Josh Plays Total War: Shogun 2

By Josh Posted Monday Sep 5, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 95 comments


1545: This is Sengoku Jidai, the Age of the Country at War. For 200 years, the Ashikaga Shoguns have ruled from Kyoto. Great power and splendor were theirs. But now, the over-mighty clans no longer obey. The time has come for a new warlord to become… Shogun!

When I look back at my growth as a gaming fan, I would be remiss to ignore the impact that strategy games have had on me. Before I played shooters, and before I played RPGs, there was Command and Conquer. I’d been introduced to the genre during a visit to my cousins’ many years ago, and my brother and I were both instantly hooked. When I lived in Western New York some eight or nine years ago, we convinced some of our neighborhood friends to get Red Alert 2, and we would play online multiplayer matches against each other all the time. Now that I think about it, that was probably the game that got me into online gaming.

But as much as I loved the old C&C games, and despite the countless hours of “one more turns” in Civilization, there’s one game series in particular that â€" ever since I discovered it several years ago â€" has stood above the others purely by virtue of its uniqueness. The Total War series demonstrates a meticulous attention to detail, and an enduring dedication to historical accuracy in presentation. They may not get everything right, and the series has always had to make some concessions from its accuracy in order to preserve gameplay, but the sheer volume of what Creative Assembly does manage to get right is astounding at times, especially considering the current climate of tightly focused, “cinematic” games that has weeded its way into the market. And its in that capacity that I am quite comfortable with calling the Total War games “simulations.” I mean, really, where else can you find such detailed reproductions of line-based warfare and tactics on a AAA budget?

According to Steam, I’ve sunk 222.2 hours (no really, that’s what it says at the time of this writing) into the latest release in the series, Total War: Shogun 2 (or Shogun 2: Total War if you have the series’ old naming scheme burnt into you mind as I do). And after throwing so many hours into it, I’ve worked up quite the urge to write about it â€" which brings us to this Let’s Play. Now this is a little new to me; I’ve read a lot of Let’s Plays, and I’ve edited a video Let’s Play non-stop for a year and a half, but I’ve never actually attempted to write my own.

Now, I’m not going to attempt to conjure up some sort of original fiction for this series â€" Shamus and Rutskarn are both much better at that sort of thing than I am â€" but I have something else I’d like to focus on. All of the Total War games are rife with historical context, owing to their creators’ attention to detail and accuracy. And while I wouldn’t quite characterize myself as a “history geek,” I love reading about it, especially when its on a topic I got very little exposure to at school (e.g., anything that’s not American History (argh) or beginning-of-civilization-era world history).

Without further ado then, let’s talk about the historical context surrounding Total War: Shogun 2, shall we? What is the Sengoku Jidai? Why are all of these people fighting? What does it all mean? And more importantly, what’s up with those crazy hairdos?

The Sengoku Jidai (roughly meaning “Warring States Period”) was a time of great historical and cultural significance to Japan, stretching from its beginnings in the Onin war of 1467 â€" 1477 to the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. While Japan had long been a feudal society with many great clans vying for power, the Sengoku Jidai was predicated by the significant weakening in the central authority of the Ashikaga Shogunate, to a degree that had never been seen before. Disputes between clans regularly erupted into violent, open conflict, and for 150 years, the nation existed in a state of barely-contained anarchy. Countless small wars were waged between clans over all manner of disputes, and peasant uprisings were common.

It is on to this chaotic canvas that Shogun 2 is painted. The game’s campaign starts in the year 1545, some 70 years after the end of the Onin war and the start of the Sengoku Jidai. This date is fitting for several reasons: two years prior, in 1543, a Portuguese merchant ship was wrecked on a small, southern Japanese island called Tanegashima; the first Europeans ever to make contact with Japan. With them they brought firearms â€" arquebuses â€" a weapon that would revolutionize Japanese warfare for the remainder of the period. In that same year, Matsudaira Takechiyo, the man who would eventually become Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was born.

(Just a side note here, sources seem to conflict on whether the Portuguese landed on Tanegashima in 1542 or 43; Nobody seems to be sure of the exact date, so take it with a grain of salt.)

While it is tempting to play a campaign as the Tokugawa clan, since they ultimately ended up on top, that would almost certainly never have happened had members of the clan not allied themselves with another historically significant clan â€" the Oda. It was only after Oda Nobunaga – and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi – had nearly united the entirety of Japan that Ieyasu was able to step onto the center stage and forge the Tokugawa Shogunate. But in 1545, the Oda and Tokugawa clans were far from that pinnacle of power.


As you can see, the Oda clan is described in Shogun 2 as having a “hard” initial difficulty â€" and I can personally vouch for the accuracy of that. I’ve played the start of a number of Oda campaigns and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. As you can also see in the above image, I’ve set the difficulty to its maximum setting; Legendary. At this level, the AI is set to its most difficult and given multiple bonuses to finances and recruitment. This may not seem very intimidating to those of you who are familiar with this series, but the AI in Shogun 2 has been improved quite a bit, especially in its tactical capabilities. And just to add to the fun, this Let’s Play is not pre-written. I’ve only played about four turns into this campaign at the time of this writing.

