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Total War: THREE KINGDOMS Warlord Legends – Liu Bei

October 31 2018

By Grace Carroll

Disclaimer: All details included below are subject to change as development continues and should not be considered final.

In Total War: THREE KINGDOMS, players step into the shoes of one of 11 legendary warlords in an age of glorious conquest. Although the ultimate goal for each leader is the same – unite China under your banner and forge the next great dynasty – their preferred means, methods and individual objectives can differ greatly. Every warlord has their own unique personality, motivations and experience, which shape the way they play and the kind of conquest they favour.

With such a varied cast of personalities available, each campaign starts with an important choice: which of these heroes, villains, or murky-shades-of-grey types do you want to lead to glory?

For those unfamiliar with the setting, we’re going to use archetypes to explain exactly who’s who and why you’d want to play as them. These are names defined by gameplay mechanics and aren’t taken directly from the history books, but they should help you figure out which character/s best suit you.

Our next warlord is Liu Bei, Leader of the People.

Liu Bei, Leader of the People

  • Hero Class: Commander
  • Nickname: Virtuous Idealist

Who is he?

Liu Bei was born in 161CE in Zhuo County (Zhuo Commandery). Like Sun Jian, he grew up in a poor family, a member of the common class. Liu Bei lost his father when he was still a child. He was a descendant of Liu Zhen, a son of Liu Sheng and a grandson of Emperor Jing. From childhood, he was full of ambition and seemed destined for greatness. Empathetic with the common folk, he easily gained the people’s trust and support. This particular trait made him a feared adversary to his enemy Cao Cao.

Liu Bei is honest and kind to his friends, and well-liked by his companions. A modest and merciful warlord who cherishes his devoted followers, he is widely known as a benevolent and humane ruler, one who cares for his people and surrounds himself with great advisers. He is a brilliant politician and leader whose caring nature motivates powerful heroes to join his side and fight for his cause.

For Liu Bei, Dong Zhuo represents chaos, and he wants nothing more than to see corruption uprooted and the Han dynasty restored. The Liu family was only nominally attached to the Han, yet there are those who urge Liu Bei to save China from madness and restore the collapsing dynasty. Humble, virtuous and kind, Liu Bei is an inspiring presence, summoning strength from unlikely places, and forging unshakable bonds with those who follow him. Despite his common roots, the blood of ancient Han emperors flow through Liu Bei’s veins.


Even though Liu Bei hails from a dynasty of Emperors, he rose from humble beginnings, and does so in the campaign as well. Compared to the other warlords, his starting position is very fragile and insecure. He has no powerbase worth mentioning, though he does begin play with the most powerful army on the map.

Of all the warlords, he has the strongest bonds with his starting characters, his sworn brothers Zhang Fei and Guan Yu. Yet because of his lowly status, Liu Bei is only able to recruit one army at the start of the game. Only after he has established himself can he field more forces and effectively expand his territory. But to begin with at least, it’s safer to play Liu Bei with a low region count and focus on ensuring strong and prosperous governance.

Liu Bei’s strength is derived from those closest to him, so he must maintain unity and cohesion within his faction. Only by leading a tight-knit band of brothers will Liu Bei be able to emerge victorious from this conflict. Therefore, players will need to be doubly vigilant to ensure his followers are satisfied and happy. If he does so, Liu Bei will benefit from this unity with faster progression through the faction ranks and better government capabilities, such as fielding extra armies and assigning more governors.

Liu Bei is undoubtedly popular with the masses and, as long as he leads his faction, his militia units do not cost any upkeep. This makes it easy for him to maintain his forces, especially early on.

Due to his imperial ancestry, many see Liu Bei with more legitimacy than other faction leaders, which allows him to confederate with other warlords earlier than most factions. And, at the cost of some unity, he can claim territory under the control of the Han Empire without a fight.


Liu Bei considers his friends as his family. His initial bond with both Guan Yu and Zhang Fei is very strong. The three of them are sworn brothers, a connection between them that holds through thick and thin. Liu Bei benefits from these relationships early in the game (these characters gain buffs when fighting alongside each other in battle, for example).

It is said that Liu Bei met Guan Yu and Zhang Fei during his efforts to suppress the Yellow Turban Rebellion. The three shared a vision of peace across a unified China, and they swore brotherhood in the legendary Peach Garden Oath. This connection is mutually reinforcing.

The other major aspect of Liu Bei’s Guanxi is a general focus on relationships through his unity mechanic. Only happy characters will help to increase unity, and to keep characters happy, enabling them to forge relationships is vital.

Starting Position

Liu Bei starts in a small part of the Dong province with his brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. At this point, he doesn’t hold any territory – it’s just him and his brothers with a peasant militia army. Remnants of the Yellow Turban rebellion still surround him, so his initial challenge will be to break through these. As the Han Empire collapses, Liu Bei wants to save the dynasty by rooting out rebels and corruption. But first, he needs a power base in order to replenish and build his strength. You’ll have to deal with the local rebels and reinstate law and order. From there, his starting position implies various paths of expansion, the main routes being either south-east toward Langye, or westwards toward Luoyang.

Initial Dilemma

Early in a campaign, each playable warlord will face an initial dilemma after fulfilling certain prerequisite actions. These dilemmas will position the player at a fork in the road, marking a pivotal moment in that warlord’s story. One of the options available to you is a choice reflecting what happened in history, and the outcomes will follow the events of the period. The other lets you forge a tale of what might have been. Total War is all about giving players the freedom to create their own stories in some of the most exciting periods in human history, and these initial dilemmas epitomise that spirit.

Liu Bei’s early dilemma is about helping Tao Qian against Cao Cao. Tao Qian had allegedly killed Cao Cao’s father Cao Song, but Tao Qian of course denies this. In any case, it triggers conflict between Cao Cao and Tao Qian, where the latter seeks help from Liu Bei. The player can decide to join this conflict on the side of Tao Qian. This will mean a potentially difficult war against Cao Cao, but if the attack is repelled, he will have proven his worth and virtue. When Tao Qian dies (he is a rather old man already at the start of the game), his followers will offer to join Liu Bei, which will effectively confederate Tao Qian with Liu Bei.

Your mid-game aim is to acquire as much prestige as possible and disrupt the other key players from getting too big. When Liu Bei gains enough prestige, he able to raise additional armies, and here’s when you’ll start building your real powerbase. A confederation with Liu Biao’s faction after his death can also be a way to expand your empire even further.

However, with Liu Bei without a wife or children at the start of the game, you’ll also need to focus on building your dynasty and securing a suitable heir to continue your legacy. How will you get there? Will you aim to secure powerful diplomatic marriage? Or by marrying a loyal member of your court? Or will you skip marriage altogether and choose one of your sworn brothers to be your heir and have them lead Liu Bei’s faction after his death.

What kind of player is Liu Bei for?

Liu Bei is the choice of the confident, wise and modest ruler. Someone who cares about the people, understands their needs, wants to restore peace in the land and knows when an opportunity for victory shows up to make it so.

Further Reading

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 24, 31, 35, 37, 41, 42, 55, 65, 73, 80, 81, 83, 84, and 85
  • A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-230AD) by Rafe de Crespigny (Brill, 2007)
  • Kongming (

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