Disclaimer: All details included below are subject to change as development continues and should not be considered final.

  • Hero Class: Commander
  • Nickname: Strategic Mastermind

Playstyle

Cao Cao is a brilliant strategic commander, excelling in war and politics. His main strength lies in diplomatic exploitation. He divides and conquers, manipulating relationships between factions by spreading rumours of disunity between them. This can fray their relations to the point where war is all but inevitable. Of course, Cao Cao can also influence relationships to forge stronger bonds between warlords. He’s an excellent melder of emotions and can make others think more positively of himself or his allies, allowing him to get better diplomatic deals from those targeted. Playing as Cao Cao is all about long-term strategic planning; preparing for war far in advance by setting the diplomatic stage to strike, while expanding your realm slowly but steadily. His agricultural garrisons help to make his farms more defendable and give stronger boosts to his armies. These unique abilities can be taken even further. With Cao Cao’s faction, you can instigate a proxy war between two warlords. In desperate times when swift action is needed, rather than making two factions like each other less and hoping they might go to war – you can directly trigger it without anyone knowing it was your doing. Because of this, you can conceivably win the game without ever being involved in any major conflicts. By systematically driving factions against each other, by manipulating others into attacking him and calling his allies to defend him, and by later confederating or vassalising the fractured remnants of once-great factions, Cao Cao can grow in territory and power without fighting a single battle.

Who is he?

Cao Cao was born in 155CE in Qiao county, Han Empire. His father Cao Song was a foster son of Cao Teng, one of the favoured eunuchs of Emperor Huan. It is said that Cao Song’s original family name was Xiahou. This makes Cao Cao related to two of his most trusted generals, Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan. His family was closely intertwined with politics, and Cao Cao studied hard, maturing into a powerfully cunning and shrewd statesman in his own right. Cao Cao has seen emperors fall and tyrants rise, he has witnessed power grasped by the undeserving, and it is this world of chaos through which he plots a path to order. Regarded as a strategic genius, Cao Cao pursues victory at any cost, and ensures that the ends always justify the means. Though some call him ruthless, he is nevertheless mindful and considerate, maintaining agricultural garrisons to protect both his supplies and his people during troubled times. Ingenious and merciless, he’s known as the Puppet Master and has no qualms in controlling others to fulfill his aspirations. He is a leader who dedicates himself to his ambitions and possesses a unique mindset. Caring little for status or hidebound tradition, he judges men solely on their achievements and skill, and his companions respect him for this reason. Gainsaying his reputation for ruthlessness, he looks out for his followers and treats them with generosity. Despite their rivalry, Cao Cao and Liu Bei are very similar in this regard; they are both supported and trusted by the people.

Guanxi

  In this section we focus on the heroes and relationships most important to Cao Cao at the start of the game as defined by Guanxi (the Chinese concept of dynamic inter-relationships). Unlike Sun Jian, whose family contains the seeds of powerful characters, Cao Cao has access to skilled officers right from the outset of the campaign who he can trust to execute his will. Cao Cao begins with two very powerful generals fighting for his cause: Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan. He’s particularly close to Xiahou Dun, who has served with Cao Cao for his entire military career, and is one of the few who truly understands the reasoning behind his actions. Cao Cao is a known for surrounding himself with heroes of great talent. While Cao Cao’s immediate family is still important to him, the support of Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan mean he is a position to deploy more officers earlier in the game than Sun Jian and many of the other major warlords. These officers can be given their own armies to lead, allowing you to expand and defend on multiple fronts.

Starting Position

  At the start of the game, Cao Cao is branded an enemy of the state by Dong Zhuo, and the tyrant’s henchmen are coming after him. Before he can consider longer-term plans – such as toppling Dong Zhuo – he knows he needs to build a strong foundation. This begins in Chen commandery, south of the Yellow River; a central position with many possible routes of expansion. First, Cao Cao needs to defend himself against Han Empire henchmen who are supposed to bring him down. Then, he will have to establish a powerbase in Chen by overcoming the local Han Empire administrators. Only then will he look elsewhere, which is when the Tao Qian incident happens. Remember, the bigger Cao Cao’s empire gets, the more factions will look towards bringing him down when/if he shows weakness…

Initial Dilemma

  Early in a campaign, each playable warlord will face an initial dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Cao Cao’s dilemma is about Tao Qian potentially killing Cao Cao’s father, Cao Song. Cao Cao finds out that Tao Qian’s soldiers robbed and killed Cao Song – perhaps on Tao Qian’s orders, but perhaps not… You need to decide which course of action will best serve you in your quest for vengeance. This is where Cao Cao’s cunning nature comes into play. While dealing with Tao Qian, a shrewd player will already be thinking ahead. Which potential conflicts may follow? Yuan Shao or Gongsun Zan in the north? Sun Jian in the southwest? Depending on the situation, Cao Cao can start manipulating these factions against each other, tying them down in proxy wars and ensuring he has the upper hand when the inevitable conflicts emerge… Cao Cao’s diplomatic arsenal will help to keep surrounding factions off his back. His manipulation ability can also be used to make people friendlier with him. In some situations, this can mean the difference between being declared war at, or not – or it can mean that Cao Cao is able to form a powerful alliance that can protect his back. After all, you’ll need every tool available to stay afloat in the simmering diplomatic cauldron that is the centre of the campaign map. Once your powerbase is secure, you can look to expand and conquer other territory. Moving north will likely lead to confrontation and battle with powerful warlords in that region, such as Yuan Shao or Gongsun Zan. Forging south, Cao Cao might appeal to other powerful lords in his schemes against Dong Zhuo. Your ultimate aims are to build a larger realm in the north of China, forming the Kingdom of Wei, and to conquer the factions that establish themselves in the south, uniting all of China under your rule. The allies and enemies you make during your campaign will play key roles in your pursuit of that goal.

What kind of player is Cao Cao for?

He is the choice of corrupters, conjurors, and puppeteers. Those who prefer to employ sly methods, pulling strings in the shadows and manipulating others to ensure the future of Wei Kingdom. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

 

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  • Hero Class: Vanguard
  • Nickname: The Ironfist General

Who is he?

Gongsun Zan is a military-minded man who sees ruling a state much like commanding an army. He’s long defended the northern territories against the barbarians along with Liu Yu, however a rivalry formed between them due to their differences in approach. Liu Yu favoured a more lenient policy towards the Wuhuan and Xianbi peoples, while Gongsun Zan’s was far more hardline – he used white horses when dealing with the Wuhuan people as they considered them to be a holy animal and wouldn’t attack him. In the cacophony of rising chaos, Gongsun Zan is heard like a clarion call above the fray. He stands firm in his beliefs and is unafraid to do what he feels is right. A childhood friend of Liu Bei, Gongsun Zan earned a reputation as a fierce warrior, defending the empire against foreign foes beyond the border. Gongsun Zan rules his lands with the same martial mindset with which he governs his forces – on the dangerous fringes of the empire, military precision in all things must be observed. Whichever allies he chooses, it remains to be seen whether Gongsun Zan can successfully seize the north and establish a dynastic line strong enough to see him become emperor.

Playstyle

Gongsun Zan is a traditional military-minded character, and his playstyle reflects this. Focusing on a militaristic approach to empire management, Gongsun Zan doesn’t have access to administrators but instead has his civic matters overseen by the commanding generals of his armies – who also provide bonuses to the commanderies in which they’re stationed. Gongsun Zan himself provides two important bonuses as a faction leader. The first is a 50% reinforcement range bonus, meaning that his armies are more likely to reinforce each other in all situations. This makes him particularly strong when he’s on the defensive, and synergises well with the civic bonuses gained from his commanding generals. The second is his shock cavalry, which are more heavily armoured compared with other factions’ and as such much more durable in combat. However, both of these bonuses are specific to Gongsun Zan, meaning that they will both be lost should he fall and be replaced by his heir. Gongsun Zan’s faction also benefits from the command of the unique white horse archer cavalry, these are the some of the most powerful horse archer units in-game and can be used for a number of potent strategies in battle.