Oh, and Legendary has one other quirk: I can’t save. The game auto-saves after every major action. In short: I have no idea how this Let’s Play is going to unfold, and at any step I could screw up and lose in a spectacular fashion. And no amount of save scumming will fix it.

But I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Turn 1: Everyone Wants To Kill You

After the Oda starting cinematic, I’m treated to a broad flyover of the territories surrounding my capitol in Owari Province while my adviser gives me a briefing on the strategic situation. Thanks to the Oda’s grand diplomatic skills, we’ve been unceremoniously dropped into a two-front war. At turn one.


Specifically, we’re at war with the Imagawa and their vassals, the Tokugawa, to the south:


I have to point out that the name “Tokugawa” for this clan is something of an anomaly. While it is the clan that would eventually take the name Tokugawa, that would not be until much later, when Ieyasu changed his name. At this point in time, the clan was known as the Matsudaira. Still, its easy to excuse, since having the clan change their name halfway through the game would be confusing.

We’re also at war with the Saito to the north:


To the southwest, we have an amicable trade agreement with the Kitabatake:


…but my adviser is quick to mention Ise province’s holy site, a valuable special building which could be used to recruit better monks or units with higher morale.


Ultimately, our goal is to defeat the Ashikaga Shogunate and take and hold Kyoto. To do that, we’ll eventually need to push west and secure several of the regions surrounding Kyoto itself â€" I’d prefer to take at least Omi, Iga, and Yamato. Before we get to that though, I’ll need to accomplish the twin and rather daunting tasks of both securing a strong eastern border and building an army powerful enough to actually challenge the Shogunate.

But we can save the grand strategy talk for later. At the moment, let’s get back to the more pressing concern: that our gracious leader, Oda Nobuhide, has apparently managed to turn everyone within a hundred kilometers into an enemy.


To exacerbate things even further, the Oda isn’t even a unified force: there’s an army of rebels on our doorstep that would happily take Owari from us. Internal disputes amongst the Oda were actually fairly common prior to Nobunaga’s rise to power. Nobuhide was never actually recognized as a daimyo because of this â€" he was never able to fully unite the clan under his rule. This history of disputes and infighting would cause a great deal of trouble for his son’s succession after his death, and it would take Nobunaga nearly ten years to stamp out all opposition.

The Tokugawa and Saito will be on our doorstep next turn. We don’t want that rebel army in any condition where they might be able assist them. With this in mind, I commit my entire military force to confront the enemy army â€" both my mobile army led by the clan’s general, Takayama Muneyori, and our Daimyo (whom isn’t really a daimyo, but the game refers to him as one), Nobuhide, to reinforce. The rebels retreat to the sea, but they can’t outrun our fresh troops.


Now it may seem odd that I didn’t just move Nobuhide into Takayama’s force, since he doesn’t actually have any other units with him, just his bodyguard, but this is actually due to a quirk in the game’s experience system. Generals can level up and specialize in different disciplines in Shogun 2, but if they’re all in one army, only the commanding general will be awarded experience. However, if you split the generals apart and just have them reinforce each other, all of them will be awarded full and equal experience, even if they’re not actually commanding any troops.


As I enter the battle, I’m offered a choice: Do I want to attack right now with the current weather conditions, or wait for more favorable ones? This choice has been in more or less every Total War game I’ve played, but the weather conditions in Shogun 2 are by far the most varied, for example, the fog effect you can see above. Now our missile troops are basically even, and I can handle missile troops better than the AI can, so I actually don’t want to attack in the fog. So I tell my troops to wait for a day and then proceed with the attack.


Something else that’s made a comeback in Shogun 2 are the general speeches. The commanding general will give a rousing speech to the troops before the battle, with dialogue that is more or less appropriate to the overall strategic situation… some of the time. It’s a nice touch either way. Don’t worry, Takayama-dono, we will kill and kill again! And again, and again, and again…


Now that the pleasantries have been taken care of, I can position my army and group units together to prepare for the attack. I can also see where the enemy will be deploying.


Fortunately, there’s not a lot of rough terrain or hills for the enemy to fortify upon, which should make this fight a bit easier.


After hitting the start button, I order my troops to start marching towards the enemy. Oda Nobuhide and his bodyguards arrive at the edge of the battlefield, and I order him to converge with my forces.


As you can see, the enemy has taken up a position on this narrow hill. This isn’t actually a great position for him â€" the hill isn’t very steep, and he’s holding his position quite a distance behind the crest of the hill. If he were further forward, I would at least have to engage him with my troops in an uphill fight. At best, the trees will help protect his center units from missile fire, and conceal a portion of his force.


Speaking of concealed units, lets go have a look at what he’s hiding, shall we? General bodyguard units are great in the early game as cavalry units, though they’re far from the nigh invincible tanks they were in Medieval 2. They’ll lose against other cavalry units and get shredded by spears, but their high armor makes them useful as scouts and rear-flank harassers.


