Total War: Three Kingdoms – Income Guide


Disclaimer/short review of unique buildings

Keep in mind that factions get unique buildings that will make you deviate from this template a little bit.

For example

  • Caocao has a red building which is bad, but it gives food which is great
  • Kong Rong the big Dong gets a unique school that doesn’t give exp and instead gives income and public order, this could replace the Grain Storage and be a viable sixth building for non-port regions.
  • Liu Bei has a better version bad building, but he gives +4 public order
  • Liu Biao has an awesome building, it’s basically a free school for every Inn you build
  • Lu Bu has a red building, meh
  • Ma Teng has a red building which is bad, but it gives food and public order which is good
  • Sun Jian’s building is situational and the full mercenary armies provided by it are wayyy too expensive early game, especially on Legendary. It’s not worth building for the commerce income alone. Apparently, his faction gives a “+25% commerce income faction-wide” for each port which is insane.
  • Gongsun Zhan has a decent administration building, more of a sidegrade as you’re losing a -20% adjacent corruption for some public order.
  • Yuan Shao has a decent administration building, more of a sidegrade as you’re losing a -20% adjacent corruption.
  • Yuan Shu’s administration building sucks as it reduces his faction’s resource, but his resource can give up to +9 free public order which is almost as much as a maxed out Grain storage.
  • Zhang Yan’s building can only be built in the mountains I think, but it’s really good. Especially the administrator limit or the loot income buff chains.
  • Zheng Jiang’s buildings suck if you’re playing normally. Both are situational in a bad way.
  • You might be able to make this work, haven’t tried playing a full campaign as her yet tbh.

Also, Yellow Turbans have entirely different building chains. I might edit this if I feel like to playing them later

Purple/Blue Provinces Non-Port Regions

I find that for most provinces you can combine industry and commerce income buildings for a lot of income. Generally, it goes like this

For non-port regions, build in this order going downwards and you can upgrade the buildings as you see fit. The first five buildings are your bread and butter and the last one is a bit flexible. Generally, I stay at Small Regional City for landlocked cities.

You can expect between income between 4000-10,000 gold per province when you’re maxed out depending on resources. Unique building may significantly boost or lower this number.

1. State workshop(Industry Income)->Grand Treasury Mint(-15% corruption adjacent provinces(Includes province it’s built-in))

  • Just the -15% corruption to adjacent provinces would make this building worth it to build

2. Inn(Commerce income)->Grand Tea house(More commerce income)

  • The other option gives more % commerce income, but this option gives more overall

3. Private workshop(Industry and Commerce buff)->Master Lacquerware Artisans(A lot bigger Industry and Commerce buff)

  • Gives a ridiculous amount of % commerce income

4. Grain Storage (Public order)

  • Costs less than Confucian Temples

5. Administration Office(+10% income)->Office for Archives and Seals(+15% income and -20% corruption adjacent provinces)

  • I’d spam this with the other option that reduces corruption, as long as a region isn’t terribly unlucky it’s possible to get 0% corruption even late-late-game

6. It costs too much food to build it up to this level early to the early-late game.
The % commerce income building or a school would be best if you upgrade to this level, especially later in the game where you have too much food and money to spend and nothing to spend it on.

Purple/Blue Provinces Port Regions

For port regions, I think this is the best order for building buildings. Generally, I stay at Regional City and upgrade my major money provinces to Imperial City.

You can expect between 5,000 to 10,000 gold per province when you’re maxed out depending on resources. Unique building may significantly boost or lower this number.

1. Jetties(Starting building)->Spice Trading Port(Most commerce income)

  • This one gives the most income out of the three options, it gives a bit less income than Grand Trading port alone, but with an Inn or some commerce income buffs, it quickly becomes better.
  • As a note, Sun Jian’s faction gets a “+25% commerce income faction-wide buff” for each Grand Trading port which is insane and you should build that branch. CA should have been more transparent with this buff, I thought all ports had it for every faction originally >.>

2. Inn(Commerce income)->Grand Tea house(More commerce income)

3. Private workshop(Industry and Commerce buff)->Master Lacquerware Artisans(A lot more Industry and Commerce buff)

4. Confucian Temples(Public order)

  • This option gives +6 more public order maxed out compared to a Grain Storage. A Grain Storage would be cutting it close as a Grain Storage(+10 public order) and reforms(+8 public order) would be dead even with a Regional City and two resource building’s public order penalty of -18 public order from the 4.0 million population.

5. Administration Office(+10% income)->Office for Archives and Seals(+15% income and -20% corruption adjacent provinces)

  • Same reason as for non-port regions

6. State workshop(Industry Income)->Grand Treasury Mint(-15% corruption adjacent provinces)

  • The reason this is built last compared to first like in the non-port regions is that industry doesn’t have many buffs to its income and the port starts with commerce income that can be buffed with the Inn and Private workshop

What About Red Provinces?

If a province’s resource is red, then look at its resource and see its income. If it’s industry/commerce, just follow same template as above. If it doesn’t have any income, then build according to the other resources or build whatever.

Green/Food Provinces

After you start leveling up your cities their food cost really rises quite rapidly. For the Green provinces like Chen, I generally stay at the level of City. I found the sweet-spot for food income to be around the level of City as that’s when you’ll be able to have the essential buildings, and some nonessential ones, without sacrificing too much food upkeep. Late game you can upgrade the city to get all the buildings to their final levels and then downgrade back to original levels. You can speed up construction by pressing a button on the building you’re constructing.