Guanxi

  Gongsun Zan grew up with Liu Bei and maintains a good relationship with his former schoolfriend. Furthermore, he also starts out with Zhao Yun under his command, one of the greatest warriors of the three kingdoms period. However, although rich in friends he has no children of his own, and so ensuring that he has a strong line of succession in place is an important part of Gongsun Zan’s dynastic strategy.

Starting Position

  Gongsun Zan’s starting position in Youbeiping Commandery is relatively secure. It can easily be turned into a stronghold – but breaking out of is no mean feat. Your rival Liu Yu is to the west, posing a significant threat. It falls to you, Defender of the North, to defeat him and win control of the surrounding areas – you need to unify the North before the chaos overtakes it. Meanwhile, your other neighbour Yuan Shao grows ever more powerful, and conflict with him is almost inevitable – unless you can find a way to negotiate with him and Han Fu and turn a historical enemy into an ally.

Initial Dilemma

  In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. There is a conflict brewing between Gongsun Zan and the neighbouring Liu Yu, who adopted a very different and more lenient strategy when dealing with the Wuhuan and Xianbi peoples. Liu Yu is also supported by Dong Zhuo, and Gongsun Zan is resentful about Liu Yu’s success. Additionally, Yuan Shao is asking for aid against Han Fu, meaning you can choose to channel your resources towards this conflict in an attempt to appease to him. On which of these two conflicts will you focus, and where will you direct your resources?

Campaign Progression

Gongsun Zan’s initial focus should be securing a stronghold in the north. This could incorporate securing an alliance with Gongsun Du, but it also might be more efficient to subjugate Gongsun Du and dominate the area entirely. This could also be your opportunity to take out your rival Liu Yu and lay claim to the Han empire region. Once this stronghold is established, your progression will inevitably lead west – where conflict with Yuan Shao is very likely. As such, it might be wise to find allies beyond Yuan Shao’s realm – such as his half-brother Yuan Shu, the cunning Cao Cao, or even the bandits in the mountains Zhang Yan or Zheng Jiang. Finally, Gongsun Zan must move to secure the north and the ultimate goal of becoming emperor.

What kind of player is Gongsun Zan for?

Gongsun Zan is the choice of expert militarists – he is a warrior without fear or restraint, but also a defensive master when the situation requires it. Bravery is his calling card, and if there’s an obstacle he has to conquer, you’d better hope he’s on your side. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 18, and 21
  • Kongming (http://kongming.net/encyclopedia/Gongsun-Zan)

 

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  • Hero Class: Strategist
  • Nickname: The Master Scholar

Who is he?

Born in the former Lu state, Rong was a resourceful young boy. When he grew older, Kong Rong entered the bureaucracy of the Eastern Han dynasty. As a brilliant politician and scholar, he was successively promoted and became chancellor of Beihai Commandery in Qing Province, which was invaded by the Yellow Turban rebels. After a few years showing his worthiness at Beihai, the people had become devoted to Kong Rong – they say that he’s an honest man, and an educated and determined leader. Kong Rong is said to be a descendant of Confucius. Famed for his quick wits and elaborate literary style, Kong Rong was ranked among the Seven Scholars of Jian’an, a group of representative literati. Armed with a dangerously sharp tongue, Kong Rong is near constantly opposed to Cao Cao in his political views, often coming up with inventive ways to insult him. This included trying to persuade Cao Cao that he was not powerful enough to defeat Yuan Shao. Despite his intellectual sabre rattling, Kong Rong’s main focus is on wisdom and learning – he believes in intelligence and analysis to win the war. The bureaucracy of China can only succeed through the support of education. Therefore, Kong Rong concentrates on reconstruction of the city and the establishment of schools. Now, as chaos consumes China yet again, Kong Rong knows that only though knowledge and insight will prosperity prevail once more.

Playstyle

Playing as Kong Rong is a relatively peaceful experience, with him favouring a pacifist playstyle that rewards peaceful trade as well as spreading education and knowledge. For Kong Rong, knowledge is power. His strategy is to seek out information and education to beat the enemy, not stoop to bloodshed as a first resort. Trade influence is a new system for all factions that determines how much they benefit from a trade agreement, and one that is particularly important for Kong Rong. Trade income is determined by comparing the relative trade influence of the two factions – the more trade influence you have, the more of the shared pot will flow to you as income. In short, the more trade influence you have, the more you’ll benefit from trade agreements. As a master in the art of trade, Kong Rong has two unique ways to further boost his trade influence: by maintaining high population numbers, and with a unique deal in diplomacy that further increases the strength of his web of trade relations. This means that Kong Rong doesn’t necessarily need to expand very far and can instead ally himself with warlords with more expansive territories by forging lucrative trade agreements and using the resulting wealth to further build up his existing settlements. Large settlements mean more prestige as well as wealth, allowing him to go to war if he must but also enabling him to win the campaign with a relatively few territories under his command if he so chooses.

Guanxi

  Even since Liu Bei helped him defeat the Yellow Turban Rebellion, he and Kong Rong have been close allies – the two know they can rely on each other no matter what. Kong Rong’s general and Grand Administrator of Beihai Wang Xiu is honourable, loyal, and always willing to come to the aid of his lord.

Starting Position

  Kong Rong’s campaign begins with him fighting against the Yellow Turbans from Beihai Commandery, his base of operations. After capturing Beihai livestock farm and conquering the commandery in one swift blow, Kong Rong has a difficult choice to make.

Initial Dilemma

  In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomize that spirit. Kong Rong’s first mission is to secure and defend Qing Province against the Yellow Turbans. Beset upon all sides by the Yellow Turbans, a great warrior may offer his services to Kong Rong. Does he send that officer off to seek outside aid, or bring that hero into his faction to help repel the rebels?

Campaign Progression

Kong Rong’s initial concern is the Yellow Turbans, who must be dealt with one way or another before he can proceed. From then on, Kong Rong’s early campaign is relatively safe – but also well-guarded by remnants of the crumbling Han Empire. Early expansion won’t be easy, but the other major warlords are unlikely to turn against him with any great haste.

What kind of player is Kong Rong for?

Kong Rong is the choice of perceptive and sharp minds. He is the perfect hero for those who focus on logic, rules, and reason while fighting for the greater good. Under his sage guidance, the empire will be stand strong once more. If you want to pursue a strategy of going tall and a relatively peaceful playthrough, Kong Rong is one of your best choices. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, chapters 11, 15, 20, 22, 23, and 40
  • Kongming (http://kongming.net/encyclopedia/Kong-Rong)

 

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  • Hero Class: Commander
  • Nickname: Virtuous Idealist

Who is he?

Liu Bei was born in 161CE in Zhuo County (Zhuo Commandery). Like Sun Jian, he grew up in a poor family, a member of the common class. Liu Bei lost his father when he was still a child. He was a descendant of Liu Zhen, a son of Liu Sheng and a grandson of Emperor Jing. From childhood, he was full of ambition and seemed destined for greatness. Empathetic with the common folk, he easily gained the people’s trust and support. This particular trait made him a feared adversary to his enemy Cao Cao. Liu Bei is honest and kind to his friends, and well-liked by his companions. A modest and merciful warlord who cherishes his devoted followers, he is widely known as a benevolent and humane ruler, one who cares for his people and surrounds himself with great advisers. He is a brilliant politician and leader whose caring nature motivates powerful heroes to join his side and fight for his cause. For Liu Bei, Dong Zhuo represents chaos, and he wants nothing more than to see corruption uprooted and the Han dynasty restored. The Liu family was only nominally attached to the Han, yet there are those who urge Liu Bei to save China from madness and restore the collapsing dynasty. Humble, virtuous and kind, Liu Bei is an inspiring presence, summoning strength from unlikely places, and forging unshakable bonds with those who follow him. Despite his common roots, the blood of ancient Han emperors flow through Liu Bei’s veins.

