200 AD Cao Cao and Yuan Shao Old friends were at war With Yuan controlling territory north of the Yellow River and Cao controlling land in the South Conflict had become inevitable The river is crucial to both men’s designs If Yuan can take Cao’s capital and capture the Emperor, northern China will be his Yuan’s forces have crossed to precede Cao’s defensive base Taking advantage of Cao’s decision to leave his territory and put down a rebellion by his rogue General Liu Bei The defeated Liu who was in flight going to join Yuan Shao but Cao had captured Liu’s sworn brother Guan Yu and Cao being a practical man, knew the indomitable general was more valuable dead than alive So he extracted a promise from Guan to do him a great service in exchange for his life Now, Cao’s Army has arrived to lift the siege with Guan Yu in the vanguard and As the lines close the Phoenix-eyed general sees an opportunity to discharge his debt of honor He plunges into the enemy. Glaive spinning, cutting a path toward the enemy’s banner. Through the chaos, he sights the enemy commander and bellows a challenge then decapitates him with one swing That night Cao finds a letter It’s from Guan Yu saying his service is done. Despite promises of riches and rank, he’s leaving to rejoin his sworn brother Liu Bei This series is brought to you by total war three kingdoms a brand new strategy game set during the time period of this episode for More information click the link in the description below Days later, Yuan’s forces cross the Yellow River assaulting Cao’s fortifications. Yuan has a hundred and ten thousand soldiers including the runaway warlord Liu Bei while Cao has only twenty thousand And as they cross, they see an opportunity. Cao Cao’s forces are returning from their victory at the siege Their baggage train listless and spread out making a tempting target for Yuan’s heavy calvary. Liu Bei pounces with five thousand horsemen Hooves pound the road. The baggage train panics, discarding weapons and valuables in order to outrun the approaching cavalry. The soldiers saw these valuables being discarded and soldiers love treasure Against orders, many rein in and drop from the saddle to begin pillaging Their commanders shout for them to get back into formation before… Too late Cao’s elite cavalry in perfect formation sweep them in a counter-charge The dropped loot was bait and Cao had played them. Liu Bei barely escaped with his life. And it was not the last time that Tao would trap them. For months, he goads the allies. Falling back, drawing them into his territory and then ambushing their vanguard. Finally, He falls back to a prepared position around Guandu Yuan Shao, his natural caution heightened after months of defeats won’t commit to a full assault The advance stalls The armies dig in for a siege, fighting in a zigzag of trenches Yuan builds archery towers to shoot down on the defenders. In response, Cao erects trebuchets and blasts the platforms into kindling Yuan tries to tunnel in amidst the enemy trench line Cao thwarts him with counter mines Yuan dispatches Liu Beii to stoke a rebellion near Cao’s capital. But once again, Cao sends the rogue general packing. And after three months, attrition finally takes hold. Caos forces begin to starve It will be over soon But that feels far away from this village. Here, away from the dirt and blood Yuan’s reserve troops relax They’re sitting with the army’s supplies. Well fed and safe In fact, they see reinforcements coming and prepare to go off duty. The soldiers don’t realize anything’s wrong until the approaching officer, who looks strangely lean and hungry draws his sword It’s an enemy strike team Under the cover of darkness, the infiltrators slaughter the guards and set their supplies alight Burning every bit of Yuan’s food Reserve. And the next morning as Yuan’s forces absorb the news Cao hits them with a shock assault The demoralized army breaks And as the army dissolves, Liu Bei ran for his life Because he knew that his betrayal of Cao Cao before the battle, Going on a road campaign and capturing a province for himself meant that the vicious warlord wanted his head. Oh, and he also tried to have Cao assassinated So that didn’t really help relationships with his old lord So Liu fled to his distant relative who ruled Jing province and started to plan his next move Because if the defeat at Guandu had proved anything, it was that he needed help. China was in chaos Everyone was fighting everyone. Cao had a grudge against him, and the last three times they’d met, Liu had barely escaped He needed a chief strategist. Someone to match the wily Cao. Someone who could help him fight smart Luckily, there was a renowned scholar in Jing province a talented tactician who lived as a hermit in the mountains A quirk that earned him the nickname “Sleeping Dragon” Liu Bei went to see this dragon. It took him three trips but he finally won the man over. And so Zhuge Liang, the greatest strategist of the age, entered Liu Bei’s