Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven is the latest expansion for Creative Assembly’s massive strategy game set during the Han Dynasty’s fall. The Yellow Turban Rebellion has engulfed all of China, and it’s up to you to weather the storm as the Han or aid the peasant rabble in establishing a new rule under a Divine Empire.
Our Mandate of Heaven guides and features hub covers multiple factions to help you throughout the brewing conflict and the rest of your campaign. We also have a lot of information about Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign and core mechanics. You can read more about them here.
Note: These guides and features were completed while playing Romance Mode on very hard (VH/VH) difficulty.
Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven guides and features hub
Official review – Mandate of Heaven promises a lot in store for Total War: Three Kingdoms fans, but does it deliver?
Liu Hong and the Han Empire guide – The Han Emperor has to contend with corrupt eunuchs and power blocs, all while ensuring that the Han Dynasty does not collapse.
Zhang Jue and the Yellow Turbans – As Zhang Jue and his brothers, you can command the peasantry to establish your hegemony. Will the people bow under Heaven and the Yellow Sky?
Mandate of Heaven: Han factions mini-guides
We also have several mini-guides featuring each of the factions that are part of Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign:
- Liu Chong – A scion of the Han Dynasty and the Prince of Chen.
- Liu Bei – A distant member of the imperial clan who starts Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign as a humble sandal maker just mustering a ragtag force.
- Cao Cao – The ambitious general and Hero of Chaos starts further in the south.
- Sun Jian – The leader of the Sun family starts next to Cao Cao and his dad which can lead to some conflicts.
- Dong Zhuo – The would-be tyrant is yet to gain notoriety (and weight), but he’ll have several important events to help him consolidate power.
- Lu Zhi – This famous scholar collects books for his Great Library.
Mandate of Heaven: General mechanics overview
There are some additional concepts worth discussing in general if you’re playing as any of the Han lords as they’ll share most of these mechanics and outcomes:
- The Mandate War – On turn 8, the Mandate War/Yellow Turban Rebellion begins in earnest. The Han Empire (and all imperial subjects) will be locked in a struggle against the Yellow Turban forces. Members of each grand alliance will automatically reinforce comrades in battles and there are diplomatic boosts as well.
- Victory conditions – The main goal in Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign is to extinguish the Yellow Turban threat by eliminating the three Zhang brothers. After that, you may also continue onwards by increasing your rank/prestige and becoming a King/Emperor in your own right. You’ll attain an ultimate campaign victory by eliminating all the remaining pretender emperors much like in Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign.
- Imperial subjects: Declare feud – As an imperial subject under the Han Emperor, you can only conduct “feuds” against other Han lords. Other leaders will not get involved, though the emperor may force the infighting to stop.
- Imperial subjects: Income – Imperial subjects will also offer 80% of their income to the Han Emperor, but the empire’s wealth is pooled collectively and distributed among lords.
- Independence – You may choose to leave the Han Empire at any point in time, though this will lead to a diplomatic malus as well as the potential for other lords to attack you with impunity — no longer “feuds,” but actual “wars.” Becoming independent due to the empire’s dissolution will happen automatically due to an important event chain (mentioned below).
- Fervor – Fervor is a mechanic that spreads throughout the countryside due to the presence of Yellow Turban armies as well as adjacent commanderies that have high Fervor. Since Fervor impacts public order, you’ll see a snowball effect where Yellow Turban rebel stacks will start mustering everywhere. Other AI-controlled lords will also have a tough time dealing with this mechanic leading Fervor to spread further. As such, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve got a backup army that can play “whack-a-mole” with these rebels (including those in allied lands and adjacent territories). Likewise, you should be constructing buildings that lower Fervor (Military Infrastructure, Grain Storage, and Confucian Temples).
The Fall of the Han and the post-campaign experience
The most important event chain in Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven is the death of Liu Hong. This happens on turn 34 (Harvest 189 CE) and is unavoidable when playing as any other faction besides his. This event chain will lead to the following results:
- He Jin will be killed by the eunuchs.
- Empress He will gain regency of the faction only to lose it to Dong Zhuo.
- Dong Zhuo will take control of Liu Hong’s faction and puppet the young emperor (Liu Xie). He’ll also vassalize the unplayable/NPC Han Empire.
- Dong Zhuo will dissolve the empire government type. This will make all other Han lords independent and be able to go to war or form coalitions/alliances with one another. Basically, it’s going to be a free-for-all.
