on Mar 22, 2012
And so our protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, finds himself in a precarious position. Completely untested in battle, he now faces off against two of the most skilled and renowned generals in all of Japan, and the strongest single army in the country.
There’s a certain irony – or perhaps, poetry – to how all of these elements have managed to fall into just the right place.
In real life, Nobunaga’s first decisive battle was the Battle of Okehazama. Imagawa Yoshimoto, who you may remember as one of the first opponents we had in this campaign, was leading an absolutely massive army (allegedly some 25,000 to 40,000 men) towards Kyoto to “lend aid” to the Ashikaga Shogunate. Winning a string of victories as he marched his forces east towards Kyoto, Yoshimoto entered Nobunaga’s Owari Province and took several border forts without much difficulty. Nobunaga, on the other hand, only had some 2,500 to 3,000 men to stand against the Imagawa army – impossible odds, or so his retainers thought.
Other samurai might have tried to fortify the remaining forts in the province and wait out the aggressors, or charged the Imagawa center in a suicidal attack to satisfy their honor, or – indeed – simply surrender, as many of Nobunaga’s retainers urged him to do. But Nobunaga was nothing if not shrewd and ambitious, and he viewed this as an opportunity to become the greatest warlord in all of Japan practically overnight.
Leaving a token force at the temple where he had been gathering his forces, he gave them a disproportionate number of banners in order to fool the Imagawa into thinking he was still focused there. With the rest of the army, he snuck around to the rear of the Imagawa force, where Yoshimoto and his officers had set up camp and were celebrating their recent victories. Caught completely unawares by the sudden Oda charge, Yoshimoto is said to have thought the attack was actually a brawl that had broken out between his own men. While his unprepared guards fled, Yoshimoto and most of his officers were killed. With no lord to serve, the remaining officers of the army pledged their allegiance to Nobunaga, and most notable among them was one Matsudaira Motoyasu – the man who would become Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The parallels between this decisive battle and the one on which we are about to embark are striking. Okehazama took place in June, 1560; and in our Shogun 2 campaign, it’s the winter of 1559. Our opponent may be entirely different, but their army is the strongest we’ve yet encountered in this campaign by far. And the real kicker? Nobunaga is standing practically on top of the historical battle site – it can’t be more than a few dozen kilometers, at most, from where we’re fighting this battle.
A number of people mentioned in the comments last week that the river crossing this battle is supposed to be taking place near could end up being my saving grace.
That’s not on this map.
Shogun 2 is a little odd in this respect. Terrain features on the campaign map don’t seem to directly translate into the battle map very often, aside from how rough, in general, the terrain is.
On the upside, we have a number of new units at our disposal that should open up new tactical opportunities for us, including matchlock-armed ashigaru, yari-armed cavalry, and everyone’s favorite, Kisho Ninjas.
Fortunately, this area is not bereft of hills, and the bulk of our force will be deploying on this rocky knoll under the cover of those trees. The cavalry are hiding off on our flank – you can see them to the right of the image – waiting to ride out and ambush the enemy generals or flank the melee line.
One of the more useful aspects of ninjas is that they can deploy anywhere on the battlefield, as long as they remain a certain distance from the enemy deployment zone. I’ve deployed both of mine close to the edge of the battlefield, hiding them in a thin forest. The idea is that they’ll wait for the enemy to march past, then attack their rear while they’re occupied fighting my main line.
I’ve also had my archers deploy screens on my right flank. Normally they’d shoot out from behind them, but I don’t want to leave my only bow unit so exposed, so they’ll abandon the screens when the battle starts and retreat back to the treeline. The screens will remain, though, and my hope is that they’ll break up any enemy flanking maneuvers on that side.
The Ikko Ikki army approaches in a haphazard formation. One of their generals marches out ahead of the force.
…Way out ahead.
My cavalry, seeing their chance to lop off the serpent’s head before it can strike (one of its heads, at any rate), charges out from their hiding spot to crush the general and his bodyguard.
They kill the idiot general and retreat, suffering only a few casualties from an enemy fire-arrow barrage before getting out of range.
Not to complain, but catching an enemy general out far ahead of his army like this, well… It’s not exactly as impressive as launching a complete surprise attack on a general in the heart of his camp with his army of 40,000, is it?
The enemy is coming in force now. Seeing another opportunity to deal some serious damage to the enemy army, my cavalry charge out again, this time to strike at the bow ashigaru that chased my cavalry to the edge of the forest.
But these are rank nine units, the highest level of veterancy that a unit can achieve, and they have both impressive morale and downright ridiculous melee stats. My cavalry quickly rout, despite their charge advantage.
Around the same time, I rush my ninjas from their hiding place, targeting the enemy back-line (composed of more super-archers) and more particularly, the enemy daimyo.
Ninjas have an ability to enter a stealth mode for about thirty seconds, which allows them to run at a full sprint and remain almost completely undetectable – they can literally run to within twenty meters of an enemy unit and not be seen.
But my own attack on the enemy rear is fated to a more grim outcome than Nobunaga’s, as the duration of the stealth ability ends before the ninjas can run the full distance and get into range. Despite one of them managing to throw a volley of bombs into the ranks of the archers, the daimyo sees them before they can launch a similar attack on him. Ninjas, while good in melee, are poor at defending against cavalry charges, and with my own cavalry gone, there’s no way I can support them.
Ultimately, neither my ninjas nor my cavalry have turned out to be as decisive as I had been hoping. The duty now falls to my main line.
And the battle along the main line is raging. Most of the enemy melee units – comprised primarily of veteran loan-sword ashigaru, a peasant sword unit unique to the Ikko-Ikki – have been compressed into attacking a single point. In fact, I think only a single spear-walled long-yari ashigaru is actually engaging those four or five units clumped together at the right.
It’s not easy to see in this screenshot, but their center-line is actually attacking a shallow incline between two impassible ridges; and that is the only way up the rest of the hill from the front. I’ve detached three other units to intercept the enemy flank and stop them from moving around the side so they can’t get around to attack my rear.
And just as I’d hoped, the screens my archers deployed are doing an excellent job of halting further flank attacks, and even has the AI confused enough…
…to charge their daimyo right into a spear-wall on the other side.
And with that, the most fearsome general in the entire country lies slain upon my spears, defeated by a wall of bamboo planks and bad pathfinding. Truly an occasion for the history books.
Remarkably, in the contest between my one long-yari ashigaru and four enemy loan-sword ashigaru, I’m winning. I throw all of my reserves into the fight, and swing around with my right wing to encircle and destroy the enemy infantry.
With the main line routed, all that’s left are the enemy reserves – mostly bow units. And now the true strength of rank-nine veterans is revealed to me. It’s not terribly obvious from this screenshot, but you see those four bow units in the center there? The ones locked in melee combat with my spear infantry? They’re winning.
It takes me marshalling most of my infantry into a big blob – supported by a number of reinforcements that have arrived from Owari’s castle – to finally rout these super-powered bow-wielding peasants.
Mind throwing less of those at me in the future, Shogun 2? I’d really appreciate it.
And so our battle of Okehazama has come to an end. Our victory was hard-fought, and it came only at a massive cost in lives. Over half of our force was killed, and four full units of men were completely wiped out, including one-each of kisho ninjas and yari cavalry. It’s certainly a testament to the skill and power the Ikko-Ikki wielded.
But in the end, we were victorious. And the great power of the Ikko-Ikki is no more. Oda Nobunaga has ridden headlong into the hottest fires of battle and emerged unscathed. He has taken his first step towards the ultimate object of his ambitions: The Shogunate.