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Total War Three Kingdoms - Meet the 12 factions battling for ancient China

Total War Three Kingdoms - Meet the 12 factions battling for ancient China

By Sam Jones

Total War Three Kingdoms - Meet the 12 factions battling for ancient China

By Sam Jones - 22nd May 2019

The legendary warlords included in Creative Assembly's action strategy

Total War Three Kingdoms - Meet the 12 factions battling for ancient China

War has broken out in ancient China, warlords gather their troops ready for battle - but who will succeed?

Total War: Three Kingdoms is the highly-anticipated action strategy game from Creative Assembly and SEGA, in which players will control one of 12 legendary warlords through picturesque China in search of alliances, survival and grand conflict.

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to which warlord you decide to choose - each with their own specified units and perks. Here, we take a look at the 12 legendary warlords fighting for survival in Total War: Three Kingdoms.

Cao Cao (Hero Class: Commander)

Cao Cao (Hero Class: Commander)

Known as the 'Strategic Mastermind', Cao Cao's main strength is diplomatic exploitation. Dividing and conquering, he manipulates relationships between factions, spreading rumors of disunity between them.

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.

Cao Cao's starting position is in the Chen commandery area of the map, south of the Yellow River, a central position with a few possible routes of expansion. His faction-specific units include the Tiger and Leopard Cavalry (rank 3) and the Heavy Tiger and Leopard Cavalry (rank 6).

As well as obtaining access to skilled officers right from the outset of the campaign, Cao Cao can also use the Jian Swordguard Cavalry when achieving a higher rank - with Sabre Cavalry via the tech-specific unit.

Creative Assembly has described Cao Cao as a preferred choice for players who "prefer to employ sly methods, pulling strings in the shadows and manipulating others to ensure the future of Wei Kingdom."

Dong Zhuo (Hero Class: Vanguard)

Dong Zhuo (Hero Class: Vanguard)

Ruling with an iron fist, 'The Tyrant' Dong Zhuo has been known to use fear and intimidation as his grand weapon. High intimidation keeps characters under Dong Zhuo in line with increased satisfaction and reduces corruption, a key factor in the later stages of the campaign.

You'll be able to unlock this Warlord as a playable faction by defeating his army in battle or reaching the rank of Emperor in a campaign.

However, if players decide to lead Dong Zhuo's fate in a completely direction, a low intimidation approach will result in less satisfaction and higher corruption. His starting position is the Chang’an region of the map, and players will be mindful to prevent the former coalition from reuniting against you in order to succeed later on.

His class-specific units includes the Raider Cavalry, and his faction-specific units are the Xiliang Cavalry (rank 3) and the Heavy Xiliang Cavalry (rank 6).

Creative Assembly has described Dong Zhuo as a preferred choice for players who are "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."

Gongsun Zan (Hero Class: Vanguard)

Gongsun Zan (Hero Class: Vanguard)

A traditional military-minded character, Gongsun Zan uses a militaristic approach to empire management. While he doesn’t have access to administrators, the 'Ironfist General' handles civic matters with commanding generals from his armies, who also provide bonuses to the commanderies based on where they’re stationed.

Gongsun Zan's leadership adds a 50% reinforcement range bonus, which means that his armies are more likely to reinforce each other in all situations, as well as his shock cavalry, which are more heavily armored compared with other factions’ and as such much more durable in combat.

Players should be mindful that Zan's perks only work if he is at the helm, and will automatically be removed if he falls in battle or is replaced by a new heir.

Gongsun Zan’s starting position is the Youbeiping Commandery area of the map, a relatively secure region. Players can easily turn it into a stronghold, but be cautious of Yuan Shao's imminent threat, so be sure to negotiate with him and Han Fu to arrange an alliance.

His faction-specific units include the White Horse Fellows (rank 3) and the White Horse Raiders (rank 6), while his class-specific units include the Raider Cavalry.

Gongsun Zan will also have access to the Lance Cavalry and Peasant Raiders via the tech-class specific units.

Creative Assembly has described Gongsun Zan as a preferred choice for players who prefer "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."

Kong Rong (Hero Class: Strategist)

Kong Rong (Hero Class: Strategist)

Famed for his quick wits and elaborate literary style, Kong Rong favors a pacifist playstyle that rewards peaceful trade as well as spreading education and knowledge. The 'Master Scholar' uses strategy to seek out information and education to beat the enemy, not stoop to bloodshed as a first resort.

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, as well as using a unique deal in diplomacy that further increases the strength of his web of trade relations.

Kong Rong’s campaign sees him begin his journey from the Beihai Commandery, in a feud with the Yellow Turbans to defend Qing Province.

His class-specified units include the Trebuchet, the Crossbowmen and the Heavy Crossbowmen (rank 6). His faction-specific units feature the Fury of Beihai (rank 3) and the Thunder of Jian An (rank 6). Tech-specific units include Archers, Repeater Crossbowmen and Heavy Repeater Crossbowmen.

Creative Assembly has described Kong Rong as a preferred choice for players who prefer "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."

Liu Biao (Hero Class: Commander)

Liu Biao (Hero Class: Commander)

Liu Biao is known as one of the Eight Geniuses of Jiangxia: a group of scholars during the later Han era. The 'Gentleman of the Han' focuses on academia and intelligence defines for 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.

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.

He begins his journey in the Xiangyang commandery, in Jing province, and players must be mindful that he is surrounded by rebels who must be thwarted in order to restore balance.

