on Jan 16, 2013
Well well, here it is, finally back! You asked for it (over and over) and I’ve finally sat down to write another installment of Josh’s Valiant Quest to Conquer Japan (and steal their booze)!
I hope the wait wasn’t too unbearable for you guys, after all, it’s only been…
Hah, uh… well I guess I let this fall to the wayside a wee bit there, eh?
If you’ll recall from the last post, the Mori – the most powerful clan on the map at the moment – not content merely to send massive fleets our way, have also dispatched a powerful force of highly-experienced samurai to attack our holdings in Yamato. Along with four generals for whatever reason.
Now some of you have speculated that the reason I stopped writing these is because I lost this battle and the tides turned against me and I didn’t have the heart to continue. That I cut the series short, forever lingering on that cliff-hanger, because nobody actually wants to read a string of defeats as everything falls apart.
Which makes me feel really bad, because I totally destroyed that army. I mean, it wasn’t even close.
Like, not even a little bit.
No, apparently I just got lazy. Or swamped with work, depending on whether you want to believe my admittedly-thin excuses. I suppose I did move out of my apartment to a new condo during the summer there (yay no neighbors above me!) which I suppose can legitimately excuse about half of the summer…
Eh, why am I trying to justify this? You’re here to read about Shogun 2.
Let me back up a bit, since I’m sure you want to actually see what happened during that climactic-battle-that-wasn’t.
First of all, I moved my general, Oda Nobuyuki, along with my yari cavalry units, outside of the fort, meaning they’ll reinforce the castle during the assault rather than begin inside it. My hope was to use them to flank the attacking force and swiftly kill their many vulnerable general units.
And that’s exactly what I do. Right off the bat, their cavalry moves to intercept mine, and despite being downhill and not as experienced as the enemy yari cavalry, one of their cavalry units was nearly wiped out in some prior battle this force had seen, and my two fresh units quickly make short work of them.
The Mori force is divided into three groups, with some of their infantry, all of their archers, and most of their generals visible on the right. They also have a main group of infantry ready to scale the walls that’s not visible in this screenshot, on the opposite side of the castle. But to the left and in the distance you can see the general they deployed with their cavalry, who, for whatever reason, didn’t follow them into the charge. Now that he’s alone, he’s easy pickings for my own cavalry.
At this point I looked away for a moment to manage the infantry battle taking place on the walls, which really wasn’t terribly exciting. Sure, they had experienced samurai, but most of their units were missing men and I had a lot more ashigaru on top of the walls, so the fight was more or less decided from the beginning.
Anyway, while I was distracted, Nobuyuki was caught by a stray yari samurai, which almost killed him. Fortunately I managed to disengage and retreat with him into the safety of the fort, but he was effectively a non-factor for the rest of the fight.
With all the enemy spear units otherwise occupied, my cavalry are easily able to slip past the archer line and kill all three of the remaining Mori generals. This battle is over.
Unfortunately, I get a little greedy while using my cavalry to force the remaining archers to rout. One of them gets caught at melee range by a yari samurai, and the other sustains heavy losses from the sheer number of bow ashigaru they’re engaging.
In the end, I lose more cavalrymen than I probably should have. But the victory is nonetheless decisive.
Autumn comes, and the Mori fleets loom ever closer. I dispatch my small fleet of three siege tower bune to the mouth of the Ise Bay. If they want to attack Owari or Mikawa from sea, they’ll have to fight my fleet. Whether or not my ships will be able to do anything to stop them is another matter…
In other news, Owari’s Nanban Quarter will be finished by the start of winter. When it is complete, we’ll have everything we need to start producing naban trade ships – European galleons.
As expected, the Mori sail straight into Ise Bay, and directly into my fleet. Fortunately, they don’t have any particularly advanced ships, and much of the fleet is made up of light picket-ships, but they clearly have me outnumbered. Also, inexplicably, they’ve brought two trade ships with them. Not nanban trade ships, but simple Chinese junk-styled merchant vessels, that are nearly totally useless in combat. The AI in these games sometimes…
So, welcome to Naval Battles. This is the second Total War game to do naval battles and they’re not much better than they were in Empire, which is a large part of the reason I’ve avoided them until now. They’re almost embarrassingly bad.
Like in Empire, ships feel very sluggish in responding to orders – if they respond at all and don’t decide to just spin around in circles. The pathfinding is, somehow, utterly broken in every conceivable way; an astounding feat, considering naval battles take place on a completely flat plane with almost no obstacles to path around. Ships often collide with the odd island or coastline instead of plotting safe courses around it, and will sometimes simply refuse to follow a movement order at all. And ordering multiple ships as a group is an exercise in complete absurdity as your ships turn into each other, crash, and get stuck together in a misaimed parody of naval battle maneuvers.
And just like in Empire, naval battles still take forever, so you can’t even expect a swift end to the pain!
Some of the ponderous pace is owed to the particulars of the historical setting. No matter where you went, pre-gunpowder naval warfare was almost always dominated by two tactics – ramming and boarding. And in Japan at this point in history, boarding was the typical mode of battle. Thus, ships were built up tall with large wooden superstructures, almost resembling small, mobile castles on the sea. In combat, ships would meet and attempt to board each other. They carried complements of archers, but hitting anything with a bow on a ship rolling with the waves is obviously a challenge.
While this may all sound interesting, in game, it translates to naval engagements that are extremely binary with little player interaction and an obfuscated morale system that oftentimes makes little sense.
These tactics did change significantly with the introduction of guns, allowing for stand-off battles at range with volley firing arquebuses, but most of the ships in this game represent earlier designs.
