Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 5: The Sky is Always Darkest…

By Josh Posted Monday Oct 17, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 24 comments


On a journey, ill;
my dream goes wandering
over withered fields.

– Basho, Japanese Poet


It would be a lie to say that our current situation looks anything other than bleak. Our expeditionary force into Mikawa has scarcely had time to celebrate its victory over the Tokugawa, and now faces an Imagawa army of nearly two thousand men.


The earlier attack damaged the gates and walls of the castle, and there has been no time to repair them.


Still, our general, Takyama Muneyori, hasn’t let the poor odds dampen his spirits. And there may still be hope â€" a small force of reinforcements from Owari is on its way and will arrive behind the besieging forces. If they can distract the archers while the forces in the castle keep the Imagawa infantry at bay, victory may not be as impossible a goal as it seems.


Before the battle begins, I deploy the castle’s defending garrison in loose formation on one side of the castle. Though the walls, much of which are still intact, provide a good deal of defense against arrows, the Imagawa have a lot of archers, and they’ll easily be able to inflict serious casualties before their own infantry climbs the walls.

My hope is to, instead, draw my forces as far away from the main concentration of enemy archers as possible, and perhaps even force them to enter the castle to get a good shot at my infantry. If I can largely neutralize the enemy missile advantage, my infantry will have a much better chance at defeating the enemy.

I also have my general outside the castle. My two reinforcing units (one spear ashigaru and one bow ashigaru) will quickly become discouraged if they face the enemy without support, and my units in the castle itself will most likely fight to the death rather than rout. My general will be much better off if he can encourage the reinforcements, and as a mounted unit he and his bodyguard will likely be more tactically useful in an open field with plenty of room to maneuver.

There isn’t any more I can do to prepare. It’s time to start this and see what happens.


Almost immediately, my reinforcements arrive, and they appear to have struck it lucky: They’re directly behind the enemy’s main archer formation. Quickly, I move my general to rendezvous with them.


An enemy general tries to lay chase to Muneyori, but he breaks off as our fearless leader heads away from the castle, which gives me an opening to charge into the enemy archer line.


Unfortunately, despite their tight formation, lack of nearby spear units, and my general’s charges, the enemy archers have already managed to kill half of my reinforcing archer unit, as you can see from the unit strength numbers at the bottom of the screenshot (group two is my reinforcements).


Meanwhile, in the castle itself, a fierce melee has erupted for control of the tenshu.

Now, I made a major mistake here by not putting my troops back on the walls when I realized that I would be able to disrupt most of the enemy archers, or at least putting the yari units into spearwall. Instead, I kept them in loose formation until the enemy began climbing the walls. It may seem obvious in hindsight, but in the heat of battle, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on, especially when you’re managing two distinct fronts at once.

Also of note is the fact that despite all of the castle gates being broken open, the AI is still directing all of its units to climb the steep, defensive walls of the castle so some of his men can fall off and die for no reason whatsoever. The AI simply refuses to use gates â€" unless, of course, the unit in question is routing. Ultimately, the castle’s damage may not have much of an effect at all on this fight.


For a brief moment, it looks as if I’ve won the melee as several Imagawa troops start wavering.


But their morale recovers as the rest of their troops overcome the walls and rush to their assistance.


While I’d have preferred to keep my general out in the field where he can pick off unguarded enemy troops and harass their weak formations, its clear the situation inside the castle is coming to a critical point, and I’m going to need all of the strength I can muster to repulse the enemy’s main line. Rushing back to our fortifications, I pause only so I can charge him into the only enemy missile unit that was still firing into the castle. I don’t have the time for him to do any more damage than that though, and, narrowly avoiding a charge from the enemy general, I manage to slip Muneyori and his bodyguard in through the open gate.


Unfortunately, before Muneyori even gets inside the castle, our reinforcements have routed. It won’t be long before the rest of the enemy archers return to rejoin the main battle.


Fortunately, the gate that our general entered through was one that put him directly behind the enemy lines, and with a renewed fervor, he charges into their rear ranks in a classic hammer-and-anvil maneuver.


