Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 11: Border Wars

By Josh Posted Tuesday Jan 17, 2012

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 39 comments


Many apologies for all the missed deadlines and delays with this series of late. Last month saw a furious storm of activity at work right around the time everyone else was taking time off. Needless to say, I’ve been hard pressed to find both the time and the will to play any significant portions of Shogun 2 until recently. In the coming weeks I hope to build up a backlog of a post or two written in advance of the post date so that I don’t end up missing many more deadlines. I’ve already played this campaign quite a bit further than this post will cover (Spoiler: Nobunaga is crowned King of Prussia and America invades), so hopefully things will be back on track from now on.


Now for a quick recap: Last post, we had the Kiso on the run and had backed a Murakami invasion force into a corner.

The Murakami try to evade Nobuhide’s army, but between the harsh winter conditions and lack of significant nearby roads or trails, they can’t get far.


Nobuhide’s attack is swift and merciless, slaughtering many of the enemy troops and scattering the remainder to the wind, never to reform. With the immediate threat eliminated, Nobuhide can now begin his march into Kai province.

And the coming of Spring brings more good news.


Oda Nobunaga, nearing his 18th birthday, has come of age and is now ready to join his father’s armies as a general. For the time being, he will remain in Owari and command the western garrison, ever vigilant against the encroachment of the Hatakeyama.


Our other general, Takayama Tadamoto, has pushed his forces into South Shinano province. Unfortunately, he can’t quite make it to the castle gates this season. The siege will not begin until the summer.


Nobuhide, on the other hand, does manage to reach the Kai-province capital of Kofu, and lays siege. I would have ordered him to take the castle this turn, but there is a sizable Murakami force not far from the castle that could reinforce it and inflict more casualties than I’d prefer to risk. My hope is that they will come around and attack me next turn, allowing me to deal with them as I deal with most threats: by sitting on a hill and laughing as the AI charges up it.

Incidentally, in the way history actually played out, Nobuhide died on April 8, 1551 â€" in Shogun 2, this very turn. Fortunately for us, he’ll be sticking around for a while yet.


Summer rolls around and Tadamoto has reached the gates of South Shinano’s castle, laying siege to the fortifications. To my dismay, it becomes clear that the Kiso have not been idle in the months since their defeat at Mino, and have managed to recruit an impressive three katana samurai units, along with two cavalry units and a mismash of ashigaru. My infantry are already partially depleted from the engagements Tadamoto was involved in on his way here, and a three katana samurai main-line could prove problematic. Still, I have an overwhelming missile advantage, and that could easily be a deciding factor in the upcoming engagement.

Meanwhile, the Murakami force in Kai has retreated rather than trying to dislodge us, effectively abandoning it to Nobuhide. He quickly storms the gates, taking the castle without shedding the blood of a single troop under his command.


The news of Kai province’s capture only adds to the furor our reputation has evoked amongst the other great clans. We’re more than halfway to realm divide, and we need to end these border wars soon, or the Shogunate will move against us before we are ready to move against it.


One step towards stabilizing our realm lies in trade. Our economy – until now, largely based on the income gained from taxation of rice farms – has been pushed to its limits with all of the troops we’ve been levying. With some reluctance, I secure a trade agreement with the Hatakeyama, who now own most of the land surrounding Kyoto. I will, of course, need to conquer them in due course, but for the moment, we need the trade. A few other agreements are made with minor, neighboring clans and we finally begin to make some money again.


Meanwhile, the Uesugi, our neighboring allies, have seen their realm begin to rapidly implode. Pressure on either side from the Murakami and the Hojo has led to a loss of many of their recently conquered provinces, and the Date to the north have managed to take their original home province of Echigo. It may be wise to open negotiations with the Date soon, in order to secure an alliance that might stave off their ambitions.


It is late fall when the Kiso finally sally forth from their castle in order to break Tadamoto’s siege. My strategy in this battle does not waver from my established doctrine â€" I find a hill near the edge of the battlefield and arrange my forces in a defensive position atop it.


Recenly, I’ve come to the belief that the AI assigns movement orders to every unit in a formation as one, without concern for when each unit will reach its destination. This would, at least, explain why the enemy cavalry and one of its generals arrived so far in advance of the rest of the army. They stop just outside archer range, but a bit of baiting with my general convinces them to charge my spear wall.


