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Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 4:
The Game’s Afoot!

By Josh
on Monday Oct 3, 2011
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning



Last time, we left off with the Tokugawa sallying-out from their castle to meet our besieging forces.


As I mentioned last time, besieging a castle and forcing the enemy to sally out to try to break the siege before they’re forced to surrender is almost certainly the best method I’ve found to deal with well fortified castles. It can take several turns longer than it would to simply assault the castle immediately, but you’ll suffer far fewer casualties than you would otherwise.

This is primarily because in Shogun 2, unlike some of the older incarnations of Total War, the AI is very strict about its role in combat. If the AI is on defense, it will secure a defensive position and wait for you to engage. If it’s on offense, it will attack you directly until all of your units rout or all if its does.

Of course a quirk of this behavior is that the AI will not actively attempt to dislodge you from a good defensive position if you are defending. Which means we can abuse the hell out of hills and forests to force the AI into a blind, uphill charge.



Jumping right in, I deploy my forces to the top of this forested hill. The trees will, again, reduce the damage of my own archers, but the AI isn’t going to sit around and skirmish with me, they’re going to charge the hill, and once the melee is joined, my archers will cease to be relevant anyway. I would much rather reduce the damage their archers can do to my melee troops.


I also have reinforcements coming in from far behind the hill, but they probably won’t arrive before the Tokugawa reach my position.


And here we go. The Tokugawa rush out of the trees and straight up the hill. Their archers stop at the base of the hill and open fire on my own archers, but with my bow ashigaru in loose formation and in a forest, it won’t do a whole lot.


Meanwhile, my spear-walled yari ashigaru are making easy work of the enemy infantry. This screenshot was taken only fifteen seconds or so after our lines met, and two of the enemy spear units are already wavering. That’s how much of an advantage higher ground can give you.

I’m holding my yari samurai in reserve, and you can see my rushing them to the other side of my lines – at the time it looked like an enemy general might try to slip past. In retrospect, this was probably unnecessary as my reinforcemens, which you can see to the far right, were nearly to my lines and ended up intercepting the enemy general and nearly killing him before my yari samurai even got there.


With one enemy general down and their front lines breaking, my two reserve units rush forward to engage the enemy archers in melee and stop them from firing at my own units. The other enemy general (which you can see in the middle of the above image) couldn’t figure out which unit he wanted to fight, and ended up sandwiched between my front lines and my reserves after the last of the infantry was mopped up.


With both generals dead, the only thing left to deal with are the enemy archers, both units of which quickly break under the pressure and retreat. This battle is over.

Glory shot of my general hunting down some fleeing, bow-armed peasants:


Of course, since we killed twice as many troops as we lost, defeated essentially every male Tokugawa family member in a single battle, and utterly crippled the Tokugawa as a military force, we got…


…a “close” victory. Thanks, Shogun 2. Keep singing the praise.

Unfortunately we didn’t quite wipe out every military unit the Tokugawa possessed, so we didn’t automatically take the castle.


Also of concern is the turmoil on our western border. The Tsutsui have wiped out the friendly Kitabatake and taken Ise for themselves, and they’re not nearly so amiable. They’re at war with the Hattori at the moment, which will hopefully keep them occupied for the time being, but I’m not going to take my eyes off of the west any time soon. To help smooth things over, I negotiate a trade agreement with them. Hopefully, that will keep that satiated.


Now, to finally take Mikawa.


No losses, which means the only further damage this siege caused was to the castle itself, which can easily be repaired in a turn.


Capturing Mikawa has completed the mission we received a few turns ago, increasing the number of units we can recruit in a turn from any given castle. Given our tumultuous relationship with the surrounding clans, this will almost certainly prove very useful.

Lastly, the sake den I commissioned in Mino is complete. Yes, that’s “sake” as in “Japanese rice wine” – I commissioned the construction of a bar. And who hangs out in bars?


Ninjas! It’s the perfect place to practice throwing makeshift farm implements and disguising yourself as a hedge!

In all seriousness, the image of black-bathrobe-clad legendary shadow warriors that could hide anywhere and kill anything is almost certainly apocryphal, but ninjas – or shinobi – did in fact exist. In reality, they were probably utilized in a similar manner to spies and assassins in medieval Europe – espionage, assassination, and sabotage – though there are accounts of ninja being used on the battlefield directly as well. The idea that they were strictly peasants who fought exclusively against their “samurai oppressors” is also almost certainly not the case, as the first ninja arose from mercenaries and spies for hire in the Iga and Omi provinces depicted in Shogun 2, and they were probably hired by various daimyo during the Sengoku Jidai.