Very soon, the enemy infantry force has broken under the pressure, but not without extracting a terrible toll. Nearly the entirety of our force has simply been annihilated. Even Muneyori’s bodyguard is depleted â€" even though they were charging into the back of an enemy spear unit, they still lost a good half dozen men.


There’s only one chance left. The enemy general has dismounted, and he’s climbing the wall to complete what his men could not. If we can kill him, the rest of the enemy, demoralized at seeing their general fall, might rout. Everything we have left is thrown at the enemy general in the hopes of breaking him.


But it isn’t enough.


And as the remaining enemy infantry climb the walls, it becomes clear whom the victor is this day.


Takayama Muneyori died as every samurai should â€" at he head of his men, fighting alongside them in a valiant attempt to turn defeat to victory.

But this is of little comfort to our Daimyo. It’s difficult to see this outcome as anything more than a complete disaster. Our army is crushed â€" only the archer unit we sent to reinforce the castle made it back alive â€" one of our greatest generals lies dead on the field, and the Imagawa are poised to strike into the heart of our territory. If there is a silver lining here, its that we can now be reasonably certain both what the total Imagawa strength actually is, and where it is concentrated. A high price to pay for such information.

There is one thing we have in our favor though. Remember that call to arms bonus we got when we took Mikawa last turn? It increases the number of units we can recruit a turn in each province by one.


With it, we can quickly outbuild the Imagawa and muster an army large enough to catch them off guard. At least, that’s the hope.


Unfortunately, the news doesn’t seem to be getting any better â€" our new hostile neighbors, the Tsutsui, have taken one of the Hattori provinces, and they’re now in direct striking range of Owari â€" if they were to feel so inclined.

There is a point in every campaign where you can tell where you’ve lost. Where you know that no matter what you do, you just aren’t going to be able to recover from it. We’re not there â€" yet â€" but we’re teetering on the edge, staring off into the abyss. I’m not sure I can survive a war on two fronts against such powerful clans, not in my current condition. I’ll be keeping a close eye on my western border from now on.


The bad news continues as summer turns to autumn. The Imagawa forces began to sally forth from Mikawa to continue their offensive, and I ordered my ninja to try to sabotage the enemy army and force it to wait for a season. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful, and was executed for his trouble.


We can’t delay any longer â€" I won’t risk leaving Owari vulnerable from two sides. It’s a risky move, but I bring nearly my entire reformed army to bear on Mikawa, scaring the Imagawa general back inside. I’m counting on the Hattori to continue to occupy the complete attention of the Tsutsui, and they certainly aren’t out of the fight themselves, having captured Yamato â€" the Tsutsui home province â€" at the end of last turn.


Autumn gives way to winter. The time is right. In two turns we’ve managed to field an impressive army and bring it bearing down on the heads of the honorless Imagawa. Our ninja has confirmed that they have no significant reinforcements in the vicinity.

In a single stroke, we will turn our most crushing defeat into our greatest victory. Once again, we’ve laid siege to Mikawa, but this time, we won’t lose it. Takayama Muneyori will have his retribution.

And soon, the name Oda will strike fear into the heart of every Imagawa on the face of Japan!


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24 thoughts on “Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 5: The Sky is Always Darkest…

  1. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

    These are wonderful. I’ve bought the game myself, but I can’t seem to get a good grasp on it; I guess I’ll just enjoy these for now!

    1. rofltehcat says:

      I also bought it in a recent steam sale because of Josh’s articles here.

      It is a very good game and I can beat whole Japan on hard but on very hard or legendary the cheating of the AI just gets too much. They lose whole armies just to instantly conjure new troops that would bankrupt anyone else. They are crushed again and again at my castle walls but they just spawn more units.

      It is especially obvious if you plan to actively use ships. Losing a fleet is extremely hurting as you probably not just lost a few thousand worth of ships but your enemy also gain control over half of them and after one turn they are repaired completely.
      And still, they manage to spam larger and larger fleets. then they abuse the absence of fog of war to outmaneuver you. If they have a certain target (or worse, an invasion force), they will simply drive past your ships and vanish into the fog of war. Once they are past, it is very hard to catch them because once you catch them they can still “retreat” and are even further ahead of you, which often is too far for you to catch them at all. Often they also retreat out on the open sea where you can’t find them and when your own ships retreat out to the open sea, the AI aims directly for them.

