You’ve learned about the core mechanics for Zhang Jue and the Yellow Turbans, and you’ve also weathered the storm as the Han Empire’s armies marched towards your lands. Still, there are several events that you’ll experience as you continue with Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign. Although the Mandate War will be winding down, you could opt for the ultimate campaign victory and form the “Divine Empire” as Zhang Jue, uniting the Yellow Turban lords under one faction. Our mini-guide explains all of these including some notable events.
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.
III. Zhang Jue and the Yellow Turbans’ notable events
Many events and dilemmas will follow the same timeline that you’ll experience in a Han Empire playthrough with some key distinctions. You won’t have any control over Emperor Liu Hong’s death, and you won’t get events where Han ministers (Kong Rong and Yuan Shao) leave your court, though they’ll be juicy targets.
Here are some events you’ll spot while you’re playing as Zhang Jue and the Yellow Turbans:
- At turn 10, the Liang Rebellion occurs and the western edges of the Han Empire will become a battleground. That’s not your concern.
- Zhang Yan appears in Taiyuan’s mountain passes in 185 CE. He’ll be fighting Ding Yuan and there’s a chance that he’d leave you alone. He could also end up getting vassalized by the emperor which is hilarious.
- Dong Zhuo will assassinate Ding Yuan around turn 30-31, and he’ll obtain his lands.
- On turn 34 (Harvest 189 CE), Liu Hong will automatically die.
One event will be of importance since it’ll take place while you’re busy in the Central Plains. In 190 CE, Zheng Jiang will also spawn in Taiyuan. She’ll ask you to give her the settlement (if you own it).
Refusing to do so will lead to war. Make sure that you have an army waiting for her near the area prior to Spring 190 CE. Take her out on the same turn so that she doesn’t cause trouble behind your frontlines.
The Emperor’s death
Anyway, let’s go back to the main conflict in Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven. The next few turns after Liu Hong’s death on turn 34 will result in absolute chaos. First, He Jin gets killed by the eunuchs. Next turn, Empress He will become the regent. You’re also offered a peace treaty. Dong Zhuo will then capture the child emperor and he’ll control all of the empress’ lands. The Han Empire will also become his vassal.
If you accepted the peace treaty offered by Empress He, you’ll remain at war with Dong Zhuo but not with the Han Empire. Dong Zhuo also dismantles the imperial government type and all previous imperial subjects may now freely attack one another.
You can offer a peace treaty with these lords separately and they’ll gladly accept. Too bad you can’t get anything extra out of these deals.
Note: In my Mandate of Heaven playthroughs, I ended up executing Dong Zhuo when he invaded my lands (well before Liu Hong’s death). Strangely enough, the event chain still fired even with Dong Min as the faction leader.
Personally, I did find the later stages a little anti-climatic. After Liu Hong’s death and the empire’s fracturing, there were no other challenges left. Even Luoyang was almost undefended by the time I besieged it. After gaining control of the capital, I simply captured some additional settlements to win Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign.
Mandate of Heaven: Post-campaign experience
After finishing Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign and seeing the ending cinematic (which is similar to the one from the base game), I played some additional turns. I was waiting for something — anything — that made it feel as though Zhang Jue’s journey was unique. After all, you’re leading a socio-political upheaval using spirituality to gain the support of the masses. That sounds interesting, right? Sadly, I didn’t encounter any faction-specific events. As mentioned in our official review, I considered this quite a disappointment.
In a way, the post-campaign experience would be eerily similar to that of his subordinates. It’s playing whack-a-mole with the remaining Han lords as well as the buggy Yellow Turban rebels that keep popping up.
Emperor Zhang Jue and the Divine Empire
After capturing Luoyang and 50 settlements, and beating Mandate of Heaven‘s short campaign, I then took out Dong Zhuo’s/Dong Min’s faction, getting the event that says that the Han Emperor has abdicated.
Roughly 40 turns later (and a lot of smiting in the name of the Way of Peace), I attained the Enlightened rank. This is similar to reaching the “King” rank for Han Empire factions. Three Han warlords declared themselves as (false) emperors. It then becomes a race to capture the kingdom capitals that are marked on the map. In my playthrough, it was Shi Xie (expected), Jin Xuan (surprise), and Cao Cao (the “Wei in Wu”) who led the “Three Kingdoms.”
Fast forward and Zhang Bao, Zhang Jue’s wayward brother of all people, decided to become emperor. Zhang Bao had sneakily made his way towards Cao Cao’s capital. He managed to capture it and, during the next turn, he used the “Form Empire” diplomatic proposal. This is similar to Liu Hong’s empire government type. Here are two possible outcomes:
- If you accept this proposal, Zhang Jue will become an imperial subject of his brother. This means that you’ll end up with a massive 90% penalty due to tithes. That’ll lead to bankruptcy.
- If you decline this proposal, you’re automatically at war with your brother and anyone who joined his empire.
Needless to say, I decided to reload an earlier Mandate of Heaven save. I made sure that I reached Cao Cao’s capital before Zhang Bao did. I captured it and, lo and behold, my court transformed into one that’s similar to the Han Empire’s:
I also realized that I still had no way of annexing my fellow Yellow Turban rebels:
- Liu Hong’s faction support and political influence mechanics weren’t available for other factions, so you can’t use points for annexation.
- You can’t diplo-annex someone who isn’t your vassal.
- You can’t vassalize someone if they’re part of your alliance or empire.
- Oh, and you’re still tied to this Alliance War due to the Mandate War event that fired 80+ turns ago. Even if you sued for peace with other opponents, your own Yellow Turban pals will remain as part of that alliance.
So, here’s what I ended up doing:
- I used the “Form Empire” proposal. It was still available even though I already had the imperial court system.
- The Yellow Turban leaders agreed to it and I created the “Divine Empire.”
- I immediately dissolved the Divine Empire on the same turn.
- Next, I vassalized everyone by giving them lands, gold, and ancillaries. The only exception was the NPC Yellow Turban faction since they’ll never accept.
It took me half a dozen turns, but I finally annexed everyone. They were now part of the so-called Divine Empire’s court. Well, except for Pei Yuanshao. He’s in the game but he never popped up for recruitment. Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, some Yellow Turban leaders are married. I thought they didn’t have family mechanics at all. That was weird.
After several more turns (wiping out Shi Xie and Jin Xuan), I had almost all the settlements under Zhang Jue’s control. I moved further south and I discovered that the NPC Yellow Turban armies were just massing on Hainan Island. That’s another strange outcome.
That does it for our Mandate of Heaven guide for Zhang Jue and the Yellow Turbans. Go ransack the countryside as you slowly form your Divine Empire.