Note: By turn 36, this event chain will be complete. However, there’s a chance that it can bug out. Make sure to have a save prior to turn 34 so you can always reload if the bug occurs.
Controlling the Han Emperor
Although Dong Zhuo has control of Luoyang and Liu Xie, his capital still remains in Shoufang all the way to the northwest. Capturing Shoufang will lead to the following results:
- You’ll be able to puppet Liu Xie (the child emperor).
- The Han Empire will become your vassal as well and you can annex its settlements at a cost.
- You’ll issue ultimatums to those at war with the Han Empire; anyone who declines will be at war with you.
Once you have control of Liu Xie, he may also escape your clutches and join another warlord if your prestige isn’t high enough. If a full year (five turns) elapses since you’ve obtained him, you’ll be presented with a dilemma with the following choices:
- Prime Minister of the Han – Keep controlling the puppet emperor and you’ll get +50 prestige, +10 officer satisfaction, +10% peasantry income, and -20 diplomatic relations with all factions. The dilemma is presented again every 15 turns.
- Banish the Emperor – +100 prestige, -5 public order (faction-wide), -25 diplomatic relations with all Han factions, and -40 diplomatic attitude penalty (ie. Untrustworthy).
- Execute the Emperor – +150 prestige, -10 public order (faction-wide), -50 diplomatic relations with all Han factions, and -40 diplomatic attitude penalty (ie. Untrustworthy).
Note: The above mechanic becomes moot once you attain the rank of King. The Han Emperor will abdicate and the strongest lords will declare themselves emperors. This is akin to the ultimate victory for Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign.
Coalitions, Alliances, and Empires
Once Dong Zhuo dissolves the empire government type, Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign becomes a free-for-all. However, it’s quite unlike Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign which had the Anti-Dong Zhuo Coalition. This type of fixed outcome has never happened in my playthroughs at all.
As such, you’ll simply end up forming various coalitions and alliances with other independent lords. It can lead to extremely weird power blocs such as Dong Zhuo leading a “Coalition to Fight Tyrants” that has Cao Cao, Sun Jian, and Kong Rong.
Later, you may propose a vote among members to turn your coalition/alliance into an empire. This will give you the court positions similar to Liu Hong’s government. You can also do this by capturing one of the “pretender” capitals. It’s even possible to form a “Divine Empire” as the Yellow Turbans as seen below:
I’ve only noticed a handful of events that can occur for a majority of the Han factions:
- The Liang Rebellion – This event happens on turn 10. A warlord named Beigong Boyu will declare war. Ma Teng and Han Sui, though they joined this rebellion historically, will remain neutral in Mandate of Heaven.
- Kong Rong goes to Beihai – Around turn 20, Kong Rong will leave Liu Hong’s service and establish his domains in Beihai.
- Yuan Shao asks for Ye – Around turn 28, Yuan Shao will ask the owner of Ye to give up the city. Even if you defeat his army, he has a habit of returning to make the same request.
- Zhang Yan appears in 185 CE and Zheng Jiang in 190 CE – They’ll both terrorize the northern mountains near Xihe and Taiyuan commanderies.
- Dong Zhuo and Ding Yuan – The portly tyrant will take over Ding Yuan’s lands around turn 30-31.
- Lu Bu demands a city – Roughly around turn 35+ Lu Bu may appear as a free officer in your court and you’re able to employ him. He’ll always demand a city no matter his loyalty level or court position (this also happens if you don’t recruit him). Declining his demand leads to war, though you can crush him immediately. Like Yuan Shao, however, he has a habit of returning to make the same demand.
- Yuan Shu – Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ own Mannfred von Carstein will declare himself as emperor around turn 64. He may ask you for your support in succeeding turns.
- Jia Xu – Around turn 66, Jia Xu will leave his faction and join the lord with the highest prestige.
- Sun Jian and Sun Ce – Sun Jian will die due to an event in 191 CE. Sun Ce will die as well in 200 CE. This is prevented if you’re controlling their faction or if you managed to recruit/annex them. This is part of Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign.
- Zhou Yu – Zhou Yu will join the faction that has Sun Ce around turn 72. This is part of Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign.
- I haven’t seen any events specifically added by Mandate of Heaven after the Mandate War has ended. I was also unable to spot characters such as Gan Ning or Diaochan despite waiting for several turns past their nominal spawn time. Likewise, there’s no event chain that leads to the assassination of Dong Zhuo.
Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven is available now via Steam.