If this were a player I was facing, I’d call this good baiting. But since it’s the AI, I’ll just chalk it up to my own sloppiness. The enemy infantry comes roaring across the field to reinforce its cavalry, almost catching my entire infantry line out of position. I manage to rout the enemy general and light cavalry unit, but I’m force to pull my infantry back up the hill before I can rout the enemy katana cavalry. This is much to my own dismay, as the katana cavalry are probably the biggest threat in their army aside from their three katana samurai. They’re a cavalry unit that is extremely good at standing and fighting, rather than relying upon the typical charge and retreat tactics that most other cavalry units require. If they were to get past my infantry and into my archers, they could start a mass rout.

The enemy katana samurai and yari ashigaru rush up the hill to attack my own line, and the battle is joined proper.


The battle on the main line is furious, and my center begins to collapse as I commit too many units to combating the enemy’s attacks on my flanks. I get lucky, however, as one of the units I send to attack the enemy’s left flank grabs the attention of the enemy general, and I manage to pull him into a melee fight. He doesn’t stick around long, but I do a respectable amount of damage to his bodyguard.


I begin to encircle the remaining four enemy infantry units and reinforce my center with one of my few remaining unengaged spear units. I catch the enemy general again, and this time he doesn’t get away. The battle comes down to the wire as I throw everything I have at the enemy katana samurai – even my own general – trying to break their morale before they break my own.


Eventually, it comes down to a contest between three heavily depleted spear units, my general, and the last katana samurai.

I win, narrowly, but my infantry line is completely devastated.


The game rightly labels this a Pyrrhic victory â€" I lost nearly as many men as the Kiso did, and two whole units were completely annihilated. It’s a sign of the times to come â€" the AI is beginning to field large groups of samurai in their armies, and my ashigaru armies won’t be able to compete for much longer. I need to recruit newer, more powerful troops, and I’ll need to build an infrastructure that can support them.


South Shinano falls in short order, and with little further bloodshed. For the moment, at least, we have the manpower necessary to rebuff anything the Hojo or the Murakami can throw at us. And we now possess every province required for my northeastern defense strategy â€" there are now only three points from which we can be attacked by anyone from the east. And with our borders finally secured, we can turn our attention west, towards the final prize.

The Shogun’s gaze may be focused upon us, but our gaze is just as focused upon him.


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39 thoughts on “Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 11: Border Wars

  1. MadTinkerer says:

    I bought Shogun 2 on the Winter Sale and I keep forgetting to try it. But then I also have Rochard, Tiny Bang Story, Cave Story + and a bunch of other new Indie games distracting me…

  2. Wolverine says:

    Great reading, but I could use a glossary. How am I supposed to know if this japanese term is a clan, territory or military unit?

    1. Simulated Knave says:

      Clans are proper nouns, and so have capital letters.

      Samurai and ashigaru are the units – basically regulars and militia.

      Koku is money.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:

        Cocu is also the adjective used to describe a cuckolded husband in French.

        Man, this really made reading Shogun hilarious when I was a teenager

        1. Lame Brain says:

          Wait, so the more husbands you have cuckolded, the wealtier you are? I guess that makes a certian, terrible sense…

  3. SolkaTruesilver says:

    What high-tier units the Oda clan can field best?

    Also, Josh, I realised in my (only) game I played so far, with the Date, that the ennemy will always come to you rushing if you happen to have at least 1 siege unit, even if you are the one attacking. Apparently, it’s an AI suicide magnet. (exception would be siege situations).

    1. Grudgeal says:

      The Oda’s best ‘high-tier unit’ is enough weaponsmith + castle + spear mastery-boosted veteran yari ashigaru (or long spear ashigaru) to drown your opponents in a wave of expendable, easily replaced cannon fodder. Backed by their superior gun/bow ashigaru, a general, and possibly one-two units of yari cavalry to counter opponents’ cavalry flanking, there is very little the Oda cannot handle: If you kill as many samurai as you lose ashigaru, it’s a net gain for you.

      The Oda are quite simple technology speaking. Even their clan-specific DLC unit is little more than a slightly more powerful (and twice as expensive upkeep) yari ashigaru. If you want to play fancy-pants with samurai, play a clan that has more powerful samurai and not the clan whose ashigaru are better and cheaper.

