Total War: Three Kingdoms – Advanced Tips and Tricks

Explains some advance and/or little known tips, tricks, and mechanics to help players through their game.

Other Total War: Three Kingdoms Guides:

Basic Instructions

This is a list of tips that are either not very well known to players or that newer players may not have discovered yet. In this section, I’ll quickly list the tips so everyone can get a quick look for anything that interests them and I will go into more detail on most tips in their own sections.

  • You can click backspace to stop movement of your army at any time. This can be used to keep an enemy army from running away by attacking them and then stopping near them.
  • You can press ‘R’ to speed up the movement of armies on the campaign map as well as on the battlefield.
  • You right-click a person in Diplomacy for quicker negotiation and hover over the ‘Propose Deal’ on the negotiation screen to see any factions it would affect your standing with.
  • At the top of the Diplomacy screen there is an option called ‘Quick Deals’ that will let you propose deals and see what factions will accept them or not, or if they can be persuaded to accept them.
  • After selecting to upgrade, demolish, or convert a building, an option in the shape of a tiny coin appears on that building allowing you to speed up the process by paying more money.
  • Corruption is a mechanic in this game where you lose a percentage of your money from taxes and it can RUIN your income. Make sure to properly fight corruption if you don’t want to go into debt.
  • There is an option at the top of the screen called treasury. When used it allows you to change your tax rate which improves/decreases your income from taxes, your public order, and your food production in all commanderies. In the bottom left corner of each commandery, there is also a check-box that says Tax Exemption. This can be used to lose all income/food production in order to increase public order.
  • While looking at a commandery, in the bottom left corner there are buffs and debuffs that affect the commandery. This is a good way of seeing what you should or shouldn’t build there.
  • Check ‘Traits’ on characters. Traits make some characters better at a particular task then others. For example, Zhuge Liang makes a great Commandery Administrator because he has the ‘Brilliant’ Trait which give +15% Ammunition to your units in the Commander, -30% ammunition to enemy units in the Commandery, and +10% income from all sources in the Commandery. This makes him more beneficial than others would be if placed there.
  • Check for Ancillaries with set bonuses. Hovering over the bonus will tell you if you own all pieces(equipped or not). Some sets or even just Ancillaries have amazing effects so there are a lot of ways to use them to your advantage.
  • In early turns, look for opportunities to marry good units into your faction before they are taken. You can divorce your characters wife to do ‘Receive Marriage’ if you can’t find a single lady to do the job.
  • You can Swap Units to upgrade an army to better units or different unit types rather than Disbanding them. This also gives you more units to start with so they don’t take as long to muster/replenish. This also takes advantage of any bonus levels you normally get when “recruiting”.
  • You can Recall a General to keep the General and his units, but not have to pay upkeep on them. You can Re-Deploy them later and they will have the same units.
  • Generals that are Administrators and aren’t currently in a deployed army have their Retinue added to the garrison of the city they are the Administrator of for no upkeep cost.
  • You can lower Re-Deployment cost by 25% up to 75% by having a General with the ‘Flexibility’ skill as your Faction Leader, Prime Minister, and/or Heir. This can be further improved to 100% or beyond by building 5 ‘Training Camp’ and/or by using Reforms.
  • You can have all your units start at level 7, Level 8 if Infantry or Archer Cavalry, and level 9 if Melee/Shock Cavalry or Peasantry by having your Faction Leader, Prime Minister, and Heir have the ‘Understanding’ skill, building a ‘Training Camp’ then having your units recruited/swapped there, also having a ‘White Horse Fellows Raiding Parties’, and having the proper Reforms for Infantry, Shock Cavalry, and Peasantry. Theoretically, you could get level 7 of any unit/8 Peasantry units by Turn 15 if you do things properly.
  • You can reduce recruitment costs by 116% and Upkeep by 90% on Cavalry by taking the 4 ‘Horse Pastures’ in the north and upgrading them to max, then mixing that with a ‘Blacksmith’ building and getting the proper reforms.
  • You can see most info about anything about the UI by pressing F1 while in it’s screen. You can use this to find things that you may not have noticed before and get a short explanation about them.
  • Strategists (the blue Generals) earn tactics as they level. These tactics apply to all units in their army but some tactics can only be used on certain unit types (‘Spear Wall’ on spear units for example). For this reason, having 1 Strategist in every army is a good idea.
  • Buy or capture all of a factions food production, then negotiate a deal with them using said food. When a faction has negative food production, they have a strong desire for food and will consider it to be of incredible importance to them, thus paying more.
  • When recruiting high level and/or Legendary Generals, be sure to check their traits. Generals who have traits that cause them to have a higher negative penalty for wanting a higher court position are much more likely to leave. Such as Lu Bu Have a court position ready for them.
  • Trebuchet units are amazing! Try to include 2 under every Strategist that you use. With rest being Crossbowmen or other high armor piercing ranged units.
  • The Ammunition stat on a Unit is calculated as per Troop in the Unit. So 160 Archers with 20 Ammunition is actually 3200 arrows. A Legendary Strategist with +50% bonus Ammunition makes that 4800 arrows. Therefore, having higher ‘Unit Size’ set in the ‘Advanced’ section of your ‘Graphics’ option can be extremely advantageous to the player depending on the players setup.
  • If you are at war with an enemy and notice that he is about to take one of your lands, try trading it to a Vassal or a Friend in order to make a profit off of what would have been a complete loss.

