Now that you know about the unique mechanics for Liu Hong and the Han Empire, it’s time to see how the Mandate War develops. Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven will have you facing off against the Yellow Turban Rebellion and you’ll need to know about Liu Hong’s opening moves and how the conflict slowly engulfs the land. Our mini-guide explains these details.
Note: Many of Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven‘s core concepts have already been discussed in our previous articles, so check out our guides and features hub for more information. This guide was completed while playing Romance Mode on VH/VH difficulty.
II. Mandate of Heaven: Liu Hong’s opening moves
Liu Hong’s opening moves are extremely important in your Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven campaign since the Mandate War starts on turn 8. In the same vein, you’ll also notice how the Han Emperor starts with 100,000 gold. Sadly, his empire is slowly being bled dry by a lack of funds (Bureaucrats faction and the corruption of the eunuchs). As such, you’ll spend your initial turns lowering the faction support for the Bureaucrats and getting rid of eunuchs to avoid going bankrupt.
Note: As mentioned in our overview guide, you can just “Request Aid” to lower officer loyalty and have them eventually leave your service. But, it’d feel a little too “gamey.”
- Defeat Shen Shi’s army to gain your first few points of political influence. Note that you’re also gaining an extra +12 political influence from the Secretariat building in Luoyang.
- Capture Luoyang’s trade port to see more trade agreement options.
- Open your court panel and you’ll see that Mandate of Heaven‘s starting point is quite a mess due to the Bureaucrat faction’s influence.
- Release Cao Ding (Imperial Chancellor) from your service; replace him with He Jin.
- Give Yuan Shao and Empress He the vacant ministerial positions.
- Let the eunuch Zhang Gong become the administrator of Luoyang. Even if he’s a eunuch, he’s got top-notch bonuses as an administrator (including food generation).
- Assign Liu Hong to “Reward Officials” to gain extra political influence; Xing Zhang does “Agricultural Exploitation” and Dong Chong does “Supervise Construction.”
Note: Yuan Shao and Kong Rong are part of your roster at the start of Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign. However, I’d advise you not to buff them too much. This is related to various events and dilemmas later on.
Result: Reducing the Bureaucrats’ influence and raising support for the Warlords netted your first trade agreement. Propose one with the unplayable/NPC Han Empire since it has a lot of unique resources already. Ask for 8+ food and exchange a bit of gold since you have a lot of that anyway.
For the first turn, you just went from -6,600 GPT to -5,300 GPT. By the next turn, you’ll have some extra food to complete a quest and gain more income from the peasantry.
- Take the “Foreign Envoys” reform. Propose a trade agreement with anyone who’s got a unique resource (ie. Jade).
- Move He Jin closer to the Luoyang lumber yard.
- Release Chen Dan (Grand Excellency over the Masses) from your service. Replace him with Dong Chong (the same guy doing the “Supervise Construction” assignment).
- Removing Chen Dan and replacing him with Dong Chong gave us another trade agreement.
- You should be able to employ an officer who supports the Warlords or Dynasts factions (ie. Ren Qi). Place them in Dong Chong’s previous position.
- Move He Jin outside the borders of Luoyang’s lumber yard. The looters should’ve captured this by now. If not, reload an earlier save.
- Release Deng Sheng (Grand Commandant) and promote Yuan Shao to that position. This gives us another trade agreement.
- If in case you still can’t find a single unemployed Dynasts or Warlords supporter in your court, it’s probably better to restart your Mandate of Heaven campaign. In my case, I found Xun Yu wandering around and he’s an extremely important officer to have.
- Attack the looter army and capture Luoyang’s lumber yard to complete a quest.
- Release Zhang Wen (Grand Minister of Works) and promote Xun Yu to that position.
- Xun Yu lets you have an extra trade agreement if he has a Prime Minister rank. Likewise, the change in the Bureaucrats’ influence will net you another trade agreement.
- Move He Jin to Luoyang to complete a quest.
- Feng Fang does “Tax Collection” and Empress He does “Conscription.” The extra replenishment should heal casualties in He Jin’s imperial army.
- Upgrade Luoyang’s trade port.
- Liu Hong should level up now, so take the “Nobility” perk for another assignment slot. Have Lou Gui do “Oversee Mustering” since you’re about to deploy another army.
- It’s unlikely that you have any suitable Warlords supporters, so don’t fire Kong Rong just yet. Instead, use your political influence to fire any eunuch who’s getting paid a high salary (ie. Zhang Rang). Even if the tooltip doesn’t show it, eunuchs that are removed from your roster also increase your income at the cost of a bit of food.
- Take the “Sino-Roman Embassy” reform and propose another trade agreement. Don’t forget to squeeze your imperial subjects for additional deals like gold or food per turn.
- Fire another eunuch (ie. Zhang Zhong).
- Your income-generation should be in the green by now. Recruit Xun Yu’s retinue and add some troops. You could also attach Yu Jin or other non-eunuch generals to this force, or deploy them separately.