In any case, in Shogun 2, they’re one of the four classes of agent (though there is also a battlefield version of the ninja that I’m quite partial to using in multiplayer as well). You can use them to spy, assassinate other characters, sabotage armies and castles, and increase the range and sight of your own army. They’re indispensable for planning campaigns and making sure your enemy doesn’t surprise you.


Unfortunately, the ninja I recruited was too late to alert me to the absolutely massive Imagawa force marching on Mikawa. The taste of victory may prove very brief for us, as it’s become very clear just how far I’ve overextended myself.

This is very frustrating to me, as I’ve actually made this very same mistake before, on a prior legendary Oda campaign. I wasn’t able to win, and the Imagawa dealt me a massive setback that eventually spurred me to give up the campaign and start over. Obviously, that isn’t really an option here – I’m playing this through to the end. I was even expecting a large Imagawa force to show up, but I never expected anything as large as nearly two thousand men.

Well, I suppose there was always going to be a point in this campaign where I would have to step away from the easy battles. Next time, well see just how well things go for us when we are forced to face overwhelming odds.

Comments (63)

  1. Pete says:

    My bet is on very, very badly until the AI attempts another one of those suicidal maneuvers and ends up with two thousand men impaled on a single spear or something.

  2. noahpocalypse says:

    This has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and sorry about the total irrelevancy of this comment, but do you have the best computer out of the whole Spoiler Warning crew? Is that why you play a lot for the videos?

    To (sort of) redeem myself:

    cool story bro.

  3. McNutcase says:

    Why am I completely unsurprised that our resident stealth-abusing crit-stacking Spy-playing backstabbing Cuftbertian likes to use ninja in multiplayer?

  4. Phoenix says:

    Josh, where did you find that forests also reduce the effectiveness of your own archer’s bows? It kinda make sense, but I couldn’t find it written down anywhere – neither in the tutorials nor in the ingame wiki?

  5. Grag says:

    Yay! I clicked on the shortcut for twentysided hoping for more of this LP, and here it is!

    You’re making me feel the urge to try this game again. I looked at the demo briefly and didn’t like the tutorial for some reason. Should give it another go.

  6. Rob says:

    I need to not read these entries, it makes me want to buy this game.

  7. Grag says:

    Yay my new Gravatar works!

    I think I may have to find my CD for rome TW and play a bit tonight as well.

    • gragsmash says:

      wait.. i see the gravatar on editing, but not on posting.


        • gragsmash says:

          seriously… this is irritating.

          I’m sorry for spamming with this. I should be using the post that is for that. If a mod wants to nuke this thread go ahead and do so.

          weird, it is definitely working. had to jump to a different page and back, refresh didn’t do it.

          • Sumanai says:

            It’s possible to “force refresh” which sometimes works for that sort of stuff. Don’t remember if it’s Shift+F5 or Ctrl+F5 in Firefox/Google Chrome. It should be similar (Shift or Ctrl held down while pressing Refresh) in Internet Explorer and Opera, don’t know about Macs.

            And next time, don’t make several posts. The image changes for all posts not just the new ones. But you probably realized that already.

  8. Grudgeal says:

    If it makes you feel any better, I almost inevitably fall prey to the same Imagawa trap playing as Oda, myself. On Normal.

    But hey, on the plus side, your odds are better than they were historically at Okehazama.

    Oh, and lest I forget: Neener neener for not listening. Aren’t you sad you didn’t leave the fort intact now?

  9. swenson says:

    Well, things couldn’t be all roses forever, could they? This seems like the first time the computer’s thrown out a real challenge to you (although it certainly is a big one!). Very interested to see how this turns out. Best of luck to you and all your little pixelated soldiers running around the battlefields.

  10. Hush says:

    As I am fond of saying:…well, shit.

    I am looking forward to see you try to wriggle out of this mess. I think it’s possible…but unlikely. If you engage them, the only way you’d be able to pull out anything even resembling a win is hit-and-run tactics(unlikely, given your previous reliance on the spear wall), or ganking the general(which in and of itself doesn’t give you the battle, I believe, though it’ll make it much easier. I dunno, I haven’t played Total War:Anything, so I’m just going by impressions).

