Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 15: Calm Before the Storm

 By Josh Feb 29, 2012 28 comments

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Picking up from where we last left off, Nobuhide and his grand army has just crushed another Hojo force. What strength they have remaining is scattered and impotent, and it’s left Musashi province open for attack.

Still, there is that nagging risk of prematurely triggering realm divide, so for the moment, I pull Nobuhide back to Kai province to guard against any further Hojo aggressiveness.

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Also in Kai province, I’ve begun recruiting yari cavalry for use in Nobunaga and Nobuyuki’s armies when they attack the capital region. These are spear-armed heavy cavalry, powerful in a charge; and with their spears, they excel at fighting other cavalry. Once they’re locked in melee combat, though, their strength diminishes, so the general strategy is to charge at a unit and then retreat, and charge again. They’ll be excellent for taking out enemy generals and crushing katana-armed units.

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Just north of the Hojo, the Date have the Uesugi in dire straights. The once mighty clan has been reduced to a single province with a smattering of battered units. They won’t last long.

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To the west, the Ikko-Ikki are pressing an attack on the Hatakeyama-owned province of Omi. Despite declaring war on us several turns ago, they’ve shown no interest whatsoever in attacking any of our lands. But they do outnumber the local Hatakeyama forces, so this may yet prove interesting. If we’re lucky, both sides will spend their strength on each other and leave a direct path to Kyoto completely undefended.

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And there it is. The Uesugi clan has been exterminated and all of their holdings are now controlled by the Date.

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The Date now want military access to our lands in exchange for their help in all of our current wars. This is actually a remarkably savvy move for the AI in this case – they need military access to reach most of their eastern enemies easily. And if it makes the Ikko-Ikki think twice about interfering when I attack the capital, then more power to them. I accept the offer without a second thought.

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Now that the Date have openly declared war on the Hojo, I’m going to take the fame hit and capture another Hojo province. Better to snap them up while they’re held by the weak Hojo than wait for the Date to take them and have to wreathe them from the control of our much more powerful neighbor.

Musashi is just as ripe for the taking as it was a few turns ago, and honestly, taking it is a bit of a conceit of mine: The castle town of Musashi is Edo – which you might know better as Tokyo – the city that would become the capital of the Tokugawa Shogunate and is now one of the largest cities in the entire world.

Additionally, we’re now nearly at the end of the peasant uprisings that began last post, so I’ve returned to taxing all of the affected provinces and finally making some money again.

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Back in the west, the Ikko-Ikki have managed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, losing a battle between their main force and the Hatakeyama army. Inexplicably, the smaller of the two Ikko-Ikki armies is now laying siege to Omi rather than meeting up with its beleaguered larger counterpart and attempting to overpower the Hatakeyama force. It’s almost like they’re trying to lose.

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With the onset of summer, Nobuhide reaches Musashi with a detachment of the Kai and Sagami garrisons. The Hojo can’t even mount a proper defense, and Edo falls to Nobuhide’s assault in short order.

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It seems our benevolent treatment of our merchants is paying off now, as they’ve managed to procure supplies from neighboring provinces for much cheaper than normal, and with them we’d be able to reduce the recruitment cost of new troops by 25%. Of course they want two-thousand koku for them, which normally wouldn’t be enough to give me pause, but most of the units for our western invasion force have already been recruited and are now slowly making their way across our territory. I’m not certain I’ll end up recruiting enough units to make it worth the initial investment.

But, on the other hand, it would be prudent to be prepared if something disastrous were to happen, so I opt to pay the merchants.

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Somehow, the smaller Ikko-Ikki force managed to take Omi while the larger Hatakeyama force chased its other army north into secure Ikko-Ikki territory. Given the insanity of the Ikko-Ikki’s grand strategic gestures so far, this success is nothing more than extraordinary. Which makes it that much more fitting that the Tsutsui are already marching with a larger army to capture Omi for themselves.

There is an opportunity here to grab Omi away from the Ikko-Ikki and gain a foothold in the capital region ourselves, but only if the Tsutsui actually lose.

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And of course they don’t.

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Better news comes from other places, however, as we’ve cleared all of the prerequisites and can now directly research gunpowder mastery, which will give us access to arquebus-armed infantry and ships.

And then spring comes, and it’s all I can do to not stand up and give a whooping hollar of “Finally!”

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After twelve years, some forty-eight turns, and almost at the end of the gunpowder research tree, we have finally received the Nanban Trade event.

Now what does this mean?

