Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 12: All’s Fair When Josh is Playing

By Josh Posted Tuesday Jan 24, 2012

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 43 comments


And now for your entertainment: The Adventures of Munenari, the Ninja-Man!

In a stroke of luck, on his way through Kai province to scout for further Murakami incursions, our valiant protagonist catches sight of an enemy ninja – no doubt about to engage in some nefarious mission of sabotage or subterfuge against us! Munenari knows what he must do.

With a display of great guile and skill, he subtly sneaks into the ninja’s massive army camp and slips past his numerous, heavily armed guards. Clearly, this enemy ninja must be a master of the art to hide such a large and obvious camp so close to our forces.

Once inside, he sights his target:


The enemy ninja sits unmasked, at the center of his camp, in meditation. Munenari throws a knife, dead center at his opponent’s back, but the enemy knew he was here! He blocks it with his fan and draws his blade!


They clash!


But Munenari emerges victorious! Our valiant protagonist makes his getaway unscathed!

Hot on the heels of my new favorite ninja’s success, I send him to sabotage a nearby Murakami force’s food and water supplies next turn, to keep them from being able to march for the spring. This force, not strong enough to attack Kai’s castle with Nobuhide’s garrison directly, has been content to raid our nearby farms and pastures for the past several seasons. If Munenari can tie them down, I can defeat them in a single stroke and make it back to Kai’s castle before the season is over.

Stealthily, our nimble protagonist sneaks into the enemy camp, and…


I hate this game.

Nothing else of note happens for all of spring, as I decide to hold off on any offensive action against the raiders.


As summer comes, however, Oda Nobunaga is offered the hand of a daughter of one of the clan’s loyal retainers. This will give him a slight bonus – and in this case, it’s a pretty good one. The increased upkeep costs could cause a bit of an annoyance, but it won’t be enough to significantly drain our finances, and additional morale is always helpful in an ashigaru-based military. I could hold out to use a political marriage to seal an alliance, but given the difficulty in maintaining any long term-alliance with another clan on Legendary, and the fact that I wouldn’t get to chose the trait and might end up with something much worse, it’s probably not worth it. With that in mind, he accepts the proposal and is quickly married.


Peasants have also been migrating to city centers lately, and we can either encourage this practice or prohibit it. This is a choice between long term and short term benefits â€" if they continue to migrate to city centers, the cities will grow more quickly than usual, but if we keep them on the fields the fields will produce additional profit from tax income. The only problem is that town growth in this game is so slow that it’s almost always better to go for the short term benefits.

Back to the fields you peasants!


Finally, after the raiders burned Kai-province’s fields again, I finally move out with the Kai garrison to deal with them.


The results are predictable.

Then I do something stupid. As I predicted, my garrison isn’t able to return to the castle before the end of the turn, but if I detach Nobuhide, he can reach the castle by himself. I do this initially because I’m concerned about the province rebelling if it doesn’t have a garrison, but then I had the thought, “Man, you know what would suck? If, say, a full stack of Murakami troops just showed up right after I end my turn and laid siege to the castle when nobody’s on it.”

And wouldn’t you just know it, that’s exactly what happened.

Fortunately after having that thought, I moved Nobuhide back off of the castle, but he was still within reinforcement range, which had me worried, because he was pulled into the fight all the same. I knew if I allowed the fight to auto-resolve, he’d be dead, and as hilarious as something like that could turn out to be for the death of Nobuhide â€" and I do need to kill him at some point, lest this become “Nobuhide’s Japan” instead of “Nobunaga’s Japan” – he’s just too valuable for me to give up quite yet.

So I try to fight the battle live, to see if the game will kill him automatically or not if he doesn’t engage in combat at all.

Of course you can’t just retreat when you’re defending in a castle assault, so I had to play out the whole battle â€" 2500 enemy troops against my 45 samurai retainers.


“All right, men, all I need is for each of you, individually, to kill fifty-five enemy troops, and we can totally win this!”


“Well this sucks.” – Purported Last Words of Kai Castle Garrison Commander, Takayama Kazumasa.

I do seem to have a penchant for getting Takayamas killed, don’t I?

Hilariously, those 45 men still somehow managed to kill almost 400 enemy troops. So, 8.5 kills per person. Still a far cry from 55 each, but impressive nonetheless.