  4. Mersadeon says:

    Ah, I missed your Shogun posts! I got Rome: Total War yesterday (as a gift in a gaming magazine), and so far I really like it. Empire: Total War, on the other hand… has some big issues. Shogun 2 seems to be much better, so maybe I will get that in the future – I always long for things outside my normal education, and I know only an embarassing minimum about this time period in Japan.

  5. Joel D says:

    Would it be feasible to trim the unimportant background bits from the screenshots? If the only important part of an image is the middle third with the text box, we don’t really need the rest of it :)

    1. Jonathan says:

      You can click on the picture to zoom in so that it’s readable.

      1. Jeff says:

        Those of us with weaker connections, are impatient, or are easily distracted would appreciate more focused screen shots, anyway.

  6. Grudgeal says:

    Ah, yes, Oda Nobunaga. Japan’s first great unifier. If Josh would have tried to play even remotely historically correct, he would have killed off Nobuhide and let Nobunaga camp in Owari for another nine years, before suddenly sallying forth and conquering a third of Japan over the following twenty years, looting and burning half of the territories you conquer.

    Of course, the AI would probably have finished him long before that were that the case. Total War is somewhat more aggressive than its real-life counterpart

    As for Nobunaga, he’ll hopefully get to be second banana and a backup leader for a while yet — while Nobuhide has that hideous -20 relations penalty, he’s more valuable alive. And, of course, if you try being half as ruthless as Nobunaga was in real life, your honour will hit rock bottom in a turn and everyone will hate you: I never saw the value in a low-honour approach. The Japanese seem to love making him a villain, at any rate, to the degree that his rather eeeevil theme song from a Sengoku-era anime (as it, it’s set in the Sengoku era, not made in it) is the first thing you see when you go hunting for his name on youtube.

    Too bad you can’t change your ingame music to that one every time you take him into battle. Oh well.

    1. Klay F. says:

      Unfortunately, my first exposure to Nobunaga was in the first Onimusha. The less said about that series’ ridiculousness, the better.

      1. Jarenth says:

        I knew that that name sounded familiar.

        That means my only exposure to Nobunaga is killing him with Jean Reno.

    2. swenson says:

      Now I’m trying to picture anime made in the 15th/16th century, and it’s very entertaining.

      Also, do you realize just how hard it is to try to look up periods of Japanese history when Wikipedia is down?!

  7. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I got thinking. What we really need at times is moral-breaker, troop-shredder forces so Oda’s Yari Ashigaru can face them in battle with relative ease?

    Why not invite the Nanban, their faith and their guns in one of our ports? Matchlock Oda Ashigaru would be a perfect fit to our hordes of elite peasants.

    1. Zombie says:

      I have Honestly never found Matchlocks useful on the battlefield. They get overwelmed easily, and Bow Ashigaru does their job much better in my opinion. I also play the Takada and Date, where being able to move around and charge is the most important thing, and might be a bit biased against them.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:

        Might, indeed. I felt the same in my Date game, but for the few times I got around using them properly, they ended up being quite useful.

        In a “hold the line” tactic more than “charge at all cost”, they could provide quite the edge… potentially.

  8. rrgg says:

    Holy expletive, I booted up steam just now and was greeted by this:

    1. Zombie says:

      I cant wait for this. Just think of what this could mean for TW. I mean Railroads! Port Battles! New Defences! Anyone else smell Total War: World War 1? And for the record Creative Assembly, A TW game from 1800 to 1939 would be epic.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yes,that would be epic.But it should stop there,because no one wants another ww2 themed game(and company of heroes did that perfectly for a strategy game anyway).

        1. Zombie says:

          We all know that they wouldnt do a ww2 TW. There would have to be so much attention to detail, and tons of units they would have to put in. Even in Rome the only units that were generally know about were the Spartans and the Roman Legions

      2. Kevin says:

        I’d like to see a Total War: West Germany, Cold War gone hot circa 1989: A-10 “Warthogs” lighting up the Red Tide of T-72s with their GAU-8/A gatling guns, tracer fire from ZSU-23s filling the skies in response, all the while “Alfa” and Los Angeles class subs hunt each other underneath the waves of the GIUK gap.