Playstyle

Even though Liu Bei hails from a dynasty of Emperors, he rose from humble beginnings, and does so in the campaign as well. Compared to the other warlords, his starting position is very fragile and insecure. He has no powerbase worth mentioning, though he does begin play with the most powerful army on the map. Of all the warlords, he has the strongest bonds with his starting characters, his sworn brothers Zhang Fei and Guan Yu. Yet because of his lowly status, Liu Bei is only able to recruit one army at the start of the game. Only after he has established himself can he field more forces and effectively expand his territory. But to begin with at least, it’s safer to play Liu Bei with a low region count and focus on ensuring strong and prosperous governance. Liu Bei’s strength is derived from those closest to him, so he must maintain unity and cohesion within his faction. Only by leading a tight-knit band of brothers will Liu Bei be able to emerge victorious from this conflict. Therefore, players will need to be doubly vigilant to ensure his followers are satisfied and happy. If he does so, Liu Bei will benefit from this unity with faster progression through the faction ranks and better government capabilities, such as fielding extra armies and assigning more governors. Liu Bei is undoubtedly popular with the masses and, as long as he leads his faction, his militia units do not cost any upkeep. This makes it easy for him to maintain his forces, especially early on. Due to his imperial ancestry, many see Liu Bei with more legitimacy than other faction leaders, which allows him to confederate with other warlords earlier than most factions. And, at the cost of some unity, he can claim territory under the control of the Han Empire without a fight.

Guanxi

  Liu Bei considers his friends as his family. His initial bond with both Guan Yu and Zhang Fei is very strong. The three of them are sworn brothers, a connection between them that holds through thick and thin. Liu Bei benefits from these relationships early in the game (these characters gain buffs when fighting alongside each other in battle, for example). It is said that Liu Bei met Guan Yu and Zhang Fei during his efforts to suppress the Yellow Turban Rebellion. The three shared a vision of peace across a unified China, and they swore brotherhood in the legendary Peach Garden Oath. This connection is mutually reinforcing. The other major aspect of Liu Bei’s Guanxi is a general focus on relationships through his unity mechanic. Only happy characters will help to increase unity, and to keep characters happy, enabling them to forge relationships is vital.

Starting Position

  Liu Bei starts in a small part of the Dong province with his brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. At this point, he doesn’t hold any territory – it’s just him and his brothers with a peasant militia army. Remnants of the Yellow Turban rebellion still surround him, so his initial challenge will be to break through these. As the Han Empire collapses, Liu Bei wants to save the dynasty by rooting out rebels and corruption. But first, he needs a power base in order to replenish and build his strength. You’ll have to deal with the local rebels and reinstate law and order. From there, his starting position implies various paths of expansion, the main routes being either south-east toward Langye, or westwards toward Luoyang.

Initial Dilemma

  Early in a campaign, each playable warlord will face an initial dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Liu Bei’s early dilemma is about helping Tao Qian against Cao Cao. Tao Qian had allegedly killed Cao Cao’s father Cao Song, but Tao Qian of course denies this. In any case, it triggers conflict between Cao Cao and Tao Qian, where the latter seeks help from Liu Bei. The player can decide to join this conflict on the side of Tao Qian. This will mean a potentially difficult war against Cao Cao, but if the attack is repelled, he will have proven his worth and virtue. When Tao Qian dies (he is a rather old man already at the start of the game), his followers will offer to join Liu Bei, which will effectively confederate Tao Qian with Liu Bei. Your mid-game aim is to acquire as much prestige as possible and disrupt the other key players from getting too big. When Liu Bei gains enough prestige, he able to raise additional armies, and here’s when you’ll start building your real powerbase. A confederation with Liu Biao’s faction after his death can also be a way to expand your empire even further. However, with Liu Bei without a wife or children at the start of the game, you’ll also need to focus on building your dynasty and securing a suitable heir to continue your legacy. How will you get there? Will you aim to secure powerful diplomatic marriage? Or by marrying a loyal member of your court? Or will you skip marriage altogether and choose one of your sworn brothers to be your heir and have them lead Liu Bei’s faction after his death.

What kind of player is Liu Bei for?

Liu Bei is the choice of the confident, wise and modest ruler. Someone who cares about the people, understands their needs, wants to restore peace in the land and knows when an opportunity for victory shows up to make it so. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 24, 31, 35, 37, 41, 42, 55, 65, 73, 80, 81, 83, 84, and 85
  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Kongming (http://kongming.net/novel/sgz/liubei.php)

 

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  • Hero Class: Commander
  • Nickname: Gentleman of the Han

Who is he?

Esteemed academic Liu Biao is known as one of the Eight Geniuses of Jiangxia: a group of scholars during the later Han era. Governor of Jing Province, he’s a smart and charismatic man with an appreciation of etiquette, nobility, and the finer things in life. A man seldom ruffled, Liu Biao demonstrates his aristocratic pedigree through stable officiality. Though the Han crumbles, its spirit and legacy endures through its many branches and descendants. Liu Biao holds this lineage closely, serving with unwavering sense of duty and prospering greatly during a time of peace. An accomplished administrator, and ever the traditionalist, Liu Biao wishes to preserve the status quo, earnestly hoping that the chaos will abate and reason will prevail. But times are changing, and Liu Biao must find his place in this new land, or fade forever into the mists of the forgotten… Yet with change comes opportunity. Liu Biao is an exceptional Governor and has potential to be much more, provided he can adapt to this era of conflict. If he succeeds in exercising his authority on Xiangyang commandery, he can lead his commandery to a time of stability in this chaos. Using that as his foundation, it may only be a matter of time until he can restore peace to all of China.

Playstyle

Liu Biao’s focus on academia and intelligence defines his playstyle. He offers a safe haven to nobles and gentry, and as such, he values sophistication, knowledge, and harmony. This grants him unique scholarly court positions (Student, Tutor, Scholar) that increase experience gain for these and all characters in his faction, and his unique building chain (Lodging and Tea Gardens) can further increase experience gain. When used well, Liu Biao’s bonuses to character growth can offer you a path to employing high ranking generals earlier in the game than other Warlords. Meaning, although not a significant military force at the outset, Liu Biao can use this strategy to compete with the more military-minded warlords on the map. Liu Biao also starts in a relatively secured diplomatic situation, being the master of two vassals: Cai Mao and Huang Zu. These vassals occupy land to the south of him and offer valuable support in shoring up his southern borders. A calm and steady hand at the wheel, Liu Biao offers a public order bonus to his lands while faction leader, and a satisfaction boost to all characters under his control. However, he’s a no spring chicken at the start of the game, so when playing as him you’ll need to be careful who you select as your heir. Your sons, though your flesh and blood, sadly don’t show the same level of promise that their father did at their age, and you may need to look outside of your current family to secure your legacy.

Guanxi

  Liu Biao starts the game with the support of his close friend, Huang Zhong, a brave and wise elderly general. Despite his age, Huang Zhong is still a more than capable warrior and one of the greatest archers around, something he is keen to prove whenever the opportunity presents itself. Liu Biao also has the support of his sons, Liu Qi and Liu Cong. As time goes by, they should be given greater responsibilities to carry on Xiangyang administration. However, it is known that Liu Biao puts more trust in Huang Zhong than either of them. While Huang Zhong’s age makes him unsuitable for an heir, some say that Liu Biao is already looking to others to pick up the mantle.