Fortunately for all parties involved, Nobuhide survives unscathed. Here I was all ready for a “Suddenly, the Daimyo was struck by a bolt of lightning from the completely clear skies while he watched the battle from afar,” obituary. I guess sacrificing that Munenari ninja earlier has sated the Watching Josh Suffer Gods.


Research has finished on a number of civic improvements, including better farming techniques and further expansion of the criminal syndicate’s powers. If I fully upgrade a Sake-den, I can recruit battlefield ninjas now. Aw yeah.

I’m shifting my research focus back to Bushido now, in order to pursue the development of gunpowder-based troops. Nobunaga was one of the first Japanese warlords to make extensive use of arquebusiers on the battlefield. In fact, quite the contrary to the very traditionalist, “honorable,” image of samurai warfare, the later periods of the Sengoku Jidai were fought using surprisingly modern methods (for the 16th century, anyway). Japan found it quite easy to transition to European-style “pike and shot” formations, with pike or spearmen providing a forward line to defend the massed matchlock-armed troops from cavalry and infantry.

Indeed, the traditional image of Japanese “castles” was one that was created in response to the importation of gunpowder and matchlock-firearms, not one that was rendered obsolete by them. Prior to the advent of firearms, most Japanese fortifications were simple wooden forts or mountain sanctuaries. As firearms came into use, castles were adapted to better serve them, with large battlements standing at the top of stone-and-earthwork-bases, from which arquebusiers could fire from. If this sounds familiar to you, it should â€" these sorts of fortifications better resemble those of 16th to 18th century European forts than Medieval-era European castles.

That is not to say Japanese castles were immune to cannon fire â€" Osaka castle was destroyed in part by sustained cannon barrages in 1615 â€" but large battlefield cannons were quite rare in the notoriously iron-poor Japanese archipelago.

In any case, gunpowder units in this game are quite powerful, inflicting morale shocks against the enemy with every volley. They’re incredibly powerful when used in defense of castles, and quite powerful on the open field as well.


Inexplicably, the Uesugi have broken their alliance with us, and our relations have dropped from “friendly” straight down to “hostile.” I can see how the Uesugi, with their three war-torn provinces and enemies swirling all around them, would have no need of our assistance or support.

Oh well, they’re no longer a major player in the politics of the island anyway.


Now, what to do about Kai province. Well, I have one idea. With that massive stack of units occupying Kai province, I think our chances are pretty good that the Murakami have left North Shinano unguarded. Big mistake, as I am about to illustrate. I move Nobuhide into the forest outside Kai to hide him from the enemy, while Takayama takes his army from South Shinano up to North Shinano to capture it.


As I suspected, only a minimal garrison was left at North Shinano, and it falls easily to Takayama’s assault.

And now I’m going to try a little trick I’ve learned over the many campaigns I’ve played.


I move Nobuhide out of Kai province and leave him in the forest just north of the border. Watch what the Murakami do.


When spring comes, they move their force south – crossing into our borders – to attack some of our core provinces. Normally, this is bad for us, but…


Kai province is within Nobuhide’s striking range, and it’s completely unprotected.

And when it falls…


Oh, where did the gigantic Murakami army go?

Since Kai was the last province they controlled, the Murakami as a “clan” entity was destroyed. Now, if they had still been within their former borders when I took Kai, the army would have been converted to “Murakami Rebels,” and if they took the province back, the Murakami clan would return. But since they were outside their borders…

Poof, gone forever. The Total War series has never been very kind to Hannibal and Spartacus-styled armies that live off the land and have no permanent base of operations or proper supply chain, and Shogun 2 is no exception.

Cheap shot? You betcha. But this is Legendary difficulty, so you’d better believe I’m gonna take it.

Goodbye Murakami Clan. You’ve been a thorn in my back for far too long.


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43 thoughts on “Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 12: All’s Fair When Josh is Playing

  1. Josh says:

    By the way, this has pretty much moved to an every-Tuesday schedule, rather than Monday. Monday just doesn’t work well for me; my last shift of my work week is a graveyard shift that ends on Sunday morning. And then of course I have to record Spoiler Warning too.

    That isn’t to say Spoiler Warning is changing its schedule at all, though. The first episode of the week should be up in an hour or two.

