With the prosperous and strategically vital Hojo provinces of Sagami and Izu under our control, things seem to be â€" somehow â€" going almost exactly according to plan. I would have preferred to have avoided conflict with the Murakami, but their forces are probably completely tied up in their conflict against the aggressive Uesugi. And they aren’t winning.
Besides, we have nearly a full stack of veteran ashigaru in the area, and Nobuhide is a very experienced commander. I doubt the Murakami could overcome us even if they do launch an offensive. The belligerent Kiso, on the other hand…
They’re something more of a problem. And despite their typically peaceful and non-expansionist tendencies, they have a massive army of troops that seem to be massing for an attack.
I say “seem” because I really have no idea what they’re going to do next. The AI can be pretty passive at times, and they may just sit there for a few turns. And I have no idea what the strength, experience, or makeup of their army is, aside from “it’s big,” and that’s what worries me most. The Kiso have been a next door neighbor to our heartland since the beginning, and until now, they’ve been reliable trading partners. But their proximity now puts them within striking distance of our own capital. I’m lucky I was paranoid about the Hatakeyama and Tsutsui, or I might not have very many troops in the area at all.
For now, I order every available garrison unit in range to converge on Owari, as well as Takayama Tadamoto, our newly recruited general. He’d been on his way east with reinforcements along the Murakami front, but now I’ll need him to lead our defenses at the capital. I also have a ninja on the way that should be able to intercept the enemy army before it reaches any of our castles. With more information, I should be able to decide on a more concrete strategy.
Also of vital importance is the diplomatic quandary of our new neighbors, the Uesugi. They’ve been useful as a distraction and deterrent against the Hojo and the Murakami, but that wasn’t based out of any goodwill on their part. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time to grab up a few territories as our enemies crumbled under the Uesugi assault. Moreover, there’s no reason to expect their aggressiveness to be sated now that they’ve reached our borders.
The recent declaration of war between the Uesugi and their northern neighbors, the Date, puts them into an unenviable two-front fight. They might be open to the idea of an alliance in such uncertain times…
I propose some modest concessions on our part, including the ever over-valued military access, and the Uesugi quickly accept. Hopefully, this foray into diplomacy won’t end as badly as my last one.
As summer begins, my ninjas have scouted out the Kiso army. And it’s a relief: mostly untested ashigaru recruits, with a handful of higher quality units. I was worried it might have been a samurai-heavy army, but this? I can deal with this.
Unfortunately, I may not be able to deal with it in time â€" the Kiso army is within striking distance of Mino, and I’m certain they’ll reach it before fall. Despite a renewed recruiting drive and my continued gathering of troops at Owari, there’s still no way I have the forces to hold Mino. I’m not going to repeat the mistake I made at Mikawa again. With some reluctance, I pull the troops I have garrisoned at Mino back to Owari.
And, as I predicted, the Kiso army reaches the castle within Mino by the end of summer, assaulting it immediately. The few samurai retainers whom are sworn to tend to the grounds commit seppuku rather than live to see the castle fall. The Kiso are now in uncontested control of the province.
On the other side of our realm, the Murakami have committed a moderate force to threaten Suruga province. This exposes a vulnerability in my defenses that I’ve already been considering for some time. While Sagami can act as a bulwark against direct attacks coming from the east, their defenses can easily be undermined by going around the northern side of Mount Fuji, through Kai province, and attacking Suruga or Izu directly, bypassing the front line entirely. The Murakami force that’s intruding at the moment is small and will no doubt be easily defeated, but you can imagine the trouble I might have if they had sent a force the size of the Kiso army that just took Mino.
I think I’m going to go ahead and conquer Kai, and take the fame associated with the victory (thus bringing me ever closer to realm divide). Better to take it now and have time to fortify than wait until realm divide hits and have no time to build an infrastructure.
But first, of course, the Murakami intruders must be dealt with, and Nobuhide quickly gathers his forces and sets out to intercept the enemy.