Starting Position

  The game begins with Liu Biao in Xiangyang commandery in Jing province as the Governor of this province, an office given to Liu Biao by the great Han Empire. However, rebels are rising all around his territory. Liu Biao needs to bring them down, protect his people, and restore order to the commandery before going further. Only then can Liu Biao expand, moving closer to the territory of other warlords. Among them, Yuan Shu and Sun Jian may be the first he has to deal with…

Initial Dilemma

  Early in a campaign, each playable Warlord will face an initial dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that Warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Liu Bia’s dilemma starts when Yuan Shao secretly send him a message to take the Imperial Seal back from Sun Jian. The player will have to make a choice: Accept Yuan Shao’s request and attack Sun Jian, which will trigger a war against Sun Jian and Yuan Shu, his ally. Or ignore Yuan Shao’s request and angering the warlord in the north. The choice of this dilemma will have a big impact on the immediate situation in this central area with Sun Jian, Liu Biao, and Yuan Shu. Ignoring Yuan Shao will mean that the situation is calmer, but your potential enemies will have the ability to grow much stronger as well. Attacking Sun Jian on the other hand will mean a difficult start, but with great opportunities… As the ruler of Xiangyang commandery, the player needs to unite this commandery by conquering regions that were lost to rebels. Afterwards, Liu Biao will have difficulties expanding and he needs to pick his enemies in a smart way. If he does not go to war with Sun Jian and Yuan Shu, he might have to think about cutting himself loose from the Han Empire, or potentially focus on building up Xiangyang before making further steps and expand his realm.

What kind of player is Liu Biao for?

Liu Biao is the choice of those who seek wisdom, knowledge, and clarity of thought to take the right decisions and bring peace back to this chaotic land. The lands are beset by conflict and you must restore order; Liu Biao is a man who views wisdom and experience as the sword and shield with which to protect the realm. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

 

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  • Hero Class: Vanguard
  • Nickname: Protector of the West

Who is he?

Although the exact details of Ma Teng’s birth are up for debate, many believe he was born in 156CE in Maoling County (Fufeng Commandery). His father, Ma Ping, was once an esteemed officer of the Han Empire, but he was dismissed from his post after a mysterious dispute. Ma Ping then went to live among the Qiang tribes in Northern China, married a local woman, and fathered Ma Teng. Ma Teng’s early life was one of great poverty. In his youth he was put to work selling firewood he collected from the mountains to help his family make ends meet. He grew up to be an accomplished warrior, and when the Qiang tribes rebelled he enlisted in the Han army to secure the rule of the Han government. His significant martial prowess shone through, and when the rebellion was suppressed, he was granted the title of officer in the Han Empire. It was during this campaign that he met and became great friends with Han Sui, and together they now control much of Liang Province. Rising from nothing to a position of power and wealth because of the support of the Han Dynasty, he is keen not to see it fall to pieces. While many others have broken their oaths of fealty, with the echoes of his father’s disgraceful removal still hanging in the air, Ma Teng is keen to avoid the same fate and bring further shame to his family. Even as the storm of chaos rolls and thunders over Luoyang, Ma Teng does not let the squalls of the court cloud his mind. Though many say the dynasty is finished, Ma Teng remains loyal to the Han, prosecuting the enemies of the emperor above all else. On the western fringes of the empire, he has long defended China’s most valuable trade routes, holding back hostile interlopers, and will continue to charge into battle in the emperor’s name. Ma Teng may treat his friends well, but he remains merciless with Han’s enemies. He was made General of the West and was persuaded, along with Han Sui, to aid Dong Zhuo in battling against the coalition that formed against him.

Playstyle

Ma Teng is hardy, and able to survive in many difficult situations and adverse environments. He also keenly understands the importance of military logistics. All armies in his faction gain bonus military supplies, and when encamped, his troops are trained to forage for food. Meaning his armies are strongly equipped to push forward, continue on the front foot, and support a strategy of aggressive expansion. Ma Teng’s faction can also construct the unique Xiliang Supply Lines building chain – one of the few food-production chains that can be built in Commandery capitals. This chain also institutes regional cavalry patrols, which improve the military supplies for armies in adjacent commanderies and depletes the military supplies of any invading forces. Ma Teng also benefits from his close connection to the Silk Road, gaining increased income from silk and spice. One key differentiator of his playstyle is that he is the only playable faction at the start of the game that is allied with the tyrant Dong Zhuo. Ma Teng is incredibly loyal to the Han dynasty and its regime, so he will support Dong Zhuo as the nominal chancellor of state. He now fights against Dong Zhuo’s enemies because of it. He’s not necessarily on great terms personally with Dong Zhuo, but he is willing to put that to one side in order to do his duty and fight for the Han empire.

Guanxi

  Close friends for many years, together Ma Teng and Han Sui govern Liang province and protect the China’s north western borders against invasion. Their tight-knit bond and focus on a strong military alliance goes a long way to ensuring stability in the region. Ma Chao is Ma Teng’s son and heir, though at the outset of the campaign he is still a child. It will be a few years before he comes of age, but many within court already believe he has the potential to become a mighty warrior.

Starting Position

  At the start of the game, Ma Teng is at war with the Yellow Turbans in Wudu commandery. The player will have to conquer the entire commandery to gain a strong foothold in the west. Once the rebels in the area have been dispatched, Ma Teng will have to decide whether to drive his conquest south across the mountains or fight for control of the north-west alone.

Initial Dilemma

  In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Ma Teng’s dilemma triggers if/when Dong Zhuo meets his end. Without their tyrannical leader, Dong Zhuo’s faction will splinter as a civil war breaks out between the loyalists and the separatists. This leaves Ma Teng with a major choice. Does he join the conflict and open himself up to a huge war right on his doorstep? Or does he avoid bloodshed and leave Dong Zhuo’s riven faction to its own fate? The former provides him with the opportunity to rescue the child-emperor from the flames of war. But the latter allows him to focus on expanding his holdings elsewhere, biding his time only to strike later on. Depending on how your campaign has progressed at this point, a huge war might be exactly what you’re looking for. But war is never without risk, and you must decide which route to take as you fight to bring harmony back to the Han empire.

Campaign Progression

In the early stages of the campaign, Ma Teng will need to defeat the rebels in his home commandery of Wudu, and unify it by capturing all settlements. As Ma Teng’s campaign progresses, multiple potential paths will become apparent. You could begin expanding southwards into Hanzhong. You might choose to follow history, fighting for supremacy in the north-east by pitting Ma Teng against his former friend Han Sui. Or perhaps challenge Dong Zhuo directly by declaring war against him. Alternatively, Ma Teng can wage war with the enemies of the Han further west, or spend time gathering the support of other warlords in order to strike against Dong Zhou later. Your ultimate aim is to build a great realm in the north-west of China, creating your own Dynasty and pushing forth to unite all of China under your rule. The allies and enemies you make during your campaign will have a key role in shaping your pursuit of that goal.

What kind of player is Ma Teng for?

Ma Teng is a born survivor. He’s well equipped to withstand the harsh conditions of the arid plains, mountainous regions and the deep jungle. But above all, Ma Teng is driven by loyalty. He’ll fight any faction who challenges the authority of the Han Dynasty, regardless of their motives. If loyalty matters to you, then Ma Teng is the perfect warlord. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

 

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  • Hero Class: Commander
  • Nickname: The Ambitious Powermonger

Who is he?

The product of a long line of influential nobles, Yuan Shu has established himself as a powerful warlord. Originally known for his courage and valour, Yuan Shu was a great hunter and falconer in his youth, climbing through several government ranks including General of the Household Rapid as a Tiger. As time progressed, however, he was known more for his ostentatiousness. He was not a great administrator himself, and so relied on commanders such as Sun Jian to oversee his forces. Yuan Shu was instrumental in fighting back against the corruption of the Han dynasty – and was named General of the Rear by Dong Zhuo himself. However, when Dong Zhuo took over the capital, Yuan Shu established a base at Luoyang and allied himself with a group of other warlords in order to oppose him. In retaliation for his betrayal, Dong Zhuo killed Yuan Shu’s father, thus also sparking Shu’s ongoing conflict with half-brother Yuan Shao as the two battled to assume leadership of the family in the aftermath. After he conquered Nanyang, Yuan Shu placed Sun Jian in charge of his army, who then proceeded to repeatedly crush Dong Zhuo’s forces. Yuan Shu, meanwhile, continued to act as hegemon of Nanyang, cementing his reputation as a decadent and extravagant ruler. Despite this success, following Dong Zhuo’s retreat from the capital Yuan Shu’s animosity towards Yuan Shao grew. Yuan Shu and his ally Gongsun Zan fought Yuan Shao for some time but were ultimately defeated. Following the death of his envoy Han Yin at the hands of Lü Bu, Yuan Shu launched another large-scale invasion of Xu Province. Unfortunately for Yuan Shu, the attack failed miserably, decimating his army and leaving his opponents to take advantage of this weakness. It was Cao Cao who eventually attacked and destroyed Yuan Shu’s kingdom, with Yuan Shu fleeing to a small village where he later died of illness.

