Total War: Three Kingdoms – Getting Started as the Han Empire

Preface + Required Mods

Preface The game does not want you to survive, you are designed to act like the Rebels in Rome 1 and Medieval 2, and act as settlements for major factions and the player to gobble up for expansion. This is contrary to Rome 2 and Attila, where every province was occupied by some minor faction. 

This is a getting started guide as opposed to a full campaign guide as I haven’t yet finished my Han campaign.

My difficulty settings for my current campaign are N/L as I don’t play legendary campaigns until I have won a campaign as said faction on normal first. However I always use legendary difficulty in battles.

You might not survive the first time you try this campaign, if you’ve ever played as the Rebels in Rome 1 you know what I’m talking about, if you haven’t, this campaign takes multiple attempts to figure out, guide nonwithstanding. 

Steam Mods Required:

All Factions Playable
All Factions Playable — Rebalance pack

Starting Situation

You’re losing 6000 a turn due to all your armies + lack of development

While you have towns that are level 3 and 4, all of the minor settlements you own are level 1, meaning you aren’t making much from the economy and should you be attacked (more on that later), you’ll have tiny garrisons to defend with. 

You’re enemies with all those factions in red, most of your enemies are in the Northeast but there’s one exception, Sun Jian. He warrants his own chapter.

Your armies are mostly stuff like this, a level 1 general with two units of Ji Militia or Sabre Militia, sometimes with an extra two Archer Militia, they won’t be able to stand up to the starting armies of major factions like Cao Cao and Gongsun Zan.

Turn #1

Since you’ll be losing the Northeast, let’s kill two birds with one stone, solve your money problems and screw all these major powers out of expansion room. You can’t raise taxes because of your status as Imperial Holdings, so lets fix that.


Demolish all the buildings north of Kong Zhou and He Yi – first the buildings in the cities then the cities themselves (because otherwise you won’t get the money from the demolished buildings) – in the Northeast except for the commandery highlighted, Donghai, as it’s protected on all sides by friendly powers. You don’t have time to wait, you need to remove these provinces this turn if possible. If you find any minor provinces, demolish them aswell. I chose to leave the city of Henei undemolished since I may be able to hold on to it, even if its for a few turns. Do not demolish anything west of Liu Biao, all that land is safe.

Your end result should look like this, you now have 12k (ymmv, I made the mistake of demolishing cities without demolishing the buildings first), and you’re losing 7k a turn now. 


Go into the diplomacy menu and start selling off the land to peaceful factions. Its not hard to figure out who you are at peace with since the people you are at war with you can’t even speak to. You cannot sell land to a lord who isn’t adjacent to it. So if you wanted to sell of Chen, which is south of Cao Cao, and you wanted Dong Zhuo to own it, you’d need to give him all the land to the west of it first. But don’t give anyone anything, sell it all off for 10 turn money deals. I recommend Dong Zhuo as he has a 0.3 starting price, meaning you can make much more off him than any other lord. 

Despite really wanting to give the Dong all your scorched earth land, you can only give Luoyang at first, so start with that.

Look at that, you sold a lumberyard that’s level 1 and located right next to Yuan Shu (who will most likely take said lumber yard next turn) for 840 coins! 

In many places, the one non-enemy you have there is the person you sell your land to. Destroyed land is equal in value to a built up city, so why not scorch the earth? Plus, it makes these minor factions who currently are at peace with everyone more powerful than the likes of Yuan Shao. You are setting up a long term plan here, the major factions have the potential to wipe you out if left unchecked, the minor factions simply aren’t as powerful because they don’t have those legendary units and unique faction mechanics. No Gao Gan vassal hordes. Liu Biao is the exception for major factions you should boost, he is a Han loyalist forever, he will be your shield against the north. 

The starting armies will not attack land that they are at peace with, meaning if a faction was nomadic and you sold off the land they’d take (like Zheng Jiang), they will walk towards the nearest enemy territory. You’ve locked the AI out of expansion. This compiled with the minor factions large expansion means that many, normally big, factions would now be limited to one province. 

