flee - Move with a maximum of 9 other heroes to another prefecture. May cause a decrease in loyalty among followers.
  • Recruit - Same as its main command counterpart, though exiled heroes cannot recruit Prisoners or Criminals.
  • Settle - End exile by settling within a prefecture. If the prefecture's support level is below 40, one can overthrow the current ruler by waging war.
  • Rest - Same as its main command counterpart.
  • View - Same as its main command counterpart.
  • Other - Same as its main command counterpart.


Battles are conducted on a hexagon-shaped grid with two opposing armies. The player can participate in skirmishes so long as their Good Fellow —or sworn siblings— are directly involved. Otherwise, they will be done automatically by Chieftains. Up to ten units may participate at a time.

Units consist of one hero leading a large group of men by their side. A unit's effectiveness is measured by the leader's stats and the number of troops (life points), arms (defense) and provisions (loyalty and longevity in battle). Body points also affects their performance. Units with less than ten body points will suffer from fatigue and skip their turn to rest. Those with no points cannot resist capture, making them a liability for their respective side.

Ships play an ancillary role in battles for moving on watery terrain. They can be bought at a shipyard or built by a character with the right qualifications. They will be sunk if hit by melee attacks or fireballs; steersmen may escape to safety while others have a much higher chance of being captured.

Both sides are given a single turn per day, each day decreasing their food supply. Victory is achieved by defeating the ruler or all enemy commanders until provisions run out. Invading armies must accomplish this goal or occupy every castle within 30 days to win. Defenders may choose to outlast their enemies instead. Weather conditions change throughout the seasons. Weather and terrain can hinder both armies.

After capturing an enemy officer, the player may recruit them, imprison them, exile them to another prefecture, or execute them. Fallen heroes are less likely to be recruited, so imprisoning them can be wise in case they change their mind.

Attack Commands

Below is a list of commands any unit can issue. Similar to main commands, they consume body points and yield experience if carried out successfully.

* results highlighted in red only apply if the command fails.
  • Move - Commands involving movement. (BP -1)
    • Regular - Move to an adjacent hex. Will stop if hex is right next to an enemy unit, though bypassing them is possible if the player's character has 4 times more men than the opponent.
    • Charge - Move and attack in the same turn. Costs more movement points than regular mobility.
  • Attack - Commands involving offensive actions.
    • Melee - Attack an enemy unit directly through melee combat. Can damage ships. (BP -2, STR +1)
    • Archery - Attack an enemy unit within 2 straight hexes. Characters with 60 dexterity points are able to use this command while those with 85 or above can target heroes as well. (BP -2, DEX +1)
    • Magic - Attack enemies with magic. Reduces target's body points and men, and momentarily paralyzes weaker units. Its range and power depend on the caster's own wisdom with the minimum amount being 80. This command only works if used during cloudy days by a character with at least 50 body points. (BP -20, WIS +5)
    • Duel - Challenge an enemy unit to a duel. Does not work on heroes residing in castles. The fight lasts until one of the duelists loses all of their body points and becomes a captive. If a duelist has plenty of troops, they may be able to whittle down the opponent's stamina before the duel can truly begin. Should a character win against a stronger foe, their strength and dexterity will directly increase by 1. (BP -5/-4, STR +15/+5, DEX +15/+5)
  • Rest - Skip own turn. Heroes with less than 40 body points regain 2 points.
  • Special - Commands used for gaining a tactical advantage.
    • Fireball - Launch a fireball towards an adjacent hex. Can only be done by heroes with 60 wisdom points or higher. Its chances of working are affected by the terrain and season. If the wind's direction and weather conditions are favorable, it may spread to other hexes by the end of a single day. Those caught in the blaze will lose men and body points. (BP -1, DEX +1, WIS +1)
    • Put Out - Extinguish flames within a hex. Success depends on dexterity (must be 40 or above), weather, and terrain. (BP -1, DEX +1, WIS +1)
    • Reinforce - Call for reinforcements. Only 1 can be deployed per turn.
  • Flee - Retreat to an adjacent territory. If the escaping unit still remains on the invaded prefecture, they may be called upon as reinforcements after 7 days.
  • View - Views data on all heroes participating in battle. Uses up a turn when viewing hostile units. Present units are highlighted in white while reinforcements are shown in blue.
Terrain Movement Defense Attributes
Mountains None Inaccessible Cannot be entered by any unit. Blocks archery range.
Hill 5 High None.
Forest 4 Slightly High Very vulnerable to fire attacks.
Plain 3 Average None.
Castle 4 Very High None.
River 8 Low Current may sweep units out of the battlefield. Can only be accessed by ships.
Lake 8 Low Turns to ice during winter. Can only be accessed by ships.
Marsh 5 Very Low Turns to ice during winter.
Ice 4 Slightly Low None.


Four different scenarios are available from the start. Each one has a list of heroes the player can choose from.

  1. 1101 A.D. - Leopard Headed murders the agents of Gao Qiu and is exiled to the frontier as a result. Good for beginners. Playable characters include Tattooed Priest, Nine Dragons, Leopard Headed, Hairy Priest, and Blue Face Beast. All are in exile.
  2. 1103 A.D. - Welcome Rain hesitatingly kills his unfaithful wife and flees. Playable characters are the same as the first scenario but with the inclusion of Welcome Rain and Heavenly King.
  3. 1104 A.D. - Welcome Rain composes a revolutionary song that leads to him being captured. Playable characters include Tattooed Priest, Nine Dragons, Black Whirlwind, River Dragon, and Heavenly King.
  4. 1105 A.D. - Heavenly King falls in battle after being struck by White Lion's poison arrow. The most advanced scenario due to all current factions gaining considerable power. Playable characters include Tattooed Priest, Nine Dragons, Welcome Rain, and Bold Eagle.

Upon choosing a character, four of their stats (body, strength, dexterity, and wisdom) will be numerically randomized, though the player may adjust them as many times as they wish. Once ability levels have been decided, the game's difficulty setting will pop up; 1 is the easiest level and 5 is the hardest. Up to 7 players may be chosen. During a multiplayer game, any player who quits will have their side controlled by the computer.

Differences between ports[]

  • In the English NES localization of the game, the heroes are named after rough translations of their nicknames over their Chinese given names.
  • The PlayStation and Sega Saturn ports are given overhauled graphics and music arrangements. Both have animated movies and additional narratives for each Good Fellow.
  • The MSX2 port only has the first and third scenarios to play.


  • Suikoden: Tendou 108 Sei - Asian only sequel to the IP.
  • Mobile Suikoden - mobile port that combines elements from both titles.

Related Media[]

One guidebook for the game was published by KOEI on October 1, 1996. A soundtrack CD includes game music and an original image song. This vocal song was reprinted onto Koei Soundware Vocal Collections Vol. 1 and THE BEST OF KOEI Vol. 1.

A comic adaptation illustrated by Haruka Takahane was published on March 1, 1991.

Koei published an original novelization called Suikoden Fukuryu-tachi no Gaika which focuses on the Good Fellows of Mount Liang.

A compilation of this game's soundtrack was performed for the GAME SYMPHONY JAPAN 24th CONCERT KOEI TECMO Special ~Shibusawa Kou 35th Anniversary~ orchestra concert.

Image Song[]

  • Yume, Itsu no Hi ka... (DREAMS COME TRUE)
Performed by Kengo Kurozumi



External Links[]