Stop Enemy from Running Away

You will often encounter enemy armies that run away every time you try to fight them. This can get SUPER annoying, especially if you haven’t improved your movement range and they are using Forced March. To counter this, you can press the Backspace key to stop your units movement.

How does this work? Well when you hover over the enemy unit, you will see that it has a circle. This circle is generally used to indicate it’s reinforcement range, but also determines whether or not it attacks your unit when it moves. If your unit is in this circle during the enemies turn, they are forced to either stay still or attack it.

Here is the issue, you can’t enter this circle without attacking. But once you’ve attacked, the enemy is given the option to Withdraw. The solution to this is the Backspace. If you attack the enemy unit, wait until your unit has entered their circle, but haven’t attacked them yet, then click Backspace and leave the unit where it is; the enemy will not be allowed to move from it’s current position and will either attack your unit or encamp itself. If it encamps itself, then you attack it next turn and then attack it again if it attempts to run away.

Doing this, enemies will no longer be able to run from even the slowest of armies provided you can get close enough to attack at least once.

Press ‘R’ to Change Speeds

Whether on the campaign map or the battlefield, pressing the hotkey ‘R’ will change your units movement speed. On the battlefield, this will speed up or slow down your units by causing them to sprint forward. This will activate your Charge but will also cause your units to become fatigued.

However, most people don’t know you can use this on the campaign map as well. If you press ‘R’ while on the campaign map, it will cause all army movements, both yours and the enemies, to speed up. They won’t become fatigued but it will save you time watching them so your games pace will pick up a little bit.

Warning! If you are trying to use the previous tip to attack an enemy who is running away, you will have trouble timing Backspace correctly if you speed up your units so try to have armies at regular speed when using this trick.

Quick Deals

In the mid to late game, you are probably trying to vassalize and/or confederate anyone you can, or who you can make a Trade Deal with, or Non-Aggression/Military Access. But it’s a bit of a pain to go through each and every person you’ve encountered every time. It’s a pain even if you filter it yourself by just picking those you think would be interested.

In order to avoid this time consuming work, you can just go to the top-left corner of the screen and click the option ‘Quick Deal’ next to ‘Negotiate’. This ‘Quick Deal’ screen it like ‘Negotiate’ but reverse. Instead of going to the person and looking to make a deal, seeing how they respond, you go to the deal and the right side of the screen shows everyone’s response to it.

So let’s say you want to see if anyone can be vassalized. You go to ‘Quick Deal’, find ‘Create Vassal’ then see who is willing to become your vassal. If they are colored green, and it says ‘Yes’ next to them, then that means you can vassalize them without getting anything, and they might even pay you something. If they are blue and it says ‘Maybe’ then you will have to persuade them with gifts or force to get them to agree to the deal. And if they are colored red, then ‘No’ means no.

Speed up Construction

When you are building, demolishing, or converting buildings, it takes at least a turn if not multiple turns to do it. But what if you need food now because your people are starving? Or Public Order so they don’t riot? Or you are about to recruit an army but you don’t have a ‘Conscription Office’. Or maybe you just don’t want to wait 5 turns. No matter the issue, you can resolve with money.

When you choose to do anything with a building, some new text shows up on the picture telling you what the building is doing and how many turns it will take. An ‘X’ appears in the top right and if you look carefully, a coin appears at the bottom of the picture. When you hover over the coin, it tells you how much money it will take for instant construction.

This price is based on a multitude of factors which I haven’t quite figured out yet, but basically seems to go like this. The more expensive the building, the higher the level, and the more turns it has left until completion, the higher the cost. This cost on average seems to be about the cost of the building itself. So to instant construct a building that costs you 1100, it will cost around 1100 extra to instantly complete. 2600 for the building = ~2600 to instant complete. So this may not be useful very often.

However, if you are downgraded or demolishing something, you get money refunded and if you decide to instantly finish either of them, it will cost you half what you were refunded. So if you’ve taken over a city and don’t want to wait to start building your own stuff, you can still get some profit even if you instantly demolish it.

Fighting Corruption

Corruption is a terrible, terrible thing in Three Kingdoms. A large city that taxes 1500 gold from it’s citizens can end up only giving you 300 because of 80% corruption, which then goes towards your 320 gold upkeep on the buildings. That means that city which should be giving you a 1500 gold profit, is now giving you a 20 gold deficit. Spread this to 10 cities and you are losing 15k gold profit and having to pay 200 gold out of pocket every turn.