Ah, there’s his bow unit. Remember when I said that trees were good at protecting units from missile fire? Well it turns out that they’re also good at getting in the way of your own missile fire. His bow unit will not be nearly as effective as it could be because he has to fire through so many rows of trees. Beyond that, he also has it in tight formation, which will make him more vulnerable to massed missile fire. This is one of the reasons I’m more confident in my abilities to handle missile units â€" no matter what difficulty setting you’re at, the AI will never use loose formation, even if the unit in question is under fire by a superior number of missile units and being shredded.

As you can also see in the screenshot above, Nobuhide has drawn the attention of their right-most group of spearmen. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what the AI was thinking here. A General’s bodyguard unit can outrun any infantry unit, and he broke off and started chasing Nobuhide when the general was still a hundred meters away.


Worse still, he kept chasing Nobuhide after I brought him safely back behind my lines. My own bow unit (which you can see is in loose formation and only standing around a few trees) was kind enough to discourage the enemy spear unit from continuing forward, nearly routing them before they retreated back towards the enemy lines.


Since that whole feint maneuver seemed to work so well once, I figured, why not try it again? I was actually hoping to get a good charge into the enemy bow unit, but I mistimed the charge and that same spear unit I’d just almost routed was bunched up in the same space. I’m not too interested in getting my daimyo skewered by spears on the first turn, so I break off the charge.


All that said, this whole cat and mouse thing was beginning to bore me, so it didn’t take long for me to follow through with the rest of my force. By the time my infantry join the battle, the forward-most enemy line is nearly broken, and they won’t last much longer. Since momentum is a terrible thing to waste, I push my units right through the center and slam into his rear line.


I have to say, I’m rather disappointed with how this battle turned out. After talking up the AI in this game earlier and making it clear that I was on the hardest difficulty in the game, the AI in this battle performed dismally, even being kind enough to never move his cavalry at all. You can even see one of my spear units gracefully waltzing into it at the far left in the image above.

You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that the Legendary AI is usually much better. And wait for the next post.


Victory! Now comes another choice â€" do I attempt to hunt down and crush the enemy resistance before they can leave the theater, or do I allow them to escape, reform, and then crush them again? I’m heard a lot of arguments in favor of the latter â€" you get more experience for your generals and such â€" but I really have more serious problems to contend with than hunting down a broken group of rebels. So I hunt down and kill all of the enemy troops I can. Unfortunately, the yari cavalry, finally awakened from its comatose state, turns tail and runs, which means I’ll eventually need to hunt it down anyway, but I do get away with a nice Decisive Victory:


85 losses to 558 kills? I’m liking this ratio.


Attacking that rebel army used up most of my units’ movement points this turn, so there isn’t much else I can do. Not wanting to leave my capital undefended, I move my daimyo and general back to it. I also begin upgrading the castle itself, and start to recruit another bow unit.


The one other thing to do before ending the turn is to select which art I want to research. This “mastery of the arts” research system replaces the old, obtuse tech tree system from Empire and is a welcome change, even if it doesn’t really make sense that I don’t know how to train swordsmen until I “meditate upon the arts of bushido.”

Of course I’m not out of the woods by any long shot. Next turn, I’ll have to deal with two angry clans at once. And even if I can take care of them, I’ll still have to contend with the much larger Imagawa clan. And this is just a local conflict. I’ll need to take and hold a lot more territory and grow a much larger power-base if I hope to ever seriously threaten the Ashikaga Shogunate.

Oh, and those crazy looking Samurai shaved-head-top-knot hairdos? They’re called chonmage, and they’re meant to help their helmets stay on in the heat of battle.

You know, just in case you were worried I wouldn’t answer my own rhetorical questions.


From The Archives:

95 thoughts on “Josh Plays Total War: Shogun 2

  1. Vlad says:

    Awesome, Josh. It’s not often that we get a let’s play of an RTS, so good thinking.

    I recently finished Shogun by James Clavell (great book!) and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the game takes place in the same time period. Shogun 2: Total War is on my to-play list, but it will probably only disappear next year when I upgrade my computer.

  2. KelThuzad0398 says:

    “Just a side note here, sources seem to conflict on whether the Portuguese landed on Tanegashima in 1942 or 43;”

    This should probably be a 7 instead of a 9.

    1. Josh says:

      Whoops. Actually it’s supposed to be a 5.

  3. X2-Eliah says:

    Eh.. I really wish the actual gameplay in rts games would be so interesting as written here.. You know, with details, narration, interesting stuff, etc., instead of a click-pattern based thing..

    I’ve tried to get into a bunch of strategy games (e.g. SoaSE, GalCiv2, Stronghold somethingsomething, starcraft, rome:total war) based mainly off of really interesting aar/let’s play entries such as this – only to discover that the actual game has nearly none of that magic, and is effectively a rather boring ordeal – worse if it’s based on clickspamming.

    Oh well :(

    1. Ragnar says:

      You should consider buying the upcoming Cursader Kings 2. It’s a game about governing a dynasty of rulers through the middle ages. Even if it is also a strategy / simulator game it is very much tailored to generate interetsing stories. See for example for an AAR from the previous game Crusader Kings. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t make up much at all and almost all things that happen in that story actually happens in the game (except towards the end of the AAR).

