'Three Kingdoms' Is the Best 'Total War' Game in a Decade

I caught Guan Yu and Zhang Fei on a forest road. It was pure chance: my heir Cao Pi was marching to reinforce my beleaguered armies in the mountains with a freshly raised legion of his own. Unseasoned though my own troops were, I had more of them, but it very nearly didn’t matter. Once our two armies clashed, Zhang Fei waded into my lines and began devastating entire units. The rest of his army was starting to rout but he and a dwindling band of a swordsmen and spearmen were inexorably turning back my right flank as he slaughtered dozens upon dozens of regular infantry. I sent two of my own generals after Zhang Fei, but they were both intercepted by Guan Yu and cut down before they got to him (one was even foolish enough to accept a duel from the man known as the “God of War”). After watching two generals die, Cao Pi wisely decided to hang back.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/neadzz/three-kingdoms-is-the-best-total-war-game-in-a-decade

Ok so i’m in work and I need this shift to end because I’m convinced. This is the Total War for me. I cannot wait to get my hands on it

EDIT: I’m sitting very bored in work doing absolutely nothing and thinking about TKTW. As much as I’m dying to play and let it absorb me, I think I am more excited to hear Rob and Austin and other’s experience with the game, the emergent way they play and stories develop fascinate me to no end. Fingers crossed for more Total War talk on the pod


I’m looking forward to the 3MA episode on it almost as much as I am to playing it.


I’ve never listened to 3 Moves Ahead. I was never really sure what it was… Have I done myself a disservice ?

It’s a podcast for strategy games of all sorts. I listen to episodes for games I’m interested in (even if I know I like it already) and tend to really enjoy it. Plus they have some guests including the Internet’s Austin Walker and one Alex Navarro (I think for Mutant Year Zero).


My lunch break is in 10 minutes. I know what I’m doing

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3MA is a fantastic pod, highly recommend.

Is this review actually on the main ‘Vice Games’ page or whatever for anyone else? Saw the topic pop up, clicked over to culturalmarxism.club, no see article. Link here works though. Maybe their CMS is weird.


Yeah I still don’t see it on the main site but it apparently is readable if you’ve got the link haha.

If you like the idea of Rob and a bunch of other strategy game fans having long discussions about strategy games then it’s the right pod for you. At this point it’s the only video game podcast I haven’t fallen off of due to how focused in it is on my favorite genre of gaming.


I downloaded the recent Total War one with Austin as a guess, I have zero work again so i’ll give that a listen in a sec

For the sake of accuracy, the Podcasting Collective known as Robs Zacny did not absorb 3 Moves Ahead and add its distinctiveness to his own until around episode 100 or so? It was Troy Goodfellow’s website’s podcast originally, back when Troy was a journalist rather than a PR guy or developer. The original lineup was basically Troy Goodfellow, Tom Chick (!), and Bruce Geryk.

It’s a very, very good podcast if you’re into strategy games. They have covered a LOT of stuff over the years.


So, the only times in my life where I look into the heavens and lament not owning a gaming pc are when Rob talks about a strategy game.

Since we’re on the topic, can anyone out there recommend a game available on steam or the app store that would run on a vanilla 2015 MacBook Air? It can be an older game, my only worry is about it actually running.

I’ve been missing out on strategy games my entire life and I feel like there’s a whole new color out there my eyes have never experienced.


Civ IV would probably run okay on that machine. Not sure of anything Mac native on the RTS side but if you can get Windows running, Rise of Nations (available in an enhanced edition on Steam) is an all-time classic and should also work.

I don’t know how they will run, but they’re all pretty easy to run

Into the Breach

Darkest Dungeon is loved by the 3MA crew

Company of heroes is pretty interesting if you want to try RTS but feel intimidated by the genre

Invisible Inc is a strategy stealth game hybrid

King of dragon pass is a mix of choose your own adventure with management


I have a 2012 Air and it handles Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis 4 reasonably well. Crusader Kings in particular is a top quality game with basically infinite replayability, even without dlc, and I highly recommend it.

On the Total War side of things, anything up to Shogun 2 has been okay for me on this machine, as long as you’re willing to turn off a lot of graphical bells and whistles.


Has anyone here been playing 3 kingdoms yet? I used this long weekend to dive pretty deep in.

I started with Cao Cao, the “easy - recommended” option, and had a ton of issues. His whole thing is being able to manipulate the factions around him to change their opinions of one another (or himself), and even start proxy wars. He’s not a particularly strong faction to start out with, and has enemies on like 3 sides to contend with. I had a lot of issues with making progress with him, and after doing a restart and hitting another wall, I went to the internet.

I learned Sun Jian actually has a way easier start despite being labeled a “normal” difficulty campaign. And it’s true - after an early conflict with some neighbors over a jade seal, Jian has a totally clear south. There’s a bunch of Han Empire settlements, but the Han Empire are extremely passive and do not put up a fight - itsfreerealestate.jpg. Past them there is even more “free” real estate - abandoned settlements that you just have to pay 4-8k to settle.

Being able to keep up with the growing powers in the game has been super satisfying and created a series of game states like Rob describes here and in the podcasts. You get bigger, there’s some people who get pissed off, while others choose to create a coalition with you so y’all can fight something bigger. Cao Cao in my game as Jian has been a total double crosser, shifting his alliances constantly. He spent a lot of time as a vassal of another warlord, and was at war with my coalition along with them. Eventually he grew really big, threw off his chains and went to war with his former oppressor. At this point in my game, I have a lot of Southern China and have vassalized 2 pretty powerful factions (also Lu Bu, who has like one region in the North - been trying to figure out if I can annex him without a big penalty so I can have Lu Bu command one of my own armies; wish you could adopt people or something, I don’t think that’s available). Cao Cao is to my East and is my friend (for now) and we’re fighting the Kingdom of Song, his former overlord who has like 10 vassals of varying strength. While Song is the only “Kingdom” in the game at this moment, I think we may soon get to a literal 3 kingdom situation. I fully expect Cao Cao to turn on me when it’s convenient for him - his whole deal whether you’re playing as him or not is he’s slippery and his allegiances constantly shift.

I’ve had a ton of great battles - nothing extremely dramatic, though plenty of clashes with an old rival who won’t go down. Really excited to get back to the game this afternoon.


I’ve out about 8 hours into Cao Cao and I’m loving it so far. I don’t think I’ve ever played a Total War where checking allegiances and attitudes is so vital.

I’m in a coalition with Yuan Shao and we are at war with somebody (Yuan something) over to the west.

I just conquered and wiped out a faction as they murdered one of my council whilst on a journey.


Yuan Shu is west of Cao Cao - he believes he has a claim as Emperor of China and likes to ask you to acknowledge his legitimacy. If I finish up Sun Jian I kinda want to give Cao Cao another try. The manipulation abilities he has seem really cool. How big have you managed to get? I got to maybe second marquis as Cao Cao before just being surrounded by more powerful factions.

That’s the chap, Yuan Shu. Yeah the manipulation is cool. There was a particular settlement I needed to hold the full province but it was an ally of Yuan Shao, I turned them against each other whilst building an army on his poor border.

As soon as they fell out I declared war and took the settlement in an absolute massacre.

IIRC I recently became Second Marquis but I didn’t play long after. There’s a few big powers to match mine that I can see on the map so far, Yuan Shao, my ally and Yuan Shu our enemy.

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Nice. Be wary of Sun Jian in your playthrough, he can get reaaaalll big. He’s usually to your south; be on the lookout.

This game is good!

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