On a journey, ill;
my dream goes wandering
over withered fields.
– Basho, Japanese Poet
It would be a lie to say that our current situation looks anything other than bleak. Our expeditionary force into Mikawa has scarcely had time to celebrate its victory over the Tokugawa, and now faces an Imagawa army of nearly two thousand men.
The earlier attack damaged the gates and walls of the castle, and there has been no time to repair them.
Still, our general, Takyama Muneyori, hasn’t let the poor odds dampen his spirits. And there may still be hope â€" a small force of reinforcements from Owari is on its way and will arrive behind the besieging forces. If they can distract the archers while the forces in the castle keep the Imagawa infantry at bay, victory may not be as impossible a goal as it seems.
Before the battle begins, I deploy the castle’s defending garrison in loose formation on one side of the castle. Though the walls, much of which are still intact, provide a good deal of defense against arrows, the Imagawa have a lot of archers, and they’ll easily be able to inflict serious casualties before their own infantry climbs the walls.
My hope is to, instead, draw my forces as far away from the main concentration of enemy archers as possible, and perhaps even force them to enter the castle to get a good shot at my infantry. If I can largely neutralize the enemy missile advantage, my infantry will have a much better chance at defeating the enemy.
I also have my general outside the castle. My two reinforcing units (one spear ashigaru and one bow ashigaru) will quickly become discouraged if they face the enemy without support, and my units in the castle itself will most likely fight to the death rather than rout. My general will be much better off if he can encourage the reinforcements, and as a mounted unit he and his bodyguard will likely be more tactically useful in an open field with plenty of room to maneuver.
There isn’t any more I can do to prepare. It’s time to start this and see what happens.
Almost immediately, my reinforcements arrive, and they appear to have struck it lucky: They’re directly behind the enemy’s main archer formation. Quickly, I move my general to rendezvous with them.
An enemy general tries to lay chase to Muneyori, but he breaks off as our fearless leader heads away from the castle, which gives me an opening to charge into the enemy archer line.
Unfortunately, despite their tight formation, lack of nearby spear units, and my general’s charges, the enemy archers have already managed to kill half of my reinforcing archer unit, as you can see from the unit strength numbers at the bottom of the screenshot (group two is my reinforcements).
Meanwhile, in the castle itself, a fierce melee has erupted for control of the tenshu.
Now, I made a major mistake here by not putting my troops back on the walls when I realized that I would be able to disrupt most of the enemy archers, or at least putting the yari units into spearwall. Instead, I kept them in loose formation until the enemy began climbing the walls. It may seem obvious in hindsight, but in the heat of battle, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on, especially when you’re managing two distinct fronts at once.
Also of note is the fact that despite all of the castle gates being broken open, the AI is still directing all of its units to climb the steep, defensive walls of the castle so some of his men can fall off and die for no reason whatsoever. The AI simply refuses to use gates â€" unless, of course, the unit in question is routing. Ultimately, the castle’s damage may not have much of an effect at all on this fight.
For a brief moment, it looks as if I’ve won the melee as several Imagawa troops start wavering.
But their morale recovers as the rest of their troops overcome the walls and rush to their assistance.
While I’d have preferred to keep my general out in the field where he can pick off unguarded enemy troops and harass their weak formations, its clear the situation inside the castle is coming to a critical point, and I’m going to need all of the strength I can muster to repulse the enemy’s main line. Rushing back to our fortifications, I pause only so I can charge him into the only enemy missile unit that was still firing into the castle. I don’t have the time for him to do any more damage than that though, and, narrowly avoiding a charge from the enemy general, I manage to slip Muneyori and his bodyguard in through the open gate.
Unfortunately, before Muneyori even gets inside the castle, our reinforcements have routed. It won’t be long before the rest of the enemy archers return to rejoin the main battle.
Fortunately, the gate that our general entered through was one that put him directly behind the enemy lines, and with a renewed fervor, he charges into their rear ranks in a classic hammer-and-anvil maneuver.
Very soon, the enemy infantry force has broken under the pressure, but not without extracting a terrible toll. Nearly the entirety of our force has simply been annihilated. Even Muneyori’s bodyguard is depleted â€" even though they were charging into the back of an enemy spear unit, they still lost a good half dozen men.
There’s only one chance left. The enemy general has dismounted, and he’s climbing the wall to complete what his men could not. If we can kill him, the rest of the enemy, demoralized at seeing their general fall, might rout. Everything we have left is thrown at the enemy general in the hopes of breaking him.
But it isn’t enough.
And as the remaining enemy infantry climb the walls, it becomes clear whom the victor is this day.
Takayama Muneyori died as every samurai should â€" at he head of his men, fighting alongside them in a valiant attempt to turn defeat to victory.
But this is of little comfort to our Daimyo. It’s difficult to see this outcome as anything more than a complete disaster. Our army is crushed â€" only the archer unit we sent to reinforce the castle made it back alive â€" one of our greatest generals lies dead on the field, and the Imagawa are poised to strike into the heart of our territory. If there is a silver lining here, its that we can now be reasonably certain both what the total Imagawa strength actually is, and where it is concentrated. A high price to pay for such information.
There is one thing we have in our favor though. Remember that call to arms bonus we got when we took Mikawa last turn? It increases the number of units we can recruit a turn in each province by one.
With it, we can quickly outbuild the Imagawa and muster an army large enough to catch them off guard. At least, that’s the hope.
Unfortunately, the news doesn’t seem to be getting any better â€" our new hostile neighbors, the Tsutsui, have taken one of the Hattori provinces, and they’re now in direct striking range of Owari â€" if they were to feel so inclined.
There is a point in every campaign where you can tell where you’ve lost. Where you know that no matter what you do, you just aren’t going to be able to recover from it. We’re not there â€" yet â€" but we’re teetering on the edge, staring off into the abyss. I’m not sure I can survive a war on two fronts against such powerful clans, not in my current condition. I’ll be keeping a close eye on my western border from now on.
The bad news continues as summer turns to autumn. The Imagawa forces began to sally forth from Mikawa to continue their offensive, and I ordered my ninja to try to sabotage the enemy army and force it to wait for a season. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful, and was executed for his trouble.
We can’t delay any longer â€" I won’t risk leaving Owari vulnerable from two sides. It’s a risky move, but I bring nearly my entire reformed army to bear on Mikawa, scaring the Imagawa general back inside. I’m counting on the Hattori to continue to occupy the complete attention of the Tsutsui, and they certainly aren’t out of the fight themselves, having captured Yamato â€" the Tsutsui home province â€" at the end of last turn.
Autumn gives way to winter. The time is right. In two turns we’ve managed to field an impressive army and bring it bearing down on the heads of the honorless Imagawa. Our ninja has confirmed that they have no significant reinforcements in the vicinity.
In a single stroke, we will turn our most crushing defeat into our greatest victory. Once again, we’ve laid siege to Mikawa, but this time, we won’t lose it. Takayama Muneyori will have his retribution.
And soon, the name Oda will strike fear into the heart of every Imagawa on the face of Japan!
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
Games and the Fear of Death
Why killing you might be the least scary thing a game can do.
PC Hardware is Toast
This is why shopping for graphics cards is so stupid and miserable.
The Best of 2012
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2012.
Diablo III Retrospective
We were so upset by the server problems and real money auction that we overlooked just how terrible everything else is.