To combat corruption, you can put an administrator in the commandery which reduces corruption by 30%. You can assign someone to ‘Counteract Corruption’ which is learned from a yellow skill called ‘Stability’ (looks like a mountain) and can be learned by Commanders(yellow) and Sentinels(purple). This reduces corruption in a commandery by 50%.

Those are okay but the real way to fight corruption is through buildings. There are buildings in the ‘State Workshop’ and ‘Administration Office’ branches of building that decrease corruption. The best of these are the ‘Grand Treasury Mint’ and ‘Office for Archives and Seals’ which decrease the corruption of their commandery and every commandery surrounding them by 15% and 20% respectively.

So basically, if you have 1 of the two in every commandery, you will never have corruption anywhere again because they stack with each other. Now you just need to decide which one to build based on what else you build there.

Tax Level and Tax Exemption

Sometimes you get a new city and you discover you are producing too little food and it will take several turns in order to build enough to rectify the situation. You could buy food from someone, but you don’t really want to spend money either. So what do you do? Well you can increase taxes.

At the top of your screen is an option called Treasury, which you can also get to by pressing the ‘7’ hotkey. Inside of the menu that pops up is a detailed account of your Income and Expenses. This includes how much money you had last turn, how much you have this turn, and how much you will have next turn with how things are currently going. On this menu there is also a section called ‘Tax Level’ which has a slider. As you move the slider to the right, tax rate and food from farming increase while public order decreases. As you move the slider left, the opposite occurs.

By using this slider, you can manipulate your income in order to get the most out of your land. If your public order is high while food or money is low, increase your ‘Tax Level’. If your public order is low and you can afford to give up some food and money, decrease it instead. This will help you keep your people happy while also getting everything that you can out of them.

But what if your public order is high in all cities except one? Well if you go to that city and check out the bottom left corner, there is a checkbox labeled ‘Tax Exemption’. If you check that box, then you will lose all income and food generated by that commandery, but gain +25 public order every turn(compared to +15 from having the lowest ‘Tax Level’). This can be good getting all of your commanderies on the same page when it comes to public order so that you can more easily adjust them using the ‘Tax Level’ slider without having to worry about loss of income or a rebellion occurring.

Commandery Buffs / Building Tips

What should you build in your commandery? Are commanderies one size fits all? No, no they are not. Some commanderies are low in fertility while some are high. Some naturally grow crops from their outlying areas while other mine metal or chop wood or perform a trade. Every commandery is different so the things you build there should be different too.

If a land is high in fertility, it increases food production and peasantry income by 25%. These seem to generally occur in commanderies that naturally have sources of food production and peasantry income, but not always.

If a land is low in fertility, it decreases peasantry income by 25% but not food production. These places tend to not have sources of peasantry income naturally but again, this isn’t always the case.

Some places produce food naturally, some commerce income, some peasantry, industry, and some don’t have any kind of production and just give access to a trade good.

So what should you build where? Well to answer that question fully in detail would require a guide of it’s own, but I can give some recommendations.

  • If fertility is low, avoid making buildings that increase Peasantry Income or Population Growth. Look at it’s extra buildings to decide what should go there.
  • If fertility is high, maybe build some Food Production, Peasantry Income and Population Growth buildings. Try to look at it’s extra buildings first to see if it’s worthwhile then go from there.
  • If it’s neither then build completely based on the extra buildings.

If the building is Commerce(blue) or Industry(purple) build a ‘Grand Guest House'(Inn), ‘Silk Expedition Trading Post'(Marketplace), ‘Office for Archives and Seals'(Administration Office), ‘Grand State Workshop'(State Workshop), and ‘Master Lacquerware Artisans'(Private Workshop) to maximize profits and get rid of corruption.

If the building is Peasantry(green) then depending on how much extra food you have saved up, build either ‘Magnate Estates'(Land Development) and ‘Winnowing Machine Workshop'(Government Support) for more food, or ‘Livestock Market of the Commandery Capital'(Land Development) and ‘Grand Irrigation Canals'(Government Support) for more money at the cost of food. Along with these, build a ‘Office for Archives and Seals'(Administration Office), ‘Province Administration of Han Empire'(Tax Collection), and ‘Grand Temple of Confucius'(Confucian Temples) for maximizing your peasantry income and possibly food production.

Now I understand that you can’t always build all these things because of reform restrictions, so I would go for building a ‘Grand Treasury Mint'(State Workshop) instead of an ‘Office for Archives and Seals'(Administration Office) until you are far enough in the game to have the reform needed to build it. As stated earlier, corruption can kill your game so you don’t want to put it off until it’s too late.