Playstyle

Yuan Shu’s playstyle is primarily focused on managing his legitimacy and claim to be emperor. While he can progress through the ranks in the same ways as most factions, he has the unique ability to demand support of his legitimacy. This means that, if another faction leader accepts Yuan Shu’s claim, it will grant Yuan Shu a significant amount of legitimacy. High levels of legitimacy not only provide higher income but also a large amount of extra prestige, which will accelerate Yuan Shu’s progression through the ranks. Legitimacy must also be spent on recruiting new characters into Yuan Shu’s faction – without others accepting his legitimacy, Yuan Shu will have trouble finding allies willing to join him. Aside from legitimacy, Yuan Shu’s other key focus is on commerce and industry. As faction leader, Yuan Shu provides a significant bonus to these income types, so it can be worthwhile to focus on these while he is at the helm. Characters in Yuan Shu’s faction also have access to a unique assignment that requires some financial investment up front but then provides a significant bonus to income over time.

Guanxi

  Yuan Shu is prone to having antagonistic relationships with those around him (including with his wife Lady Feng). Yuan Shu’s rivalry with his charismatic half-brother Yuan Shao is never far from his mind. Believing himself to be the rightful heir to the family name and that Yuan Shao has stolen his birthright, Yuan Shu is intent on proving his superior worthiness.

Starting Position

  Yuan Shu’s starting position is one of great opportunity but also precariousness – his campaign has one of the most difficult starts in the game. Situated next to the formidable Liu Biao, Yuan Shu’s territory is also within striking range of Dong Zhuo’s forces – who is certainly likely to lash out at Yuan Shu early on. Additionally, to the east lies Cao Cao, an opponent with whom the chance of friction is high. Surrounded by powerful and ambitious warlords with few allies to hand, playing as Yuan Shu is a very challenging experience that requires initial caution followed by sufficient boldness to carve out a strong position as the campaign progresses.

Initial Dilemma

  In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Yuan Shu’s initial dilemma sees him being approached by an envoy from Sun Jian. The envoy reports that Sun Jian is being beset on all sides by the forces of Liu Biao, who is seeking the Imperial Seal in the name of Yuan Shao. You can decide to help Sun Jian by declaring war on Liu Biao – which will of course please the former and anger the latter – or you can instead choose to let Sun Jian fend for himself.

Campaign Progression

Yuan Shu’s overarching aim is to become emperor, but to begin with Yuan Shu must focus on stabilising his power base against Dong Zhuo and Liu Biao while also building an alliance against Yuan Shao. Ultimately, Yuan Shu will have to dominate the south (in strong opposition to Sun Jian), the east (versus Cao Cao), or the west (against Dong Zhuo and Liu Biao) – and none of these options are easy. However, the areas surrounding Yuan Shu’s starting position, while not necessarily immediately wealthy, can lead to a strong economy with plenty of commerce and industrial resources as well as farmland if properly turned to his advantage.

What kind of player is Yuan Shu for?

Yuan Shu is for players who want a challenge from start to finish, as well as those enjoy being a scheming powermonger who hustles others into accepting their legitimacy and supremacy. With the lofty goal of becoming emperor dominating his playstyle, and potential enemies on all sides, Yuan Shu’s campaign requires steely nerves and a careful balance of both caution and decisiveness when the need arises. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, chapters 3, 5, 6 to 12, and 14 to 21
  • Kongming (http://kongming.net/novel/kma/yuanshu.php)

 

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  • Hero Class: Commander
  • Nickname: The Dragon of the Yuan

Who is he?

A handsome and charismatic lord, Yuan Shao was He Jin’s right-hand man, and instrumental in the defeat of the Ten Attendants. He resisted Dong Zhuo’s attempts to get him on board with his plans to dethrone the current child emperor and replace him with an even younger, more malleable alternative, opening up a rift between the two of them. Yuan Shao was then pressed by Cao Cao to call all able-bodied men to join a coalition against the tyrant, joining him in protesting Dong Zhuo’s military takeover of the capital. When Yuan Shao and his allies drafted troops to fight against Dong Zhuo, the tyrant attempted to make peace with him – only for Yuan Shao to slay several of the envoys that came to greet him. With Emperor Xian as Dong Zhuo’s puppet, Yuan Shao and Han Fu sought to establish Liu Yu as emperor in his place – a proposal that was abandoned due to the objections of Liu Yu himself. Yuan Shao is descended from power and prestige. His great grandfather Yuan An is well-known for having built the lofty Yuan dynasty, while his grandfather Yuan Tang is a high-ranking minister of the Han dynasty. However, his father Yuan Feng is something of a controversial figure, with rumours suggesting that Yuan Shao may not actually be his son at all.

Playstyle

Yuan Shao is a charismatic and noble leader of men whose appeal to the common soldier cannot be underestimated. His unique ability to recruit retinues that are led by a military captain and not by a commanding general provides him with a way to quickly bolster his forces, and as long as he is the faction leader he will also benefit from a reduction in these retinues’ cost. It is primarily his lineage that is the driver of Yuan Shao’s significant charisma and influence. Yuan Shao gains lineage when he is in alliances or coalitions, and if the faction leader is leading armies in the field. Bringing characters into his faction means that he must pull some strings and make promises based on his nobility, effectively expending this currency. Yuan Shao can also use his lineage to more effectively pacify captured settlements. Notably, Yuan Shao is one of the few characters able to forge alliances right at the start of the game – only his half-brother Yuan Shu can do this as well. All this means that Yuan Shao is best suited to focusing on alliance gameplay, so always making sure to care about your diplomatic relationships, and to be involved with as many factions as possible while also building up large forces comprising military captains and their retinues is a wise choice.

Guanxi

  Although Yuan Shao is a charismatic leader of soldiers, he struggled to gain the appreciation of comrades on equal footing. Nevertheless, Wen Chou and Yan Liang have been with Yuan Shao since the very beginning. His two best generals and formidable warriors, they make an excellent team. There’s also the not insignificant matter of his rivalry with his half-brother Yuan Shu… Yuan Shu believes that he is the rightful heir to the family name, and that Yuan Shao has stolen his birthright. The two are often at odds – and as Yuan Shao you must prove that you are the superior candidate.

Starting Position

  Although the coalition against Dong Zhuo has since broken down, this is the perfect situation for Yuan Shao – there are many advantageous new alliances to be made. Yuan Shao’s starting location is also a relatively safe one that gives him the option to swiftly unify the Wei Commandery. With plenty of farmlands and agriculturally rich provinces within relatively easy reach, Yuan Shao has lots of resources to draw on in order to forge a strong foundation for a thriving realm.

Initial Dilemma

  In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Yuan Shao’s initial dilemma focuses around the conflict between Han Fun and Gongsun Zan. You were able to convince Gongsun Zan about attacking Han Fu, so he is now asking you to aid him in this attack, but at the same time Han Fu is seeking refuge in your realm – and is willing to pass his lands on to you in return. It falls to you whether to stand by your promise to Gongsun Zan and declare war on Han Fu (thus improving your relations with the former) or to use this opportunity to increase the size of your realm by taking Han Fu into your fold, confederating his faction in yours (which will understandably upset Gongsun Zan).