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        And it’s not only CK that’s good. There is a whole range of true grand strategy games (whose players don’t arcknowlege TW to belong to their group) made by Paradox Interactive. And they cover all history from 1066 untill 1966, and various converters allow importing saves from previos game (Crusader kings -> Europa Universalis).

        Anyway Suenik FTW!

        1. NihilCredo says:

          Thirding the Paradox love! Another classic LP you can check out for their style of grand strategy is Hohenzollern, which takes the Counts of Swabia in 1066 all the way to their triumph as German Emperors over Soviet Byzantium and Muslim America Mazula in the mid-20th century.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to tighten the Bavarian rule of the Holy Roman Empire by enforcing Catholicism and defending my subjects against the twin menaces of the Golden Horde and Scandinavia.

    2. Dovius says:

      This is my main problem with RTS games, since while I love the premise, and the very idea of it, once you get to it’s execution, it just turns into a click-fest.
      Still, Shogun 2 seems to be quite fun. I enjoyed Rome: TW quite a bit for at least a couple of weeks, so it’ll be the first thing lined up after DX:HR for when I get a new graphics card.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Eh,to each his own I guess.Me,I love strategies,turn based and real time.I do find them very interesting,both slow and fast ones.Except when they are generic or broken,like the vanilla homm5.

    3. Someone says:

      How, exactly, is GalCiv2 based on clickspamming? You can’t even control the battles.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        One example in a set of popular strategy games, and a note saying that the situation is even worse if a game has clickspamming.

        There is no relation, nor implication that galciv is one of clickspam games.

        1. Someone says:

          Ah. My mistake.

          Still, I got GalCiv2 after reading a bunch of cool AARs as well and I wasn’t disappointed. Matter of preference, I suppose.

      2. Kdansky says:

        He’s clearly hating on Starcraft (and to a slightly lesser extent, Starcraft 2) where you need to click a few hundred times a minute to be competitive at the top level.

        While I myself am not too much fond of that, consider that you only really need 50-100 Actions Per Minute (APM) to easily be in the top 1% of all Starcraft players, if those APM are spent well. That’s only a button press or two per second which is less than you’d do in any FPS.

        The difficult thing is the multitasking and quick thinking.

  4. silver Harloe says:

    I’m digging the less detailed map surrounding the detailed terrain map of your own territory. I always hated how other games have a totally-black fog of war thing for places you’ve theoretically lived in for hundreds of years (trading with the neighbors, talking to them, having people both im- and em- migrate and such) and should have at least some basic knowledge of.

    1. Dovius says:

      While I agree, I do0 have some questions about it.
      “Hey General-san, how come we don’t have any maps further then 30 miles from the capital?” “Are you mad?! We’d need like 2 scouts for that!”
      Or I’m underestimating the distances. */shrugs*

  5. Ragnar says:

    If you like me like the campaign mode more than the actual play-out of battles (every time I have tried a Total War game I have found myself turning off that), then you should probably go play one of Paradox’ titles like Sengoku, Europa Universalis 3, Victoria 2, etc. instead of the Total War series.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      And let’s not forget Crusader Kings with all it’s madness and glory, and Hearts of Iron (I recomend HOI2:Doomsday not HOI3) in all it’s moto mechanized combined arms blitzkrieg glory.

  6. Sozac says:

    Pretty cool, I’ve never played a Total War game before, but if I did which would you recommend?

    1. Josh says:

      Well, my favorite Total War game is probably Medieval 2, but Shogun 2 is far easier to get into. The campaigns are shorter and more compact, and the unit list is far smaller and better at describing what each unit is actually good for. Also it has the fullest-featured multiplayer by far, if you’re into that sort of thing. On the other hand, a lot of people swear by Rome, but I can’t really say much about that game since I’ve never gotten around to playing it.

      1. Airsoft says:

        You perfer Medieval 2 to Rome? odd, they’re both excellent though.

        1. Kale says:

          Well he did say he never really started playing it, so can’t really compare a game you’ve played with one you’ve never tried.

        2. FatPope says:

          It’s not that odd. I find Medieval 2 to be vastly superior to Rome. Although my favourite will always be Medieval 1

        3. Eärlindor says:

          Yeah, I find I prefer Rome myself.

        4. Zombie says:

          I felt Rome had more stratagy to it, as “Throw all your Cavalry to where ever there isnt spearman” dosnt qualify as stratgy for me. Also, Rome had cooler units.

      2. Murkbeard says:

        Medieval 2 is something of a step up, technology-wise, as compared to Rome, but it suffers from one major problem that Rome doesn’t, which is lack of variety in units. Almost every single faction has the same selection of archery, light infantry, cavalry, heavy cavalry and some fluff. Combine this with cavalry being relatively weak in M2, and you will always just rush heavy infantry as they provide a very strong unit for very little cost.

        Contrast this with Rome, where every faction has, not just unique units, but their own “feel” on the battlefield. Carthaginians get elephants, Egypt are strong with archers, Britons have chariots, Romans have legionnaires, etc. Each of the unit makeups available to a faction means that to get the most out of the faction you are playing, you have to build and fight according to their strength.