Maximizing Traits / Skills / Attributes / Equipment Sets / Job Positions

Everyone is different and some people are just better at certain things than others. That’s why it is important to pay attention to a person’s traits before you hire them, when you are creating an army, sending out a spy, and selecting a Prime Minister, Heir, or Commandery Administrator.

Traits sometimes only take effect when the character is performing a certain task and that is why it is important to pay attention to them. For example, if a character increases campaign movement speed, they might do well in the army. If they get extra cover when spying, then they should be a spy.

Also pay attention to how ambitious a character is. If they get “increased penalty from desire for higher office” then you should be sure to check if they will do well in an administration position. If they will, great! Put them in one. If not, then you should be wary that they may defect if you don’t cater to their every need and desire and constantly promote them….might just want to let them go if they are so unhappy and aren’t useful for anything. And if their trait “Increases ambition to gain independence as administrator”, then you should either not put them in an administrator position(unless they are very very good, or have traits to decrease their ambition) or be prepared to either continuously tell them no, they can’t have their own commandery before paying them to be happy, or accept them as a vassal while giving up a commandery to them.

Similarly to traits, there are skills that improve certain tasks. There aren’t nearly as many of these and these are something you have some control over. The can only be gotten on certain character types and at certain levels depending on where their tree starts. If a character has many traits related to their type (blue traits for a strategist for example) then they generally become legendary at low levels.

Now if you put equipment together into this mix, then you can turn a powerful character into a godlike character. For example, you could make a Strategist(blue) who has all blue traits put on equipment that will all come together to have archery units with 200% Ammunition, 50% increased fire rate, 20% Melee Evasion, have fire arrows, perform night attacks, can deploy outside of the normal range for an ambush during battle, and have increased ambush chance outside of battle.

This can be applied to spying, commandery administration, faction leader/prime minister/heirs, and even just people who you send on assignments. While so many things about this are randomized, there is such an enormous amount of traits out there that you can almost always find someone that can be useful, even if they can’t min-max to godlike standards.

Marriage = Benefit =/= Love

Throughout history, marriage has more often than not been about benefits rather than love. Kings marry their daughters for alliances or territories or gifts. The young and good looking marry the old, ugly, rich, and powerful to further themselves. Modern culture may have shifted to this but this isn’t modern culture.

Marriage is a powerful tool in your arsenal, especially in the early game. Lu Bu, Sun Ce, Zhao Yun, Zheng Jiang, and (in the year 207) Sun Ren are all extremely powerful characters that can be easily acquired through marriage. If you play correctly Lu Bu can even take out a fully stacked army solo on legendary, though it’s a bit difficult.

So how does this marriage thing work? Well you have to have an unmarried man or woman related to you, and the woman must be between the ages of 18 and 51. They must also be related to you. An easy way to make them related is to adopt them on the Family Tree screen, so if you are Liu Bei then Guan Yu becomes your Brother and Son….

Most of the characters worth acquiring through marriage are men though, so you need a woman to get them. There are a few options for this.

  • Have a daughter and wait for her to become 18 years old…..not very practical and RNG stinks.
  • Hire a woman who is between 18 and 51 in the court menu then adopt her. RNG again but better.
  • Divorce your wife or someone else’s wife in the Family Tree screen. Easy peasy.

On most characters, divorcing your wife is the easiest and most practical option. Ma Teng can get Lu Bu basically immediately by doing this, then you can divorce her again and get Sun Ce or Zhao Yun. Your wife will really get around this way.

Warning though, some characters may rebel soon after arriving at your faction if you can’t appease them. Lu Bu is really bad about this, so have a court position ready for him when he gets there or you’ll lose him at the start of your next turn.

Unit Swapping

So you got a better Cavalry unit, or you want your Spear units to have a shield to defend from bows, or you need to swap two of your Archers to Trebuchets for a siege battle. But after you disband your unit and recruit the new one, they take several turns to muster so you’re slowed down and the situation may change while you’re waiting, losing precious time. How do you avoid this? Unit Swapping.

If you click on your army and then select a unit, multiple options come up. The option which is second when going left-to-right is ‘Swap Unit’. When this option is chosen, it takes you to the same screen that you would see when recruiting, but the unit you currently have is omitted from the list. Everything about them is the same so this is just a faster way of disbanding and recruiting right? Wrong! When you unit swap, your unit type changes but will retain a large portion of army you already have (at least 50% but can be up to a little over 80%). This means that while it would normally take several turns to build your army after recruiting, it can now be done in one or two. This drastically speeds up your assault, allows you to upgrade units whenever you want without waiting, and makes your army a lot more versatile provided you have the money.

Benefits of Recall and Redeployment

So your army has outlived it’s usefulness to you. You finished your war or have no enemies anywhere near them or you just can’t afford to keep them. What do you do? You ‘Recall’ them.

Click on your army then select your general/generals and choose the option that appears labelled ‘Recall the selected retinue’. This will pull your general and his units from the field.

So what are the benefits of this? Well….

