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Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 6: Retribution!

By Josh
on Monday Oct 24, 2011
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning



Our toil against the treacherous Imagawa clan will soon be at an end! After our humiliating defeat at Mikawa, we’ve gathered all of the forces we could muster to strike back and retake what is ours. And we must strike back – our backs are up against the wall, and the only way out is to defeat the Imagawa advance before they can move any farther.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


We’ve just moved our reinforcements to assist in the siege against Mikawa. And we’re not the only ones – as you can see, the Imagawa have reinforcements of their own, and it’s a rather disconcerting omen: two katana samurai units. It seems the Imagawa have been improving their military infrastructure while we were busy recovering. We still have a manpower advantage – for the moment – but the Imagawa haven’t yet sallied forth to attempt to break the siege. So we’ll wait.

While our army lays siege to Imagawa, our ninja scouts have been busy, and they’ve confirmed that, as I suspected, the full strength of the Imagawa is concentrated solely on Mikawa. If we beat them here, they will have nothing left.

We still have some funds left, so before I end the turn I order the recruitment of some additional garrison troops and begin work on upgrading Owari’s fishing village into a harbor. Later on, we will want a navy to repel any aquatic invasion forces, and a proper port will allow us to gather some additional income from sea trade.

There’s nothing left to take care of – let’s see what the Imagawa do.


And, indeed, we do have a battle on our hands. But it’s not exactly what I’d hoped for. The Imagawa have managed to reinforce Mikawa with a second force, this one bringing a third katana samurai to bear and closing the manpower gap. This is most troubling – even in spear wall and standing uphill to neutralize any charge advantage, a yari ashigaru can’t beat a katana samurai one-on-one. And our infantry unit count is even – eight to eight – meaning I can’t count on overwhelming the katana samurai with numbers either. No matter how this plays out, it will be a pitched battle for sure.

And the gravity of that fact cannot be overstated. This is it – if we win this battle, we win the war. Even with the allowances legendary difficulty affords to the AI, they simply won’t be able to build enough troops quickly enough to stop our advance if they fail here. The same is true for us as well; if we lose here, there will be nothing to stop the onslaught that will surely follow. It all comes down to this one fight.

Let us hope fate is smiling upon us today.


Oh, and it’s raining. This does adversely affect bow units, but not to the degree that Nobuhide seems to suggest as he gives his speech.


And so, this is our battlefield. And I’ll be frank: this terrain sucks. My strategy when dealing with superior armies is to sit on top of a steep hill and let the enemy wear themselves down on my spearpoints, but there isn’t a single ideal, defensible hill anywhere in range of my starting position. There is the hill that you can see directly ahead of my start zone and to the left, but it has a multitude of problems: it isn’t very steep, there’s a tree-covered hill directly in front of it which means my archers will be reduced to total uselessness, and its far enough forward that my reinforcements – which should come in directly behind me – would have to run to reach it in time to be of any practical consequence.


Instead, I’m going to break with my traditional tactics and deploy as close to the back edge of the battlefield as possible. There are some small mounds at the edge of the map that could loosely be interpreted as hills – if you squint – and there are plenty of trees for cover. Here’s hoping it’ll be enough.


As intimidating as that wall of spears is, it’d look more intimidating if the hill were a 45 degree incline. And all of my spearmen had guns. And there were dragons flying overhead and the death star was looming in the background.

Man, that’d be awesome.

I’ve spared you the several minutes of obsessive shifting of units as I try to make do with what cover I have, and by the time this was taken I’d grouped together my main force and my reinforcements and finished fussing with my lines.

And as restricting as battle realism mode is (no minimap and a camera that can’t be moved very far away from your own units) it sure was cool for this battle. At this point, the Imagawa were so far away, and the fog and rain so thick, that I couldn’t even see their unit flags in the distance. For a moment, you could fool yourself into thinking the Imagawa had given up and weren’t coming.


Of course, all good fantasies must come to an end, just as mine did as their main line materialized. But it came with a glimmer of hope as well – as you can see, there don’t seem to be any reinforcement units in sight. Only the main castle force is in front of me – the rest must be farther behind. If they attack in two waves, and I can rout their first attack before the second comes, then my chances of victory will be much higher.


The battle is joined in a rather… unusual fashion, as one of the Imagawa generals charges headfirst into my spear-wall. I can only assume that the AI saw my archer units, sitting there firing in loose formation – and assumed it’d be a good cavalry target. My infantry wasn’t visible until they got closer. Why they didn’t break off the charge when they did see my infantry is something I can’t explain, but the results are certainly welcome. The enemy general dies within twenty seconds of meeting my lines.

