Artillery in Total War Three Kingdoms

Effective use of artillery in Total War Three Kingdoms can turn the tide of battle. In some situations, artillery units can completely dominate, but you’ll need to know which units to pick and how to use them. Wasting artillery unnecessarily can be a huge drain on resources.

Campaign map screen in Three Kingdoms
Campaign map screen

Ranged artillery units can only be employed if there is a Strategist in your army, and they also need to be a certain level and have certain attributes before you will see the three options of Juggernaut, Multiple Bolt Crossbow, and Trebuchet available.

The incorporation of Wu Xing into the game means that your artillery will be particularly damaging against certain units. Having the blue number in the left-hand corner of their unit card makes them Water units, which groups them into the retinue of ranged infantry and ranged cavalry. Shock cavalry being part of the Fire units means that they are vulnerable to Water units, so always make sure to target these troops if you see them.

Costs of Artillery

Always consider whether you can actually afford artillery before you start recruiting, as it can be incredibly expensive.

Recruitment Cost1060
Upkeep Cost280
Artillery cost

All three of the artillery units will cost this amount when you first unlock them, but they will become cheaper as you unlock certain upgrades and attributes.

When starting the campaign, gold can be a real issue if not spent wisely. For example, if you’re planning on engaging a walled city with trebuchets, six trebuchets for one Strategist will cost you 6,360 gold with 1,680 gold of upkeep per turn. If you’re not earning a steady amount from your settlements or consistently winning battles, you might not be able to afford new armies and defend your territory. Losing the units can completely bankrupt you.

However, if you can afford them, artillery can be a key part of a winning army. Here are the three types of artillery available in Three Kingdoms.


Juggernauts act like huge flamethrowers and are very short-range, to the point of being a unique unit type in themselves. Channeling the enemy units towards them with defensive units and using Wooden Stakes around them can make them more effective.

Juggernauts are primarily a defensive unit. They might not have much range but defensively they are very powerful, and can deliver a vast amount of damage very quickly – double that of Multiple Bolt Crossbows or Trebuchets (48,000 damage compared to 24,000).

Three Kingdoms Juggernauts
Juggernauts have the highest damage of all artillery

However, even with this colossal amount of damage, Juggernauts are still not worth it, especially in Romance Mode. Juggernauts can be temperamental; they quite often just don’t fire. Enemy archers can very easily disrupt the operators and cause them to scatter before they are even in range. Furthermore, the extremely short range means that they might only be able to pull off one shot before they are hit by cavalry or Romance Mode generals, and due to their flat firing range, you won’t be able to have any defensive troops in front of them, lest they also get burned too.

Save your gold and go with one of the next two options.

Multiple Bolt Crossbow

Multiple Bolt Crossbows are good long-range artillery, and can be vital for a well-balanced army. Multiple Bolt Crossbows will fire a scatter of bolts that will hit the enemy from afar with accuracy.

Due to the Multiple Bolt Crossbows firing forwards, directly at the enemy, they can in some situations be more effective than Trebuchets, which can often launch over the enemy or miss entirely, which means they can also take advantage of high ground. Multiple Bolt Crossbows can also be equipped with Flaming Shot at any point before or during the battle, meaning you can set trees and siege towers alight.

Three Kingdoms Multiple Bolt Crossbows
Multiple Bolt Crossbows are effective at all ranges


Trebuchets are arguably the best artillery unit in Three Kingdoms. The long range combined with the high damage means you can deliver huge blows to the opposing army before they have even come close. While they can be weak to cavalry charges, defensive units can be very easily deployed to protect them. The strength of trebuchets is mainly in their disruption. While Multiple Bolt Crossbows will get kills from the same range, they won’t cause a splash damage effect. Trebuchets heavily disrupt formations, and blast troops apart, causing them to scatter and completely destroying morale.

Trebuchets can also break down the walls of a city, and smash open the front gates, making them extremely effective for siege battles.

Trebuchets launching in sync in Three Kingdoms
Trebuchets are the strongest artillery unit available

Flaming Shot can be chosen at any point before or during the battle. To unlock the Flaming Shot, you must give a Strategist the ‘Resourcefulness’ skill. Flaming Shot is incredibly strong against units, but less so against settlement walls, as it is less accurate and does less base damage. However, Flaming Shot inflicts explosive damage, and huge damage to morale, which will cause enemy units to rout.

In heavily wooded battles, Flaming Shot will also set the trees alight and cause greater damage to morale.

Cavalry charge being hit with Flaming Shot in Three Kingdoms
Flaming Shot is less accurate, but inflicts more morale damage

The battlefield layout can affect how effective trebuchets are, which is their only drawback. A flat, clear battlefield is ideal, but a mountainous terrain with lots of forest can be tough, especially if there are trees right in front of them. If the enemy is hidden in the forest, your trebuchets will be unable to hit them, so using a general to discover them will allow your trebuchets to find their targets. Trebuchets are also limited to being long range, and cannot hit enemies if they are too close. This is where a few Multiple Bolt Crossbows and some Spear Walls will come in handy.

Artillery has always been a point of discussion in Total War games, with some feeling like it’s too powerful and too accurate, particularly on Records Mode where generals can be targeted. The next Total War might be Three Kingdoms 2, so we’ll have to wait and see how they progress with artillery, and whether it takes a back seat in the gameplay, or a more prominent role.

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