  • No upkeep cost – While they aren’t in the field, their units cost nothing.
  • If they are Commander Administrators, their retinue is added to their city’s garrison for no cost.
  • They can be Redeployed regardless of distance to their previous position, for the price you recruited them for.

This means you can save money on an army until you need them again, have them defend your cities, or teleport them across the map to fight against more dangerous foes. The only drawback of this is that Redeployment costs the same amount as you originally paid to recruit all the units. So if you only paid 1000 gold to recruit them all, you will only pay 1000 gold to Redeploy, but if you paid 20k gold, then you will be paying another 20k. So this is potentially very expensive. Fear not! For there is a solution to this!

Commander(Yellow), Champion(Green), and Vanguard(Red) Generals have a green skill called ‘Flexibility’ which reduces Redeployment costs by 25%….if the character with the skill is the Faction Leader, Prime Minister, or Heir. But this effect stacks so if all three have the skill then you get 75% off of Redeployment costs. There are also two Reforms, the Red Reforms ‘Provincial Military Forges, and ‘Green Dragon Supply Ships’. So that is another potential 40% off. On top of that, if you build the ‘Training Camp’ from the Conscription tree, you get 5% off and this applies for every one you have, potentially allowing you to have as many as you have Commanderies.

So how should you take advantage of this? Well I personally would say you should have a couple ‘Training Camp’ built so you can take advantage of the +3 troop levels. These can even be built anywhere because you can just Redeploy for free anywhere. So build two ‘Training Camp’ anywhere you want for -10% Redeployment Cost. Then if you get both the Reforms that is another 40% off, totaling -50% Redeployment cost.

Finally you must choose your Heir and Prime Minister. If your Faction Leader is already Yellow, Green, or Red then you only need one of the other two to be the same and can pick Purple or Blue for the other. If the Faction Leader is Purple or Blue then your limited to Yellow, Green or Red.

So what are the benefits of each?

  • Yellow: -25% Redeployment Cost, +5 Faction Support, +1 Available Assignments, +1 Starting. Rank for All Troops.
  • Green: -25% Redeployment Cost, +1 Available Armies
  • Red: -25% Redeployment Cost, +1 Available Armies, +5 Faction Support
  • Purple: +1 Starting Rank for All Troops, +25 Bonus Experience for Units Per Season
  • Blue: +1 Available Armies, +1 Trade Agreements

So given this information, I consider 3 Commanders(Yellow) to be the best option the 3 top positions. Here is my reasoning.

  • Trade Agreements are nice for money, but if you build well then you shouldn’t be too tight on money and just because you have Trade Agreements doesn’t mean you can use them.
  • Available Armies are nice, but since you can Redeploy armies for free you don’t need a ton of them, just a few.
  • +25 Bonus Experience is nice, but not really necessary at all.
  • +1 Starting Rank for All Troops means that 3 leaders with this give +3 Ranks to all units.

So the most important skills are the -25% Redeployment Cost, and the +1 Rank to all units. Only the Commander has both. In addition the Commander has +5 Faction Support which helps with Public Order across your whole faction. +1 Assignment means a lot of option from less construction time, faster mustering/replenishment, reduced corruption, and many others. Basically you can choose from a huge amount of benefits based on what you need at the time. Finally, Commanders are Yellow. Yellow is Authority. Your Authority level contributes to the Satisfaction of your Court across your whole nation. This means if you had 3 leaders with 200 Authority, you’d get +45 Satisfaction for every Court member. No more messing with their whining and trying to make everyone happy! Realistically though, you’ll get about +15 to +30 which still definitely helps.

Basically 3 Commanders means -75% Redeployment Cost, +3 Rank to All Units, +15 Faction Support, +3 Available Assignments, and around +15 to +30 Satisfaction in your Court.

Now these calculations bar the special bonuses that certain characters give. These bonuses mostly come from Historical characters and are usually very good, but need specific other characters in order to really min/max.

Super Soldiers

As your units level, they become stronger, faster, and more adequate. The first few levels go by fast, but the later levels can take some time. And every time you swap units to upgrade or change them, all their experience disappears. If you have a level 6 unit and upgrade to a better version, but they become level 2, then while you still have a better unit, they aren’t as good as they could be. You could accept the loss and just let them level naturally, but a better option is to increase their starting level. But how do you do this?

There are several options to increase the level of units, and among these options are more options that make you choose between unit types, requiring you to either forego a particular unit type in favor of another or build multiple areas for training.

Here are the different ways to increase unit starting level:

1. Having Commanders(Yellow) or Sentinels(Purple) as your Faction Leader, Prime Minister, and/or Heir and have them learn the skill ‘Understanding’. This increases the level of your unit by 1 across the whole faction. Meaning that no matter where you recruit/swap them, they will get the bonus. This only works if they are Faction Leader, Prime Minister, or Heir though, but it does stack giving you a potential +3 levels to every unit across the whole faction during recruitment.