      Still, it is ridiculously easy (on hard) once you established a firm foothold that gives you enough money to sustain a huge number of troops. Once you got twice as many ships as the enemy (a “frontline” and a fleet to catch everything that slips through) and several powerful armies, you just crush any opposition until not even spamming armies of 6 sword samurai and 4 bow warrior monk units doesn’t save the AI.

      The hardest part really is surviving the early game.

  2. David A says:

    Usually, when I read a LP, I want to play the game myself.

    But reading on Shogun 2, a lot of players were disappointed to find that every army is, more or less, identical. The spearmen of one clan are the same spearmen of every other clan. Opposing armies differ only in their color.

    In any of the other Total War games, there are faction-specific units that influence the fighting style of that faction. Apparently, the same just isn’t true here.

    And then you read about AI blunders and my enthusiasm just drops. I would play this game for immersion, but being able to manipulate sloppy programming to my own advantage doesn’t sound appealing – especially if the game has no replay value – because again every faction here is a carbon copy of every other faction – with minimal differences.

    1. Grudgeal says:

      There is a DLC pack that adds one unique unit to each faction.

      On the whole, though, the homogeneous armies are much more historically correct since Japan is only one country with a single culture. Individual clans still used much the same types of units, with only minor alterations to weapons and armour (such as spear length, etc).

      1. rofltehcat says:

        In the Rise of the Samurai DLC campaign, the clan boni are much more distinct and more powerful. It really determines the playstyle of the clans as opposed to being something “nice to have”.

        Though I find the Oda boni in the normal campaign to be quite awesome. Battles really feel different when you use huge armies of peasants as opposed to mixed armies (or samurai spam).
        Though 12 Ashigaru vs. 12 Samurai is pretty unfair since only a certain number of units can be active at the same time so reinforcements sometimes don’t arrive until you have already lost a lot of men :(

    2. Dys says:

      I tend to find that the bonuses for each of the clans are noticeable. They do alter either tactics or strategy depending on the clan. The Mori, who I have played furthest through a campaign, find it much easier to field fleets large enough to control all of the trade routes, which allows huge income and in turn a good deal of financial and political control.

      The Chosokabe archer bonuses mean that fielding ranged heavy armies is far more viable, since where for any other clan archers occupy a more supportive role, for the Chosokabe the ranged units are actually the most lethal part of any force.

      The bonuses are often subtle in effect, but they do certainly shape the play style of each clan. Medieval distinguished factions by the array of units available to each, but in all other respects factions played exactly the same. Empire used almost identical units for each faction, and in fact most armies eventually consisted of line infantry and little else.

      1. Loonyyy says:

        I would agree. I’ve played as both the Chokosabe and the Oda, and the bonuses are quite noticable, especially if you have unique unit DLC, but even without it, the advantages provided by the specialities do take their toll. I find that Oda Yari Ahigaru and the Long Yari Ashigaru are both especially effective. I can’t back this up (I’m not a number crunching type), but it seems as though the clan specific bonuses can make the difference in a Samurai v Ashigaru fight.

    3. Knight of Fools says:

      Shogun is a game of tactics and outwitting your opponent. Computers are fairly notorious for failing at being more creative than a player. If the AI blunders ‘bug’ you in Shogun, you can always actively search for real players to play against you, even during the single-player campaign. I’ve never done it myself, but the option is there.

      The AI can be a little less frustrating than fighting in “balanced” Multi-player matches, though. As bad as the AI can be, it’s a lot worse in older Total War games. (I’m looking at you, Medieval.) Most of the time it makes some fair decisions, just not brilliant ones.

      Honestly, I’m not sure if I want the AI to be able to easily outwit humans on the fly… The implications could be dangerous.