You can expect around 1,000 gold and around 40-60 food when you’re maxed out. Unique building may significantly boost or lower this number. Like Caocao or Ma Teng can get boatloads more food with their unique reds at the cost of some upkeep and a build slot.

1. Jetties(Starting building)->Spice Trading Port(Faction-wide spice buff)

2. Land development(Food and peasantry income)->Magnate Estates(More Food and peasantry income)

  • The other options for this tree give you a massive penalty to food that’s not worth it imo

3. Government support(Food and peasantry income buff)->Winnowing and Machine workshop(Bigger food and peasantry income buff)

  • This option gives more food as you don’t really need the meagre income bonus the other option gives you

4. Granary(Gives less public order than Temples but it doesn’t cost any upkeep and its public order is more than enough to sustain the province)

  • If you’re in a landlocked province and don’t have the jetties. Some good options would be School, Marketplace upgraded to the Silk faction-wide buff, or the -corruption administration building.
  • As a side-note, if you’re in a province with a City and one resource building, you’ll be at 1.5 million population which gives -6 public order. Because reforms can give +8 public order you can ignore the public order building and build something else that you feel would be useful. But generally, I’d use the above layout as a template and you can change this up depending on the situation
  • As a side-side-note, I found that the public order penalty increases by increments of 2 where at 1.3-1.5 million people you’ll have -6, at 1.6-1.8 million people you’ll have -8, at 1.9-2.1 million people you’ll have -10 public order and so on
  • At 1.8 million people, which is around a small city and two resource buildings, you’ll have -8 public order which is equal to your reforms
  • At 2.0 million people, which is around a city with two resource buildings you’ll have -10 public order which is above the amount your reforms alone can sustain

5. What else do you need?

  • The Tax collection building gives too much negative public order and while it is possible to get that attractive +450% peasantry income late game(From population and the other Government support building), you can get around and over +1000% commerce income by following this guide.
  • At 5 build slots, you’ll be at the Regional city levels where the food costs really rise to it not being worth it.

What If There is a Green and a Blue/Purple Resource in The Same Province?

  • As long as there’s a resource building there that gives commerce or industry income(Blue/Purple), that doesn’t include the port, build for income. (There’s probably a way that gives you a bit more money, but this way saves you the brain-cells and it’s a simpler way of doing it)
  • Keep in mind that Spices and Silk have their own separate income bonuses and the only thing that would affect them if you make it an income province is the anti-corruption buildings
  • Another thing to keep in mind that while Tea Houses are green, they provide commerce income so should be treated as if they were blue

Recruitment Province

They aren’t needed in this game as you don’t need buildings to recruit anymore. I generally make some on my more permanent frontiers for the cheaper recruitment cost, garrison, and negative enemy supply.

  • Garrison
  • Recruitment cost
  • Negative enemy supply
  • Grain storage(+reserves)
  • School(+exp)
  • Tax collection


  • I found that you need some green provinces because as you upgrade your cities, their food cost rises massively. You could probably only afford a couple of Large Regional(-34 food), and Imperial cities(-46 food). Generally, I’d put them in your commerce provinces as they give +% income from commerce.
  • Public order buildings are needed as you upgrade cities and their population grows, usually, I go for some public order reforms on the right side of the tree which you can get by building a tax collection building, getting the reform, then demolishing it.

Resource Building Chains for The Resources That Branch Out

  • Copper: Copper Coin Mint, -4% corruption faction-wide is too strong not to ignore
  • Fishing: Either one is good, depends on what kind of province you’re going for(Food or Income)
  • Iron: Iron Craftwork town, more income, and military supplies aren’t that important
  • Jade: Jade Trading town, you get a lot more income buffs from commerce than you get from the industry and this option trades -25 industry income for +30 commerce income and trade influence
  • Livestock: Either one is good, generally I go for the option that gives more food
  • Local Pines: Pine Trader camp, gives more income and trade influence, the other option gives military supplies which isn’t that important in your own province
  • Tea: Grand Tea plantation gives more income, trade influence that the other option gives you isn’t that important late game as a lot of people probably hate you and you can only get a couple of trade agreements if any
  • Tools: Industrial Tool Manufacturer, gives more industry income and the other option gives a bit of trade influence which isn’t that important
  • Tradeport: Spice Trading Port City, more commerce income compared to the rest and +50% income from spice faction-wide is pretty good

Kinda Important Stuff

You need Grand-state workshops to get industrialists, I’d build it in a corner so as to not affect the “-15% corruption to the adjacent provinces” building

You also need a Marketplace or Market-wharf building somewhere to get Entrepreneurs, I’d build it in a corner or build it as a sixth building for the same reason above. Keep in mind that the silk chain of this building doesn’t give Entrepreneurs.

How corruption works

You can have a max of 90% and if you manage to stack your provinces well enough, you can get 0% corruption late game.

Corruption reduction has this formula: E = B * (1 – R/100) where E – final corruption, B – base corruption, R – sum of corruption reduction. Which is demonstrated in the attached image

total war three kingdoms income guide

Other Income Guides

I found another income guide that’s much more min/max than mine that revolves on having max level imperial cities, constant revolts with a militia garrison to supress it, and -70 food for each large economy city.
It has a lot better format and includes all the reforms and their benefits, but in my opinion it isn’t as good in self sustaining and is not as general as mine. This one relies on a couple big cities with around 10,000 income at the cost of -70 food each. Which, in my opinion, is worse than many smaller cities all having ~5,000 income at the cost of around -16 food at most. Along with that, you have to deal with the revolts every turn which when it’s late-game, becomes quite a hassle.

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