Campaign Progression

Yuan Shao is in a good position in the early game, with the numerous fertile and profitable commanderies within reach enabling him to forge a pretty powerful kingdom in these lands. Most of his initial neighbors are relatively minor factions, who can be easily conquered to further increase Yuan Shao’s power. However, once he’s laid down the foundations for a sturdy power base, Yuan Shao must expand – an endeavor that could benefit from setting about conquering everything north of the Yellow River. Things get a little more difficult for Yuan Shao when the mid game rolls around after all the minor factions have been snapped up, especially as he will often find himself sandwiched between major players such as Gongsun Zan, Cao Cao, Dong Zhuo, and his half-brother Yuan Shu. Yuan Shao’s ultimate aim is to become the emperor, a goal that will require all of his strength and mastery to fulfill.

What kind of player is Yuan Shao for?

As the leader of the coalition, the charismatic Yuan Shao will appeal to players with diplomatic flair who want to focus on alliances and political maneuvering. His ability to field military captains as leaders of retinues enables him to build strong forces without the necessity of controlling the satisfaction and loyalties of his generals. Powerful and ostentatious, Yuan Shao is for those who know they’ll make an excellent emperor. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, chapters 2 to 7, 10, 11, 13 to 16, 18, 19, 21 to 33, 38, 40, 43 to 45, 48, 50, and 56
  • Kongming (http://kongming.net/encyclopedia/Yuan-Shao)

 

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  • Hero Class: Champion
  • Nickname: King of Black Mountain

Who is he?

Not much is known of Zhang Yan’s early life. Born Chu Yan in Changshan Commandery, he was nicknamed “Flying Swallow” by his men due to his speed, agility, and bravery. In 185CE, Chu Yan raided the town of Yingtao with fellow bandit leader Zhang Niujue. Zhang Niujue was killed in the assault, but before dying he ordered his men to take Chu Yan as their new leader. In order to honour Zhang Niujue, Chu Yan changed his family name to Zhang. Although Zhang Yan’s background is one of banditry, making him an enemy of the state, his sole motivation is personal gain and he will happily integrate into the Han Empire elite if it furthers his pursuit of riches. Because of this, Zhang Yan leads his faction with the idea that loyalty is something always up for negation. At the drop of a hat he is willing to switch allegiance to the highest bidder, particularly if he feels that will help him increase his holdings and control in northern China. A man driven by a thirst for power and riches, he believes that words like honor and duty are excuses thrown around by lesser men when they are unable to achieve their desires. Between the light of the civilised Han, and the chaos of opportunistic banditry, Zhang Yan straddles the twilight – he sees the carnage wrought by Dong Zhuo and wonder how this can be turned to his advantage. To attack the Black Mountain bandits is to invite deception and ambush, as they have mastered the art of war unseen. Yet all the same, Zhang Yan will form alliances and friendships with any who will serve his interests – be they high-born or mud-stained…

Playstyle

Zhang Yan’s rich history of guerrilla warfare and hit and run tactics means he excels at ambushes and deception. He also grants a speed bonus to troops loyal to his faction when moving through forests, meaning he’s well suited to getting himself and his warriors out of sticky situations. Above all, Zhang Yan offers some pretty challenging gameplay, and is arguably one of the hardest warlords to play as. The primary difficulty comes from his geographical position which, while defendable, is also hard to break out from – especially when he’s surrounded by such powerful warlords as Yuan Shao and Gongsun Zan. Without a wife or children behind him, establishing a family and furthering Zhang Yan’s dynasty is also more difficult, with his success highly dependent on finding the right allies. This means that Zhang Yan typically works best as a supporting character in the early-mid game, backing another more powerful warlord with their claim to the throne, while also growing his own strength in the meantime. Then, when the time is right, he can exploit that warlord’s weakness and claim power for himself. As his alliances at the outset of the campaign are yet to be defined, with that comes a strong degree of freedom to choose whose claim to the throne you may wish to support. This fluid view on allegiance also means that Zhang Yan’s faction is the only one able to engage in diplomacy with the Yellow Turbans, thanks to the connections afforded to him via his unique Black Mountain Hideout. However, he can just as easily align himself with the Han empire, or strike out on his own. Zhang Yan’s alliances are mercurial, and his alignment can easily change over time to suit his purposes.

Guanxi

  Zhang Yan starts the game with the support of fellow bandits Li Damu and Yu Du. They are key figures in the Black Mountain bandits and alongside Zhang Yan they fight to expand their grip on the lands in northern China.

Starting Position

  At the start of the game, Zhang Yan is situated in the far northern Yanmen Mountain Commandery. Surrounded by powerful warlords, Zhang Yan needs to fight his way through and raid the surrounding northern territories in order to build up his strength for the tough battles ahead.

Initial Dilemma

  In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Zhang Yan’s first major choice revolves around which nearby warlord present the most profitable target for him to attack. With Gongsun Zan and Yuan Shao warring in the plains to the south-west of him, it’s the perfect opportunity to liberate some land from Yuan Shao, and that’s the choice he made historically. Alternatively, Zhang Yan can instead focus on fighting for supremacy in the mountains, and declare war on any rival bandits in the north who have already been eyeing his own lands covetously. With the mountains providing a secure base, Zhang Yan can easily launch raids into the surrounding lands in all directions.

Campaign Progression

Zhang Yan’s position in the mountain allows his campaign to unfold in a number of different ways. Perhaps his most obvious path is to expand into the plains to the south, where he will inevitably get drawn into conflict with Yuan Shao. However, he can also try to expand westwards, in the arid lands of north-west China. While this option offers him relative security (as mountains post quite a significant obstacle), further expansion could be tricky as the tyrant Dong Zhuo will be one of his neighbours. Finally, Zhang Yan can choose to stay in his native mountains and build up these rocky commanderies in relative peace, otherwise choosing to head south towards the burned ruins of Luoyang. A key part of his progression from there is finding the right warlord to partner up with in return for protection and support. A couple of strong contenders and his historical choices where Cao Cao and Gongsun Zan, but there are a whole host of options available depending on how you decide to expand his initial holdings. Of course, you could also decide to go it alone and forge your budding empire solo, but without the backing of a power player early on, it definitely won’t be easy.

What kind of player is Zhang Yan for?

Zhang Yan is an underdog and a man of opportunity, hovering between nobility and banditry and taking the path that best serves him. Without status or promise behind him, he must fight for renown among some of the era’s most iconic heroes. Zhang Yan’s campaign is for players who want to triumph against the odds and don’t mind having a few tricks up their sleeve to turn things in their favor. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, chapters 11, 21, and 33
  • Kongming (http://kongming.net/encyclopedia/Zhang-Yan)

 

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  • Hero Class: Champion
  • Nickname: The Bandit Queen

Who is she?

Dynasties and nobility mean nothing to Zheng Jiang: she prefers to seize glory in her own way. As the Han burns, she sees at last the crumbling of an institution she deeply despises – what have they ever known of hunger? What fear have they ever felt for corrupt and avaricious officials? Zheng Jiang has never known the ease of a noble upbringing, nor the expectation of “civilised” society. Instead, she is resolved to earn fame and prestige for herself through merciless fury and unrelenting strength. Her coming had allegedly been predicted by the scholar Liu Zhen in a dream, with renowned interpreter of dreams Zhou Xuan – said to be right nine times out of ten – warning him that female rebels would soon be at hand. Unlike some of her fellow bandits, Zheng Jiang is driven by a true political agenda: she wants to see the Han dynasty burn and fall at her hands. She thrives on this vision, relishing her rise to power and the chance to put the old oppressors under her boot to give them a taste of their own medicine.