    Speaking of things I’m painfully ignorant of, can you merge some of your less populous divisions of spearmen with a larger group? Playing defensive spearwall wouldn’t be a bad idea, but if they toss everything they have on one of your weaker squads, it’ll crumple pretty quick. Merging squads that have taken casualties might help.

    • Squash says:

      Yes, you can merge units, but only between battles, not during the action.

    • krellen says:

      I don’t know if this is still the case in Shogun 2, but in Rome and Medieval 2, it was actually advantageous not to merge your units, because you could instead replenish them to full for a lesser cost, while keeping most of their experience. You could have one merged unit that was level 3 experience, for instance, or rebuild the two units and have two level 2s, which will generally win out over the single level 3.

      • Simulated Knave says:

        It is still very much the case. And I don’t think experience drops as precipitously from rebuilding in Shogun, either.

      • Grudgeal says:

        Land units in Shogun 2 and Empire can’t be fully replenished instantly by paying money and waiting a turn. Instead, all units have a ‘replenishment rate’ that slowly replenishes losses while in friendly provinces with a general and intact fort. This rate depends on a lot of factors like which unit it is, infrastructure buildings, general traits, and whether or not you have the training building for the unit in question in that province. For most samurai units, this is 2-3 units per turn baseline when you’re not in a samurai-recruiting province. For Ashigaru, it’s usually 12-15 as forts can be found everywhere. (This is another advantage to the Oda).

        Generally speaking, most units in Shogun 2 pay off to merge when close to 50% strength and battles are afoot, as one unit close to 100% will reach full strength quicker and hold the line better in combat. Unless you’re planning to cycle the army out of active service for a year or two, merging and hiring new units to fill the gaps is quicker and cheaper, although you pay for it with potentially higher-quality soldiers. The exception to this are boats, who can only replenish the old-fashioned way in friendly ports.

  11. Klay F. says:

    Your only option might be to cheese the AI by somehow getting to general to suicide charge with no backup. Thats how I always beat overwhelming odds anyway, though I play on easy, so this may not apply.

  12. Deoxy says:

    They only outnumber you about 2.5:1, and you’ve been winning comfortably with 2+:1 kill ratios, so I expected that you CAN win, but with the large initial firepower discrepancy, it will be a bit more of challenge.

    Good luck – hoping this LP doesn’t die an early death…

    • Nick Bell says:

      Random thought: I prefer my ratios to be whole numbers. The stated 2.5:1 feels much better as a 5:2 one. I have no idea if this is common or crazy. Anyone else got an opinion?

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      It’s a bit easier to achieve a 2:1 kill ratio when you are facing ennemies 1:1.

      Since more ennemies engage and shoot at you at the same time, you can kill them much, much slower. I’m lucky if I achieve a 1:1 kill ratio in these battles.

      On rare occasion, I achieve 3:1 kill ratio in defeat, facing 5:1 odds. But it was because I was facing exclusively Ashigaru forces against heavily experienced Nodachi and Bow Samurai.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Does the fort not count for anything?

      • SolkaTruesilver says:

        Forts are a dangerous animal. Yes, they do count for something, but the ennemy’s huge advantage in term of Archery means Josh can’t stand for long on the walls to stop the waves of invaders before being needled to death.

        I guess he could do rotating defensive charge against units that halfway climbed the walls, but it’s still risky as hell. Using his General to attack isolated archery units could very well help out a LOT. But 1 single cavalry general can only do so much against 3 stacked archery units.

        • Dwip says:

          I don’t know that it’s as grim as all that, though it will be exciting.

          – 4 bow ashigaru isn’t as bad as it could be, and there’s a good chance of the AI clumping them together off to the side, which is chargable;

          – Even a single cav unit can mess up bow ashigaru pretty bad so long as the generals don’t show up (and the AI doesn’t use generals in seige battles well at all);

          – Shoving your units right up next to the wall does provide semi-reasonable protection from archery fire;

          – That’s a whole lot of really low morale unupgraded ashigaru there, and if there’s anything AI ashigaru love to do, it’s rout. Take a bunch of damage scaling defended walls under fire into a bunch of vet units? Good chance of rout. Do they see a squirrel? Good chance of rout.

          That aside, Josh doesn’t really have a whole lot of dudes, which is going to make this pretty exciting.