You can’t sell the land between Han Fu and Gongsun Zan, due to having nobody to sell it to, sadly. 

The result of my deals; Gongsun Du owns the land pressing him up against Gongsun Zan, Gao Gan owns all the land that Zheng Jiang would normally take, leaving her in a nomadic state, Dong Zhuo has expanded far east of his start and Tao Qian now owns the Langye peninsula. You can sell off the land I sold to Dong Zhuo to Liu Biao if you want, or even to a minor faction. I sold one piece of land to Liu Biao since he is part of a long term strategy.

I did not sell the Chen commandery farmland as I have future plans for it; it will be the bulwark where I shall combine local garrisons to fight against Cao Cao before he can blob up. 

And look at that! You’re in the green now for 10 turns. However we can fix that and make it permanent green

Optional bonus tip:

Take the army that’s to the east of Dong Iron mine, which you should recognize from a Liu Bei campaign, and conquer that mine. Do the “loot and occupy” option, then delete the units and finally recall the retinue, and sell the mine to Tao Qian, who is not at war with Liu Bei. Due to his AI, he’ll be stuck homeless now. That’s what you get for being idealistic. 


Before you do that, there are a couple armies you should encamp or move (the following screenshots were taken after Step 5 thus the large amount of money coming in per turn); 

If you combine these armies, Yuan Shao will have a tough fight on his hands; if you can press him back, great. Plus its not like you will hold this land anyways so might as well. 

These will be the armies that act as a bulwark against Cao Cao. 

Don’t disband Taishi Chi’s force, keep him for future ambushes. Also don’t disband the forces to the southwest of Dong Zhuo, you’ll need them for future mustering against Gong Du. 

You’ve got alot of armies in the North that are now homeless. They have no purpose for existing since they will just get killed. Start by deleting the units, then recall the retinue. The Han have a intended feature where characters with no retinue have 0 upkeep. You won’t survive any of those starting battles in the North anyways, so delete all those retinues you see that are in the zone of control of enemy starting armies, and during the end turn sequence, you might lose characters, they might retreat, eitherway you’ll be saving money. Disbanded men don’t have paychecks afterall.
The other reason why you disband all those units is because if you raise these generals again, since they don’t have retinues they will cost nothing. Besides, you want to create a organized army comprised of units that are relevant to each general’s type. You don’t need cavalry for a strategist, afterall. There are armies that border barren land in the South, delete their units, you need the generals for colonization. 

Example army being deleted, one unit at a time, with general being recalled last.

Step #4 – TRADE TIME:

As you can tell by the Quick Deal, there are alot of people who would like to trade with the Han. So who do I recommend? Dong Zhuo, of course, because you can get the best deal from him (starts at 0.3 afterall), and Liu Biao since he’s a major power. As for the other 9 agreements you can make (10 from Imperial Holdings 1 because 1 at start), my only recommendation is Shi Xie, King of Vietnam, since he’s peaceful and will never attack you. Gongsun Du is a good choice since he will probably expand, as is Han Sui. Anyone who is Peaceful is a good choice, the less wars you have to fight the better. 

You will now have a very large cash injection for the next 10 turns. I recommend saving the money until next turn, since you will need to muster two full retinues to march on Sun Jian. After that, build up the southlands with new buildings in each commandery. In my current campaign I bought one building upgrade in each commandery and used the rest of the money to colonize the barren lands. 

Turn #1 – ODDS AND ENDS:

If you can sell off non-aggression pacts, do it. You might be able to earn another 1000 from these 10 a turn deals. Han Sui and Liu Biao both want non-aggression pacts with me, so I sold them off to them. Don’t pay for a non-aggression pact, even if it says maybe, its unlikely these minor factions will declare war on the strongest power at game’s start, and if you build up the south, you’ll stay the strongest. 