In my Mandate of Heaven campaign on the eve of the Yellow Turban Rebellion, I had seven trade agreements, six assignment slots, two out of six available armies, significant support for the Warlords and Dynasts factions, and dwindling support for the Bureaucrats. I haven’t even increased taxes yet.
Liu Hong: Moving forward from turn 8 to 80
Again, keep recruiting those Warlords and Dynasts supporters. You’ll keep removing more eunuchs and replacing some Bureaucrats-supporting ministers each turn. Remember to check if you’ve got additional trade agreements or assignment slots each turn.
In my Mandate of Heaven playthrough, I found a generic officer named Ma Anjin (when promoted to a prime minister position, she adds another trade agreement):
As for Kong Rong, he adds a whopping +9 support to the Bureaucrats faction. Still, the extra trade agreement and trade influence can be quite tasty to have. He will eventually leave your court around turn 22 anyway. Keep him around until then, or boot him out if there’s a suitable candidate who can take his place.
With a bit of luck due to the officers I’ve discovered, I had a whopping 11 trade agreements before Kong Rong left for Beihai:
Mandate of Heaven: The Liang Rebellion
Let’s talk for a bit about the Liang Rebellion. This was a revolt against the Han Empire led by Ma Teng, Han Sui, and Beigong Boyu.
In Mandate of Heaven, this happens on turn 10. Funnily enough, only Beigong Boyu will go to war against your empire once the event starts. He’ll be bottled up in the west (near Anding) and you don’t need to prioritize him until later. You wouldn’t even need non-aggression pacts with Ma Teng or Han Sui as it seems they’re not scripted to join the uprising.
Note: This is also a known bug and it might get fixed in due course.
Mandate of Heaven: The Mandate War/The Yellow Turban Rebellion
Of course, the crux of Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign is none other than the Yellow Turban Rebellion. On turn 8, this event will fire leading to a massive conflict that spans most of China. Here’s what you can expect:
- The Zhang brothers will amass troops in the northeast.
- He Yi will pop up near Yangzhou.
- Huang Shao pops up near Dong.
- Gong Du will be all the way to the west and he’ll hardly trouble you.
- A separate Yellow Turban faction will also appear in Youbeiping, slowly mustering more rebel troops near settlements. Defeated generals from the other Yellow Turban groups (ie. He Yi) may also end up as part of this faction.
As for your imperial subjects, they’ll become best pals with you once the Mandate War event fires. Since you’re all allied against the same foes, everyone should be a “yes man” by then. Start proposing military access and squeezing them for better deals (ie. food and gold per turn). Add your useless ancillaries like clay pigs and wooden fish to sweeten these deals.
Fervor as the “total war” continues
This was how things looked when the Mandate War occurred:
- I have 52,000 gold to spare.
- My GPT is in the green, allowing me to recruit more armies and retinues.
- He Jin’s army is replenishing in Luoyang.
- I used diplomatic deals for military access, being rewarded gold or food by my allies as well.
You’ll also notice “Fervor” accumulating in your cities. Fervor leads to a snowball or cascading effect. At higher levels of Fervor in a commandery, it’ll affect adjacent ones and lead to drops in public order. In turn, you’ll notice more and more Yellow Turban armies mustering in your surroundings that also increase Fervor. It’s a bit like playing “whack-a-mole.”
Note: Fervor will very slowly deplete by constructing certain building chains (Military Infrastructure, Grain Storage, Confucian Temples, and Tax Collection), as well as by defeating Yellow Turban armies.
In any case, recruit additional armies and retinues with the mountains of cash that you have. For the next couple of turns, move east until you’re at Yingchuan’s farmland. It’ll get besieged by Huang Shao and another rebel army. You should eliminate Huang Shao’s faction early in Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign.
Even in higher difficulties, the Yellow Turbans won’t pose too much of a threat in your Mandate of Heaven campaign. Still, some Han lords might incur a few losses in the north due to multiple rebel doomstacks.
In an earlier playthrough, I had to recruit an extra army to take out He Yi to the south. That took care of the immediate threat in the central heartlands. There are also times when Liu Chong and Yuan Shu will just double-team the poor guy and you can safely ignore him.
Liu Hong and the Han lords head north
As I continued Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign, I had He Jin move up north with another army in support. I just swooped in to pick up the pieces.
The Han lords who usually get beat up are Han Fu and Liu Yu. Liu Bei might get a bloody nose in some engagements, but he usually survives. On the off chance that he’s eliminated, you may even find him, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu as recruitable officers.
In several playthroughs, I was able to complete Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign at around turn 28 to 35. It might be possible to finish a lot sooner depending on how well you’ve prepared and if your allies can pull their own weight. He Jin’s high-level imperial units are a godsend, but you can’t risk losing these troops often. Well, not unless it’s to have a climactic and fitting end to Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign:
There are some additional events that’ll transpire as you go through Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign (such as the Han Emperor’s demise). Well, read more to find out.
Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven is available now on Steam.