    4. Simulated Knave says:

      Starting location actually makes a lot of difference in what you’ll do. That and the fact that each faction is encouraged toward particular units through bonuses makes things more replayable than you’d expect.

    5. Gand says:

      I have seen this “minimal differences” argument before and it has never made sense to me. Firstly the games occupies one country only so there are going to be some similarities. Secondly with the various clan bonuses and territory bonuses, and tech path differences you can end up with wildly varying army compositions. Thirdly I started playing the TW games with Rome. It so far has been the only TW game I’ve played with real unit differences between factions. Medieval 2, Empire, and Napoleon had essentially the same units with different skins between the factions.

      1. Double A says:

        Really? M2 had some pretty distinct factions. Not nearly as few as Empire, Napoleon, or the Shoguns, but not as many as Rome.

        There were chivalric factions (England, France, and HRE, and the three of them were still pretty distinct from each other) Italian, Spanish, Russia, Byzantium, Eastern Europe, Scotland, Denmark, Moors, Egypt, and Turkey. If you’re more cynical, chivalric factions, Spanish, Italian, Middle East, Eastern Europe, northmen, and Byzantium.

        Either way, that’s a hell of a lot more difference than the most recent three TW games.

  3. Robyrt says:

    I am definitely enjoying the presentation of these posts – going a little bit in character, with helpful screenshots (it’s been a while since I last booted up Shogun 2). These make the inevitable exploitation of game systems that come with a Let’s Play more palatable.

  4. Simulated Knave says:

    To be fair to the AI, if he sends all his troops through the gate, that’s a terrible bottleneck. You might win.

    If he sends some through the gate, the ones who have to climb the walls get insubordinate and upset.

    So everyone has to climb the walls.

    1. Knight of Fools says:

      I’ve survived multi-player battles by simply shoving my entire force through one choke point. (That was before I knew you could climb walls…) It takes a large toll, but if you’re careful and keep your units carefully packed and motivated, it can work.

      Climbing the wall presents a broader front, though, and in my experience proves more effective against a smaller force, especially when done from multiple fronts. Gates are just too much of a pain, unless you can enter them completely unhindered.

      1. Simulated Knave says:

        Switching gears to serious, then. :P

        The AI’s usually pretty good about swarming things, in my experience. The walls are thus unsurprising – they are, as you say, the better choice with weight of numbers.

        1. Knight of Fools says:

          The strange thing is, I knew you weren’t serious, but I responded as if you had been. I’m not sure what to make of myself right now…

  5. Eärlindor says:

    Dang, Josh! You have me sitting on the edge of my seat!

    1. swenson says:

      Same here! I was so on edge, wondering if this is going to be the end of the whole campaign… I was so relieved to read the end!

      1. Eärlindor says:

        But even this is just a moment of respite that still has me on edge!

  6. Eathanu says:

    It’s funny. You read it from the perspective of the other side, the Imagawa, and the Hollywood screenplay practically writes itself: A Japanese general, confidant of his odds, throws his men foolishly at the fires of his enemy, but misjudges the cunning of the enemy general, and loses many of his trusted men. He learns humility and employs new tactics, but ultimately his fate rests on the incoming reinforcements. Finally, his men dramatically defeat the enemy general, and he snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, but at great price, knowing that the enemy will regroup and return.

    But.. they’re supposed to be the bad guys, right? Oh, wait, Josh is the world’s biggest troll, I forgot.

    1. Hush says:

      And thus well-suited to a lucrative career as a Hollywood screenwriter.

  7. Darthricardo says:

    Damn, I am loving this LP. Josh, you are AMAZING at characterizing (somewhat) the floating hand in the clouds. Hats off to you, good sir.

  8. LaVolpesBite says:

    I know this may not be where to put suggestions like this but if you have the money and your PCs in the specs you should try Achron.

    EDIT:Its… Different. In a way that makes it great. It also has no DRM at all. You definitly have to check out the wiki unless you want to get the basics of it in singleplayer first.

  9. Gand says:

    Excellent stuff. This series has got me playing the game again. I look forward to more.

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