          • Usually_Insane says:

            yeah, best bet is to get some cav on unprotected archers and then break the peasants scaling the walls… Hard to do, but possible… if you could reload…

            Yes I reload, a lot, but I’ll do a legendary playthrough someday.

            Also “squirrel” Lol :)

  13. M says:

    Ninjas on medieval european battlefields? Sounds hilarious just to me?

  14. Dovius says:

    It’s still amazing me how tense this can be for a text Let’s Play, looking forward to the attempts to repel the two thousand men with the glory of the Oda and it’s brand-new units.
    Just wondering about something here (dont’t have the game, myself….yet), but couldn’t you try to use Ninjas to eliminate the leadership of the enemy host so that by the time you actually meet them, they’re demoralised, disorganized and easy to route?

    On a more silly note, every time there’s another part of this let’s Play with your profile pic in the corner, I keep imagining Teddy Rooseveld in Samurai armour.

  15. JPH says:

    Wait. This game has Ninjas?

    Damn. I need to buy this shit.

    • Dwip says:

      It has ninja mission videos. This is every bit as awesome as you might think.

      I’m also hoping we get to see some battlefield ninjas get used, especially since Josh knows how to use them. I’ve tried to make use of them, but mostly they just got killed, which made me sad.

  16. 4th Dimension says:

    Well my friend, I say you’re fucked. You will be facing 4:1 odds in numbers, while your troops are not significantly better than enemys. And you have no mobile troops except for the general.

    Soo, I advise you to forget that fort, and try to save the army ANY way you can.

  17. Wtrmute says:

    The more I read about the historical Iga ninjas, the more they look like Swiss mercenaries in Japan. They, too, were mountaineer peasants from a region where the law had difficulty to reach, which formed a kind of republican local government even though they were technically subjects of an Emperor, and they too were feared far and wide for being extremely effective mercenaries, sometimes fighting on both sides of a battle.

  18. Syal says:

    I will be sad if the campaign is ended by this. I’m enjoying the series so far.

    Also, “40 comments? This post wasn’t even all that interesting.” It’s a lot funnier when the post wasn’t posted by Shamus.

  19. rayen020 says:

    So i bought shogun 2 because a) this play through and b) it was on sale in the steam store. However i’ve been playing and i just cannot seem to do anything right. is shogun 2 a bad introduction to this sort of game? or am i just not as good and stategy games as i thought i was?

    • Mr. 35 says:

      I think you’ll be fine, but there is a learning curve. Start on Easy or Normal, run a few custom battles to get the hang of tactical command, play the tutorials, and check out the encyclopedia (right-click) if you’re unclear on something.

      Expect to screw up a couple campaigns before you win one, but learn from your mistakes. I gave up three times on Easy difficulty campaigns before scoring a victory. Also, practice plenty in single-player before going multiplayer.

      Good luck, it really can be a fun game. :)

      • Usually_Insane says:

        Like mister 35 before me, I’d say play the tutorials, they give a good grounding in how everything works.
        Also, don’t build Units like some RTS player, they look cool on the battlefield but the upkeep will _cripple_ your economy.
        Get a good balance between enough units and managable spending, be especially wary about sea trade routes as the can be pirated and you’ll lose a sometimes substantial income

      • littlefinger says:

        As a R:TW veteran, I had a little trouble adapting to this system, but generally I got the hang of it. Needless to say in 3 turns I’ll turn out to have been out-teched by all others. (though I did ‘win’ a battle 2000:1000 with low-equiped yari ashigaru and 3 bow ashigaru against 6 bow samurai and yari samurai! The game gave me 1:5 odds. I ‘won’ with 168 remaining against 120 remaining. Next turn my relief army eliminated the stragglers).

        But naval battles are goddamn’d impossible! I almost lost the tutorial battle! That’s just embarrassing!

  20. Davie says:

    Overextending is wonderful as long as nothing unpredictable happens. I learned this the hard way–as my Date armies were sweeping across central Honshu, the Ikko Ikki snuck their navy around and landed a force of nine thousand troops about four provinces behind the front lines. Biggest army I’d ever seen in a Total War game, and it ended that campaign pretty quickly.

  21. decius says:

    No matter how hard I try, I can’t get the tooltips to appear by hovering my mouse over the screenshot.

    Also, I can’t quicksave in real life.

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