Total War Three Kingdoms has one of the most advanced diplomacy systems in any of the Total War games. The complexity and variety of options available mean that with a clever diplomatic strategy, a player can transform the campaign, and even win the game without fighting a single battle.
The Undercover Network in Total War Three Kingdoms can be confusing, but it is a very worthwhile part of diplomacy if you know what you’re doing. You can go the entire game without using it, but defeating your enemies will come much sooner by using it effectively. The Undercover Network is available once you obtain certain characters who are willing to spy. There are no unique spy characters – any type of character can act as a spy.
How to get spies
When you are in the Campaign Map screen, click on the eye icon at the top of the screen. This will open the Undercover Network. Clicking on the plus icon will allow you to recruit a new spy, and set them to a faction you want to infiltrate.
You’ll see a list of characters who are willing to spy for you, alongside their upkeep cost and satisfaction.
There is also a list of Potential Turncoats – characters in other factions with low satisfaction who are willing to spy for you. This is why keeping character satisfaction high is incredibly important, as an unhappy character of your own can just as quickly become a spy for the enemy. Turncoats are more expensive, but very effective as they have essentially already infiltrated the enemy faction for you.
What can you do with spies?
The character’s abilities are divided into four categories, depending on their role in the enemy’s faction.
- Court Noble
Each spy will begin as a Court Noble, but as you gain trust you will have opportunities for promotion. You can pursue certain appointments to guide your spy towards positions of power, such as by selecting ‘Purse Military Appointment’.
Here is a table for each of the roles and their corresponding abilities:
Court Noble Actions
|Court Noble Actions||Undercover Network Points||Cover Points|
|Build Undercover Network||0||15|
|Pursue Military Appointment||0||0|
|Administrator Actions||Undercover Network Points||Cover Points|
|Pursue Ministerial Appointment||10||20|
|Deny Garrison Supplies||5||0|
|Poison Garrison Provisions||20||0|
|Diminish Public Order||25||15|
|Instigate Yellow Turban Rebellion||45||40|
|General Actions||Undercover Network Points||Cover Points|
|Pursue Administrative Appointment||5||10|
|Falsify Marching Orders||25||20|
|Leak Marching Orders||20||5|
|Deny Military Supplies||5||0|
|Poison Military Provisions||20||0|
|Family Actions||Undercover Network Points||Cover Points|
|Instigate Civil War||45||60|
|Assassinate Faction Leader||45||90|
|Assassinate Faction Heir||35||70|
As you can see, Family Actions are by far some of the most disruptive, allowing you to assassinate key members of the enemy’s faction. Administrator Actions can also be disruptive to a particular city, as you can open the city gates prior to battle, or even incite a Yellow Turban Rebellion.
How the points work
There are two ‘currencies’ for your spy when they are operating: Cover points and Undercover Network points. These points will naturally replenish over time as your character becomes more embedded in the enemy faction.
The Cover points are the amount of cover the specific character has. These will replenish based on the skill of your character and their experience.
The Undercover Network points are affected by the specific faction you are infiltrating. If they are a particularly tight faction, the replenishment of these points will be much lower, as it becomes much harder to infiltrate, even if your character’s personal cover is solid.
Any actions taken by your spy will spend these points, and the more disruptive the event, the higher the cost. There is also a risk of being discovered if the points drop too low, so the higher the cover points, the more safe your spy is. It’s best to wait until you have an abundance of both points before attempting anything.
Establishing an Undercover Network
Once you have recruited a spy or a turncoat, you will need to monitor their behaviour. Low satisfaction can cause them to defect, so make sure they’re happy. Building the Cover points and Undercover Network points can be done with the actions Interference and Build Undercover Network.
Interference costs no Cover points, and builds Cover, while Build Undercover Network costs no Undercover Network points, but builds these points instead.
Note: this will create a ‘Mistrust’ debuff in the enemy faction and will cause 5 turns of disruption where your points gained in both categories will increase. This can be a great time to recruit new spies.
Building an Undercover Network in Three Kingdoms can take time, but can destroy enemy factions from within if done correctly. If you’re interested in this kind of playstyle, we recommend picking Cao Cao’s campaign, whose playstyle focus is ‘Diplomatic Manipulation’ and has the ‘Schemes’ ability to wreak havoc. This will pair very well with the effective use of the Undercover Network.