        On the other hand, both games suffer from random declarations of war due to port blockades, the AI being utterly unwilling to transport units over water, and a trade system where nothing of real value can be traded (No tech, trading cities is practically impossible), along with various nuisances fixed in later editions of the game and/or mods.

        Creative Assembly have really bad Quality Control, though, and tend to not deliver on promises made during game release, so I’ve decided not to buy Shogun 2. Did you know M2 was supposed to have multiplayer campaigns in a patch “a few months” after release, and that this was used to sell the game?

        I’m liking the playthrough so far, though, and looking forward to the next installment

        1. FatPope says:

          Cavalry are weak??? Are we playing the same game? Many people swear that infantry are barely necessary in Med 2 because cavalry are so overpowered. They are very hard to use properly, due to a bug which makes them often not use their lances when they charge so your experiences may be coloured by that.

          I agree though that the AI in the series as a whole is pretty poor, both on a tactical and strategic level.

          1. Murkbeard says:

            Most later-era heavy infantry units (Dismounted Feudal Knights in particular) cannot be run over by cavalry. This is what I mean with cavalry being relatively weak; You have a unit type which is meant to be countered by the cavalry’s charge bonus, but isn’t, meaning they now have no counters outside of a bigger stack of heavy infantry.
            In a 1-on-1 single-stack battle, a unit of Dismounted Feudal Knights will beat a unit of Mounted Feudal Knights, even with a cavalry charge or two.

            Cavalry is still the go-to unit for most of the early game, for sure, but once you start facing stacks of heavy infantry, their effectiveness fall off significantly.

            1. FatPope says:

              It has, I’ll grant you, been a long time since I’ve played Med 2 but from my recollections that was certainly not the case. From my memories the last thing you wanted facing down a heavy cavalry charge was your heavy infantry. They wouldn’t immediately be annihilated or break and run or anything but it was a very efficient way of throwing away money.

              I am, of course, referring to cavalry used by a competant human general that would attempt to flank and have them repeatedly charge and withdraw.

              Cavalry charging at full speed with lowered lances = deadly
              Cavalry caught in a prolonged melee = sitting ducks

              Like I said my memory could be off though – or, more likely, coloured by the many mods I have used.

            2. rrgg says:

              If this ever happens it’s generally because the infantry units are larger than cavalry units. The cavalry still always better and inflict far more casualties.

              Though of course this is one of the problems with TW’s rock/paper/scissors system. In real life all of those dismounted knights would be armed with spears and other polearms in addition to their swords which means that using the game’s logic of “spears beat cavalry’ then horsemen wouldn’t stand half a chance against heavy infantry.

          2. Zombie says:

            If your playing as Briton, Cavalry sucks, and is really only slightly better then Scotland. If the AI was smart enought, It would bring enought Cavalry to roflstomp you when your playing as England. As it is, it barly fights to save itself.

            1. Chargone says:

              also: horse archers beat everything. i gave up on playing M2 with my brother because he’d just be byzantium and bring nothing but horse archers at least half the time.

              (that said, using javelin cavalry to chase the entire enemy army up hill into my muskets and crossbows and then closing the sides with heavy infantry was always amusing. have the cavalry withdraw away to the side at the right moment and every single enemy unit would imediately rout for them to gleefully chase down :D downside was that you’d lose some muskets due to some weirdness about what you had to do to make them shoot things instead of running away and, no matter what you did, there was no way to put infantry in front of them without them then shooting your own infantry isntead.)

        2. acronix says:

          You know what I really, really hated about Medieval 2? The schizofrenic papal states. One turn, they would threaten you with excomunication (and hence, to make you a tasty meal for every european country) and force you to leave invaded territories of fellow catholic empires, right after that same empire tried to invade you in the first place.

          1. Tse says:

            Actually, that’s quite normal. Happened to my country a few times. One war we lost had no lost battles.

          2. Zombie says:

            The Crusade system sucked too. Im playing a Scotland, fighting a war with England over York, and Pope shows up, tells me that I need to send an army to Antioch or Jeruslem, and when 50 countrys sign up, Im still the only one to send an Army. And dont get me started on how overpowered the Papel army is.

        3. rrgg says:

          Trading tech? no thank you. Negotiating with the clueless AI is bad enough, making it mandatory to stay competitive just plain sucks.

          Diplomacy has always seemed sort of misplaced in TW games. If you expand your empire (you know, the point of the game) other nations start to hate you and demand ludicrously one-sided deals. All I ever really needed diplomacy for was trade agreements and bribing the pope.

          1. Will says:

            To be fair, the games are called ‘Total War’, not ‘Total Negotiation’.

            1. Shamus says:

              A friend and I used to joke about the series:

              “Medieval: Total War? Is that the sequel to ‘Medieval: Mostly War’?”

              “Yeah. Which was a sequel to ‘Partial War’!”

              “Which came after Medieval: Scowling at Each Other Over The Diplomacy Table’!”

              “Which was nothing compared to the original: Medieval: Everybody Getting Along Just Fine.”

              Hm. Maybe you had to be there…

              1. theLameBrain says:

                Medieval: Everything’s just peachy!