Well, in short, we can now upgrade one of our ports into a Nanban Trade Port and open trade with Europe directly. This will give us access to gunpowder based units through the port, but they’ll be expensive to recruit. But, for our trouble, they will give us a free unit of matchlock-armed ashigaru. The downside is, of course, that at this time in history European intercontinental trade was as much about spreading Christianity as it was about acquiring wealth. The trade port will spread Christianity to the province it’s located in, so if you don’t want to commit resources to deal with that or – and perhaps more deviously – convert to Christianity yourself, then it’s going to cause problems for you.

But gunpowder units are paramount to our success, so of course I’m going to say yes.

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I’m now treated to a short cinematic with this particularly hilarious line of dialogue. Historically, the Japanese were quite receptive to gunpowder-based weaponry – at least, in this time period. And really, if shooting a man with a gun at range is dishonorable, is it any more honorable to shoot a man in the back from a hundred paces with an arrow? Because archery is one of Japan’s oldest methods of warfare, and Samurai were originally trained more with the bow than the sword.

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Only a few months after Nanban traders arrive in Owari for the first time, I receive word that “the Black Ship” has been spotted heading east across the Japanese coastline. This is an event that occurs periodically, and is an opportunity for non-Christian clans to get their hands on a European ship. Apparently it’s supposed to be some sort of Portuguese merchantman, and the name is an obvious reference to the “black ships” of American Commodore Matthew Perry’s fleet that opened Japan for trade for the first time in two hundred years in 1853.

Now, European galleons in this game are incredibly powerful compared to the oar-propelled coastal ships of traditional Japanese design. But that also makes it extremely difficult to capture this ship, even with a full fleet matched against it, and I’ve never succeeded in my own attempts, nor have I ever seen any AI clan ever capture the ship. And if you convert to Christianity and fully upgrade your Nanban trade port, you can just build your own Galleons, so I never really saw the point in going after it.

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While I was busy gushing over the concept of proper European trade, the Ikko-Ikki drunken-warfare strategy suddenly turned the tide against the Hatakeyama, as they’ve struck into the heart of the latter’s territory. They now have significant holdings inside the capital region, and, well…

Just look at the rank and traits on their daimyo! This guy is going to be a challenge to beat.

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Partially to get the newbie general I had sitting on Kai some experience, but mostly just to break up the monotony of this “hurry up and wait for more troops” thing we’ve been doing for the last two posts, I send Toyotomi Tanefusa to intercept the latest attack force the Hojo have conjured up. Though his army outnumbers the enemy nearly two to one, the Hojo army is all-samurai, so I decide to play this one in real time rather than roll the dice on it.

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Honestly, this fight wasn’t really very interesting. I didn’t want to attack head on and hiding my units in the forest to bait the enemy into advancing on my position wasn’t working, so I decided to ride my general and his bodyguard into the range of the enemy archers and then pull him back, hoping to draw them in one at a time so I could deal with them with my own archers. And it worked.

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Multiple times.

Once I dealt with most of the archers, the Hojo charged my lines with their katana samurai.

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And it was a simple matter of encircling their force with my superior numbers and killing their general.

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Not exactly the most exciting of fights, but I’ll take the win.

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By summer of 1558, the Hatakeyama have been reduced to a mere two provinces, and I think the time is finally right. Previously, I’d been reluctant to attack the Tsutsui because of their alliance with the Hatakeyama, which would inevitably draw me into a war with both clans. But now the Hatakeyama are in no position whatsoever to fight me, so their protection is worthless for the Tsutsui. Omi is within easy striking distance of our now-almost complete western force, and from there, Nobunaga can strike at much of the rest of the capital region.

Finally, we stand at the cusp of making our true bid for power. Everything is in place, or soon will be. The Hojo have been reduced to nothing, the Date are moving against our enemies in the north, and the Ikko-Ikki and Hatakeyama are occupied fighting each other. The time to strike is upon us.


20828 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. AbruptDemise says:

    “Previously, I’d been reluctant to attack the Tsutsui because of their alliance with the Hatakeyama, which would inevitably draw me into a war with both clans. But now the Hatakeyama are in no position whatsoever to fight me, so their protection is worthless for the Tsutsui.”

    Wait, the AI will abandon their allied clans if they are weak enough to get steamrolled? That’s… quite ruthless and effective, more so than you think an AI would be. This sort of thing is in stark contrast to the usual failings of the Shogun 2 AI, i.e. the Ikko-Ikki’s strategy of not reinforcing their own army.

  2. Lame Duck says:

    Is there any reason to refuse trade with the Europeans? Even if you don’t want the Christian influences, you can just not build a Nanban trade port and you still get the free unit. Plus you’ve got the extra option of building the port later if you change your mind.