2. Building a Conscription building and recruiting/swapping units in the Commandery you built it in. The ‘Conscription Office’ and ‘Training Field’ are the level 1 and 2 versions of this building tree and will only give +2 levels while the ‘Training Camp’ gives +3. Again, this only applies if you recruit the units in the Commandery where this is built, otherwise they won’t get the benefit.

3. The Red Reform Skills give bonus levels to specific units faction wide. The buffs and Reforms are as follows. ‘Convict Drafts’ for +2 Peasants, ‘Extended Conscription Period’ for +1 Melee Infantry, ‘Hereditary Buqu’ for +1 Melee Cavalry, and ‘Barded Mounts’ for +1 Shock Cavalry.

4. Finally you can build a ‘White Horse Fellows Raiding Parties'(Military Infrastructure) for +1 on All Cavalry Units.

This means that without Reforms or the ‘White Horse Fellows Raiding Parties’ building, you can have all units be Level 7 right out of recruitment provided that they are built in a Commandery containing a ‘Training Camp’. With those buffs you end up with…

  • Level 7 All Units.
  • Level 8 Melee Infantry and Archer Cavalry.
  • Level 9 Peasants and Melee/Shock Cavalry.

So if you push for the proper Reforms, build the ‘Training Camp’, and get enough Prestige to become a King, you could theoretically have Level 9 Peasants on Turn 15. Realistically though, you can have Level 6 for all units starting out after Turn 10. This gives you a serious edge on enemies and makes the journey to level 10 units much faster.

To give one comparison, the difference between Level 1 and Level 10 is 18% Melee Evasion. That means your units dodge 18% more attacks which alone can turn the tide in your favor. Not counting the extra morale and attack rate which makes it likely for your Level 10 to have 50% or more of it’s health remaining after fighting a Level 1 of the exact same unit. Add in buffs from your Generals, Items, Commandery Administrators, and Court Leadership, and your unit can crush lower level units with ease.

Free Horses and “The Stallion Who Mounts the World” Build

Cavalry is expensive! They cost a lot to recruit, and a lot to upkeep. They don’t do great in sieges and become almost useless going uphill or through trees. But when they shine, they SHINE. They absolutely DESTROY enemies during a charge and a Horse Archer can kite like no tomorrow. Have him use flame arrows too and you can forget about them not being great for sieges, those towers will be child’s play and enemies will find them extremely annoying to get rid of. But….they are still expensive….. But like most problems, there is a solution and that solution is the ‘Horse Pasture’.

There are 4 ‘Horse Pasture’ on the map and they are all in the North. 3 are in the Northwest and 1 is in the North East. When built on, they give -5% Recruitment and Upkeep Cost for All Cavalry Units Faction Wide to start with, and this goes up to -20% each when upgraded to max. Multiply this by the 4 locations and that becomes -80% total for both Recruitment and Upkeep.

But that’s not all!!! Just to upgrade your ‘Horse Pasture’ to ‘Tribal Horse Host’, you have to get the Reform ‘Barded Mounts’. This gives -8% Recruitment Cost which brings our new total to -88% Recruitment Cost. But to get to that Reform, you have to get the Reform ‘Regional Commissioners’ which means it is now -96% Recruitment Cost. Now just put any character into the Court Position ‘Grand Commandant’ and you are at -106% Recruitment Cost.

This means FREE HORSES!!! Just pay for food.

If you really want to reduce the cost, you can get the Reform ‘Hierarchical Enfeoffments’ which will reduce the Upkeep by 10% for a total of -90% Upkeep and give access to a very nice new Cavalry Unit called the Jade Dragons.

So now we just need to maximize the horses potential. Luckily there is a build I like to call “The Stallion Who Mounts the World”

It’s pretty simple. Choose Ma Teng as your Faction, he and his son Ma Chao give -15% upkeep for Qiang Units, which are his factions special cavalry units that are as good or better than any other Cavalry that you can get. So a total -30% for Qiang Cavalry Upkeep + -80% Upkeep from the 4 ‘Horse Pasture’ fully upgraded brings it to -110% Upkeep for Qiang Cavalry.

Ma Teng Also give +10 Melee damage for Shock Cavalry while Ma Chao give +15% Armor and +15% Melee Damage for all Shock Cavalry.

That’s your Faction Leader and Heir, but who should be your Prime Minister? Easy, Sun Ce. He gives an addition +15% Melee Damage for all Shock Cavalry, as well as +100 Charge Bonus for all Cavalry!

Now who shall lead these troops? Well actually, any Vanguard(Red) General will work. A Vanguard can give his Retinue +25 Charge Speed, +25 Charge Bonus, +25% Running Speed, +10% Armour-Piercing for the whole army, and +25% Melee Damage for all Shock Cavalry.