    1. Mathias says:

      I just started playing Shogun 2 myself, and I’m finding the game quite challenging even on Normal difficulty. Watching you play through this on Legendary is like watching a wizard at work.

      1. Rayen says:

        i’m having the same problem… I think i’m gonna have to go back to an earlier total war game because shogun 2 seems like it was made for established fans. It is not very noob friendly.

        1. Brandon says:

          Shogun: Total War isn’t very noob friendly either. They are meant to be challenging games, kinda old school like that.

  2. Brandon says:

    I haven’t been keeping up with your Shogun 2 series so far, but now I think I have to go back and read all of them. :P Thanks for reminding me how much I loved the original Shogun, had a lot of fun with that game!

  3. Andrew B says:

    Hey Shamus, is there any way that clicking on the “Josh” link under the “Author” section could take us to a list of all Josh’s posts? I wanted to check to see if I’d missed a Josh Plays, but found I had to trawl through the Spoiler Warning ones to see.

  4. krellen says:

    I’ve always hated how arbitrary agent actions in the Total War series are. It’s pretty much the only thing that comes down to a simple die roll and more often than not it seems like they fail, even with pretty good odds in their favour (sort of like how you always lose a battle in Civilization unless your odds are 90% or better.)

    1. Ateius says:

      Yeah, agent actions are the one thing in a Total War game that I will unashamedly savescum until I at least don’t have my assassin killed on his 85% success attack.

    2. rofltehcat says:

      Well, I think in Shogun 2, there are two different stats. Chance to success and chance to escape. At least I understand the talent trees this way.

      But it is still a kinda binary system: Either it is a complete success or a failure (with a chance of agent loss). Imo, instead it should be a linear system. Poison the water and food of an enemy army? Well, a very experienced ninja (90% success rate) would probably go in and poison their rice and the water they carry with them. So he’d directly poison nearly all soldiers. A less experienced ninja would instead just poison the nearby river. Because they still have some clean water stores in their camp etc, only the horses and some lower-ranked soldiers are poisoned this way.
      So the first one would really warrant a complete halt of the enemy army and completely weaken them whereas the second one would only slow down the army a bit and decrease the fighting power of its cavalry and some ashigaru.

      I’d really like to see agent effects to be less hit or miss and instead see the effect of agent actions be more on a linear scale.

      1. Lame Duck says:

        There’s also the chance to critically succeed, but I think that’s only used for assassination/arrest/convincing-people-to-give-up-on-these-war-shenanigans-and-take-up-religion-instead attempts. Succeeding at these only removes them from the game for a few turns because they are wounded/imprisoned/perplexed, whereas critically succeeding kills/executes/convinces them and they are gone permanently.

    3. Thomas says:

      Interesting fact: The designers of the civilisation games actually had to change the game so that you win defending 1/3 battles more than 1/3 of the time and the enemy loses 1/3 battles when you’re attacking more than 1/3 of a time.

      The human brain is so crud at understanding probability that players expected to win a 1/3 dice roll way more often than they actually should, and at the same time expected the enemy to lose a 1/3 dice roll way more often than they should.

      And we wonder why so many people have problems with gambling :D

  5. Dev Null says:

    I generally hate contentless “me too!” comments, but:

    Enjoying the series Josh; thanks for posting!

  6. Jarenth says:

    Fun fact: the Murakami general you defeated to insta-kill them, Ichikawa Tokimoto, looks like a mustachioed version of the Shredder.

    I have nothing else to add to this discussion.

  7. Nick Bell says:

    I’m really enjoying these, but I’ve got a suggestion. Could we get a large scale map of the area? I’ve played the game, nor am I that familar with Japan, so I get lost of what is near what. An updated “this is where all the clans stand” to open the post would be fantastic.

    1. Josh says:

      Unfortunately, you can’t zoom out that far in the campaign map. I might find a period-correct political map of the Japanese provinces I can fill in though. Dunno, we’ll see what I can dig up.

      1. noahpocalypse says:

        I forget what time period this is, but I found a map if Japan that is from around 1525.

      2. Maldeus says:

        There is the map in the upper right-hand corner, but the problem is that I haven’t really matched up all the colors to all the clans. I know that the Oda clan is yellow, other than that I’m mostly lost.

        Incidentally, who’re the dark blue guys who control, like, a third of the island in the north, and the red ones who control about a fourth down south? They look like they might be scary.