    • MikeH says:

      The spread of Christianity can and will destroy your entire nation if you let it. A religious civil war will break out in your lands if you let it spread unabated. If you embrace it you get all the fancy Christianity units but you need to garrison every territory in your empire to stop rebellions until everyone is converted. Either strategy if not done well can end in disaster.

      Oh and if you convert you are diplomatically dead in the water as your Honor hits rock bottom sparking more rebellions and your Diplomacy rating plumets.

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      You just install a Buddist temple and a monk in the province with the Nanban trade port, and you’ll do quite fine.

      Although Christianity is quite powerful. European Trade Ships are fleetkillers by themselves, only the Black Galleon ever damaged one of mine.

  3. What “traits” does the enemy general have? Where should I be looking? The screenshots would benefit from a little MS Paint notation, but I understand it takes longer. Limited resources and all that. Also, I’m guessing by “wreathe” you meant “wrest”?

    So, what’s the big picture of the Shogun 2 metagame? I know the battles themselves are crucial to success, but what else goes into it? I’m guessing there are several “ideal strategies” which combine certain technologies, allies, armies, and postures to conquer your foes. Is there a runaway resource game like in TA or SC? Do you have to manage infrastructures and supplies, or do those mostly manage themselves? How much of the busywork are you eschewing from the presented narrative?

    • Jeremy says:

      All one has to do is click on the picture above Josh’s comment, and it will expand into nearly a full sized window. The general’s traits can be seen on the top to middle left of the screenshot.

      • The stuff on top of the standard poles? That still isn’t really informative. Here’s how this is going for me:
        Expert: “Check out those resistor values!”
        Me: “What? Resistor values? What are you talking about?”
        Expert: “Just look at the colors.”
        Me: “Colors? The stripes? Uuuuuhhh… How does this help me?”

        I can see the image just fine. The problem is:
        1. I have no idea what possible traits exist.
        2. I have no idea how traits affect gameplay, and thus no way to compare traits.
        3. I have no idea what symbols are used to indicate traits, where these symbols are located, or how to interpret them.

        Now, at this point you’re probably thinking, “If you’re so ignorant, why are you even asking?” Honestly, I’m wondering that myself. I did a Google search, but didn’t come up with anything helpful. Basically, I read “Just look at the rank and traits on their daimyo!” and assumed that meant “rank” and “traits” are something that one might be able to look at and subsequently parse without abasing oneself before a guru.

        So, there you have it. I’m abasing myself. Enlighten me.

        EDIT: Krellen pointed out my error. I was looking at the wrong screenshot.
        The above still applies, but my error as well.

        • Mathias says:

          He’s got full Command and full Honor. This means that he’s just short of being a feudal Eisenhower and that his people love him utterly unconditionally for his dedication to preserving the Japanese honor system.

          On top of that he converts everyone on his way (not -that- big a problem since Josh hasn’t converted to Christianity) and he’s masterful at ambush tactics.

          • Dys says:

            It’s an Ikko general. They all have the conversion traits, because Ikko Ikki isn’t a clan, it’s a religion. When in Josh’s provinces he will convert them away from buddhism to Ikko, which is at least as bad as conversion to christianity.

      • krellen says:

        He’s basically a complete badass; probably one of the most skilled generals in Japan at the moment, with a very elite army (even more elite than Josh’s), bonuses to movement that give him a larger “threat range” than you’d expect, quicker replenishment and quicker research, and provinces he captures more quickly convert to his beliefs, which is an effective bonus to holding provinces.

        Oh, and his personal bodyguard is larger and more skilled than most, too.

        (Relevant image is this one. Also, while I have played older Total War series before, I’ve never played any of the Shogun ones, so I’m extrapolating all this just by looking at the image.)

        • Mathias says:

          Religion really isn’t a problem since the game doesn’t really deal with all the different branches of Buddhism, so generally every faction is going to be either Christian or Buddhist. So unless Josh suddenly converts to Christianity, his ability to convert the populace is useless.

          • krellen says:

            I thought Josh’s reference to the Ikko-Ikki as a cult might make it matter.

            • Mathias says:

              That’s true, and I don’t know if the Ikko-Ikki has some unique faction speciality that converts religiosity into a belief in the Ikko-Ikki as a clan (which would be incredibly badass), but it still isn’t as dangerous as if it was, say, a Christian general.

              • Grudgeal says:

                Basically, the Ikko-Ikki are the third religion. They work like Christianity, except that instead of churches and guns, they have special Ikko-Ikki temples and recruit warrior monks very early.