service. And that was good, because the Sun family had attacked Jing province Ensuring Liu would need him. The Sun family was consolidating their hold of southeastern China. Battling hill tribes, conquering neighbors and trying to subdue the Jing province But they’d lost two leaders under bizarre circumstances Sun Jian, who’d fought so bravely in the alliance against Dong Zhuo, was crushed to death in a rolling log trap solidifying his place in this tale, as the man with the most ewok-esque death His elder brother inherited control but, in circumstances that are still disputed, took an arrow to the face during a hunting trip Now the junior-brother Sun Quan ruled He was much younger than either Liu or Cao. But a capable delegator who recognized and promoted talent He was unafraid to seize opportunities and ruled with a sense of pragmatism, free of ideological bias And he inherited his family’s conquests and policy of harassing his neighbors to the west It seemed like these southern states newly entrenched might even become their own kingdoms But in 208 an ill wind came from the north Liu Bei’s patron died, Leaving his sons split in a succession crisis over the governorship of Jing province And that’s when Cao Cao came south. For the last eight years, he’d been consolidating control of the north Breaking the back of the northern nomads, vanquishing pretenders to the throne And recovering the lost royal seal from its chain of owners. Now, he’d come for Jing province and the hated betrayer, Liu Bei. Liu had not waited to see what would happen He knew the young governor would surrender and fled south with a hundred thousand civilians Cao’s elite cavalry, the same units that nearly killed him during the Guandu campaign ran him down And to escape they rode at speed with a few dozen followers. Barely making it to the protection of his advanced force under Guan Yu Zhang Fei stalled the cavalry by destroying and blocking the bridges behind them He had escaped but Liu was far from his power base His army largely dead or captive, His family in enemy hands And Tao now held the most strategically important city on the Yangtze River There was no recourse, except one, because Sun Quan had sent a messenger Sun Quan offered an alliance The decision would not be an easy one, though Even for Sun. Cao Cao had sent Sun a demand calling for his surrender claiming he had 800 thousand troops Swim’s advisers split Half argued: he should give up, that the enemy was too powerful But the other half urged him to ally with Liu. “Cao Cao was bluffing”, urged Sun’s chief general. He had no more than 230,000 troops and 80,000 of those were unenthusiastic levies from Jing province They would run if confronted But even if those deserted, Cao’s remaining army would be three times larger than the 50,000 troops Suan and Liu could muster together The ministers argued Voices rose And when the noise became unbearable, Sun drew his sword and chopped down A quarter of his desk tumbled to the floor “Anyone who still dares argue for surrender will be treated like this desk!”, he said There would be an alliance. It would be Liu Bei’s 20,000 refugee soldiers with Sun Quan’s 30,000 marines against the full might of the north But these allies had learned from their defeat at Guandu, Where Cao had beaten a larger force through guile and strategy So with Zhuge Liang advising, the Sun-Liu Alliance hatched a plan Cao’s troops were northerners. Untrained in river operations Diseases from the marshy southern lands were ravaging his army, and his cavalry near useless in the soft ground. In fact, he had to chain his stolen fleet together to keep his men from getting seasick So knowing all that, the Allies picked their ambush point: The Red Cliffs Sun Quan instructed one of their generals to feign defection. Sailing his assault ships towards the enemy’s chained fleet But aboard each ship, they stacked bales of oil-soaked straw. Zhuge Liang had studied the Stars and signs, divining when a southwest wind would carry the “defecting ships” upriver And when the wind blew strong, they lit the defecting ships on fire and loosed them into Cao’s packed armada Cao could only watch. As the wind carried the ashes of his great fleet north toward home And he knew he would have to follow. At least, he could withdraw in good order. The Liu and Sun attacked, tearing into Taos forces on land and harrying him through the wet marshes throughout the grueling march back North Cao had come close to uniting all of China under his rule and he failed Yet victory proved fatal for this southern alliance Liu sees Jing province for himself and soon he and Sun were at war China was broken Three warlords controlled three power centers Power centers that gradually developed into the kingdoms Cao Wei, Sun Wu and Shu Han Three kings ruled China Three kings each dreaming of ruling all under heaven Three kings who rallied their armies for battle The empire, long divided, must unite Long united must divide Thus, it has ever been.