Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven lets you choose Dong Zhuo, a would-be tyrant who tries to usurp the reins of power from the Han Emperor. This mini-guide covers Dong Zhuo’s faction mechanics, opening moves, dilemmas, events, and additional tips.
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.
Mandate of Heaven: Dong Zhuo’s faction mechanics overview
When Total War: Three Kingdoms released last year, there was one particular faction that truly captured what I wanted in an action-packed campaign. That was none other than Dong Zhuo’s. Aided by the mighty Lu Bu, you turned Chang’an into a meat grinder until the coalition arrayed against you fractured.
Dong Zhuo retains his unique mechanics, perks, and units in Mandate of Heaven. In fact, it seems the only thing he didn’t retain was his body fat. Once you get the ball rolling (and I don’t mean his belly), Dong Zhuo’s Mandate of Heaven campaign will be one of the easiest (and most fun) that you’ll play. Thanks to the Intimidation resource (+10 Intimidation per battle victory) and Coercion, you’ll be “fear-farming” the Yellow Turban rebels to earn more cash, territories, and ancillaries.
Dong Zhuo’s opening moves
- Defeat and capture Shen Shi.
- You don’t need to recruit additional troops for Dong Zhuo’s army. Dong Zhuo’s vanguard deployment and Xiliang Cavalry will make mincemeat of looter opponents.
- However, you should deploy a separate second army with cheap militia troops (ie. Li Ru’s).
- March to Shuofang’s horse pastures with Dong Zhuo.
- Upgrade Shoufang’s main settlement and build a Rural Tax Collector in Xihe’s vacant slot.
- Propose a trade agreement with any faction (ie. Wang Rui).
- Although the Han Empire isn’t available as a trading partner, for some reason, you could still get ridiculous deals if you use the Coercion command. Just be sure not to let your Intimidation resource get too low or it’ll affect public order and corruption.
- You won’t be able to reach the Shoufang’s horse pasture settlement yet (unless you were lucky enough to get an ancillary that increased campaign movement range).
- Move your backup army next to Shuofang’s animal tamer settlement.
- Take “Foreign Envoys” to get another trade agreement.
- Upgrade Xihe’s main settlement.
- Capture Shoufang’s horse pasture with Dong Zhuo.
- Move Li Ru’s army inside Shoufang’s animal tamer borders and switch to ambush stance.
- Try to look for decent officers such as Yu Jin, Lu Fan, etc.
- Use your extra Intimidation on the Han Empire again.
- March inside the borders of Shoufang’s animal tamer settlement with Dong Zhuo and make sure you’re within the looter army’s zone-of-control.
- Attack using Li Ru’s army for an easy victory.
- Capture Shoufang’s animal tamer settlement (which is undefended now).
- There should be another looter army that spawns here and you can annihilate it.
- Again, use the extra Intimidation on the Han Empire.
- You can have a third army available. Deploy this one in Xihe (have some spearmen and archers).
- You’re tasked with defeating two more looter armies or garrisons.
- Dong Zhuo also gets a mission to find Red Hare which requires you to have a character near Shoufang’s horse pastures. Move one of your armies there once the looter stragglers are taken care of.
- Make sure you’ll have 4,000 gold on your next turn (you can still ask the Han Empire for more).
- Niu Fu should come of age now.
- Take “Sino-Roman Embassy” and propose another trade agreement.
- Claim Shuofang’s salt mine by spending 4,000 gold. You should complete a mission to own an entire commandery.
- If you don’t have enough movement points to reach this area, that’s fine. You can complete this and the Red Hare mission by turn 8.
- Moving forward, our goal is to grab more animal tamer and horse pasture settlements to gain bonuses to cavalry recruitment/upkeep and reserves.
Mandate of Heaven: Dong Zhuo and the Mandate War
Although Mandate of Heaven‘s main conflict — the Mandate War or Yellow Turban Rebellion — starts on turn 8, you’ll hardly participate in it until much later in the game. You still have the looter remnants to deal with from turn 8-10.
There’s a large stack roaming north of Anding will besiege Shoufang’s horse pastures and you should be ready to take it out. A smaller stack will also besiege Xihe. Your garrison and the newly formed third army will be able to handle it.
On turn 10, the Liang Rebellion event led by Beigong Boyu will fire. Historically speaking, both Ma Teng and Han Sui joined this revolt which took place on the western fringes of the Han Empire. Dong Zhuo was one of the generals tasked to end the uprising.
The funny thing in Mandate of Heaven is that both Ma Teng and Han Sui will remain neutral (they don’t even have an alliance). As such, only Beigong Boyu will remain a threat. Beigong Boyu should spawn somewhere in Anding and he’ll capture a settlement. Go ahead and take him out.
Fear-farming rebels for Intimidation
The remaining Han lords will do most of the work during the Mandate War. But, if you truly wish to get your hands dirty, send the army at Xihe over the northern mountains. You should be able to attack Zhang Jue and his brothers. You might even gain a few cities (besiege them and wait for the other Han lords to reinforce).
You can also start “fear-farming” the Yellow Turbans. Since each victory gives you +10 Intimidation regardless of an army’s size, you can smack around the mustering stacks. Given that Mandate of Heaven‘s AI Han lords are inept when it comes to dealing with Fervor, you can use this to your advantage since they’ll just let rebels spawn often.
