Total War: Three Kingdoms Guide - Meet The Commanders

This time we meet the commanders.
This time we meet the commanders. Creative Assembly

Total War: Three Kingdoms is a game set during the rather tumultuous era in China known as the Three Kingdoms. The game is character driven and offers far more powerful heroes compared to the previous Total War games. There are 12 factions, each with their own unique warlords. In addition, there are a total of five classes. For today, we look at the Commanders and see how they fare.

The Puppet Master

The Strategic Mastermind.
The Strategic Mastermind. Creative Assembly

Cao Cao is a Strategic Mastermind who is excellent when it comes diplomatic exploitation. He is good when it comes to divide and conquer strategies, as he can manipulate the relationships between the different factions. Cao Cao is a good choice for new players because aside from having a good diplomatic buff, he also comes with some strong units. In addition, he starts in what is clearly a strong position.

Starting position

Just how strong does Cao Cao start? Well, he begins the game by controlling three regions. This gives players some room before Yuan Shao in the north and another warlord to the south close in. That said, you can start by expanding to the east.


As a Commander, Cao Cao is good at improving the morale of the troops. The problem is that as a Commander, he is not good at melee. Make sure that he is surrounded by melee units. At the start of the game, he gets access to two cavalry units which for some warlords, need to be unlocked at level three and level six.

While using Cao Cao for combat may be tempting, he has other specialties. Considering that his specialization is Credibility, he tends to gain more of this over time. Thus, he can actually influence other factions to fight each other, weakening them without his direct involvement.

Addition Information:

Cao Cao has access to two building types. The first is Tungtian Conscription which helps increase the recruitment rate at the cost of population growth. However, this building also increases food production and seasonal retinue. The second is Farming Garrisons which lets soldiers work on the land and increase the region's food yield. This also means that units are on hand to defend the region. The combination of these two buildings ensure that Cao Cao can move aggressively but not at the expense of population and land management.

The Aristocrat

The Gentleman of the Han.
The Gentleman of the Han. Creative Assembly

Known as the Gentleman of the Hand, Liu Biao is known as one of the Jiangxia's Eight Geniuses. As someone who focuses on intelligence and academia, he gets unique scholarly court positions which increase experience for all characters in the faction. He also has his own building change that can help increase experience gain even further.

Starting position

Liu Bao starts off in the middle of the map and is surrounded by the likes of Yuan Shi and Sun Jian. In addition, he needs to deal with rebels. If you're choosing this hero, you may need to expand either west or east.


Being a Commander, you know by now that he should be part of direct combat. While he does not have a faction resource, Liu Bao instead gets additional positions in his court, particularly for academics. With a +2 on public order and +10 satisfaction bonus, he can make the most of his territory in order to run a truly efficient empire.

Additional Information:

Liu Bao has a Lodging building that increases the income from commerce and character experience. He has access to heavy infantry with wooden weapons, which are good at dealing with cavalry.

The Leader of the People

The Leader of the People.
The Leader of the People. Creative Assembly

Liu Bei is a humane and benevolent ruler. He is known to care for his people and ensures that he is surrounded by the best advisers. Compared to other warlords, he has the strongest bonds when it comes to his starting character.

Starting position

Liu Bei starts the game in the northeast region. In all likelihood, he could face Yuan Shao. The problem with choosing this character is that he does not control any territory at the start, which means you need to start taking control immediately. The good news is that he begins the game with what could be the most powerful army.


Being a Commander, Liu Bei has the ability to inspire his troops. In addition he gets +4 public order and -50% militia infantry upkeep. The trick with Liu Bei is that once you manage to get control of his initial territory, you need to keep the region under your overall control low and instead focus on generating Unity. Unity is a unique resource that is obtained by completing assignments, and when accrued, ensures that the generals are kept satisfied. What this resource does is to give bonuses to every other kind of income. Liu Bei can use this to obtain control of territories without the need to invade them.

Additional Information

Liu Bei starts with two archer units. This gives him an advantage considering that in Total War: Three Kingdoms, archers now have increased range. The Shu Han tax collection building helps increase the peasant tax income, but affects public order. His Confederate and Integrate options help him get new territories without the need to enter battle.

The Alliance Leader

The Leader.
The Leader. Creative Assembly

Charismatic and noble, Yuan Shao has a strong appeal to the common soldier. He is able to recruit retinues led by a military captain instead of a commanding general. This allows him to quickly increase his forces provided he is the faction leader. With his ability of being able to forge alliances, Yuan Shao can easily be a threat in the early to mid-game.

Starting position

Yuan Shao is another character that can be selected by new players. Unlike other Commanders, he begins the game in a rather good position. To the north are agricultural provinces which can be taken over rather easily. While he is surrounded by other factions, most of them are weaker compared to him.


Yuan Shao is weak in melee, but with his unique polearm infantry units, it is easy to keep him safe in battle. He is able to recruit captains that give bonuses to specific unit types. Playing as Yuan Shao means that you always need to keep a medium-to-large army. Make sure to do this early so that you'll be able to get larger territories.

Additional Information

When instated, his captains are able to replace the traditional heroes and buff combat units. With his Yuan Administration Office, he is able to increase income, pedigree growth, and public order.

The Pretender

The Pretender.
The Pretender. Creative Assembly

Yuan Shu is mainly focused on obtaining his legitimacy in order to solidify his claim to be emperor. Though he does go through the ranks like the other factions, he is able to demand support for his legitimacy. What this means is that if a faction accepts Yuan Shu's claim, it gives him a significant amount of legitimacy.

Starting position

Yuan Shu begins the game in the middle of everything. On the east he is bordered by He Yi, Liu Bao on the south, and Dong Zhuo on the north. Yuan Shu is a not a good character for newbies. This is because his Guanxi trait results in him becoming prone to falling out with those around him. You need to carve out your own path in the early game, especially with the circle holding onto you territory experiencing a fallout.


Yuan Shu has the same bonuses like the other Commanders. However, he is all about Legitimacy and while it does increase income and prestige, it's not going to have a good reaction for the other factions.

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