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Total War Three Kingdoms: Spies & Espionage Guide

Spies & Espionage Guide

Some characters in your faction will be willing to spy on other factions for you, and perform acts of espionage to weaken them in a variety of ways.

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If a character is suited to spying, you’ll see an eye symbol next to their title rank in your characters list. You also need to have an available spy position, the first of which unlocks at the faction rank of second marquis. Further spy slots can be unlocked as your faction rank advances and you research new reforms.

With an available spy position and a character willing to spy for you, you can click the undercover network icon at the top of the main campaign screen to dispatch a spy, or manage your spies’ activities.

Dispatching a spy involves releasing them from your service (at least for appearances’ sake!) and choosing a faction for them to infiltrate. This sends the spy to seek employment with the target faction, and causes the spy to appear in that faction’s list of candidates for recruitment. More attractive candidates – ie, those of higher level and experience – are more likely to be recruited into the target faction. This may take a number of turns – or may not happen at all, if the targeted faction doesn’t find your spy desirable. You can check back on their progress from turn to turn by opening the undercover network panel again and selecting the dispatched spy.

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If a dispatched spy is recruited by the target faction, you will gain visibility over many of their details, such as their employed characters, their commanderies and their armies. A number of new spy actions will also become available. These rely on the spy building up two specific resources: cover points and undercover network.

Undercover network

Once a spy is dispatched, they will begin building a network of contacts, informants and other covert assets, represented by your faction’s undercover network value. This is contributed to, and shared between, all of your spies. Spy actions cost undercover network points to perform as noted on each action; the more advanced the action, the higher the cost.

Cover points

As time passes for an active spy who has infiltrated another faction, they will will seek to establish trust with those around them, and will begin to build personal cover points. The higher their cover points, the more likely the spy is to successfully perform spy actions without being revealed. Each action costs some cover points to execute, as noted on the action.

There is always the risk of a spy being caught in the act and revealed when performing a spy action. The more cover points a spy has, the more this risk is reduced.

Revealed spies

If a spy becomes revealed due to an action, the warlord of the target faction will have a choice of executing them, releasing them back to their original faction, or demanding they return to their original faction as a double agent. In this event, the warlord of the original faction will only know that the spy has been returned unharmed to their original service. A spy who has been revealed will never be able to spy again for his original faction.

Spy actions

Spy actions fall into four categories, based on the position a spy is appointed to in the target faction. Each action carries its own cover point and undercover network point cost, and performing the action generates a dilemma which may increase the risk of the spy becoming revealed.

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Court noble actions will be immediately available to a spy if he is recruited by the target faction. These actions include boosting their own faction’s undercover network, influencing trade, theft, reducing character satisfaction, seeking a career as a military general, and interfering with the faction’s counter-espionage efforts.

Administrator actions become available when a spy is appointed as administrator of a commandery owned by the target faction. These enable the spy to weaken aspects of the settlement and its garrison, pursue a ministerial role in the target faction’s court, incite low public order or rebellions, or publicly defect, granting ownership of the spy’s administered commandery to you.

General actions become available when the spy is appointed as a general in one of the target faction’s armies. These actions offer a range of sabotage options against other armies in the target faction, and inciting a military revolt, which grants ownership of the spy’s army to you and causes the army’s other generals to be recalled to the target faction.

Family subterfuge actions become available when the spy is adopted as heir or marries into the family of the target faction’s leader. These enable the spy to improve the target faction’s diplomatic attitude towards yours, assassinate the target faction’s heir, and even its warlord.

Counter espionage

Factions can make it harder for spies to operate against them by increasing the cover points cost and/or undercover network points cost for any enemy spy actions that target them. The Drum and Bell Tower building, characters inhabiting the ministerial roles of faction leader, prime minister and faction heir, certain ancillaries, certain reforms, and certain strategist assignments can all increase the points costs for enemy spy actions.


The treasury panel displays your income and expenses, granting you a useful overview of where your money is coming from and what you’re spending it on each turn. When you reach the faction rank of marquis, the tax slider in the treasury panel unlocks, enabling you to increase or reduce taxation across your commanderies in order to balance public order with tax income.

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Zone of Control

All armies and settlements have a range at which they can engage with enemies militarily, known as the zone of control. This is indicated by the black-ink radius that appears around when they are moused over or selected. An army or settlement’s zone of control cannot be entered by a neutral or enemy army without attacking it directly.

Armies can freely enter the zones of control of friendly armies and settlements, and will automatically join any battle against an enemy triggered within that zone of control as reinforcements. Using this rule of proximity, multiple armies can band together in battle against common enemies, both offensively and defensively.

An army in ambush stance is hidden from other factions, as is its zone of control. If an enemy army enters an ambushing army’s zone of control, the ambushing army’s controller will be given the option to initiate an ambush battle, provided it is not spotted first by the enemy army. See the Ambush entry for further detail.

Battles involving an enemy army which occur within a settlement’s zone of control, but are not a direct attack on that settlement, will cause the settlement’s garrison, and any army stationed within the settlement, to sally out and join any friendly forces in battle.

An army stationed within a settlement that is attacked directly will join the garrison force in defending the settlement from within.

When a settlement is attacked, any friendly armies outside the settlement but within its zone of control, will join the ensuing battle as reinforcements.

It is possible for an army to become trapped in an enemy zone of control, perhaps because other enemy zones of control are overlapping, and there is nowhere for the army to move. If this should happen, the only way out is for the army to attack an enemy target; it must literally fight its way out.

Written by CA_OtherTom

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