Total War: Three Kingdoms


There is a PC Engine strategy game using the Yokoyama Mitsuteru manga’s license that is a little wonder, especially for its ambiance.
This is the only manga series I still own in my house. Wonderful stuff, a far cry from all the recent Koei inspired bombastic.


The most interesting thing about the arc of the Romance is the way in which the “good” guys don’t necessarily win and the “bad” guys don’t necessarily get their comeuppance - some of my favorite moments in the Romance are towards the end, once the Heroic figures have left the stage, and that sense of inevitability that pervades the story as (essentially) once-evil empire but now-establishment marches forward to victory (and “evil” here is more like unbridled ambition) once the improbable balance that the previous heroes managed to hold falls apart when they are gone. This goes to the point of absurdity - walking past stones Zhuge Liang had set on secret paths that say “whoever marches their armies down this path will conquer this city” ect,

It’s not quite like Homer because Homer makes clear the whole cause of the war isn’t worth the cost being inflicted and war is folly and men the playthings of the gods; in Romance there’s definitely something at stake, and there are brave heroes and conniving traitors. It’s just more like Game of Thrones, to use a contemporary example, where being smart and evil wins and being good and dumb gets you killed. It’s just that in Romance “all-wisdom” includes knowing spells and how to manipulate the weather.


Paul Bunyan!
Paul Bunyan!
There ain’t nobody who can
Hold a candle or an axe handle to
Paul the lumber man!


This is not where I saw this thread going when it started…

Anyway, I suspect they’ll have some historical grounding but push the romance of the setting, as CA have traditionally done with their previous settings.

And no, they do not teach the fictional novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms as actual historical fact in China.


I have a little personal project where I’ve mapped RoTK characters to GoT characters, with the intent of rewriting key chapters of RoTK with those characters swapped out. I think that the unfamiliarity of Chinese names is a legitimate barrier to entry for many American readers.


Apparently we were the only people who played DT2, as I also wore out my copy. Never found it anything quite like it since.


That sounds fun - I’ll have a crack.

Ned Stark = Liu Bei,
Tywin Lannister = Cao Cao
The Hound = Lu Bu
Jon Snow = Zhao Yun
Jaime Lannister = Xiahou Dun


This is off topic, but generally, yes. Shu Han is Stark.

If there’s a singular “villain” in GoT, I think it’s Cersei, so she gets to be Cao Cao. I don’t mind the gender swap.

House affiliation aside, Tyrion is Zhuge Liang.

The real fun game is: who gets to be Ah Dou?


If you read specific parts of the novel, Zhuge Liang already foresaw Wei would eventually win because Wei had more resources (land + population) than either Shu or Wu, but not both of them combined. So Zhuge Liang’s strategy is to always attack Wei and Wei only, and hope to chip away Wei’s advantage.

There two main issues with this strategy: 1. Sima Yi was a competent enough general and administrator for Wei so that Wei could defend its lead, even though it may not be able to defeat Shu as long as Zhuge Liang was alive; 2. Wu was an unreliable ally because it feared if Shu was too successful against Wei, it would be Shu’s next target. So when Shu asked Wu to attack Wei fron the south while Shu attack from the west, Wu in general would do a half ass job, unless it expected some lasting gains.

So the inevitability isn’t something mystical or predestined, it is simple geopolitics. The novel did introduced some mystical/fictional elements, but the outcome is based on actual history.

Of course, the novel has an bias toward the old Han Dynasty, so Liu Bei was portraited as the “good guy”. But come on, even that guy in the novel was at best marginally competent as a general and at worst incompetent (with so many badass underlings he would still lose battle after battle, until Zhuge Liang came along). Incompetence is sin. (Debating who the “good guy” and “bad guy” is in the RoTK novel is pretty much a national past-time in east Asia, where the novel is very popular, especially amongst men.)




With respect to historicity, I actually think a perfect referent is Robin Hood, who does some theoretically possible but completely infeasible things (splitting the arrow), but is set in a historical setting with real historical figures (Prince John, King Richard). Also, the real historical events being far more complex than the simple story told (John raised taxes, Cao Cao is a villain).

I hesitate to bring it up though, because China had its own Robin Hood story in Outlaws of the Marsh, which itself is even less historical than RoTK, and features, among other things, Taoist priests who cast actual magic spells.


Re: pandering; in Empire, the tutorial / mini-campaign had you playing as the Americans, err, colonial revolutionaries, and IIRC every cutscene had some nonsense about FREEDOM!!! without even paying lip service to the phrases in our history books like “taxation without representation”, etc. So I have no doubt there will be pandering, but I’m curious to see if it’s too a Chinese audience or a western one.

(FWIW, now that they’ve done Warhammer, the three kingdoms or warring states periods were the only ones left on my wishlist.)


I remember an old episode of 3MA where Ananda Gupta was reporting the saying that a game about Ancient China never made money. Well, they were talking board games, and that was before they turned China into a giant casino, but I think that might help answer the question of who is locked as the target for this game. But they might miss it altogether, or hit a place they didn’t aim at first too.
Wow, what a lame and longwinded allegory that was.


From a gameplay perspective I guess I am a little concerned it could end up being “heroes” centric with all the clicky clicky power stuff that goes with it. Hopefully not.


To be fair, TW has never had any more realism or historical accuracy than “just enough to feel cool.”


@brooski just talked about that on the latest Wild Weasel - maybe it was just bad Ancient China games that didn’t sell because the new Dynasty by Hollandspiele looks really good.


I figured historical accuracy went out the window in the very first Total War game — the original Shogun: Total War — when they added Kensei “Sword Saints” which were single man units that could fight whole units of enemies and then added “Battlefield Ninja Units” (IIRC the non-battlefield Ninjas were always in). I don’t think either the Kensei or Battlefield Ninjas were in the original release but they got added in at some point to make the game feel “cooler”.


I brought Dynasty to @tomchick’s over Christmas but we never got to play, and thus still don’t know who shot J.R. Tom’s comment was that it sounded like Fief in ancient China but I beg to differ.


I was probably thinking of Bruce’s interview with Hollandspiele and it got mixed in my subconscious during my dreams because of too much Twilight Struggling and eating earlier this month — I don’t need to be alarmed oO


I’ve been faintly aware of the manga for a long time, but your post inspired me to take a longer look. Here’s an interesting post by the translator. Hox’s foreword and afterword in his translation is also interesting.

Useless things I’ve learned as a result:

  • RoTK was popular in Japan during the Edo period, which explains similarities between some Sengoku stories and RoTK. Obvious, but still odd to consider that RoTK is ancient history for Norabunga! and friends.
  • There are various versions of RoTK. Not exactly clear whether the tea buying episode from the manga (which is as far as I’ve gotten) is from another version of RoTK, or if it was from Eiji’s japanese translation, or it’s by Yokoyama himself. It’s absent from the english translation in any case, and Zhang Fei’s background seems substantially different as well.