Playstyle

Zheng Jiang loves to have power, and she also loves demonstrating it. She operates by subduing others and forcing them to pay tribute to her. As her infamy grows, Zheng Jiang’s popularity – not surprisingly – decreases, making diplomacy more and more challenging as time progresses. However, as Zheng Jiang’s power grows and she becomes more established, she also becomes more and more like the regime she is trying to bring down. Old Han structures will still be in place left and right, and Zheng Jiang will have to use them in order to lead what is essentially a new state. Zheng Jiang will also need ringleaders who are true to her cause to take her will into the provinces. For Zheng Jiang, infamy – and the momentum it brings her – is key. She gains infamy from winning battles and striking settlements – but this will decay if she becomes too passive. Zheng Jiang must keep driving relentlessly forward or else she will lose the element of surprise and her rebellion will surely fail. Infamy is earned by capturing settlements, winning battles, and having tributary states (which acknowledge her power by paying her money but are not bound to follow her into war). However, infamy automatically reduces over time, so Zheng Jiang can’t rest on her laurels – if she’s too passive for too long, her infamy will decrease. High infamy grants bonuses such as a higher morale in battle and higher character XP gain but most importantly it provides prestige points, which are required to increase Zheng Jiang’s faction ranks and eventually proclaim herself empress of a new dynasty. As a faction leader, Zheng Jiang’s personal bonuses focus on quicker mustering time and increased income from tributaries. Zheng Jiang also has access to certain post-siege occupation options that enable her to loot and destroy on a grander scale than her peers.

Guanxi

  Zheng Jiang begins the campaign with Lu Zheng as her sworn sister and second in command. Together they fight to bring down the corrupt Han regime and give power back to the people. With no other real allies to speak of, over time Zheng Jiang must focus on building up a following of loyal ringleaders who exercise her rule and ideas. Perhaps her biggest challenge is building up a dynasty and line of succession, with a clear candidate for this not immediately evident. While it is tradition for children to take the name of the father’s family, Zheng Jiang refuses to follow the Han’s rules – in her faction, children are named after their mother.

Starting Position

  Zheng Jiang starts out in the difficult terrain of the mountains, and at war with the neighbouring Dong Zhuo and Han empire. However, the remoteness of her starting position does provide a good refuge and relative safety – but eventually she must leave this and start conquering. As a bandit, she doesn’t have any clear established allegiances or diplomatic alignments, meaning her fortune and future are hers alone to carve.

Initial Dilemma

  In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. Zheng Jiang’s dilemma focuses on establishing dominance in the mountains, and provides a different angle on the clash between Yuan Shao and Gongsun Zan. As Zhang Yan enters the conflict, he calls on fellow bandit leaders for aid. As Zheng Jiang, you have the choice of joining up with Zhang Yan against Yuan Shao or instead denying his request and declaring war on him in an attempt to secure your own supremacy over the mountains.

Campaign Progression

Zheng Jiang’s early game is all about setting up a good base of operations – regional income sources need to be exploited in order to fund her warlordry, and a hideout must be established. Overall, however, Zheng Jiang’s progression path is quite flexible, with a number of different routes open to her. Due to her location in the northern mountains, Zheng Jiang can try to expand west, east, or south. Expanding east is the more obvious choice, and her dilemma points toward that direction, but likewise she can try to set her base of operations up in the west, or south of her starting position along the Yellow River. During the mid game, Zheng Jiang must focus on building up her infamy through fighting and conquest – as well as establishing allies if she so chooses. Finally, in order to ultimately emerge victorious Zheng Jiang must accrue enough infamy to reach high levels of prestige, thus enabling her to proclaim herself empress and topple all other pretenders.

What kind of player is Zheng Jiang for?

Zheng Jiang is a law unto herself, a fierce warrior who wants nothing more than to see the Han dynasty fall – no matter what the cost. As Zheng Jiang you must stay on the offensive – sitting back and relaxing is not something you can do as part of her campaign. Zheng Jiang is for players who want the challenge of striking out against the status quo, tearing through the realm on a tide of infamy that must not stop until you succeed. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

 

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  • Hero Class: Sentinel
  • Nickname: The Tiger of Jiangdong

Who is he?

Sun Jian was born in 155CE to a poor family in the south of China. Unlike other warlords of the period who came from powerful, esteemed lineages, Sun Jian’s father was just a merchant, and this lowborn background is what gives him the constant urge to prove himself against stronger foes. He’s a skilled and daring warrior known for taking risks. He excels under pressure and is at his best when the deck is stacked against him. Fighting to end the chaos flooding through China, Sun Jian has risked his life for the good of the realm on multiple occasions. Most famously, when fighting bandits at the Siege of Wancheng Sun Jian placed himself at the head of his army and climbed the city walls alone, killing 20 men before the rest of his army flooded in. Sun Jian has never shied away from opportunity – and despite his loyalties, the fall of the imperial court presents great opportunities. As a young man, Sun Jian rose from the obscurity of his mercantile upbringing, learning from the deeds of his father that fortune must be seized – never expected. It is this determined spirit that drives the Tiger of Jiangdong forward – may his roar sweep all obstacles away! Just prior to the start of the game, Sun Jian finds the Imperial Seal in the wreckage of Luoyang. Passed from dynasty to dynasty, it is said that whoever holds the Imperial Seal shall rule all of China. With the against the tyrant Dong Zhuo falling apart, Sun Jian decides to take the Imperial Seal back southwards to his home in Changsha, where his beloved wife and young family reside.

Playstyle

Sun Jian is a talented warrior who pushes his armies forward and is always on the attack. If he keeps proving his bravery, he gains increased replenishment in enemy territory, recruits mercenaries at a lower price, and increases the satisfaction of characters loyal to him. In enemy territory, all his units also have guerrilla deployment, supporting his aggressive playstyle. To finance his offensive campaigns, Sun Jian can leverage the connections from his merchant family background: all his ports increase income from commerce across his holdings. Playing as Sun Jian, you’ll be rewarded for initiating battles, particularly those where the numbers are against you. After all, even when outnumbered, a player who attacks multiple armies can still defeat the opposition through smart or aggressive tactics in battle. As Sun Jian’s entire army gains guerrilla deployment in such a situation, this means he has the shortest potential time to engagement of any faction, making it possible to defeat an army before reinforcements enter the fray. This is a potentially risky approach however, as without decisive action early on a player can find themselves overwhelmed in a protracted fight. Such battles are likely to be costly, but the replenishment bonuses granted to Sun Jian’s faction through resource pool effects grant his army reduced downtime between battles, and therefore the ability to continue fighting at the front as long as they are well-supplied.

Family Tree

  Sun Jian is married to Lady Wu, and together they have three young children: Sun Ce, Sun Quan, and Sun Ren. Guided well, their power and influence will only grow over time, perhaps even to eclipse that of the father himself! With a young family in the homestead down south, and the motivations of his so-called allies becoming murkier by the day, it’s easy to understand why Sun Jian wanted to return home during such a pivotal point in his story. However, on his way home he was ambushed by Liu Biao’s forces and barely managed to survive, losing half his army in the process. Although he would later win multiple battles against Liu Biao outside his city of Xiangyang, his risk-taking nature soon shone through, refusing to flee after omens told of his impending defeat. Soon afterwards he was ambushed again and shot to death with countless arrows, leaving his young children to grow up without a father. When playing as Sun Jian, your initial challenge is to make it back safely to your family and rewrite history in your favour.

Starting Position

  The game begins with Sun Jian north of the Yangtze River in Jiangling: he’s away from home and deep within enemy territory, although that’s nothing new to him. He must continue his journey southwards back to his family and begin building his base of power. Once there, his main focus in the short term is fighting against the Han Empire in the south and fortifying his stronghold in Changsha. Although this all changes when faced with your campaign’s first dilemma…

Initial Dilemma

  Early on in your campaign, each playable Warlord will have an initial dilemma they are faced with once they fulfil certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will put the player at a fork in the road at a pivotal moment in that Warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is the historical choice, reflecting what actually happened and the outcomes will follow how the events of the period unfolded. The other lets you forge a story down the path of what could have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories at the fulcrum of some of the most exciting moments in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit. The first major opportunity for that to happen while playing as Sun Jian revolves around the much-coveted Imperial Seal in an incident where Liu Biao requests the Imperial Seal from you. You can accept his request, losing the seal and improving your relations with him. Or you can decline, pushing your alignment more towards Yuan Shu, making him an ally and Liu Biao an enemy. The fallout from this choice is huge and at this point your narrative can switch drastically. Either Liu Biao is appeased, your northern borders are relatively safe, and your immediate focus now changes to establishing your power base south of the Yangtze. Or it is all out war against Liu Biao and his vassals right on your doorstep. Either choice is likely to dominate your mid game. Your ultimate aim is to build a larger realm in the south/centre of China, forming the Kingdom of Wu, and then pushing forth even further to unite all of China under your rule. The allies and enemies you make during your while tackling your initial dilemma will have a key role in shaping how you fare in pursuit of that goal.