You have a few legendary generals, Taishi Chi, Xu Huang and Xun You. Taishi Chi can slay other generals with his amazing bow. Xu Huang should lead the forces in the west against Gong Du. If you want to, sell the city of Donglai, recall Taishi Chi, and use him in Turn 2 for the march on Sun Jian. 

I recommend making Taishi Chi your heir, not immediately because you need to save the money. 

You have the choice of either saving your large 10 turn income or spending it per turn on building upgrades; I saved it for colonizing land so I could colonize everything asap.

Move all those generals on the border with barren land towards barren settlements. I chose the minor provinces before the big settlements, meaning 4k per colony as opposed to 8k, and then took the barren cities one at a time, 8k a turn. That way I was colonizing alot more early on, meaning more money coming in as those level 0 settlements become level 1. 

As for the cities in the north that you couldn’t sell, build the 0 coin tax office, it’ll ♥ off the population and also make you a little on the side.


The end turn sequence will feature alot of starting armies versus single generals. Retreat the ones you can and recall them next turn. Try to defeat Yuan Shao’s army, if you can’t, its fine, if you can, then its just another victory for you. You should have a encamped army ready to face Gong Du. If you can’t win, its fine, Xu Huang will march on him in time. You have a army that is gathering to face Cao Cao, hopefully you can defeat him in your settlement defense of Chen farmland. 

There is one army, one general, one lord you must defeat, however drum roll.

Here Comes the Sun

Combine your armies that are near him in Turn 1, so that when he attacks you might be able to push him off. If he succeeds you must defeat him at the trade port. If he wins at the trade port, the whole campaign is now over since he will just pull armies out of his *** and run across the map going “ha ha you can’t catch the Sun I’m going to eat up all your land now”. 

Unlike every other major faction, Sun Jian starts in the South. The rest of the major factions are have Liu Biao blocking them from the Han heartland, and they are all busy fighting eachother to expand south. But Sun Jian has no neighbors. Sure he has Liu Biao’s vassals a province to the north, but if left unchecked, he will expand in all directions. In all my failed attempts, he expanded eastwards towards the barren lands that weren’t colonized. He can grow to take up all of your land, and since most of your garrisons are 6 units at best, and he has three generals and 18 units, your best case scenario is a wild goose chase across the South (even if you muster full retinues, you have to predict where he’s going) with him only getting more armies as you knock one down.

You must wipe him out by turn 4. Or he will send armies to the east and just as you kill one off you’ll have lost a few territories, territories which have garrisons that pose a threat to you since you are stuck with terrible milita units and he has his legendary prowess and mercenaries. Remember most of your generals are level 1 or 2, they can’t recruit anything beyond Ji Milita, Archer Milita, Sabre Militia and light cav. 

The strategy for wiping him out requires that you don’t spend money Turn 1, and on Turn 2 you immediately muster 2 full stacks in the Changsha Armor Craftsman. You’ll lose about 2000 a turn income, but there’s no other option. Turn 3 you march from the craftsman to Changsha, you might face a newly recruited army there, destroy it before he musters more. Bring a strategist with one or two trebuchets, I bought Mao Jie from the character pool and used him. That battle against the new army might result in bringing in the Changsha garrison; if so, good, destroy everything you can. Turn 4 you attack Changsha and with two full stacks you should be able to autoresolve the battle. A close victory is all you need. I chose to fight the battles manually since I have a grudge against Sun Jian since he’s been responsible for all my defeats, also because there’s something satisfied about cooked southerner.

Helena Stamatina
About Helena Stamatina 3012 Articles
I love two things in life, games and sports. Although sports were my earliest interest, it was video games that got me completely addicted (in a good way). My first game was Crash Bandicoot (PS1) from the legendary studio Naughty Dog back in 1996. I turned my passion for gaming into a job back in 2019 when I transformed my geek blog (Re-actor) into the gaming website it is today.

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