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Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven: Liu Hong and the Han Empire

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I. Mandate of Heaven: Liu Hong faction mechanics overview

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Liu Hong’s victory conditions

To win the campaign in Total War: Three KingdomsMandate of Heaven, you’ll have to eliminate the three Yellow Turban brothers: Zhang Jue, Zhang Liang, and Zhang Bao. On turn 8, the Mandate War/Yellow Turban Rebellion occurs and more hostile lords appear. The Zhang brothers, though, should be your main focus.

Note: You’ll lose Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign if the Yellow Turbans capture 50 settlements or if the capital Luoyang falls.

Liu Hong guide - Total War Three Kingdoms Mandate of Heaven - faction overview

Unique units: Imperial Army

Liu Hong, his wife Empress He, and the eunuch attendants cannot be deployed in battle and they can only have court positions or assignments. Oddly enough, their skill trees have “battle-type” perks, so just avoid these.

You have imperial army units under the command of He Jin (the empress’ brother) and two battle captains. Imperial Army units encompass almost all varieties (spearmen, swordsmen, archers, melee cavalry, and shock cavalry), and they gain buffs if another imperial army unit is nearby. Likewise, the ones you start out with in Mandate of Heaven have low upkeep and are already level 10.

The downside is that these elite troops don’t replenish normally. You may recruit imperial army units after unlocking certain high-end reforms late in the game:

  • Hierarchical Enfeoffments (red) – imperial lancer cavalry
  • Feudal Magnates (green) – imperial gate guards
  • Silk Road Expeditions (blue) – imperial palace cavalry, imperial palace crossbowmen
  • State Blast Furnaces (purple) – imperial sword guard
  • Mandate of Heaven (yellow) – imperial household cavalry

Note: If your troops incur losses, you can replenish at the capital Luoyang. Just make sure that you’ve got a high population, extra food, military supplies, and an officer assigned to increase replenishment. This will let your troops fully heal in a few turns.

Moh Lh Imperial Army Units Merge

Mandate of Heaven: Liu Hong’s court Factions

Unique to Liu Hong’s “Empire” government type are court factions, the faction influence mechanic, and numerous ministerial positions that are unlocked at the start of Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign. There are also five higher ministerial positions (ie. Chancellor, Grand Excellency of Works). It’s like having five Prime Minister ranks.

As for the three factions — Bureaucrats, Dynasts, and Warlords — they have their own bonuses (and penalties) that are activated when you reach certain levels of faction influence. Similarly, the officers you encounter will have symbols on their nameplates representing the faction they support. Assigning them to a court position adds influence towards their chosen faction:

  • “somewhat supports faction” = +1
  • “supports faction” = +2
  • “strongly supports faction” = +3

Here’s how faction support for each position is calculated:

  • Regular ministers – default level depending on the officer’s support — ie. +3 Warlords support.
  • Prime minister/grand minister – tripled bonuses — ie. +3 Warlords support (from the officer) and another +6 (from the position).
  • Administrators – default level (even if not shown by the tooltip) — ie. +3 Warlords support.
  • Emperor – automatically provides +5 Dynasty faction support — counts as “+5 from characters.”
  • Heir – no bonuses to faction support regardless of being a child or adult.
  • Eunuchs – +3 to Bureaucrats just for being part of your roster; that’s a whopping +39 at the start of the game.

Liu Hong guide - Total War Three Kingdoms Mandate of Heaven - court 1

Bureaucrats Faction

Historically, the Han Empire was mired in corruption thanks to the eunuchs. The Bureaucrats faction (green) is evidence of that. Here are the pros and cons (mostly cons) of the Bureaucrats faction:

  • Pros – increase in character experience gains
  • Cons – reduction in the number of trade agreements; penalty to construction time, construction costs, and recruitment costs

Needless to say, you do not want to focus on the Bureaucrats. Starting Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign even shows you that they have “overwhelming” faction support, so much so that you’ll go bankrupt if you don’t start getting rid of the eunuchs.

Note: There’s also a hidden effect when you remove eunuchs from your roster: This will also increase your income generation while slightly lowering your food. Just have farms and trade deals, or increase your taxes to offset this problem.

Dynasts Faction

There are officers who support the ruling Han Dynasty symbolized by a red dragon on their nameplates:

  • Pros – increased number of armies allowed and assignment slots; additional levels for newly-recruited generals; allows you to annex the settlements of imperial subjects at “high” level onwards
  • Cons – reduced diplomatic relations with all factions at “high” level onwards

Annexation for imperial subjects can be done one settlement at a time using a small amount of political influence. Likewise, you could opt to annex the entirety of a subject’s faction for 400 political influence. Both actions confer a diplomatic malus (ie. Untrustworthy/Treacherous), so it’s actually better to amass more political influence to annex an entire faction than doing piece-by-piece landgrabs.