                I have no idea why this is so funny to me, but people walking past my cube are giving me some odd looks right now. I should probably stop guffawing.

          2. Zombie says:

            Its fun in Empire when you give like ALL the tech you can give to your VERY FRIENDLY allied nation for one peice of tech you really dont want to take time to research (Anyone who played Empire knows its the navel tech) and they still wont trade

  7. Jarenth says:

    Well, this looks interesting. Because I have to keep up the image of a good friend, I will publicly support you and wish you the best. Secretly, though, I’ll be hoping for you to fail spectacularly, as that will be all the more amusing to me us.

    So, go get ’em!

    1. JPH says:


      I’m going to encourage Josh to go on with this, even though secretly I don’t care about Shogun 2 or Japanese history in general (with the exception of ninjas, because ninjas are just awesome).

  8. Ateius says:

    Ooh, awesome. I haven’t picked up Shogun yet because I’m a cheapskate, so a free preview is always nice. Plus history discussion! I love history!

    Kind of surprised the AI doesn’t use loose formation, though. I know in Rome and Medieval 2 enemy archers would spread out once you started showering them with arrows, much to my irritation.

    1. Chuck says:

      I remember that, too.

      I guess you can’t have everything with AI.

  9. Tobias says:

    Yes Shogun TW, was one of the real groundbreaking games. I still remember the feeling when I first played it. Other similar games were homeworld, dune 2, half life 1, system shock 1.
    Personally I left the TW series for the EU series, around when Medival 2 came out. Much less hectic.

  10. swenson says:

    I’m not much of an RTS person–they’re too complicated and require too much thinking for me!–but reading about this one seems interesting. I’m looking forward to this. And your commentary on Japanese history is awesome. I, like you, love learning about the parts of history you don’t learn in school (so everything other than American and Western European history, with the boring parts of Greece thrown in for good measure), so this is all very interesting to me.

  11. Awetugiw says:

    A Shogun 2 let’s play that spends about half a post on a single minor battle…

    That’s a pretty ambitious level of detail so far.

  12. SougoXIII says:

    Wow, seeing Josh going into details about strategy in a game is a very weird experience for me…

  13. Burek says:

    Ah, wish I could play this game but sadly my PC is inferior to its demands. This was an interesting insight in the game and looks like it’s going to be a really fun let’s play.

    It would be cool if you could upload some of your interesting battles on youtube with your commentaries. Since the game allows taking replays I’m sure it wouldn’t be that difficult.

    By the way, does this means that there will be no more Hitmas? That was a lot of fun to watch.

    1. Kale says:

      Well, if you haven’t already, you can see Rut’s full playthrough of Hitman over on his stream(most of it anyway). Links to it from his website’s right hand menus. No full Spoiler Warning cast, but plenty of frustrated Rutskarn.

  14. Spammy says:

    Ffff… Josh stop rubbing it in that my computer is too old to run anything but Rome. >:[

    Also, more zoomed-in shots of the people getting stabbed, please.

  15. Entropy says:

    I tend to play as Tokugawa, who have a pretty similar starting position. (Both Oda and Tokugawa end up with pretty much the same spread of territories a few turns in)

    It always goes very well early on, then suddenly, something snaps and I end up at war with all the largest clans in the game. Then it just becomes an unmitigated disaster.

    1. Zombie says:

      That was me in a play through as Scotland in Medival 2. I destroyed England, just rolled throught France with cannons, and almost got to the Holy Roman Empire before I won the game. The Pope was not happy with me. Also, in another play through as Sicily, or the Normans, or whatever they were called, and I wanted Rome. So I build up a army, get crushed by the Pope. Another army, crushed by the Pope. Third army dosnt get crushed, but I get a Crusade called on me. And just to rub it in, this is the only time I have ever played that nations other then the player responded. As four armys (England, France, Holy Roman Empire and I think Spain) come crushing down on me, I just quit and deleted the save.

  16. rrgg says:

    I recently had a chance to get this game but wound up passing it up for Civ 5.

    Damn those Total War games, they taught me to love historical tactics only to slap me in the face when I realized how inaccurate they really were.

  17. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

    I am buying this game right now. I’ve never really gotten too into strategy games, but you make it seem like so much fun!

  18. littlefinger says:

    This reminds me somewhat of the starting position for the Seleucids in Rome TW; where after 10 turns you’d be at war with the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Parthians, the Armenians and Pontus. That dogpile ended with the player either utterly crushed or the superpower of the game, with the richest provinces, massive manpower and none too shabby units.

    Getting through that dogpile, though… Let’s just say that it’s a good thing the AI can’t cope well with phalanx garrisons in a city siege. Especially cavalry-based nations.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      Ohhh loved palanxes. Didn’t like Medieval because there wasn’t any good unit there, and I allways had a feeling one Legionare or Palanx unit coul easily go 300 on entire MTW unit roster.

    2. Zombie says:

      Some what the same with the Britons, Germany and Gual ALWAYS are at war with you some times together, sometimes apart. The Bruti can end up in that situation too, fighting Greece and Macidonia early in the game, with only the beginning legionare type units, and veltias.