Towards the mid to late-game in Mandate of Heaven, construct Tax Collector buildings and increase your taxes, ensuring that more revolts happen in your lands. As long as you’re winning three battles each turn (+30 Intimidation), you can get additional advantageous trade deals via Coercion.
In my case, I used Yanmen, Anping, and Zhongshan as my farming grounds since it’s easy to go back and forth these territories:
Notable events, dilemmas, and bugs
Liu Hong asks for aid
On turn 11, Liu Hong will ask you for help. You have two choices and neither seems to have long-term effects:
- “Refuse aid” – -40 diplomatic relations with Liu Hong; relationship deteriorates greatly
- “Give aid” – -20 intimidation, +40 diplomatic relations with Liu Hong; relationship deepens
Time to pursue Lu Bu
Fast forward to turn 30, and you’ll be told that Ding Yuan has an adopted son named Lu Bu. On turn 31, you’ll have several choices on how to entice this mighty warrior:
- Offer 1,000 gold
- Change your mind
- Give Red Hare
Naturally, give Lu Bu the steed. That should lead us to turn 32 where you have two options:
- Adopt Lu Bu
- Reject Lu Bu
Both options will automatically let you confederate Ding Yuan’s faction. The difference, of course, is having mighty Lu Bu in your roster. Oh, you’ll also get several officers including Zhang Liao.
Anyway, Lu Bu will have extremely low loyalty, and he’ll likely leave your faction no matter how many times you attempt to promote him. In my case, I locked him down by making him Dong Zhuo’s heir. Look at that smile below. It’s just too bad that Lu Bu seems to have lost Red Hare along the way, but he does have a “red horse.”
Note 1: It’s possible to get Red Hare again if you reload a save prior to making the decision (turn 30-31), but it’s not always guaranteed.
Note 2: There’s also an event that happens on turn 47 where Lu Bu would automatically leave your faction and establish his domains in Yingchuan. This shouldn’t happen if he’s your heir.
The Death of the Emperor
You’ll have another important event chain from turn 34-37 in Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign. This event chain can also bug out (Dong Zhuo never takes over the emperor’s lands nor does he dismantle the empire). Make sure that you have a backup save and that you have a small army that can arrive at Luoyang by turn 36.
Here’s what will happen:
- Turn 34 – Emperor Liu Hong dies.
- Turn 35 – He Jin is assassinated by the eunuchs.
- Turn 36 – You’re asked to send a character over to Luoyang. Move your character there and this should complete the mission on the same turn. You will get a pop-up called “Killing the Eunuchs.” This is extremely important: If you don’t get this notification, the entire event chain can bug out and you’ll need to restart from an earlier save.
- Turn 37 – You’re now given a choice to make the child emperor Liu Xian your puppet (which is the historical route). Alternatively, you can let him go and end up losing -20 Intimidation. Not much of a choice there, eh?
Dong Zhuo will become the Imperial Chancellor while taking over Empress He’s faction. You’ll also have an additional army stationed in Luoyang. It’s filled with imperial troops similar to what He Jin led in Liu Hong’s campaign.
The Han Empire will become your vassal and the empire government type will be abolished. All the other Han lords are independent now. As such, you’ll need to form coalitions/alliances and offer vassalization to other leaders. The Coercion mechanic can still be used to aid you in these attempts.
Note: Empress He will still be part of your faction. Oddly enough, Liu Bian (Emperor Liu Hong’s heir) will come of age later on.
Zheng Jiang will also spawn as an emergent faction on turn 37. Since you obtained Taiyuan earlier, she’ll ask you for it. Declining leads to war.
I attempted to have her join our factions through marriage — combining “Coerce” and “Issue Ultimatum.” Sadly, she kept rejecting “nice guy” Dong Zhuo’s advances. The only other option to “Offer Marriage” will let go of Lu Bu (which we don’t want to happen). If her faction does get wiped out, she may end up in your court down the line.
There are also various events depicting Dong Zhuo’s tyranny, and you probably saw some of these in Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign. These events include executing a captured officer during a banquet, melting sacred statues, and opening the royal tombs.
Likewise, one year after you’ve captured the emperor, you’ll be presented with a choice of whether to keep him around, banish, or execute him. Retaining the emperor will present you with the same choices 15 turns later, and the emperor also has a chance of escaping if another lord has higher prestige than you do. This dilemma is the same for all Han lords who capture the emperor.
Wang Yun’s chain plot and Diaochan
Perhaps the one event Total War: Three Kingdoms players are looking forward to is the introduction of Diaochan. In the original campaign, Wang Yun’s chain plot led to the love triangle involving Dong Zhuo, Lu Bu, and Diaochan, and the tyrant’s assassination. This normally happens around 191 CE.
Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten this to work at all in Mandate of Heaven even after numerous reloads. The event doesn’t occur well past 192 CE which is when Dong Zhuo died historically. Oh well, at least you can still find Diaochan in custom battles and in the original campaign.
As you progress further in Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven, you could continue farming those Yellow Turban mustering stacks for the extra Intimidation. Be ready for unending warfare since the Han Empire will usually get attacked by random lords. Eventually, Chancellor Dong Zhuo will be king and all of China will bow to your rule.