Their infantry charge in for revenge, but against four units of yari ashigaru and a small group of samurai retainers, my four ashigaru-strong front line will easily hold.


But things are about to get a lot more complicated, as the enemy katana samurai reinforcements have finally arrived.

As an aside, the “katana samurai” units fall into the category of things that bug me about this game. The idea of well-trained, main-line shock troops armed only with katana is rather anachronistic. Sure, there were foot-soldier samurai that wielded swords, but so did everyone else who could afford to. Swords were general purpose sidearms, to be used only if you were engaged in melee combat. But in the open battlefield, swords were far less useful than a spear or a bow, and a troop armed only with a sword would be vulnerable to just about any weapon with a longer reach – a spear, a bow, and that’s to say nothing of cavalry. Worse, if you zoom in close to the combat in this game, you can even see that almost every soldier actually does carry a sword and most of them use it if engaged in melee.

Hell, even the name “katana samurai” seems wrong. “Katana” is simply a generic Japanese word meaning “sword,” and can apply to a variety of bladed weapons. The blade that the game seems to be referring to in the unit name is the “daito,” or “long-sword,” which happens to be the category of blades that we commonly refer to as “katana” fit into. But then you could also apply this same complaint to most any English-language work that references Japanese swords.

But I digress. The katana samurai boogiemen were charging.


As it happens, things have turned out just as well as I’d hoped. By the time the katana samurai meet my lines, the Imagawa main line has routed. As a last ditch effort, the enemy daimyo, Imagawa Yoshimoto, seems to have charged my main line as well, but he’s not having a lucky day – there’s no way I’d let an opportunity like that pass by. Though his morale shatters quickly, the daimyo himself escapes – but seeing their leader flee the field with his tail locked between his legs is perhaps an even greater blow than seeing him die on the field.


With the enemy main line retreating, I now have free reign to wrap my main own main line around the enemy katana samurai, encircling them. As well-trained and battle-hardened as katana samurai are, even they can’t help but lose heart if they become completely surrounded.


And now the katana samurai are breaking under the pressure. It seems as if all I have left is to mop up, but unfortunately, the spirit of the Imagawa is stronger than I had thought possible. As you can see, their former main line, that had routed following their abortive attack on my own main line, has actually rallied and returned to the battle. This is despite both of their generals being either dead or routed – remarkable resolve for peasant mercenaries. With my entire melee force committed to the encirclement of the enemy samurai, they’ve come back to engage my archers in melee.


It is fortunate that they didn’t arrive in time to assist their samurai brethren – the enemy katana samurai units have been almost completely destroyed by my “inferior” ashigaru army. At this point in the battle, all semblance of organized warfare had more or less disappeared – it turned into a chaotic blob as I tried to direct some of my ashigaru to assist my archers without taking too many men away from the group that was still finishing off the katana samurai. It was hard to tell what was going on and which unit was where and who was attacking what – and my head hurts just thinking about it.


But without their general, they didn’t stand a chance, resolute or not. The Imagawa army is broken.

Victory – as fleeting as it seems to be in these times – is ours.


Pyrrhic victory is right: Over twelve hundred of our brave men lie dead on the field. But even our mounting losses cannot soften the blow we have dealt to our enemies. One Imagawa general is amongst the casualties, all three enemy katana samurai units were completely crushed by our forces before they could retreat, and Mikawa’s castle has a only a few depleted regiments left to defend it and its cowering lord, Imagawa Yoshimoto.

As much as we will mourn the men we lost on the battlefield, we must also thank their spirits for the sacrifices they made. Mikawa will surely fall to us next turn, and that will put us into direct striking distance of their remaining provinces. This is the death knell for the Imagawa; they will never recover from the blow our hard-won victory has dealt them. We’ll make certain of that.

Comments (40)

  1. noahpocalypse says:

    Um. Is half the thing supposed to be italics, or was there just supposed to be two italicized paragraphs?

  2. Thomas says:

    Continuing the katana samurai theme, surely a phyrric victory isn’t right if you still have enough people left to accomplish your goal and even win the war? :D

    Not that the computer is qualified to judge that, or should be giving you that hint

    • Entropy says:

      Not if he then can’t defend either his new holdings or his old from his other enemies.

      • Tse says:

        I’m a little worried he may get attacked by another clan as well.

      • UtopiaV1 says:

        “Another victory such as this and I shall be forced to surrender.”

        Also, as a side not, I think there should be a mod re-naming the Katana Samurai to No-Dachi Samurai, just like the first Shogun.