  19. Grudgeal says:

    Oooh, I loves me some Total War. I’ve played all of them except Empire. Which means I’m really looking forward to this, especially since I’m a gormless coward who never sets the AI above normal. I want to see how this changes things.

    Anyway, the Oda and the Hattori are probably my favourite clans to play, even though the centre of Japan is a tenuous position to hold at best. Lots of good agent provinces, and the Oda ashigaru bonuses simply get insane once the armies start to number in the thousands, especially with the Ikko provinces granting bonus accuracy or armour (holding them is a bear, though).

  20. Vect says:

    Impressive stuff.

    With RTS LPs, I’ve seen people do stuff like write little skits between units/generals or something like that. Then again, as you said you’re not much of an original fiction writer.

    That and since you’re playing as the Oda I though it’d be hilarious to use the Sengoku Basara version of Nobunaga as the avatar/main character as he goes around being the RTS version of Cuftbert.

    Speaking of which, you’ve ever heard of the RPG Codex? They do a lot of LPs of Strategy games and old RPGs, but to put it lightly, they’re an even more sour bunch when it comes to more mainstream games like New Vegas or any Bioware games. That and they did do an LP of Sengoku Rance, which is a strategy game set in a particularly bizarre version of Japan (provinces include Texas and Africa) that also happens to be an H-Game with content I’d rather not talk about.

  21. Bodyless says:

    I played 1 or 2 Demos of the Total War series, but they bored the hell out of me. I think they consisted only of a tactical battle and the AI was so abysmal that there was no challange at all.

    And its not like i dont usually play strategy games:
    Warcraft Series (Warcraft 1 was my first rts and probably tought me how to play strategy games. I never finished it. I did however finish Warcraft 3 on hard 2 times.)
    Civilisation 2-5, Call to Power 2
    Master of Orion Series (I actually started with 3 and still trying to forget it. Later buyed 1&2 online)
    Galactic Civilisations
    Sword of the Stars (yes i like the 4x Genre)
    Settlers 2 (the only one i liked and buyed of the series)
    C&C Red Alert 1 (also my favorite of the series)
    Homeworld Cataclysm & 2
    X-COM Series
    Kohan 2
    And others i dont recall right now.

  22. BeamSplashX says:

    Is the Yagyu clan in this game at all? Jubei’s my G (I doubt a lone wolf like Miyamoto Musashi would figure much into total war, though I think he’s awesome).

    1. Grudgeal says:

      Musashi was reputedly 15 when he fought in (the losing side of) the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. The battle is generally considered to be the battle that ended the Sengoku Era and decided it in Ieyasu’s favour, and the year it happened is the ending year of Shogun II’s campaign. In short, no, he won’t be making an appearance.

      As for the Yagyu clan, they aren’t present either. The clan only rose to fame when Ieyasu made them the official sword instructors of his clan at a time Hideyoshi had unification well in hand, and their most famous member (Jubei) was born in 1607, 4 years after the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate.

      1. BeamSplashX says:

        I see. It would’ve been nice to have seen some nods to their predecessors, I guess, but I can understand leaving out minor players.

        KOEI’s Warriors games exist for a reason.

        1. Spammy says:

          That’s probably why I should never play Shogun 2. I’d pick the Oda and as soon as Nobunaga showed up I would snap back into Samurai Warriors “I’d follow that mustache to hell and back I would!” mode.

        2. Grudgeal says:

          If it helps any, the Yagyu clan had their clan seat near Nara, which is part of the Yamato province in-game (which I presume would make them retainers of the Tsutsui clan). If you conquer it and build a legendary sword school there, you can *pretend* the Yagyu are running it.

  23. Dwip says:

    Yes, but how can you possibly triumph without the bunny hopping and endless inventory management?

    I just got done obliterating everyone as the Hojo, so I’ll be interested to see how the Oda work out, since I’ve been eyeing them for my next playthrough. The AI seems to have epic morale problems with them (not to mention a tendency to assault my fully-manned castles), so I have yet to see them do well.

  24. Dovius says:

    No offense meant, but I find it somewhat jarring to see the person who acts like a bunny-hopping mass-murdering maniac give a researched lecture about a Japanese civil war.
    Still, fun let’s play!

  25. Eddie says:

    After talking up the AI in this game earlier and making it clear that I was on the hardest difficulty in the game, the AI in this battle performed dismally, even being kind enough to never move his cavalry at all.

    I’ve not played on Legendary difficulty yet (I’ve only played 223.5 hours) so I can’t speak to that, but I find that the AI is generally much worse when defending; it’s not very proactive and it’s fairly easy to goad it into misusing it’s units.

  26. Eärlindor says:

    I like this post. It feels like I’m seeing a side of Josh I haven’t before, probably because of the history info and talk of strategy. I enjoy the Total War games, and I’m looking forward to the rest. :)

  27. Michael says:

    The first thing I thought of when I saw this post was Shamus anagraming his name a few years back.

    “Who's your Shogun? SAY IT! SAY I'M YOUR SHOGUN!”

