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Cao Cao

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Cao Cao
Cao cao.png
Name: Cao Cao
Game: Total War: Three Kingdoms
Culture: Han
Starting Faction: The Cao Clan of Qiao
Faction Leader: Yes
Style Name:Mengde
Title:Chancellor of State,

King of Wei,

Emperor Wu of Wei (posthumously)

Cao Cao is one of the 12 playable starting warlords in the Total War: Three Kingdoms grand campaign.

Historical Background

Hailing from a family of good prestige and minor peerage from Pei state in Yu province, Cao Cao was originally a middling official in the imperial capitol before he was able to achieve a notable reputation as a commander and administrator during the Yellow Turban rebellion and the failed Coalition against Dong Zhuo (where he was one of the only people who actually fought). Despite having lost much of his army during the campaign, Cao Cao was able to put down several major bandit armies, including a Yellow Turban resurgence in Yan province, a feat that, along with the favor of his former schoolmate Yuan Shao, gained him Yan province as his own.

He attempted to conquer Xu province, only to be forced back to Yan to drive off an invasion by Lu Bu. Then, an opportunity arose and Cao Cao managed to take Emperor Xian under his protection from the former forces of Dong Zhuo, becoming Minister of Works. Using this new authority, he put his claim on most of the Henan region, launched a punitive expedition against Yuan Shu to the south (who had declared himself emperor), invaded Xu again (now under Lu Bu) and took it, struck south into Jing province against Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao, and then launched his brilliant campaign against the huge power of Yuan Shao to the north. He emerged victorious from the closely fought Guandu campaign, breaking the back of Yuan power, and then conquering the four northern provinces from Yuan Shao's sons and their Wuhuan and Xiongnu allies, unifying the empire north of the Yangtze.

Despite being defeated at the Battle of Chibi by the Sun-Liu alliance, halting his southward advance, he was able to conquer the northwestern province of Liang and solidify control over an area that comprised around 75% of the empire's population. He rebuilt the imperial administration mostly from scratch, using the people who joined him along the way. Many of the best minds in the empire came to work for him, and he even succeeded in making the rebellion sundered northern regions prosperous again, reintroducing the military-agricultural colonies. Xianbei activity declined as their leaders either sent tribute to Cao Cao or pledged loyalty to him, including the powerful Kebineng. Arts and scholarship flourished once again as he patronized both and funded educational endeavors throughout the north.

He was eventually made Imperial Chancellor, unifying the positions of the Three Excellencies, and enoffed as first Duke, then King of Wei, becoming the first non-imperial clan King since the days of Former Han. He died in 220AD, following the victory at Fancheng, leaving behind one of the strongest and most well run states in the world at the time, succeeded by his son Cao Pi. He was posthumously named Emperor Wu of Wei.

Start Location

Cao Cao starts as the faction leader of The Cao Clan of Qiao, in Chen Commandery.

Start Overview


  • Strategic Mastermind: +15 Cunning, +5 Instinct, +20 Authority, +1 Resilience, -10% Upkeep for Cavalry, +10 Military Supplies Factionwide (if Faction Leader, Heir, or Prime Minister)


  • Suspicious
  • Ambitious: +5 Cunning, +5 Authority, -10 Satisfaction, +15% Income from all sources (Administered Commandery), Increases ambition to gain independence if administrator
  • Cunning: +15 Cunning, +15% Ambush Chance


Cao Cao starts as close friends with Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan, his historical cousins.

Total War: Three Kingdoms Portal
Total War: Three Kingdoms


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Faction Units:

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Gameplay and Features:

Buildings | Building Chains | Reforms | Traits | Units

Total War: Three Kingdoms - Yellow Turban Rebellion

DLC Factions:

The Yellow Turbans of Runan | The Yellow Turbans of Yan | The Yellow Turbans of The West


Faction Units:

Gameplay and Features:

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