Content of the article: "Faction Spotlight: Why you should play Sun Jian"
Why you should play Sun Jian (in 190 AD)
Who am I?
You're the Warden of the South, that's who! You're a man of honor who climbed from obscurity in a world of nepotism and bribery. You're- Oh. Oh no. You're Ned Stark. Think about it. You were born in the South, and duty to the Empire called you North… and though you may perish, you will raise great sons and daughters of the Southland!
Sun Jian's traits are Loyal, Fiery, and Brave. How brave is brave? Well, at age 16 you left your father on a boat to storm the river bank where pirates were distributing their spoils. Launching a one man amphibious invasion, you beheaded one of the pirates and sent the rest of them fleeing. You are a tiger in man's skin!
Where am I going?
You came from obscurity, rising through the ranks by sheer heroism and faithfulness. A rare thing in these times of nepotism and corruption! During the rebellion you were the first over the walls at Nanyang! During the Coalition to Defeat Dong Zhuo, you were… pretty much the only one to do anything! Well, aside from those three brothers and that Cao Cao guy.
At the ruined capital, you discovered the Imperial Seal- the symbol of Imperial authority. Returning it to the child Emperor is impossible… and certainly none of those pompous warlords deserve it! So maybe it's best you hold onto it for now.
Now at last you're back home in the Southland! Almost. It would be REALLY unfortunate if you, say, bravely charged straight into an ambush and got shot full of arrows and crushed by rocks.
How can I play this brave soldier?
On paper, Sun Jian's mechanics might not appear all that interesting. You have three low-tier unique units, a building that makes them cheaper to recruit faction-wide and 'Heroism' that passively increases satisfaction and makes your units cheaper overall.
What about the Mercs? Well, you can recruit them as individual retinues and don't need to hire a captain. Here's the kicker- mercenaries are recruited at full replenishment. So how do you use that to its maximum advantage and how does that play into your Heroism mechanic? Well, let me just present an example.
It's late game, you've got 7 fully upgraded mercenary outposts. Combine that with recruitment discounts from reforms/Heroism and bam- it costs 0 gold to recruit a mercenary unit. With all your armies composed of mere generals without retinues, let's say your income is at a comfortable 9000 a turn, allowing you to build up the southland's economy without paying a dime on army upkeep.
Suddenly the Nanman, Cao Cao, and Yan Baihu all declare war on you at once! Three armies from three directions move in on the same turn. You move your generals into place and recruit, in 1 turn, three fully replenished stacks to meet the invaders. For 0 gold.
Alright, that's nice and all but your enemies are bringing their best- dragon tier units. There's no way your mercenaries can defeat them. Welp, swap those mercs out for some elite units and they will be in tip top shape. In just 1 turn, a completely undefended settlement becomes a fully reinforced fortress.
Yet the battles are bloody and the cost is great. Three pyrrhic victories! It'll take 8 turns for you to replenish them… OR you could just swap those units out for fully replenished mercenaries and immediately launch your counterattack.
In short, Sun Jian can conjure up armies out of thin air and he can replenish those armies instantaneously. With enough support from his unique buildings, entire stacks can be recruited at minimal cost and the only expense will be upkeep.
The Mercs themselves are kinda low to mid tier. Curiously, the Infantry and Archers both have shield breaker. They're also resistant to fatigue in the desert so… that's nice? The mercenary outpost building is key, though. On top of its great bonus to replenishment (which you don't really need) and the faction-wide discount to your mercs, each tier adds +10% to commerce income.
Sun Jian gets a lot of value out of the Metal and Fire parts of the reform tree. It takes just 3 techs to be able to fully upgrade your mercenary outposts while the fire side allows you to further reduce recruitment costs and obtain more armies and retinue deployment slots. Trade can be a good source of income but not in the early game.
Who are your officers?
Sun Jian struggles early on with satisfaction, especially with low heroism. Luckily, it's not as bad as it seems- Loyal is a common trait so you don't have to worry about promoting guys like Cheng Pu and Huang Gai just to appease them. Also, you're going to have a LOT of vanguards. Fiery is another common trait.
Your wife. She came from a much more prestigious family- they SCOFFED when you tried to woo (or Wu) her over. Yet she took a risk on you and you delivered. Unfortunately, she's nothing special in-game. She has a rare (possibly unique) trait Fertile, increasing the likelihood of producing children. Her trait Committed (increasing replenishment) would be more useful if we didn't already establish how Sun Jian has instant replenishment.
Huang Gai, Zhou Tai, Gan Ning
Your vanguards- I did say you were gonna have a lot of them! Huang Gai has two notable things- his armor gives him innate Scare and at level 5, you can get unlock Fire Bomb on the right side of his tree. This ability is absolutely devastating to clumped up units and it's how he won the battle of Red Cliffs against Cao Cao. Zhou Tai was Sun Quan's bodyguard, famous for being GRUESOMELY wounded in defense of the young lord. As such, he has the incredible 'Undying Vow' passive and he's unique among vanguards in that he can initiate night battles. If you bring him into battle with an oathsworn, undying vow kicks in and he heals. A lot. -and he doesn't get tired. But you'll want to keep an eye on his health because he loses all of his evasion. Make sure he doesn't get dismounted and you can pull him in and out of combat forever. Lastly, Gan Ning the pirate! A pirate who wore bells to inspire fear in his victims. He has Hail of Arrows and, for what it's worth, can recruit Archers. It takes awhile to get him over to the opposite end of the skill tree but he is a GOD in the saddle with Wildfire Raider.