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:

      Truly, we must prosternate in front of the Twenty-Sided Shogunate…

    2. Simon says:

      I tried anagramming Josh Viel, it came up with:
      Evil Josh
      Vile Josh

  28. rrgg says:

    “45 comments? This post wasn’t even all that interesting.”

    When he didn’t write the post some of Shamus’s messages come off as a little condescending.

  29. Destrustor says:

    So is this going to be the “new season” of spoiler warning or is it still some kind of filler? It seems like its going to be great, but i’m genuinely curious about this let’s play’s importance in the near future. Unless you fail spectacularly in the very next post and call it a day, it sure seems promising in the long run and I wouldn’t want it disrupting SW.

    1. Dovius says:

      Well, since Shamus’ Twitter noted that they had had a recording session for SW, I doubt this is the next season, due to the lack of any type of trolling towards Mumbles and Shamus.

      1. Josh says:

        No, this is just in the same category because Shamus is too lazy to make a seperate Spoiler Warning category. I’ll actually be working on this week’s episodes in a few hours.

        1. littlefinger says:

          So are you going to do all of half-life 2 or is it just Ravenholm?

  30. Double A says:

    I never got far into Shogun 2 demo because I thought that the UI was awful, not to mention the there was terrible contrast in the unit boxes. However, I can see that you don’t have an ugly map taking up 1/4 of your screen, nor are your unit boxes one big blob of brown. Is there an option in the game to fix that, and if so, why haven’t I bought Shogun 2 yet?

    (To answer my rhetorical question: Because M2 mods are so damn fun.)

  31. qwksndmonster says:

    I just read the intro, and I plan on reading the LP shortly, I just had to comment and say that I did not know you were from WNY. Where in Western New York? I’ve been living here all my life in Horseheads, which is about an hour away from Binghamton and Ithaca.

    1. Josh says:

      Well, I’m not originally from New York, I just moved there around the time I turned ten or so. But I was on the far west side; we lived in a town called Lockport, about twenty miles or so from Buffalo.

      1. qwksndmonster says:

        Oh I know Lockport. I’m in and out of Buffalo all the time because I’m a Buffalo sports fan (Bills, Sabres). Are you a fan of any sports?

  32. Adam F says:

    There are two things I absolutely love in the Total War series–Unit morale and the ability to keep your troops in a formation. There’s nothing better than flanking the enemy and watching them crumble and run. And I really wish you could put units in formation in Starcraft (my other main strategy game). I’d be so much better at it if I could keep a screen of marines in front of my tanks, some hellions on the flank, and medivacs and scvs in the back.

    1. DirigibleHate says:

      Last game I played with a Morale system was Dawn of War (The original, but I still play it with friends, it wasn’t that long ago) and Morale is a tricky statistic to get right, because it’s effectively “invisible”. For instance, in Rome: TW you can set your arrows on fire, which reduces accuracy but increases morale damage. But by how much? How does that compare with the reduction in accuracy? The most frustrating invisible stat I’ve seen is Religion in Civ4, where you couldn’t capture certain cities because they resisted your rule, and towns converted effectively at random. I don’t know about Shogun 2, but if it’s something that affects your performance in the game, YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO QUANTIFY IT.

      Oh, and my recommendation re: Starcraft – assign those unit types to different hotkeys, and order them around that way. I’m assuming you’re just selecting them using the mouse?

    2. Zombie says:

      The Moral system really sets Total War appart from everywere else. Even you best units will break and run if there down to like 4 or 5 guys, or have elephants or Cannons firing on them. And, having to salvage a plan because you left flank just ran away is somewhat fun. But I would like to point out, would it have killed them to take out the moral mechanic for some units? (Spartains, ect.) or when defending a city?

  33. Darthricardo says:

    Man, I wish my computer could handle Shogun 2… Well, I guess I’ll just have to enjoy it vicariously through this Let’s Play.
    Please, continue. I’m very, very interested.

  34. Maldeus says:

    You said you’d played four turns. There was only one turn in this recap. I want the other three turns. Do you want me to kill someone? I could kill someone for this. Who do you not like?

  35. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So,a strategy lets play.Looking forward to seeing you slaughtered on second turn,then restarting on lower difficulty.Though I doubt that would happen,since there are very few strategies there that can competently destroy a seasoned player half the time or more.

  36. mumakil says:

    so if u guys wanna spoil to yourself what the next lp is(or at least the next few episodes) u can go here

    Probably not the final game as shamus said the real series starts on the 13th so im guessing its once again a one off but I might be wrong :)

    Of course it could be a smart ruse by josh to make us belive false info!

  37. theLameBrain says:

    “we would play online multiplayer matches against each other all the time. Now that I think about it, that was probably the game that got me into online gaming.”

    You misspelled Gambling…


  38. Zombie says:

    The only saving grace for the AI in Total War, to me, is the hilariously idiotic situations you could get into. That said, Battles were only hard when you had less units then the other guy. Those fights usually sucked.

  39. tremor3258 says:

    I love playing the battle system on Med 2, but I could never get my brain around how to get my economy’s tax base ticking.

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:

      Well said

  40. MadTinkerer says:

    You know what those screenshots reminded me of? Project Frontier.

    That would be friggin’ sweet.

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