What kind of player is Sun Jian for?

Sun Jian is the choice of the risk-taker, the thrill-seeker. Someone who tires of playing it safe and knows that when the odds are stacked against them, it makes for a more epic tale of victory. Download the high resolution character poster with Total War Access.

Further Reading

 

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Disclaimer: All details included below are subject to change as development continues and should not be considered final.

  • Hero Class: Vanguard
  • Nickname: The Tyrant

Who is he?

Despite his reputation, Dong Zhuo was a chivalrous youth with a talent for horseback archery who spent his earlier years travelling the Qiang region and befriending many great men of valour.

As an adult, he returned to his birthplace of Longxi Commandery and took up farming, inadvertently discovering a blade bearing the inscription “Slices through jade, like so much logging” that the scholar Cai Yong claimed was the blade of Qin dynasty warlord Xiang Yu.

After a very successful period of service in the imperial guard that included several promotions, Dong Zhuo was sent to snuff out the Yellow Turban rebellion – but was ultimately defeated and demoted. The Liang Province Rebellion saw Dong Zhuo reinstated and sent to suppress the rebels, and while he failed to defeat them his unit was the only one to escape unscathed thanks to a cunning deception involving damming a nearby river.

Dong Zhuo was subsequently promoted to General of the Vanguard and Inspector of Bing Province, but refused to take up his new post as he didn’t want to leave his forces back in Liang Province. With the power of the Han dynasty waning, he settled In Liang Province to build up his own, with Sun Jian’s suggestion that Dong Zhuo’s arrogance and insubordination was worthy of a death sentence going unheeded.

Following the death of Emperor Ling of the Han, He Jin ordered Dong Zhuo to lead troops into Luoyang in order to eliminate the Ten Attendants. However, the latter assassinated He Jin before Dong Zhuo arrived, with the capital falling into turmoil as a result.

The Ten Attendants took the child Emperor Shao hostage and fled Luoyang – only to be intercepted by Dong Zhuo, who returned the young emperor to the palace.

Taking advantage of the ongoing chaos in the capital to offset his lack of popularity as a potential regent, Dong Zhuo took command of the He family’s leaderless forces and soon established himself as a tyrant, ruling through fear and intimidation.

Playstyle

Dong Zhuo is trying to hold onto the last remnants of Han imperial power – but as his fist grips tighter and tighter, opposition from the outside grows.

It is this balance that is the cornerstone of Dong Zhuo’s playstyle: will you try to rule with an iron fist, stabilising your realm internally but creating external enemies, or will you try to – at least in appearance – be gentler, and make your enemies turn against each other?

Crucially, Dong Zhuo starts with the Han emperor – Emperor Xian – under his control.

This means that the still-mighty Han empire is his vassal, which provides him with significant income and also means he can annex and integrate Han empire territory by claiming ownership for himself (something that all factions are able to do if they control the emperor). Dong Zhuo also starts at a higher faction rank than all of the other playable factions.

Dong Zhuo also has access to a unique resource: intimidation. This measures his authority, exercised through his iron fist and his cruelty, and the amount of control he exerts over his territory and his subjects. High intimidation keeps characters under Dong Zhuo in line with increased satisfaction and reduces corruption across his realm – which is key in the later stages of the campaign. Conversely, low intimidation means less satisfaction and higher corruption.

Intimidation is increased by annexing or integrating Han empire territory, winning battles, or executing other characters. Intimidation decreases when characters are promoted, or battles are lost, as well as decaying over time. Dong Zhuo can also spend intimidation to coerce other factions into more efficient diplomacy, meaning that with high intimidation he can force other factions into certain deals.

Overall, Dong Zhuo’s playstyle revolves around juggling internal control with external threats – much like the historical Dong Zhuo himself. You have a lot of power, and the ability to make a lot of different things happen, but the reins are slipping away from you and all the other warlords want a slice of the pie. And there’s only one way to know how to maintain the upper hand: to rule with intimidation, tyranny, and an iron fist.

Guanxi

Dong Zhuo relies on the handful of strong generals at his command but he also counts a number of important faction leaders as his rivals from the start, meaning that diplomacy with them will be difficult. Additionally, thanks to the events preceding the campaign, Dong Zhuo also starts with reduced diplomatic trustworthiness.

Lü Bu (his foster son, who Dong Zhuo convinced to kill his original foster father Ding Yuan) considers him a friend, but he has personal rivalries with Sun Jian (who has been actively fighting against him), Yuan Shao (who led the alliance against him), and Cao Cao (who Dong Zhuo has declared a prime enemy of the state).

Dong Zhuo’s faction also includes other such noteworthy figures as Zhang Liao, Li Ru, and Guo Si.

Starting Position

As Dong Zhuo, time is on your side. If you can consolidate your immediate situation, you’ll be in a good position for the mid game.

However, the situation is difficult, mostly hinging on your success at stabilising your starting situation and preventing the former coalition from reuniting against you.

Dong Zhuo’s enemies are primarily to the east: Yuan Shu, Cao Cao, and Yuan Shao are all within striking range, and can become a threat early on if you are too bold.

To the north and south there is a lot of Han Empire territory that you could claim for yourself, but such actions will draw a lot of attention and might make other factions more aggressive towards you. However, it might still be the most efficient strategy to be as aggressive as possible in order to get an early advantage.

Equally, you can try to remain relatively defensive, consolidating your situation and letting the other warlords turn against each other. However, with this strategy you risk falling behind in the race to establish a strong mid-game power.

Initial Dilemma

In each playable warlord’s campaign, they will face a unique dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit.

Dong Zhuo’s dilemma primarily concerns his relationship with – or alienation from – Lü Bu.

However, it’s up to you to decide how best to handle the situation and keep the famous warrior in line. Depending on your choices, it may very well turn out that you meet an early demise and end up being succeeded by the culprit himself…

Unlike the other warlords, this outcome is dictated by not one but a chain of dilemmas and events, each of which depends on the selected game mode.

In Romance Mode, Dong Zhuo’s dilemma chain focuses around Diaochan, the beautiful serving girl who turned Dong Zhu and Lü Bu against each other with their jealousy (which eventually led to Dong Zhuo’s death).

As Dong Zhuo, you can influence these events by giving up on Diaochan in order to gain Lü Bu’s approval – or confirming his affection by marrying her, thus leading to a more difficult outcome.

In Classic Mode, this dilemma chain is based around personal differences between Dong Zhuo and Lü Bu, as well as the political scheming of Wang Yun.

Campaign Progression

As with all the warlords, Dong Zhuo’s path to victory depends on you.

If you opt for a more passive, defensive strategy, the other warlords will eventually turn against each other, meaning Dong Zhuo will need to strike out in the later stages of his campaign. He will then find himself facing steadily stronger warlords and realms, and will have to battle it out with the other warring factions on equal footing.

An aggressive strategy early on will allow for quick expansion but will also result in a lot of opposition from various sides right from the start.

Dong Zhuo will also want to take Han territory wherever and whenever appropriate.

Whatever his approach, Dong Zhuo will want to do his utmost to “protect” Emperor Xian and make sure he exploits his position – and his role as tyrant – to the fullest

What kind of player is Dong Zhuo for?

Dong Zhuo is the warlord for anyone who’s up for the challenge of keeping a crumbling realm together, ruling with authority and by inciting fear – for those willing to step into the shoes of a true tyrant.

Further Reading

  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, chapters 1 to 10
  • Kongming (http://kongming.net/encyclopedia/Dong-Zhuo)

 

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