This brings any Cavalry under the Vanguards command to +10 Melee Damage for Shock Cavalry, +55% Melee Damage for Shock Cavalry, +15% Armor for Shock Cavalry, +125 Charge Bonus for All Cavalry, +25 Charge Speed, +25% Running Speed, and +10% Melee Armour Piercing Damage. If you have 3 Vanguard Generals in the army, it becomes +30% Melee Armour Piercing Damage

Now just put on a ‘Herdsman’ Follower or an ‘Art of War’ on any member of the Army and you can have the ‘Wedge’ Formation for your units which gives +100% Mass(making it easier to push through the enemy line unhindered), +50% Charge Speed, and +25% Charge Bonus but -50% Armour and -25% Speed. This makes your Cavalry Charges even more devastating and, with practice, the negatives become negligible.

With this, you can have maximum amounts of armies using only Qiang Marauders and destroy anyone you come across. Just siege anything you can’t Auto Resolve and because of how many full stack armies you’ll have, you won’t have to be concerned about the time wasted on the siege.

Remember to always fight to your strengths and avoid fighting on the enemy’s terms.

Grab Them by the (Rice) Balls!

An army marches on it’s stomach. Food is extremely important and when a someone is starving, they will be willing to pay more for food than if they were well fed. So how can we take advantage of this? Well it’s simple, we seize the means of production!

Factions often are low on food. They may not be negative, but they will try to keep to the minimum positive amount they can. So if you take land that produces food, such as a Farmland, Fishing Port, or Herdsman, from a faction that is barely positive on food to begin with, they will go into the negative. Negative Food Production can be considered as starvation, and as stated earlier, people will pay more for food while starving!

While a faction might have +1.1 attitude towards a trade of 1 food when they have positive food production, this might become +6 attitude when they are in the negative food production.

So to take advantage of this, buy the location where food is produced from a faction, then use the food production you just received from them in order get everything you traded to them back, and more!

Another option is to focus on taking a faction’s food production during war, then use the food to buy peace from them and possibly some extras.

To maximize the benefits from this, focus on Food Production in your city buildings by building ‘Winnowing Machine Workshop'(Government Support) for +150% Food Production, and ‘Magnate Estates'(Land Development) for +5 Food Production. In addition to this, be sure to have someone in the Court Position ‘Grand Director’ for +25% Food Production from Farming and Fishing. Finally, get the Reforms ‘Transverse Bulkheads’ for +50% Food from Fishing, ‘Junks’ for +50% Food from Fishing, ‘Winnowing Machines’ for +25% Food Production, and ‘Treatise of Agriculture’ for +25% Food from Farming.

This makes any city give +5 Food Production, +175% Food Production, +125% Food from Fishing, and +50% Food from Farming. Here is the Food Production of any food producing buildings in a Commandery with all the bonuses.

  • City Production: +13
  • Herdsman: +19
  • Fishing Port: +32
  • Farmland Production: +32(Grain) or +39(Rice)

This makes every Commander with Farmland and these buildings produce 52 Food and there are 24 Farmlands(15 Grain/9 Rice) across the map. If you take control of them all then you will be bringing in at least 1143 Food every turn. The reason I say at least is because, as stated in an earlier section, there are buffs and debuffs for Commanderies. These buffs give +50% Food Production while the debuffs don’t affect Food Production. Meaning each Commandery with a buff gets +16 Food Production in the city, +37 on Grain Farms and +45 on Rice Farms. If we assume that 30% of the Commanderies get the buff, then that means the new total is 1591 Food every turn!

Over 1000 Food Production every turn with only counting the Farmlands and there is still the 8 Fishing Ports and 13 Herdsman to give food as well. If you own enough to manage even +500 surplus, you probably have enough to buy most of China from the starving people who have yet to submit to your rule.

Own them all and you may dub yourself the Rice Emperor!

Spoiled Generals

You are looking through your court and notice that you are able to higher a Legendary Unique General who is already level 7. All that power for a mere 1000 gold? What a deal! You hire him and put some nice Ancillaries on him, but then the next turn he leaves you. You’ve just been scammed out of 1000 gold and a couple good Ancillaries and you don’t know why he left you like this, without even saying goodbye.

Some Generals are just frankly spoiled brats with bad tempers. They don’t tell you this beforehand though so when you hire, you always have to hope for the best. Very few will leave in one turn though and there is always a white notification on your character option in the lower right corner, so you will at least get a warning before they do leave.

So why do they leave? Well any General whose satisfaction is at 0 when your next turn starts will leave you. But why don’t they like you? Well there are a lot of reasons.

Some Generals disagree with you because your personalities are different. For example, if you are “Generous”, you like to give money. But they are “Greedy” and so hate your generosity.

Another reason could be that they liked the faction they used to be in and don’t like the fact that you confederated them.