        1. Kellett says:

          The dark blue guys are the Date who have been mentioned before and the red/orange guys are the Mori who I don’t think have been mentioned, I doubt the Mori will feature significantly unless they expand extremely rapidly towards Josh (unlikely) as the campaign should be won/lost before Josh borders them.

          1. Kellett says:

            Made map of… well the map:
            Some of the minor clans are sort of guessed based on their starting position and colour of icon (some clans have similar colour).

      3. Kellett says:

        You can find a map in your Shogun 2 folder under data>encyclopedia>content_images>how_to_play>additional
        >campaign then unsure of name of image as I think I accidently renamed mine.
        Clan icons can be found in data>encyclopedia>content_images>clans then pick the clan.
        The _64 one resized to 28.1%X28.1% is a good size to cover the numbers on the map but still be small enough to fit all icons on. I haven’t been able to find a completely blank shogun 2 map at all though there is a map with every clans starting position which is interesting for comparing to your current game:,9092,,30

    2. rofltehcat says:

      Try this one:

      Of course this doesn’t display roads, mountains etc. but it should give you an idea of where he is building his empire.
      His home province is the one of the Oda clan (black-yellow flower) and his territory expands to the “east”/”north/”northeast”/right hand side (never know how to tell directions on the Shogun 2 map).
      All the way along the coast up to (and including) the easternmost red/orange province and also the two orange and yellow provinces “above” the coast line (in the center of Japan).

      1. noahpocalypse says:


        (I like mine better… Yours has poo on it.)

      2. John R. says:

        The map of Japan looks wrong without Hokkaido on it. I know historically it’s probably the right choice to leave it off, but still, it’s unsettling for some reason.

  8. Raygereio says:

    Now that Josh has brought up the topic of agents dying:
    I stopped bothering with agents in previous Total War games (and usually just removed them from the game alltogether) as they succeeded in their missions only once in a blue moon. Doens’t matter if the game says possibilliy of succes of 20% or 90%, they’ll still fail (and die) 99 out of 100 times in my experience.
    Naturally the AI agents pretty much always succeed in their missions. To keep things fair naturally.

    Have those agent mechanics been improved at all in Shogun 2, or are things like a 90% succes possibillity still a big, fat lie?

    1. Lame Duck says:

      My experience of agents has been pretty positive; the percentages provided seem to accurately reflect reality and even if they do fail there’s a decent chance they’ll escape unharmed. I rarely have problems with AI agents either; from time to time an enemy ninja will sabotage a building or army but I don’t think I’ve ever had a general killed by a ninja. I think the biggest threat enemy agents pose is against your own agents but I don’t think they get any unfair bonuses.

      I only play at around Hard difficulty though so maybe AI agents get bonuses or the AI learns to use them more extensively and effectively at higher difficulties.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      They still fail proportionally more often than statistics indicate, but now failure also gives a chance to escape. A failure with escape doesn’t cost you your agent, gives some XP (+2; five failures grants just enough to allow you to level up to level 2 and specialize your agent to one who can assassinate/sabotage targets more elusive than a bale of hay) and (if the action costs money) refunds half the agent cost. It helps. A little.

      In addition, you have specialty provinces that help a bit by recruiting level 2-3 agents pretty easily, and tech that improves your agents’ success rating.

    3. Dys says:

      Without actually sitting down over thousands of hours of gameplay and recording success rates, I doubt it’s possible to know if the stated percentages are accurate. You likely only remember the one time the 80% success chance failed, rather than the other four times it succeeded.

      Agents in Shogun are very useful, but the chance of failure does come with the chance of death, which tends to make them very transient. They do however have various ways to lower the chances of being eliminated.

      If you do manage to get one up to a serious level, they can be devastating. I was playing recently, and managed to get a level four ninja specced for assassination, with extra points in escape chance. He eliminated the entire ruling family of my greatest enemy, single handed. Then I forgot to make him get off a ship along with the army he was assisting, and the whole navy got sunk by pirates, along with my three best agents. I really, really wish the game didn’t do that.

      1. Raygereio says:

        “Without actually sitting down over thousands of hours of gameplay and recording success rates, I doubt it's possible to know if the stated percentages are accurate.”

