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Yuan Shao

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Yuan Shao
Yuan shao.png
Name: Yuan Shao
Game: Total War: Three Kingdoms
Culture: Han
Starting Faction: The Yuan Clan of Ye
Faction Leader: Yes
Style Name:Benchu
Title:General-in-Chief, Marquis of Ye

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

Historical Background

Hailing from the incredibly prestigious Yuan family of Runan, Yuan Shao had fame and power from the moment he inherited his family's estate. Initially known for his seriousness and humility, he was popular with pretty much everyone around him and made many friends, including Cao Cao. When the General-in-Chief, He Jin, took him onto his staff during the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Yuan Shao became deeply involved in court politics. Following the end of the rebellion, he and his half-brother Yuan Shu urged He Jin to destroy the eunuchs who held sway over the imperial court, and when He Jin was assassinated, they took matters into their own hands, slaughtering two thousand eunuchs in the capital. However, this chaos allowed Dong Zhuo to take over, and Yuan Shao left the capitol to raise an army to contest him. Others began doing the same, and soon enough, the Coalition against Dong Zhuo was formed with Yuan Shao elected leader.

The Coalition went poorly. After losing a couple battles (Sun Jian notwithstanding), Yuan Shao and the other warlords began fighting amongst themselves. However, Yuan Shao did well for himself here, immediately taking control of Ji province, and then following up by having his son Yuan Tan secure Qing. After fighting against the Heishan Bandits for a long time, he was able to exert nominal control over Bing province as well. His longest lasting campaign was a long struggle with Gongsun Zan over control of You province, but Gongsun Zan's arbitrary brutality and Yuan Shao's magnanimity eventually decided things. Gongsun Zan was isolated in Yi and Yuan Shao forged a strong alliance with the Wuhuan people to the north. Gongsun Zan would eventually commit suicide.

To the south however, things got complicated. Yuan Shao was at odds with his half brother Yuan Shu, who had initially formed the other major power among the warlords, and Yuan Shao had placed Cao Cao, who was technically his subordinate, as the Inspector of Yan Province to provide a buffer between him and Yuan Shu. However, this all changed when Cao Cao took the emperor under his protection. It was during this incident that Yuan Shao demonstrated his willingness to listen to all the wrong advice, as he had a chance to take the emperor instead, but was convinced by some of his counselors that doing so would make him an imperial puppet. Instead, Cao Cao ended up as the imperial puppeteer and within a few years, Yuan Shu was destroyed and Cao Cao held enough territory to make a bid for hegemony over the incredibly rich central plains of the empire.

And so the Guandu campaign began. Yuan Shao had the advantage in numbers and resources, but Cao Cao was decisive, listened to the right advisers, and was willing to take risks. Yuan Shao continually vacillated on important decisions, trying to force a single decisive battle which Cao Cao was content to avoid, harassing Yuan Shao's army and supply lines instead. Every attempt Yuan Shao made to cross the Yellow River was met with setbacks and defeats, often due to his refusal to listen to his competent advisers. He eventually was able to besiege Guandu itself, but Cao Cao held firm, and eventually Yuan Shao's army began to fray from within. One of his advisers, Xu You, betrayed him over a dispute with another official and told Cao Cao of Yuan Shao's supply depot at Wuchao. Cao Cao immediately set out to burn it to the ground, and instead of defending it, Yuan Shao tried to take Guandu while he was away. Wuchao fell, Guandu did not, and many of Yuan Shao's best men, including Zhang He, surrendered to Cao Cao.

His army, now demoralized and out of supplies, routed. While he put it back together not long after and still had most of his territory, he soon fell ill, probably from the stress. He died in 202AD, and his failure to clarify a successor kicked off a succession crisis that doomed his clan and allowed Cao Cao to assume hegemony over the all important Central Plains. Despite their enmity, Cao Cao mourned the loss of his childhood friend and cared for the remains of his family.

Start Location

Yuan Shao starts as the faction leader of The Yuan Clan of Ye, in Ye Commandery.

Start Overview


  • Preeminent Commander: +5 Resolve, +10 Instinct, +13 Authority, +1 Resilience, +50% Income From Family Estates, -50% Upkeep For Captain Retinues (if Faction Leader, Heir, or Prime Minister), +10 Morale (factionwide if Faction Leader, Heir, or Prime Minister)


  • Vain: +3 Cunning, +3 Instinct, +1 Starting Rank for all Recruits, +25% Retinue Upkeep, Admires Attractiveness, Indulges Vanity, Dislikes Scarring
  • Arrogant: +3 Instinct, +3 Authority, -15% Chance of Evading Capture Post Battle
  • Charismatic: +10 Authority, +5 Satisfaction (factionwide if Faction Leader, Heir, or Prime Minister), +4 Public Order (administered commandery, increases ambition to gain independence as administrator


Yuan Shao starts as rivals with his half brother, Yuan Shu. He has his wife, Lady Liu, and his three sons, Yuan Tan, Yuan Xi, and Yuan Shang, in his family tree. Yuan Tan and Yuan Xi are of age at the start.

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Total War: Three Kingdoms - Yellow Turban Rebellion

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