        1. Markus says:

          Didn’t CA say they won’t be doing anything like WWI because they would have to change the game too much?

          1. Zombie says:

            They could do it like the Road to Independence was done, or even Medieval 2: Kingdoms. Just a diffrent map with diffrent rules, buildings, units, ect.

    2. rofltehcat says:

      Omg that looks so awesome.

      However, I fear that another firearm-heacy total war might be another disaster like Empire:TW (didn’t play Napoleon). I found it far too campy, didn’t like it.

      1. Zombie says:

        Didnt miss much, Napoleon was just one big full expansion pack, and I felt it was worse then Empire.

    3. SolkaTruesilver says:

      With Special Guest Star Tom Cruise.

    4. Grudgeal says:

      I got greeted by the price tag. £25? That’s what I shelled out for the original game on amazon.

      Standalone, fine, but this is still basically an expansion pack. Rise of the Samurai was an easy sell at under £6. This one, not so much.

  9. Ateius says:

    “I've already played this campaign quite a bit further than this post will cover (Spoiler: Nobunaga is crowned King of Prussia and America invades)”

    Wait, I thought this was a Total War game, not Europa Universalis!

  10. DTWolfwood says:

    Cool that you manage to get Nobuhide into a situation where he would actually die when he was suppose to. I tried REALLY hard to get that outcome on my play through of the Oda Clan. (killed in winter of that year)

    Also tried really hard to raise generals with with the appropriate last names, Toyotomi and Akechi. just never got their first names to match history T.T

    Funny thing is i know the game does randomly generate both Hideyoshi and Mitsuhide but for whatever reason never with the Family names Toyotomi and Akechi respectively :(

    1. Grudgeal says:

      If it helps any, Toyotomi wasn’t an existing family name anyway, but was one Hideyoshi was given by the Imperial court after becoming regent of Japan. As a peasant, he was born without one.

      Therefore, the name generator could never create a ‘Toyotomi’ historically correct anyway. Hideyoshi would have started his career as Nobunaga’s sandal bearer (or ‘heroic commoner’; I can’t recall if sandal bearer is an actual retainer in this game), before becoming a general called ‘Hashiba Hideyoshi’ (Hashiba was a made-up surname Hideyoshi took for himself). Mitsuhide is another matter though.

      1. DTWolfwood says:

        Funny tho that the game actually gave you generals with Toyotomi last names XD. In fact the general i sent on the southern campaign had that family name. He ended up with more vet than Nobunaga did. I was seriously RP’ing it up when it came to playing the Oda Clan simply because of their historic contribution to the Sengoku Jidai heh

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I heard about real warfare 1242 recently.Now I know its no total war,but it is made by (re)makers of kings bounty,so is it any good?Did anyone try it?

  12. Kevin says:

    You could try spamming trade ships and have them make a bee-line for the trading posts. A bit tricky considering Oda start in the dead center of Japan and the posts are on opposite ends, but if you’re lucky and move the first trade ship that comes out immediately and have the ones that were just built following them, then you can probably snag 2 or 3 of them before the AI does. That way, your trade income will quickly outpace your income from taxation. By about 1570 or so, I had 6 full stack armies of full-on samurai and sohei, fully upgraded farms and was sitting on 150,000 accumulated Koku (though be warned, as soon as some Wako pirates blockaded my port, my income went to -5000 due to upkeep).

    I usually play the Tokugawa campaign, who are put in an even tighter spot than the Oda, since they start as a vassal.

    1. Sho says:

      Realm divide can do horrible things to your trade income though. It helps to max out your farms juar before it triggers.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        Hear, hear. My first campaign as the Hattori I ended up monopolising the southern trade routes and derived my lion’s share of income of it. Then, Realm Divide struck and nobody wanted to trade with me any more: I instantly went into the red and had to disband half my army.

        Never again.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Same here. Was a good strategy in Empire but doesn’t work as well in Shogun :-P

        2. SolkaTruesilver says:

          As far as I know, there are 2 ways to keep trade income post Realm Divide:

          1- Keep 1 or 2 allies. You can do this by pouring a lot of cash and marrying your daughters with the daimyos you want to keep on your side. Very very strong allies won’t declare war on you.

          2- Vassalize a handful of clans in nonfertile lands. If you keep them busy ennough, they will trade with you happily.

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