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The best Total War: Three Kingdoms mods

(Image credit: Creative Assembly)

We're still playing Total War: Three Kingdoms, the first huge historical Total War game since 2013's Rome 2. Between 220–280 AD modern-day China was split into—yep—a tripartite division of territories, and the era produced many legendary battles, generals and, indirectly, videogames about killing 500 warriors in one go. 

Total War: Three Kingdoms is no Dynasty Warriors game, despite its Romance mode blending history with Chinese mythology. But what if you want Three Kingdoms to be more like a Dynasty Warriors game? Or more like the traditional Total War games of the past? How about harder, because you've already conquered China a dozen times, or easier, because your generals keep dying of old age?

A few months in, we've now seen a wealth of massive rebalance mods for Three Kingdoms, nice cosmetic overhauls for armies, and more specific mods that target specific aspects of the game. We've tested a ton of them, and these are the ones we recommend. 

All Factions Playable, New Major Factions

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This mod very simply makes every faction on the map playable in both the main campaign and the Eight Princes DLC campaign, more than tripling the number of playable warlords. The author didn’t stop there, though. They’ve also released a submod that seeks to make every faction more like the major factions, with unique features and noteworthy characters.

The factions that have been upgraded to “Majors” in the submod include Zhang Lu, Tao Qian, Liu Yu, Gao Gan, Shi Xie, Liu Yan, Han Sui, Huang Zu, the Han Empire, Liu Yao, Zhang Yang, Gongsun Du, Lu Bu, Gan Ning, and Yan Baihu.

Respec Character Skills when they join you

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Have you ever eagerly recruited a legendary warrior like Xiahou Dun, only to find that his previous lord put his stat points in all the wrong places? This mod gives all generals a free respec when you recruit them to undo the errors of the past.

It’s a very lightweight mod and can even be used on a campaign in progress that started without it. No more lamenting that your best frontline vanguard has a bunch of wasted points in governing.

Division of Empire

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In vanilla Three Kingdoms, the Han Empire sticks around as a punching bag for everyone else and can eventually be vassalized by a claimant to the throne. This can lead to some really weird borders and politics, though. With this mod activated, all of the remaining Han governors will become independent minor factions on Turn 8, creating a much more fragmented playing field.

This will bring new diplomatic opportunities, but also challenges. It also makes some tweaks to the AI, such as encouraging them to become aggressive earlier in the game. Overall, things feel more hectic, dangerous, and unpredictable than vanilla. It’s a nice breath of fresh air if you’ve gotten used to the same old song and dance.

New Faction: Goguryeo (Korea) 

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Most of the action of the Three Kingdoms period takes place in China. But what if their Korean neighbors had seen the chaos as an opportunity to take the throne for themselves? This mod adds the contemporary Korean kingdom of Goguryeo as a playable faction under Gonammu "The Earth Lord" and his loyal generals, Goyeon-u "The Fire Lord" and Eulpaso "The Water Lord."

The Koreans get reduced infantry upkeep as well as lots of bonuses related to cavalry, eight unique generals, and five new unique units including powerful Gaemamusa Horse Archers. The mod does not add the Korean Peninsula to the map, but rather has Gonammu spawn on its extreme northern edge, near Gongsun San. The faction is rated "Very Hard."

10 Turns Per Year 

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Really, you couldn’t devise a more fitting title for this mod. By default it takes five turns to progress through a year in Total War: Three Kingdoms, and this mod doubles it. Slowing the game down to this degree means you can max out more of your upgrade tree, while seasons now last two turns each.

No Death By Old Age

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The best Total War: Three Kingdoms mods have the power to grant infinite life. While it may sound like a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, No Death By Old Age is a pretty self-explanatory mod which still allows characters to be killed but ensures they have a zero percent chance to die of old age. The exception is Tao Qian, for important narrative reasons.

If you use a mod that alters the passing of time like 10 Turns Per Year (above) this is one way to circumvent any weird aging issues you might run into.

Captains for All Units

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One thing Three Kingdoms is missing that previous Total War games have had: Some representation of the lower-level officers in your army. There’s always that one guy at the front of a unit with a different hat or something to show he’s important, right? While heroes are the focus of Three Kingdoms, the modding scene hasn’t forgotten about Special Hat Guy.

Captains for All Units adds a Special Hat Guy (or some equivalent stand-out soldier) to every unit. His name may be lost to the pages of history, but we will never forget his courage, his fashion sense, and his minor increase to hitpoints. Note that while this is a mostly cosmetic mod, you will have to start a new campaign to see it take effect.

Better Faces 

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Three Kingdoms is already a pretty good looking game, but if you zoom in on some of your generals in battle, you may have been a little bit let down. The Better Faces mod aims to make characters’ 3D models better match their hand-painted portraits on the campaign map and loading screens so they don’t seem like they just rolled out of bed and headed to battle without even checking their makeup.

Among other things, the overhaul removes eye bags and wrinkles, reduces the yellowness of certain skin tones, and cleans up wild stubble so your favorite Late Han rock stars can charge the enemy center looking as beautiful as they deserve. This will affect all generals, but special attention has been given to some of the major players like Lu Bu, Zhang Fe, and Yuan Shao.