Sun Ce, and Sun Ren
More vanguards! You son Sun Ce is a rival to Lu Bu in terms of crowd control. While he doesn't do as much damage, he is a little more durable. His greatest contribution to your cause is his faction-wide bonuses- namely the huge bonus to cavalry. Your daughter Sun Ren comes of age around turn 80 and her heartseeker is an infamous general killer. By then you'll be swimming in more experienced Vanguards though.
This slippery sentinel. He's got absurd melee evasion and, curiously, can advance from two opposite corners of his skill tree. His exemplar ability beefs up your friendly generals with attack rate and evasion. Cheng Pu wasn't very flashy but he was with the Kingdom of Wu for a long time, eventually being honored as 'Elder Cheng' by his colleagues. He makes a decent administrator too.
Lu Su, Zhou Yu, Zhang Hong, Zhang Zhao
Your strategists. The diplomat Lu Su has -15% retinue upkeep and can give a faction-wide -2 construction time bonus. He's generally credited with cementing the Liu/Sun alliance despite their conflicts. Zhou Yu is a strategist who is… mildly better in melee (which isn't saying much) He was arguably a strategic mastermind rivalling Cao Cao and Zhuge Liang so I think TW:3K kinda does him dirty- giving him modest traits and a skill tree that I'd argue is worse than a generic strategist's. His faction-wide bonus is really good, though. Historically, he was known to be very handsome and good with a sword too. Zhou Yu certainly needs a rework in the future.
Esteemed brothers Zhang Hong and Zhang Zhao are not guaranteed to join you but they're fond towards your faction and are worth picking up. They both give a +20% damage bonus to an army's ranged attacks. Historically, Zhang Zhao was the more accomplished of the two- yet curiously he was denied higher level positions in Wu's court. It is thought that Sun Quan resented him for his stern and domineering guidance. Nevertheless, he was always a loyal subject.
You'll get this commander and future Emperor at around turn 55. He's… okay. His skill tree is generic and his background and traits are all overshadowed by your other officers. Like Zhou Yu, I think he gets the short end of the TW adaptation stick. Here's to hoping we see him reworked in a future update as well. I suppose he's notable for starting with a +47% speed bonus. All the better to run away from Zhang Liao with, I suppose.
In the first few turns, stay up north of the Yangtze river. You'll soon get attacked by Liu Biao (unless you give up the Imperial Seal) and it's real hard to keep Jiangling if you don't stick around. It seems like you can save Sun Jian's life if you rapidly defeat Huang Zu.
Once you make peace with Liu Biao, he is quite unlikely to attack you again. You might want to consider not wiping him out as expanding too far north would open you up to attacks from Yuan Shu, He Yi, and perhaps even Dong Zhuo and Cao Cao or Liu Chong. Consider him a buffer state.
DISBAND YOUR UNITS OFTEN!!! Especially your mercenaries. There's no point keeping them up and spending thousands of gold on upkeep a turn when you can summon them instantaneously as needed. This might make you appear weak to the AI but as we mentioned, you're surrounded by a passive Han Empire and you can conjure up defenses extremely quickly. Just take stock of recruitment cost and compare it to upkeep cost. If it would cost more to keep them around doing nothing, then you might be better off disbanding them.
Once Sun Ce comes of age, colonization is free. Just send a single general around the map snagging up settlements wherever you can. You may want to keep an eye on your corruption, though. Also, it should take no more than half a stack to conquer most of the Han Empire settlements south of the Yangtze.
Despite the recent updates populating the Southland with more competition (especially the Nanman), I feel like Sun Jian is still one of the easiest campaigns if you know how to game his mechanics. You're surrounded by Han Empire settlements ripe for the picking and with instant replenishment, you're capable of propping up rapid response armies in quick order. Even before you're capable of recruiting mercenaries at 0 cost, I find they're incredibly affordable with just a handful of mercenary outpost buildings. He's not as newbie friendly anymore but he's still got an easier time than most.
During the campaign against Dong Zhuo, Sun Jian had a feud with the inspector of Jing Province, Wang Rui. This was on account of Sun Jian's low birth. Wang Rui's other enemies tricked Sun Jian with a forged letter into administering his execution.
Sun Jian said, "I come bearing an emissarial dispatch to execute you, sir."
Wang Rui replied, "What is my crime?"
Sun Jian answered, "You just don't understand things." and thus Wang Rui scraped gold flakes and drank it to death. As a result, Sun Jian took over Wang Rui's command and his provisions.
To continue the Game of Thrones comparison, just like Ned Stark I think Sun Jian could be a bit… overzealous at times. He grew up in tremendously corrupt times and probably saw everyone outside of his immediate kith and kin as irredeemable outlaws and scoundrels. I think he was quick to condemn others, which is probably why he kept the Imperial seal for himself and ultimately set in motions the events that would get him killed.
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