Fortunately, my fleet is composed of such advanced ships. Siege tower bune, as I mentioned in the previous post, are some of the few ships in the game that equip arquebusiers instead of archers, and they tend to be devastating in their effect. My hope is that my fewer, more well equipped ships can defeat the Mori’s more numerous, older ships.
Attacking head-on against such a large fleet is suicide, and I don’t want to put myself into a position where their larger ships can board me, or this fight will be over quickly. Instead, I approach the fleet and turn away as my ships enter weapons range, trying to keep the enemy fleet as far away as possible. My hope is that I can lure a smaller number of their faster ships into combat ahead of their main formation. Isolate their larger force into smaller groups where they won’t have a numbers advantage.
Unfortunately, the AI is playing a very cautious game and refuses to commit any of its faster ships to a chase, and after several minutes of cat and mouse, little is accomplished.
Eventually, however, I’m able to catch two of their sailing ships that have strayed a little too far ahead of the fleet, and I turn my siege towers into them. These ships are called “Sengoku Bune” which I’m pretty sure just translates to “Warring States Ship,” but they’re effectively large, fast, boarding-oriented vessels.
I manage to rout one of the ships almost immediately, but the second manages to grapple with one of my siege towers. Fortunately, there is a reason these ships are called “siege towers.” They have a siege tower; specifically, one that their arquebusiers can fire from, which allows them to easily assist other ships that are being boarded by firing on the enemy melee troops mid-boarding action.
With my three siege towers all firing on the last sengoku bune, I manage to easily rout the attacking vessel. Unfortunately…
Remember how I said that arrows were all but useless? Well, there’s one exception to that: fire arrow volleys. These are typically the domain of the smaller, faster bow kobayas, like the one you see above. As you can imagine, setting an opposing ship on fire when everything is built out of wood is a pretty big deal, especially on a ship with lots of gunpowder aboard. And after just one volley, my siege tower bune surrenders, and the entire crew jumps overboard.
My luck more or less continues in this fashion. I manage to force the offending kobaya to retreat, but a second comes around the other side and routs another of my siege towers.
In desperation, I turn tail and run with my last siege tower bune, trying to keep the kobayas at maximum range, where I hope their volleys be least effective.
I lead a good chase, weaving around a small island, but in the end, they’re just too fast.
Well, I tried. You’ll also notice how strange the scoring system for naval battles is. Only ships that surrender during the battle are counted as truly “lost,” thus, I only lost one ship, despite the fact that my last ship was surrounded and had no chance of escape at the end. And the enemy lost a grand total of no ships, so that’s nice. You still lose the crew that were killed during the battle, but it’s not quite the same as taking an entire ship out of the picture.
Somehow, this is still a “valiant defeat.” I think the game is outright taunting me now.
The Mori advance with their fleet and blockade Owari’s Nagoya seaport, but land no troops. If they do have an amphibious invasion on the way, it wasn’t being carried by this fleet. Unfortunately, the blockade has effectively cut off all of my trade income, and my economy has slowed to a crawl.
There is a silver lining to this: The Nanban Quarter is finally finished! I have enough saved up to commission a few galleons, though it will take three more turns before my first is finished. With any luck, I can hold the Mori off that long.
The Ikko-Ikki, if you’ll recall, are being wrecked by the Mori in the west, and they finally want to talk peace. I’m eager for any kind of buffer I can get in that region while I deal with things on the coast, so I readily accept.
Curiously, the Mori disengage their blockade of Nagoya and retreat by the start of spring. Given their complete naval superiority over me at the moment, it’s a bit puzzling. Still, I dispatch my remaining siege tower bune to guard the entrance to the bay again. It doesn’t take long for another Mori fleet to arrive.
Hey, that’s… not the fleet I just fought. They’ve got quite a few heavier ships, most troubling of which is their cannon bune. It’s just about what it sounds like, a great big wooden raft with eight cannons on the deck, covered by a bunch of logs. With those cannons, it’s one of the most powerful ships in the entire game, and can destroy most ships before they even get into range. Even if you do manage to get into range though, cannon bune cannot be boarded. They’re a perfect counter to the entire Japanese ship tree.
Galleons though? A galleon can take ’em.
There’s not much point in fighting this fleet with my siege towers, it’s doubtful I’ll even be able to get into range. I retreat. And, strangely, the enemy fleet does not follow. It doesn’t even try to blockade any of my ports.
This eerie calm continues into Autumn, when…
Our very first European galleon is finally finished.
We’ve been on the defensive for too long. Let’s take the fight to the Mori!
Two fleets totalling twenty ships against three siege tower bune and one galleon. Well that’s hardly a far fight.
And there she is, gents, in all her glory. I think I shall name her “Cuftbert.”
I’m not really sure why.
And there’s the enemy fleet. They’re not going to fool around; every ship in the fleet has set a course right for my galleon. But by the time they start moving, my cannons have already opened fire.
Those fire arrows are still a threat, even to a European ship, so I’ve got my siege towers up in front to screen them. It works, and they get all bunched up in a massive brawl, leaving my galleon free to maneuver. The larger ships soon join the brawl, but under the thunder of our cannons, they’re already dropping like flies.
The battle’s barely started, and already half their ships have surrendered. Another minute, and the entire first wave is destroyed. And since Shogun 2 only allows ten ships per side, the rest…
…arrive as reinforcements, in piecemeal.
They never stood a chance.
Two full Mori fleets completely devastated. By four ships.
I’d like more of this, please.
Josh Viel is the primary editor and producer of the Spoiler Warning video series. You can support the show by backing the Patreon.