Make Them Unique 

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If you’re a big Three Kingdoms/Dynasty Warriors fan, you might have been disappointed to find that some of your favorite characters were represented with generic models, portraits, and items in Total War. Make Them Unique seeks to correct this by adding new art and unique gear for some of the better-known second-tier generals.

Among the characters currently receiving a flavor upgrade are Dong Peishan, Dong Min, Diaochan, Li Ru, Hua Lanli, Yan Liang, Wen Chou, Xun Yu, Lady Bian, Lady Wu, Lu Zheng, and Yijian Liting. This especially gives some needed love to Dong Zhuo’s faction and several of the important women of the period. And it’s compatible with Better Faces (above).

Vanilla Units Overhaul

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The previous mods will help you get your generals looking their best, but what about the rank-and-file? Lots of Three Kingdoms’ regiments can look like dozens of clones of the same guy, which can be easy to overlook when your heroes are making sparks fly. But especially in the more historical Records mode, it can start feeling a bit bland.

Vanilla Units Overhaul seeks to improve this by adding more variations to every unit, including over 25 new faces. Militias will carry a wider range of armor and weapons since they’re, well, militia. The author looked to the movie Red Cliff, famously depicting one of the most dramatic battles of the period, for a lot of the visual look while still trying to maintain their “original feel and historical authenticity.”

SFO: Three Dragons

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SFO stands for Steel Faith Overhaul, which you may know as one of the best mods for Total War: Warhammer. “Reworked Battles” is the tagline for this huge total overhaul, but that barely scratches the surface. One of the biggest changes is that it will take longer for normal units to become fatigued, but the penalties for being fatigued are harsher. This leads to battles that take longer to reach a tipping point, but are more decisive once they do.

In addition, winning a character battle will no longer have such a severe impact on unit morale. It will hurt the losing side, but it’s less likely to send them fleeing for the hills, so it doesn’t feel as much like duels are the only part of the battle that matters. These are just two out of hundreds of changes to combat, art, animations, enemy AI, and more that seeks to make Three Kingdoms a whole new game.

Radious Total War Mod

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Radious is another full overhaul mod whose name should ring a bell with players of past Total Wars. This massive mod makes changes to just about every part of the campaign and battle system, while trying to respect the history and literature sources in Records and Romance modes, respectively. It’s so big, you’ll have to download the Steam version in two parts!

Every unit has rebalanced stats, the campaign AI has been completely reworked, and efforts have been made to make each major faction even more interesting and unique than they are in vanilla. They’ve also added over 70 new unique units and reworked the economy, family, and political systems. Similar to SFO, this is basically giving you a whole new game to play with.

Heroes Join Your Faction

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Romance of the Three Kingdoms is full of auspicious meetings between famous warriors, often with one pledging loyalty to another. While Total War models some of these events, other times it just drops their subjects into the recruitable character pool without fanfare. This mod seeks to bring more famous encounters from the novel into your campaign.

Currently, they’ve added Huang Zhong joining Liu Bei, Yue Jin joining Cao Cao, Xu Huan joining Cao Cao, Zhang Liao joining Cao Cao, and Taishi Ci joining Sun Ce. It also increases the proc rate for existing vanilla events that involve Dian Wei, Gan Ning, Pang Tong, Xu Chu, Zhou Yu, Xu Shu, Zhuge Liang, Sima Yi, and Zhao Yun so that they should occur every playthrough instead of having a small chance of not firing at all.

Beneath a Red Sky: A Battle Overhaul

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Beneath A Red Sky is a collection of mods from the creators the Total War: Attila overhaul mod, Ancient Empires, and this battle overhaul mod is the gem of the bunch. Focusing on rebalancing units and emphasising realism, it greatly increases fatigue and the chances of units routing, which means fewer outright casualties on the battlefield. It also reworks missile weapons (read: bows) and enhances terrain effects.

Recruited Unique Character Can Use Their Special Units 

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Is it even a mod if neither the words ‘immersive’ or ‘overhaul’ appear somewhere in the title? Modder Alex Zhao breaks convention with this simple fix, which allows most unique characters to recruit special units that would otherwise be locked to only their faction. You do need to unlock each character’s unique skill when you level them up to be able to access them, though. It’s proving a popular addition, with over 30k subscribers already.

Hooveric Reskin 

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So far our best Total War: Three Kingdoms mods list has included some deep, game-changing add-ons, but this one’s a purely visual mod that increases variety between individual soldiers within a unit. Flags and banners enjoy a bit more variation, along with unit clothing. There’s also a bit of light colour regrading going on in here. As modder hooveric succinctly puts it: More varieties for many units, improved textures, adjusted colors.

Dynasty Warriors Officers

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With some degree of inevitability, this mod available on the Total War Nexus brings Total War: Three Kingdoms a bit closer to Dynasty Warriors series, despite Creative Assembly stating just after the release of the modding tools that they’ll be moderating DW content. Nevertheless, this mod enhances the roster with famous heroes in Dynasty Warriors, marriages, relationships based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and more.