        Actually for Rome and Medieval 2 I did test it thoroughly (well for spies at least). I collected a dataset per agent of 5000 trials for the former and somewhere around 3000 for the latter and used 5’ish different agents of various skill levels. All of that naturally twice: once for player agents and once for AI agents.
        And yes that did take a long time to do (I was still in college back then, it’s not like I had anything better to do). Especially in Medieval 2 as that engine’s random number generator remembered the last dice it rolled for a specific agent+action-combo to prevent save-scumming.

        So yeah; unless there was just something really screwy with my installs, I know pretty sure that the chance agents would succeed in Rome and Medievel 2 was heavily biased towards the AI. The playing field becomes a bit more levelled if you have a maxed out agent, but just getting one of those is a nightmare without cheating.
        By the time I got to Empire and Napoleon I just didn’t bother with agents at all anymore, so I didn’t test those.

        1. James Pony says:

          It’s funny that you didn’t bother with agents in Empire and Napoleon, because in Empire they were pretty useless because they’d just die and by the time you had enough of everything to spawn agents at decent rates, it’d take turns upon turns to even get them on hostile territory.

          Then in Napoleon they leveled up really fast and you could easily get 75% sabotage chances and such.

          Don’t know how much campaign difficulty affects it, though.

        2. Sumanai says:

          Good to know. Pity you didn’t test the original Shogun, since that’s the only one where I used agents seriously. Though I had already come to the, possibly wrong, conclusion that the percentages shown were higher than the reality when I intentionally started spamming one clan with assassination attempts. 20% chance, which felt closer to 10% and every failure is a dead ninja? Not very productive. Fun, but not very productive.

  9. Joel D says:

    Thanks for trimming the screenshots – makes for a much easier read, which nudges my enjoyment from “lots” to “lots plus some” :)

  10. Lame Duck says:

    It can be quite useful to take a clan’s last province out from under them even if their army is still in the province to turn them into rebels. Defeating the rebels gives a pretty big repression bonus which can offset the unrest from being a newly conquered province and allow you to put your army to better use than sitting around and keeping an eye on the population.

  11. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Josh, I doubt your Katana Retainers actually killed 400 soldiers. As you see on the screen, your 45 soldiers killed 58, but the ennemy lost 400.

    It can be the men who died while trying to scale up the walls. Or because the AI fired arrows into the melee while your katana retainers were fighting hand-to-hand.

    Also, question: I like your Gunpowder strategy idea. Are you going to convert?

    1. Dys says:

      I was going to suggest the defense towers, but looking at that screenshot there don’t appear to be any. Walls is a good bet.

      1. CTrees says:

        People always neglect to put ranks into climb (and swim), but one bad check can spell instant death…

        Erm, yeah I’ve been planning my D&D campaign and statting the major NPCs. Easy to start thinking of everything in those terms, heh.

    2. Josh says:

      Yeah, a good portion of them died because they climbed the walls.

      But then they didn’t need to climb the walls, the AI just did that because it doesn’t understand what a gate is, so I’ll still take it.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:

        You outsmarted the AI with a door! Well done sir! :-)

        So, will you take up The Cross?

        1. tremor3258 says:

          Doors, AI’s natural enemy.

  12. Usually_Insane says:

    Out of curiosity, how do you feel about the new expansion pack, or standalone moneygrub they are going to release?

    1. rofltehcat says:

      I for one am pretty sceptical. I didn’t like the firearms-heavy Empire:TW. It was far too campy and I fear that cannons and especially gatlings may cause the fantastic albeit still a bit campy Shogun 2 to be horrible.

      So we’ll see…

    2. Zombie says:

      I for one am EXTATIC. I mean, Think of the possabilities for future TW games! I’ve said it before, a game from 1800 to 1939 would be epic, not only in size and scale, but we could take the good from all the TW games, put it in one, and you would have the best TW game in existance. Plus, Ironclads and Marines. Who dosnt love those things, and who hasnt wanted to play around with those things since Empire?

  13. ACman says:

    After picture 5, line 9: Choose not chose.

    Pedantry I know but….

    Also: 1 point moral bonus for all your troops because your wife is greedy. What?…

    Is she pulling a Mrs Schiesskopf and doing the nasty with the men under her husband’s command and then paying them?

    1. Nick says:

      I assume she’s getting better food and drink for everyone so that she can have it too, so the men are happier

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