Liu Biao's class-specified units are the Jian Swordguard Cavalry, the Raider Cavalry and the Jian Swordguard. His faction-specified units include the Infantry of Jing (rank 3) and the Imperial Defenders (rank 6).

For tech-specified units, he has access to the Sabre Cavalry.

Creative Assembly has described Liu Biao as a preferred character for players 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."

Liu Bei (Hero Class: Commander)

Liu Bei (Hero Class: Commander)

From childhood, Liu Bei was full of ambition and seemed destined for greatness. 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.

Of all the warlords, he has the strongest bonds with his starting characters, his sworn brothers Zhang Fei and Guan Yu. However, because of his lowly status, Liu Bei is only able to recruit one army at the start of the game.

He begins his journey in the Dong province, but doesn't actually hold any territory (to begin with). His, and players', first challenge is to take down remnants of the Yellow Turban rebellion.

Liu Bei's class-specific units are the Jian Swordguard Cavalry, the Raider Cavalry and the Jian Swordguard. His faction-specific units include the Yi Archers (rank 3) and the Yi Marksmen (rank 6).

For tech-specific units, Liu Bei has access to the Sabre Cavalry.

Creative Assembly has described Liu Bei as a preferred character for players who want a "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."

Ma Teng (Hero Class: Vanguard)

Ma Teng (Hero Class: Vanguard)

Rising from nothing to a position of power and wealth because of the support of the Han Dynasty, Ma Teng is keen not to see it fall to pieces. The 'Protector of the West' 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. At the start of the game, Ma Teng is at war with the Yellow Turbans in Wudu commandery - and players will have to conquer the entire commandery to gain a strong foothold in the west.

Once victorious, you'll need to decide whether to drive his conquest south across the mountains, or fight for control of the north-west alone.

His faction-specific units include the White Horse Fellows (rank 3) and the White Horse Raiders (rank 6), while his class-specific units include the Raider Cavalry.

Ma Teng will also have access to the Qiang Marauders (rank 1), the Qiang Hunters (rank 3) and Qiang Raiders (rank 5) via the tech-class specific units.

Creative Assembly has described Ma Teng as a preferred character for players who are "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."

Sun Jian (Hero Class: Sentinel)

Sun Jian (Hero Class: Sentinel)

The 'Tiger of Jiangdong' is 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. 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.

He begins his journey north of the Yangtze River in Jiangling, deep in enemy territory and far from home. Players must help guide Sun Jian southwards back to his family and begin building his base of power.

His class-specific units are the Jian Swordguard, while his faction-specific units are the Mercenary Infantry (rank 1), the Mercenary Archers (rank 3), the Mercenary Cavlary (rank 5). His tech class-specific units are the Sabre Infantry and the Axe Band.

Creative Assembly has described Sun Jian as a preferred character for players who prefer a "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."

Yuan Shao (Hero Class: Commander)

Yuan Shao (Hero Class: Commander)

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.

The 'Dragon of the Yuan' 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.

His starting position on the map is in the the Wei Commandery, a relatively safe area and one that players can swiftly unify.

Yuan Shao's class-specific units are the Jian Swordguard Cavalry, the Raider Cavalry and the Jian Swordguard. His faction-specific units include the Warriors of Ye (rank 3) and the Defenders of Hebei (rank 6).

For tech-specific units, Liu Bei has access to the Sabre Cavalry.

Creative Assembly has described Yuan Shao as a preferred character for players 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."

Yuan Shu (Hero Class: Commander)

Yuan Shu (Hero Class: Commander)

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.

Situated next to the formidable Liu Biao, Yuan Shu’s starting position 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.

Yuan Shu's class-specific units are the Jian Swordguard Cavalry, the Raider Cavalry and the Jian Swordguard. His faction-specific units include the Rapid Tiger Infantry (rank 3) and the Warriors of the Left (rank 6).

For tech-specific units, Yuan Shu has access to the Sabre Cavalry.

Creative Assembly has described Yuan Shu as a preferred character 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."

Zhang Yan (Hero Class: Champion)

Zhang Yan (Hero Class: Champion)

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.

The 'King of Black Mountain' begins his journey 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.

His class-specific units are the Spearguard and the Heavy Spearguard (rank 6). His faction-specific units are the Black Mountain Marauders (rank 1), the Black Mountain Outlaws (rank 3), and the Black Mountain Hunters (rank 5).

For tech class-specific units, Zhang Yan has the Peasant Band, the Spear Warriors, the Ji Infantry and the Heavy Ji Infantry.

Creative Assembly has described Zhang Yan as a preferred character 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."

Zheng Jiang (Hero Class: Champion)

Zheng Jiang (Hero Class: Champion)

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. The 'Bandit Queen' 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.

Her position on the map starts out in the difficult terrain of the mountains, and at war with the neighboring 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.

Zheng Jiang's class-specific units are the Spearguard and the Heavy Spearguard (rank 6). Her faction-specific units are the Hidden Axes (rank 3), and the Fists of the Bandit Queen (rank 6).

For tech class-specific units, Zheng Jiang has the Peasant Band, the Spear Warriors, the Ji Infantry and the Heavy Ji Infantry.

Creative Assembly has described Zheng Jiang as a preferred character 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."

Decide which faction and legendary warlord you will lead to glory and purchase your Total War: Three Kingdoms Steam PC key now!

Plus, don't forget to check out the warlord princes battling in an ancient civil war as part of the Total War: Three Kingdoms - Eight Princes DLC too!

Total War Three Kingdoms - Meet the 12 factions battling for ancient China

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