                They have the same annoying tendency to spread their heathen beliefs into your territory, causing unrest, and sending monks to ferment unrest and rebellion amongst your other-religion subjects. On the flip side, ‘normal’ shinto-buddhism monks work on them like they do on christians and their own monks are easily destroyed by ninja.

                • I was going to say “ferment” should be “foment”… but I looked it up and, well what do you know? Ferment can be used in that way as well. I’m learning all kinds of things today!

                  • Foment is nicer though – foment is ‘incite’ (provoke from within), whereas ferment is ‘excite’ (stimulate from without).

                    (I spotted wreathe / wrest as well, but I didn’t like to just do a comment saying that. Even though wreathe is entirely the wrong word and it’s really annoying in that ‘bad English is sometimes really annoying even though it shouldn’t really matter quite so much’ way)

                  • Grudgeal says:

                    Damn it, Jim, I’m a biologist, not an English major!

                    …And the words are homonyms anyway. Or the opposite: I forget which.

  4. Z says:

    Yay for more Shogun! Thanks Josh! Final Victory is at hand.

  5. rayen says:

    finally getting into shogun 2. As i originally thought this games tutorial is complete s***. if you aren’t already a of total war player/fan you aren’t really welcomed at this party. i say “finally” because i bought this game back in september and i am just now starting to get a handle on it. i started a new game (as the hojo oddly) and just said “f*** it, i don’t care if i lose i’m just going to dig in and see what happens. still partially clueless to what i’m suppose to do overall, but i’ve gotten better at the battles so there’s that.

    This is all relevant because actually playing this game helps this LP make a ton more sense.

  6. Sumanai says:

    Great. I was immune to the call of Shogun 2 and Sengoku about two weeks ago. Last week I found myself thinking that I should try out Shogun 2 and now I’m in turn thinking about playing Sengoku or Shogun 2.

    I’ll just have to focus on the fact that the only thing I enjoyed in Medieval 2 was that I could play as Scotland and I still don’t want to play that one, so why should I play Shogun 2? Except that makes me want to play Crusader Kings 2, where I can also play as the King of Scotland.

    And with Sengoku I can focus on the fact that warring is annoying and I never got the grasp of diplomacy in it. Except in Crusader Kings 2 warring feels better and I’ve got a far better grasp of diplomacy.

    So I should play Crusader Kings 2? No, because I’m playing as the king of Scotland and Ireland which pisses off my Irish vassals as they want to be the king of their island. And my heir isn’t very liked. So CK2 is making me feel stressed out, which means I’m on a pause.

    Meaning I end up playing something simple, like the alpha version of Towns. Which is boring me, so my mind starts to wander to other games. But I can’t play action games because my mouse isn’t working correctly. Which leads me into thinking about strategy games.

  7. Daktylo says:

    “I’m now treated to a short cinematic with this particularly hilarious line of dialogue.”
    I agree with your analysis as well. Considering the inaccuracy of firearms during the period, and the requirement of being so close to the enemy to do any real damage (risking a fatal counterattack after that one shot is performed), I would’ve thought a more correct statement of “weapons that kill the wielders more often than not.”

    • The real problem with firearms is that relatively untrained peasants can use the damned things. Bows, now, serious archery takes training, which means either the ruling class does it (samurai) or you have to have some unusually non-downtrodden farmers who have a bit of leisure in which to make them practice, and won’t revolt the moment they get a dangerous weapon (English yeomanry). And that second method is a bit dicey, really.
      Bring in firearms and regiments of nobodies can regularly blow away the flower of chivalry, which does the proper order of things no good at all. And really, what is honour if not the ability of wealthy people with proper pedigrees to reliably slaughter the base-born? Clearly, allowing the reverse is dishonourable!
      Similarly, pike formations are dishonourable as all get out. Nobody proper would have ever thought of such a horrible method of waging war–it took the Swiss, whose national liberation was really a peasants’ revolt and who as a result had no nobles to keep them in line, to do something as criminal as devote resources to the question “How can a bunch of churls defeat a lance charge by knights?”

      • Grudgeal says:

        Heh.

        Europe had the same problem with the invention of the crossbow. Giving the lower class the ability to fire armour-piercing knight-killing missiles after a week’s training was really no good sport for anyone (except possibly for the lower class, but their opinions didn’t count). A papal ban was issued against the use of crossbows against Christians in 1139, and I don’t think it happened because it was any more inhumane a weapon than the assorted pikes, bows, swords, daggers and lances that could be legally employed against Christians at the time.

        It wasn’t a very well enforced ban, obviously.

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