This is the second article in a series that will be recounting and reviewing my experiences with Total War: Three Kingdoms. You can find the first article here. Thank you to Creative Assembly for providing a code. This article is about a Romance mode campaign.
The Tiger of Jiangdong, Sun Jian, was one of the few Warlords in the coalition to actually engage the tyrant Dong Zhuo’s forces in battle. His army was one of the first to capture the Imperial capital of Luo Yang and helped to put out the fires that Dong Zhuo had started; before he fled west with the child Emperor in tow. While there Sun Jian happened upon the Imperial Seal, a Jade ornament that symbolised Imperial power, in a well. When the coalition broke up shortly afterwards he headed home with his new treasure. This is where you start the campaign as Sun Jian’s faction, heading home to your base in Changsha, when an army blocks your path.
Liu Biao has sent a force to intercept and take the Imperial Seal from Sun Jian. This is just the first of many problems possession of the seal will cause. I dispatched that first foe easily enough, captured a nearby settlement and sailed down the Yangtze river towards home. When I got there I set about taking complete control of the Commandery of Changsha. As the turns passed, the settlements of Changsha fell under my command, my strength grew and a concerning pattern started to emerge. Yuan Shu & Liu Biao both demanded that I hand over the seal; both offered me riches, one offered me territory and neither would accept my answer of “No” for very long, before trying again. Yuan Shu was too far away to really threaten me but Liu Biao was much closer to home, his territory and that of his vassals was just on the other side of the Yangtze river. I went to great lengths to get on friendly terms with Liu Biao, I got a non-aggression treaty out of him after a while and we had even begun to trade with one another. However, his Vassal, Huang Zu decided to undo all of my hard work.
Huang Zu, using his position as a Vassal, convinced Liu Biao to declare war. Huang Zu is subservient to Liu Biao, he has autonomy but usually has limited diplomatic options. Unable to declare war on me alone he leveraged his position to push his master and engineered the war he sought. Huang Zu wasted no time once the declaration was made. He captured my river port at great cost to his force, thanks to the tenacious defensive action of the garrison before it succumbed to the superior numbers of Huang Zu’s army. When my main army, led by Sun Jian himself, reached the port I crushed Huang Zu; killing him in battle. I went to the diplomacy menu and sought to make peace with Liu Biao; I thought that the removal of Huang Zu would reduce his desire for war. I was wrong. Liu Biao mobilized what I can only imagine was the entirety of his military strength to avenge the defeat. On the banks of the Yangtze river we fought several battles. I started those battles with over 1000 men in my army, 5 turns later I had considerably fewer. I had done well to survive in the previous battles. I had won the first battle after my general, Huang Gai, won a duel and turned the tide of battle; which sent Liu Biao and his army fleeing despite my heavy losses. I changed tactics for the battles that followed, I used my superior missile units to thin the enemies numbers and then withdrew to conserve my own strength. Preventing Liu Biao from causing many casualties in my ranks. In the fifth battle however, I didn’t fare so well.
Our armies clashed. Liu Biao’s army was weak enough now that total victory was achievable. His numerical advantage was negligible, my missile units would weaken his force as it approached my lines and then I would deliver the finishing blow. Sun Jian fell in the initial clash. The toll of the previous battles had weakened him much more than I had thought. Seeing his Lord, and dear friend, fall in battle sent Huang Gai into a frenzy. He demolished a unit of sabre infantry 40 strong on his own before he too, fell in battle. Shorn of their talismanic leaders my army crumbled and routed. Defeat from there was swift. I rallied men under Sun Ce, who came of age the turn after his Father perished in battle. However it was not enough. Liu Biao captured most of Changsha while I was mustering my forces. The support I needed to maintain my army disappeared and a few turns later Liu Biao eliminated my faction.
So, my playthrough as Sun Jian came to a premature end and yet I’m not disappointed. As playthroughs go it was quite exciting. While I’m not thrilled about being outmaneuvered by Huang Zu, it shows that the games systems are robust enough to throw up some surprises even when I, as a player, think I’ve got a handle on them. If I’m going to effectively use diplomacy to my advantage I will have to consider more carefully how I approach factions with Vassals.
The Tiger roared loudly but not for very long.