As fall begins, I finally manage to gather together a full twenty units of troops â€" a full “stack,” or the maximum number of units allowed in one army. Granted, most of them are new recruits â€" a far cry compared to Nobuhide’s veteran army â€" and Tadamoto is completely untested in combat. But then, the enemy army is mostly recruits, and as far as I can tell, neither of their generals have been tested in combat either. It seems that this battle will come down to a match of strategy.
And the Oda school of “exploiting the hell out of the AI quirks” has always proven superior.
I move the entire army to lay siege to Mino, and sure as day, the Kiso take the bait, sallying out of the castle to meet our forces.
And holy crap is that ever a giant ridge. Seriously, do these things actually happen in real life? Just look at that thing.
As awesome a defensive position as that ridge might make, its unfortunately facing the wrong direction to be of any use.
Instead, I’ll be moving my whole force up that hill behind us. It’s quite steep and well forested, and should make for an excellent spot to make our stand.
Assuming, of course, that I can actually get my units onto it. It turns out that very steep hills (and, particularly, anything with cliffs) tend to wreak havoc with unit formations. Who knew? Suffice it to say, I end up having to reshuffle my unit groups a bit. I end up with a front line of infantry, a second reserve line to flank, and two groups of four archer units each. And the two archer groups end up sitting on top of each other. Thank god for the trees.
Or Buddha. Or Karma. Or whatever.
The Kiso army approaches just as I finally get all of my troops deployed properly. My archers begin to open up on the first wave of infantry, and…
Oh man, I don’t even want to look at this anymore. Throughout the whole battle, I could only barely tell what was going on. My grand tactical maneuvers boiled down to “That looks like a gap. I think. Or maybe that’s one of my spear units there? Whatever, throw a unit at it anyway!” The awkward camera angle didn’t help much, and the trees only added to my obfuscation.
I do know that their cavalry and one of their two generals attacked my flanks in the initial charge, and were quickly mowed down. And their infantry began to break against my spearwall, allowing some of my units to swing around on their wings and flank them.
This is what the battle looked like towards the end. You can see their other general charging my lines near the center â€" he didn’t end up lasting long, though I wasn’t able to kill him as he routed.
The enemy main line, having thrown themselves against a spearwall in an uphill charge, broke rather predictably, and the Kiso threat more or less ended there. My spearmen quickly took advantage of the victory and swept down the hill to destroy the enemy archers.
All in all, an acceptable outcome. I lost a lot of infantrymen, but the enemy army was nearly crushed.
Meanwhile, Nobuhide’s forces close in on the Murakami incursion, but the enemy retreats into the forest, foiling my hope of a quick victory before winter.
But as the winds of winter come, Takayama Tadamoto gathers his forces together for a final assault on the remnants of the Kiso army still hiding in Mino’s castle.
Moreover, as his troops are being repositioned, he discovers a cache of hidden supplies â€" no doubt munitions the Kiso abandoned during their hasty retreat back into the castle. We’ll put these to use later.
But now, Takayama storms the gates.
He loses only twenty two men in the process of completely annihilating the demoralized enemy army. The Kiso military has been humiliated. I’m betting they wish they’d stayed simple trading partners right about now.
On the other hand, this has actually worked out better than I had hoped. The Kiso home province â€" South Shinano â€" is the final piece in of my plan for my northeastern fortifications, and it was the only one I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach. As a peaceful, unambitious clan, the Kiso tend to make friends with a lot of the nearby clans, meaning a declaration of war against them could potentially irritate a lot of larger, meaner clans. But since the Kiso went to the trouble of declaring war on me first â€" and throwing their entire army away on a fruitless endeavor of conquest to boot â€" I shouldn’t have any further trouble taking Shouth Shinano for myself.
The eastern defensive line is nearly complete. Very soon, we will need to turn our attention to the south and west. The Shogun will certainly be on his guard. And the Hatakeyama are certainly a force to be reckoned with. But no clan yet has managed to put a halt on our conquest, and every roadblock in our way has been crushed.
Soon, we shall see: Will the might of the Shogun be able to overcome our grand strategy?
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