Total War THREE KINGDOMS – Cao Cao In-Engine Trailer

Total War THREE KINGDOMS – Cao Cao In-Engine Trailer

Cao Cao is a Chinese name; the family name is Cao.
For one of starting faction, see Cao Cao (faction).

Cao Cao is a playable and historical character featured in Total War: Three Kingdoms. Nicknamed Strategic Mastermind, He is a default leader and one of the Commander class heroes in his faction. Cao Cao's ultimate goal is to build a larger realm in the north of China, forming the Kingdom of Wei, and to conquer the factions that establish themselves in the south, uniting all of China under his rule.


Meet Cao Cao. Cunning and merciless, this strategic mastermind favours the divide and conquer approach, expertly manipulating others to do his bidding.

Cao Cao is the choice of corrupters, conjurors, and puppeteers. Those players who prefer to employ sly methods, pulling strings in the shadows and manipulating others to ensure the future of Wei Kingdom.


Cao Cao’s diplomatic arsenal will help to keep surrounding factions off his back. His manipulation ability can also be used to make people friendlier with him. In some situations, this can mean the difference between being declared war at, or not – or it can mean that Cao Cao is able to form a powerful alliance that can protect his back.

Cao Cao's unique abilities can be taken even further. With Cao Cao's faction, the player can instigate a proxy war between two warlords. In desperate times when swift action is needed, rather than making two factions like each other less and hoping they might go to war – player can directly trigger it without anyone knowing it was Cao Cao's doing. Because of this, the player can conceivably win the game without ever being involved in any major conflicts. By systematically driving factions against each other, by manipulating others into attacking him and calling his allies to defend him, and by later confederating or vassalising the fractured remnants of once-great factions, Cao Cao can grow in territory and power without fighting a single battle.

General InformationEdit

Attributes and TraitsEdit

Main article: Attributes (Total War: Three Kingdoms)

Pending for finalized Attributes and traits data


Main article: Skills (Total War: Three Kingdoms)

Pending for finalized skills data


Main article: Retinues (Total War: Three Kingdoms)

Pending for finalized retinues data


Main article: Ancillary (Total War: Three Kingdoms)

Pending for finalized ancillary data

Game progressionEdit

Starting positionEdit

TW3K Cao Cao Start-Postion
Main article: Kingdom of Wei

At the start of the game, Cao Cao is branded an enemy of the state by Dong Zhuo, and the tyrant’s henchmen are coming after him. Before he can consider longer-term plans – such as toppling Dong Zhuo – he knows he needs to build a strong foundation. This begins in Chen commandery, south of the Yellow River; a central position with many possible routes of expansion.

First, Cao Cao needs to defend himself against Han Empire henchmen who are supposed to bring him down. Then, he will have to establish a powerbase in Chen by overcoming the local Han Empire administrators. Only then will he look elsewhere, which is when the Tao Qian incident happens. The bigger Cao Cao’s empire gets, the more factions will look towards bringing him down when/if he shows weakness.

Once the powerbase for Cao Cao is secure, player can look to expand and conquer other territory. Moving north will likely lead to confrontation and battle with powerful warlords in that region, such as Yuan Shao or Gongsun Zan. Forging south, Cao Cao might appeal to other powerful lords in his schemes against Dong Zhuo.

Initial DilemmaEdit

TW3K Cao Cao Inital dilemma
Main article: Initial Dilemma

Cao Cao’s dilemma is about Tao Qian potentially killing Cao Cao’s father, Cao Song. Cao Cao finds out that Tao Qian’s soldiers robbed and killed Cao Song – perhaps on Tao Qian’s orders, but perhaps not. The player needs to decide which course of action will best serve for quest for vengeance.


"I would rather betray the world, than have the world betray me!"
―Cao Cao
Main article: Timeline (Total War: Three Kingdoms)

Cao Cao was born in 155CE in Qiao county, Han Empire. His father Cao Song was a foster son of Cao Teng, one of the favoured eunuchs of Emperor Huan. It is said that Cao Song’s original family name was Xiahou. This makes Cao Cao related to two of his most trusted generals, Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan. His family was closely intertwined with politics, and Cao Cao studied hard, maturing into a powerfully cunning and shrewd statesman in his own right.

Cao Cao has seen emperors fall and tyrants rise, he has witnessed power grasped by the undeserving, and it is this world of chaos through which he plots a path to order. Regarded as a strategic genius, Cao Cao pursues victory at any cost, and ensures that the ends always justify the means. Though some call him ruthless, he is nevertheless mindful and considerate, maintaining agricultural garrisons to protect both his supplies and his people during troubled times.

Ingenious and merciless, he’s known as the Puppet Master and has no qualms in controlling others to fulfill his aspirations. He is a leader who dedicates himself to his ambitions and possesses a unique mindset. Caring little for status or hidebound tradition, he judges men solely on their achievements and skill, and his companions respect him for this reason. Gainsaying his reputation for ruthlessness, he looks out for his followers and treats them with generosity. Despite their rivalry, Cao Cao and Liu Bei are very similar in this regard; they are both supported and trusted by the people.[1]


TW3K Cao Cao-Guanxi

Cao Cao's relationship

Main article: Guanxi

Cao Cao's father is Cao Song. The original family name of Cao Song was Xiahou. Thus both Cao Cao's most trusted generals, Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan, are actually his cousins.

Cao Cao is a known for surrounding himself with heroes of great talent. While Cao Cao’s immediate family is still important to him, Cao Cao also trusts both his general Xu Chu and Dian Wei.




  1. Total War: THREE KINGDOMS Warlord Legends – Cao Cao
Total War THREE KINGDOMS factions and leaders
Warlords Cao Wei (Cao Cao)・Dong Zhuo (Dong Zhuo)・Gongsun Zan (Gongsun Zan)・Shu-Han (Liu Bei)・Wu (Sun Jian)・Yuan Shao (Yuan Shao)・Yuan Shu (Yuan Shu)
Administrators Kong Rong (Kong Rong)・Liu Biao (Liu Biao)・Ma Teng (Ma Teng)
Outlaws Black Mountain bandits (Zhang Yan)・Zheng Jiang (Zheng Jiang)
AI Factions Han EmpireHan SuiLiu ZhangTao Qian
Total War THREE KINGDOMS playable characters
Commander Lady BianCao CaoCao RenLiu BeiLiu BiaoLady LiuLiu YuLiu ZhangWang LangLady WuSun QuanYuan ShaoYuan ShuYuan TanYuan Xi
Sentinel CongqianCheng PuDian WeiGao GanGongsun DuHan SuiHuang ZhongJia LongLiu YaoLu ZhiSun JianTaishi CiTao ShangWang KuangXu HuangYuan ShangYu JinYue JinZhang ChaoZhang LiaoZhao Yun
Champion Cao AngGuan YuHan FuHuang GaiHuang ZuPang DeTao YingWen ChouXiahou DunXin PingXu ChuZhang LuZe RongZhang YanZheng Jiang
Vanguard Cai MaoDong ZhuoGan NingGongsun ZanLiu QiLü BuMa ChaoMa TengSun CeSun RenXiahou JieXiahou YuanYan LiangZhang FeiZhang HeZhang Yang
Strategist Chen GongDiaochanLady FengGuan ChunGuo JiaKong RongKong ZhouLiu DaiLiu YanLu SuLu ZhengShi XieSima YiTao QianXu YouZhou YuZhuge Liang
Healer (YTR) He Yi
Veteran (YTR) Gong DuPei YuanshaoZhang Kai
Scholar (YTR) He ManHuang Shao