In Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven, you can play as Sun Jian, the leader of the Sun family that would eventually dominate the Southlands. This mini-guide covers Sun Jian’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: Sun Jian’s faction mechanics overview
When I initially played Total War: Three Kingdoms last year, I considered Sun Jian’s campaign as the “easy/beginner’s mode” of the game since he was close to all the Southlands settlements that were ripe for the taking. In Mandate of Heaven, the same unique mechanics, units, and perks still apply. It’s even easier considering that you’re a lot closer to these deserted settlements. Establishing the Kingdom of Eastern Wu is akin to being on autopilot.
- Defeat and capture Shen Shi.
- Capture the main settlement in Jian’an.
- Don’t construct any buildings yet, but do have Cheng Pu go on assignment to “Oversee Construction.”
- Ignore officers with low satisfaction since our Heroism gains will fix that.
- Disband Han Dang’s army and Sun Jian’s mercenary units.
- Propose a trade agreement with Cao Song (get a decent ancillary as well if you can). This will also complete a mission on your next turn.
- Take “Foreign Envoys” and propose another trade agreement, this time with Liu Hong (the lord nearby, not the Han Emperor). Much later in the game, pick reforms that’ll lower character salary and corruption, as well as those that let you upgrade your farms.
- Anyway, you need to eliminate a looter army nearby. In my experience, the looter army usually runs away if (a) you’ve got a lot of units, or (b) it’s led by a Strategist. This will waste those precious early-game turns in Mandate of Heaven.
- After eliminating the looter army, you should still be able to claim the rice paddy in Jian’an. Upgrade it to complete a mission.
- Deploy a Strategist’s retinue if you can afford it (ie. the Shen Shi you captured was a strategist). Otherwise, get a second retinue on your next turn, preferably led by an officer who’s almost got “Fire Arrows” unlocked (Zhu Zhi, Lu Fan, or Yu Jin).
Note: Your next task is to eliminate three more looter armies. One of them should attack the lumber yard once you end your turn, but the garrison (and its defense towers) should manage.
- Upgrade Jian’an’s town settlement.
- The two remaining looter armies should be bearing down on the rice paddy. Defeat the looter army that’s marching to your settlement.
- The other looter army should get decimated by your garrison or, in some cases, the looter army you just defeated will also attack once you end your turn. This will complete the objective.
- The main looter army under Gong Shi will spawn and you’ll see that he owns Yuzhang’s copper mine nearby.
- Recruit units that’ll effectively counter that army (ie. spearmen vs. cav-heavy compositions; cavalry vs. archer-heavy squads).
- Move closer to the looter army and switch to ambush chance. You should get attacked after you end your turn.
Note: In battles, make sure to chase down routing units to inflict more casualties so you gain more Heroism. The slight increase in Heroism thresholds should boost officer satisfaction.
Turn 5 onwards:
- Mop up the remaining looter armies and capture Yuzhang’s copper mine.
- Try to save up on some gold to capture Dong’ou’s settlements. Doing so will block Liu Hong’s expansion (as long as you don’t give him military access). The trade port also lets you find more options for trade agreements.
- Later, you should take parts of Gaoliang to completely block Shi Xie; Nanhai’s four settlements should also be obtained to boost your economy.
- Speaking of your economy, that’ll be kept afloat by “food-for-gold” trade deals.
- Going back to Liu Hong, you should still have Sun Jian’s army. When you’re ready, declare a feud against him and take over his territories. The other Han lords wouldn’t care and you’ve got more prime real estate to focus on.
Note: The good thing about feuds is that they only confer a -1 diplomatic penalty against other Han leaders. Also, you could break your previous trade agreement with Liu Hong (after 10 turns have passed) and declare a feud immediately without a major diplomatic hit (ie. Untrustworthy).
Sun Jian’s prime real estate in the Southlands
What about Cao Cao, you ask? Well, after a dozen turns there’s a good chance that you haven’t spotted him yet. If you’ve played as Cao Cao in Mandate of Heaven, you’ll know that he starts just north of Sun Jian’s position. He could also confederate with his father Cao Song. However, under the AI’s control, it seems he’ll just try to look for deserted settlements to claim.
Without military access, it looks like he’ll never have his southern incursion. In my Mandate of Heaven playthrough, Cao Cao ended up marching all the way to Luoyang’s trade port since it was probably the only abandoned settlement that he could capture.
Mandate of Heaven: Sun Jian and… wait, what Mandate War?
Unfortunately, Sun Jian has quite a bland Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven experience once you’ve dealt with the looters. I mean, you won’t partake in the Mandate War/Yellow Turban Rebellion because you’re too far away. Here are some events that I noticed:
- There’s a “Mercantile Endeavors” event on turn 18, but the choices are simply “Invest” (+10% income from all sources and -15 public order for five turns) versus “Do nothing” (which leads to nothing).
- Lu Su, though he’s not a unique officer, comes of age on turn 32.
- Sun Ren/Sun Shang Xiang is born to Sun Jian and Lady Wu on turn 35. She’ll come of age once she’s 16 years old (roughly 80 turns).
- You may also experience events such as Sun Jian and Sun Ce almost dying, and Zhou Yu joining your faction (turn 70-72) because you have Sun Ce. These were part of Total War: Three Kingdoms‘ original campaign.
Regrettably, the biggest challenge in Sun Jian’s Mandate of Heaven campaign is simply being able to increase your Heroism. You’re not fighting any battles due to numerous unpopulated settlements, so officer loyalty levels would slowly plummet. You better pray that you end up with an ancillary that boosts officer satisfaction:
Most of your Heroism gains should come much later in Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign once Dong Zhuo dismantles the empire. By turn 30, you should prep at least two armies. On turn 36 with all lords becoming independent, you should quickly declare war on the Han Empire to capture their commanderies. You could also opt to form a coalition with Shi Xie (or just take him out).
Keep pushing forward to boost your Heroism while expanding your territory westwards. After that, you’ll just need to consolidate your forces, upgrade your holdings, and then form the Kingdom of Eastern Wu. Oh, and go farm some Yellow Turban rebels for extra Heroism while you’re at it.
Note: In theory and in practice, that’s what should happen. Unfortunately, I also encountered a strange bug several turns into Mandate of Heaven‘s campaign. Dong Zhuo never took control of the emperor’s faction, and he never dismantled the Han Empire. My only options were to continue declaring feuds against other Han lords or to leave the empire and fight everyone. Make sure you have a save before turn 34 so you can see if the event chain worked properly.