This is the third article in a series where I recount and review my time with Total War: Three Kingdoms by Creative Assembly. You can find the first article here & the second article here. Thank you to Creative Assembly for providing a review code to the site. This article is about a Romance mode campaign.
My campaign as Liu Bei started well. Through a mixture of military might, built on the back of his brothers Guan Yu & Zhang Fei, and using my unique ability to annex Han Dynasty territory without bloodshed, my expansion was rapid. I was soon in complete control of two commanderies. With the sea to the east and friendly factions to my north & south; I was secure. Of the three, this has been the easiest start I’ve had. My army was relatively unscathed so when the call for help from Tao Qian, who was to my south came; I was in a position to help immediately. Cao Cao had declared war on Tao Qian, seeking vengeance for the death of his father. This is an in-game event based on a historical one so I decided to play my role and support Tao Qian as my historical counterpart once did.
In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel Liu Bei is a bit “too nice” refusing to take control of lands even when the ruler of said land had begged him to take it from them. My version of Liu Bei however, isn’t so shy. As I moved my army into position to intercept Cao Cao, I demanded that Tao Qian unite his faction with mine. Cao Cao was coming, without my help Tao Qian wouldn’t be able to defeat him, let alone fight a war against me, and he knew it. He agreed to my proposal. Thus his faction was subsumed into mine. In the blink of an eye the territory under my control doubled and a second army was now at my command. With this newly combined force I was able to defeat Cao Cao and started to conquer his territory. Cao Cao rallied twice but was not able to do any substantial damage to my forces before I finally killed him in battle. Sensing weakness, another faction swooped in and captured the last settlement formerly held by Cao Cao before I got there, destroying Cae Cao’s faction and preventing me from controlling the Chen Commandery for the time being. A minor disappointment, missing out on that last settlement, compared with the overwhelming success of my war with Cao Cao.
Things “calmed down” from a military perspective for a while after this. I had been raking in the cash in previous turns so my treasury was flush. I set to work upgrading existing, and building new buildings in my now substantially larger domain. The goal was to really cement my position and give me a steady income with which to maintain my military might and fuel further expansion. During this process it became clear to me that I have work to do on my understanding of the building systems. I had logged over 15 hours of playtime when I discovered the building overview menu that showed me the build chains I had been looking for. I knew I was missing this information but wasn’t sure where to find it, though I had looked; obviously not very hard. In typical fashion, I realised the button was right under my nose this whole time. So I had to spend yet more coin and turns “fixing” things as I sought to optimise my economic position. Before long though, a new problem arose which demanded my attention.
“Bei the builder
can he fix The Han
Bei the builder
well, it isn’t that easy actually,”
My coalition partner Yuan Shao refused any attempt I made to bring other friendly factions into the fold. Kong Rong & Wang Lang were perfect candidates for inclusion. We’d been long time trading partners, had non-aggression agreements and both had very favourable opinions of me. Yuan Shao, though, was having none of it. Every attempt I made was rebuffed. Despite this frustrating situation I was wary of leaving the coalition. Yuan Shao was a strong power. If my leaving triggered a war either immediately or in the near future I knew I would be in trouble; taking him on would not be easy. I was struggling to produce enough food, I didn’t control enough farms and buying it in through diplomatic treaties was proving costly, even from my supposed ally Yuan Shao. It was starting to cripple me financially despite my large scale building regime aimed at solving this problem, among others. The torrent of riches that once flowed my way was now a dribble at best. As a result I was stuck in a quandary. I searched the map, looking at areas around my territory. To my north was Yuan Shao & Kong Rong, the latter not holding any farmland of note. To my west was Yuan Shu, a faction of similar strength to my own, too powerful for now as I was looking for an easier target to alleviate my woes quickly. To the south was Wang Lang on the north bank of the Yangtze river and Sun Jian on the south bank. Sun Jian was, according to the diplomatic menu of superior strength to my own.
My options were limited. It seemed that gaining control over the farmland belonging to Wang Lang seemed to be the most likely route to solving my problem. I was in a position to take the same approach as I had with Tao Qian many turns before. I delivered my ultimatum; Unity or War. To my surprise, Wang Lang opted for war despite my obvious advantage. I guess the lack of a vengeful Cao Cao bearing down on him meant he was more optimistic about his chances than he should have been. He didn’t live to regret his choice for long. Within a few turns I had achieved my objectives and completely annihilated Wang Lang and his faction; the vital farmland was secured. It wouldn’t be enough for very long but it was a big step in the right direction. Easing my immediate problems. If nothing else, struggling with food production is very accurate to the historical time period as famines were common at this time amongst the chaos of war.
It was time to reevaluate my situation. Yuan Shao had refused my call to arms, choosing instead to start his own war with Kong Rong. Kong Rong had been the most supportive of the factions I was friendly with so this war with Yuan Shao was not to my liking at all. If Kong Rong was defeated it would mean that Yuan Shao would be the only faction on my northern border. With a large section of the Yangtze river forming my southern border, the potential for conflict with Sun Jian had increased dramatically. I faced being sandwiched between the two. A situation that could prove fateful for my ambition to unify China if I don’t navigate my way through it carefully.