Or it could be that they are Inigo Montoya, and you killed their father. Prepare to die! (for real though, killing family and friends makes people dislike you to some degree forever)

Again, there are a lot of reasons so I won’t list them all, but one final reason that is quite common is that the character has a trait that makes them have a higher negative penalty when they desire a higher court position. Mix that with being a higher level and they will definitely want a higher position very very badly. A prime example of this is Lu Bu.

So how do you fix this hatred of you? Well one easy way is to give them a Court Position if they desire one. If they don’t desire one then they won’t care very much whether you give them the position or not. Another option is to Promote them. This is different than giving them a Court Position as you pay them a bonus and then increase their salary. So it’s an expensive option that increases their base satisfaction by 5 permanently and gives them an extra 10 satisfaction temporarily.

Other than this, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Personally, if a General is mad at me because of their old faction AND wants a higher court position, then unless they are an amazing, god-mode character then they can leave. A General who contributes very little and needs you to pay them more money every few turns or go out of your way to keep them happy isn’t worth the effort and should just be released from your service or married off for a rice ball.

Trebuchet Terror

1200 Armour Piercing Damage, 500 Range, 10 Ammunition.

This is a Trebuchet. The accuracy may not be the most spectacular, but when it hits an enemy, the enemy is blown away.

It’s main purpose is as a siege weapon. It can be used to destroy towers from outside their range, making taking cities without gates a breeze. It can also destroy the gate, so even then it makes everything simpler. But what about outside of sieges?

Before we start, let’s get some more info on Trebuchet. Trebuchet can only be recruited by Strategists. Trebuchet have 10 Ammunition but this number is per Trebuchet in the unit. So if you have higher ‘Unit Size’ in your options, then you get more Trebuchet and thus have more shots. On ‘Ultra Unit Size’ you have 4 Trebuchet in a unit, meaning 40 shots. Strategists main skill is Cunning, which increases the ammunition of their retinue by a percentage. The percentage becomes +50% when they have 100 Cunning(Legendary) and +100% when they have 200 Cunning(Max). Strategists also have a skill that can be learned called ‘Resourcefulness’. This skill makes their Trebuchet into flaming Trebuchet. This increases damage by setting the enemy on fire after hitting them, causing a large amount of damage over time which affects towers in cities/settlements as well.

So a Strategist who is Legendary gets Trebuchet Unit with 15 Ammunition per Trebuchet instead of 10 and can shoot Flaming Shots. Have a couple of these on the field and you can destroy a large amount of enemy units before they are anywhere near you. Mix these with a few crossbowmen and then have a retinue of cavalry to take out the damaged enemy and their archers, and you have a powerful force.

Basically, when using Trebuchet, you don’t want the enemy anywhere near them. Set them far back on level ground with some crossbows at 200-250 range to defend them while being able to hit the enemy along with the Trebuchet then have your cavalry take care of enemy ranged units or units that have been broken apart by the trebuchet while your swordsmen keep the enemy at bay, letting your Trebuchet annihilates the enemy forces. A good tactic is to use one to target enemy ranged units while the other targets strong enemy units. In descending order, here is what Trebuchet should target.

Ranged Captains>Ranged>Sword Captains>Swords>Spear Captains>Spears>Cavalry of any kind

The reason is that you want to take out the slowest and most damaging units first because of how slow the Trebuchet’s attacks are. You should also be sure to not try to use a Trebuchet to completely take out an enemy force. Trebuchet work best to destroy a large amount of units and due to their inaccuracy, they are more likely to miss if a unit is small. So have a Trebuchet hit one unit, then move to the next until all Ranged, Swords, and Spears have been hit, then go back through the list.

It is also for this reason that it is best if you have your ‘Unit Size’ option be as large as possible. This can be changed in the ‘Pause Menu’ under ‘Graphics’ then clicking ‘Advanced’.

2 Trebuchet Units with 4 Trebuchet a piece means at least 80 shots, 120 shots on a Legendary Strategist. 120 accurately fired shots mean approximately >90% of a stack of 18 enemy units are killed without your units being placed in any danger but given inaccuracy this number becomes closer to >60%. As long as the enemy doesn’t get close enough to attack your Trebuchet and you aren’t extremely outnumbered, Trebuchet can turn the tide of battle in your favor, regardless of if it is a Siege or not.

Bait and Switch

You are at war with an enemy and they are about to take one of your lands. What do you do? Well you could ask him to make Peace with you, but more often than not, that’s not going to happen. You could try to use the garrison to defend against his full stack (HA!). Only thing left to do is sweep the dirt under the rug and sell it as Prime Real Estate!

You’re about to lose the land no matter what you do, so why not make a profit off of it? Your Vassals and Friends might be interested in that land and they’ll pay you for it for sure!

Just find a Vassal or Friend that is bordering the land. If there isn’t one, pick anyone. Literally anyone will do as long as you can sell this land for something. Then name your price. You might be able to get a better land that isn’t next to the enemy faction for a much cheaper price. Keep your eyes open for good deals!

Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13526 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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