Warlords Faction

Symbolized by weapons emblazoned on a blue sphere, officers who support the Warlords faction confer amazing bonuses:

  • Pros – increased number of trade agreements and income gained from all sources; increased replenishment for you and allied factions; allows you to mark war coordination targets at “high” level onwards
  • Cons – reduced officer satisfaction (loyalty) at “high” level onwards

The Warlords faction, bar none, is the best choice while starting out in your Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign. By default, you can already field several armies as the Han Emperor, so you wouldn’t need the extra army perks from the Dynasty faction. You also wouldn’t need the ability to annex your imperial subjects (yet). What you’ll need, though, would be the extra cash from trade agreements and income, and you also want that sweet troop replenishment.

Note 1: As for the war coordination targets with imperial subjects, this mechanic is currently bugged.

Note 2: In Mandate of Heaven, you’ll encounter very rare events that can change faction influence (ie. eunuchs ask for support). However, this is also bugged at the moment and no change will occur.

Note 3: It’s not possible to “flip” or level-up an officer’s support for a faction. As such, you may encounter some officers who have amazing bonuses but they also permanently support the Bureaucrats faction. Unless their perks offset the penalties, you should really avoid placing them in ministerial positions (ie. Liu Chong, Liu Bei, or Lu Bu).

Liu Hong guide - Total War Three Kingdoms Mandate of Heaven - court 2

Mandate of Heaven: Liu Hong’s political Influence

Another major concept you’d want to master when playing as Liu Hong in Mandate of Heaven is political influence. This unique resource is symbolized by a thin bar with a handshake icon on your campaign screen. Political influence can be gained via the following:

  • Administration Office building chain – The Magistrate/Secretariat chain provides massive boosts.
  • Reward Officials assignment – Only available to Liu Hong, this assignment adds +10 political influence and increases experience gains (faction-wide) at the cost of public order (local commandery) and food; it lasts 15 turns.
  • Random events – I’ve only noticed one or two of these appear early on in Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign.

Moh Lh Admin Building

Political influence is used to reform your government and court, as well as the annexation of the lands of imperial subjects. You spend 25 political influence to kick people from the positions they hold or from your roster completely.

For eunuchs and lowly/generic officers that have ministerial positions, it’s better to use “Release from service” instead of “Remove from office” or “Banish.” Releasing someone from your service kicks them out of your roster without worries. The other two commands still keep them in your roster and you’ll even incur a penalty to corruption and officer satisfaction.

Note: The “Request Aid” option can also be used. It gives you extra gold and lowers that officer’s loyalty (and they’ll leave your faction soon enough). This mechanic can be a little too “gamey,” however.

Moh Lh Annex Sample 1

Liu Hong: Diplomacy with Imperial subjects

As mentioned earlier, Mandate of Heaven has Liu Hong starting with the “Empire” government type. You’ve got dozens of lords who are considered as imperial subjects. If they remain your imperial subjects when the Mandate War hits, they’ll be locked in the conflict. You also pool together resources among imperial subjects to be distributed in kind.

  • If a subject is fairly rich, you’ll gain more from tributes compared to what you’re paying them.
  • Imperial subjects locked in an Alliance War/Mandate War will automatically reinforce you in battles.
  • Since everyone’s buddied up in a major war, there’s no risk of an imperial subject attacking a fellow ally (or the Han Empire) via the “Declare a feud” option.
  • As mentioned above, imperial subjects can have their settlements annexed for 20 political influence. If you wish to annex their entire faction, you need 400 political influence.

Moh Lh Annex Example

Family feuds and mandated powers

While we’re on the subject of, uh, imperial subjects, we could also talk about feuds and mandated powers. Feuds are, for the most part, just a regular declaration of war. The differences are:

  • Only imperial subjects can declare this against one of their kind — ie. Liu Chong vs. Yuan Shu, or Cao Cao vs. Sun Jian.
  • Other imperial subjects won’t bother with the fight, but there will be a small diplomatic malus.
  • The Han Emperor may call for the feud to end.

“Mandated powers” is a diplomatic proposal that you can find under the alliances bracket. Its tooltip says that it lets you have “direct control during an emergent crisis.” You won’t ever bother with this. Once the Yellow Turban Rebellion/Mandate War starts, emergency powers will be granted to you automatically.

Lastly, you’ve got proposals such as “expel from empire,” “annex,” and “dissolve empire.” The first two have been mentioned above, and the third one is something you’ll want to avoid accidentally pressing as Liu Hong. It’ll turn the campaign into a free-for-all which leads to multiple wars happening. Then again, this is actually part of a Mandate of Heaven event chain down the line.

Moh Diplomacy

Knowing all of these concepts, how exactly will you start your Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven campaign? Well, read more to find out.

Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven is available now on Steam.

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Jason Rodriguez
Jason Rodriguez is a guides writer. Most of his work can be found on PC Invasion (around 3,400+ published articles). He's also written for IGN, GameSpot, Polygon, TechRaptor, Gameskinny, and more. He's also one of only five games journalists from the Philippines. Just kidding. There are definitely more around, but he doesn't know anyone. Mabuhay!