        • Grudgeal says:

          Nodachi samurai are a distinct unit, though. They wield nodachi, a Japanese equivalent to the European two-handed great sword/claymore/zweihänder. The nodachi is about twice the length of a tachi/katana (about 120 cm blade plus 30-50 cm hilt) and only used two-handed.

          And if you thought sword-wielding Samurai were anachronistic, the nodachi Samurai are a downright historical falsehood; there exists no historic proof that swords that size were even used in battle at all (except *possibly* by cavalry, who may have used the middle-sized 90 cm-length odachi as a cavalry saber). Much like in European warfare, two-handed swords *look* impressive but have no practical use because they’re so hard to use. They were probably only created as a bragging point for the smith, and used ceremonially.

          The game, of course, completely ignores this. Nodachi Samurai are a “super-high offence, defence of paper” unit and a speciality of the Date clan, contrasting with the more balanced katana Samurai.

          • Wtrmute says:

            European greatswords were actually really useful weapons, called by Germans and Portuguese alike “the king of all weapons”. The problem is that it isn’t a *battlefield* weapon; it’s a weapon for single combatants, when they don’t have to worry about hitting their foes and sparing their friends. The spear (and much, much more emphatically its larger cousin, the awl pike) is the complete opposite, a great weapon for the massed formations where the enemy can only come from one direction and a not so great one when you can be attacked from several directions at once.

            • Even on a battlefield the superiority of spears is situational. It depends what you’re up against. Spears and pike are great against cavalry. Cavalry is great against infantry with short weapons, like shortsword and shield or whatnot.
              However, sword and shield formations have been known to make mincemeat of spear/pike, making an odd triangle of weapon superiority. They tend to be able to fend off the bristling hedge of points and get inside–and once they’re on the inside, the pike boys are toast.
              Greatswords might arguably be useful at the edges of a pike formation, much like halberds. The vulnerability of pikes is that they all point the same direction, ya? Flank them even a little bit and they’re dead. A line of more cutting-type polearms was often put along the sides of a block of pikes to fend off any stray opponents that might spill around the end of the line. Halberds and glaives etc. need far too much room to be useful as a normal formation weapon, but it’s not such a problem there at the edge of the line; a greatsword would probably do the same job as well, although it would be more expensive.

              Generally, though, it’s true that they aren’t a battlefield weapon. I believe the Scots lost a lot of battles testing that proposition, being the stubborn buggers they are.

              • Grudgeal says:

                Pikes should not be underestimated. You could equip ten militia with pikes for the price of one anti-pike heavy infantry (which would much quicker be a target of opportunity for the enemy), making them cheaper to use and fieldable in larger quantity. Melees where disciplined troops meet and neither side rout quickly turn into chaotic pushing matches where larger bodies of troops (i.e. pikemen) can simply overrun their less numerous opponents by numbers. Plus there’s the Swiss pike square, which meant flanking was easier said than done when facing well-drilled pikemen.

                While heavy infantry with shields/melee weapons *could* probably be a good pike counter, in reality they would be relatively rare since most people who could afford good armour, weapons and training probably fought on horses if they could, and probably wouldn’t like to dismount for the fear of someone nicking their horse. Thus, most ‘heavy infantry’ you found in the medieval ages *were* pikemen, fighting other pikemen in push battles. The main pike counter in the medieval era was mostly missile weapons and surrounding/beating up the *other* parts of the army until the pikemen lost formation and discipline (like at the battle of Falkirk).

                As for the zweihänder, the landsknects (who were famous pikemen) apparently used such swords in lesser numbers early on as a melee supplement and as a potential anti-pike weapon for the first wave (use swords to cut open a breach, then rush in with your own pike), but they were apparently discarded as firearms were much better at it anyway.

  3. MikeH says:

    Its a matter of taking such enormous casualties that if say, an army of Hojo allies showed up to support the Imagawa he’d be screwed. Its situations like this that make me favor the Takeda in my more recent play through. Getting archery where it needs to be, and able to avoid combat or turn a flank in a melee is incredibly valuable.

  4. Abnaxis says:

    So Josh manage to punch through the Imagawa line, retake Mikawa…

    …And then Imagawa gets steamrolled by another house from the North, who will then have an army parked on Josh’s front doorstep. Now that would be a letdown.

  5. SoldierHawk says:

    I love how damn dramatic you write these. Puts me on the edge of my seat every time.

  6. mac says:

    Awesome series. It’s making me want to install one of the old total war games again.

  7. Jarenth says:

    I’ll be honest, Josh: when you mentioned upgrading your harbor to defend against ‘aquatic invasion forces’, I immediately pictured an attack by these recently announced World of Warcraft enemies. I’m sure you can see why.

    Also, good story. Can’t say I’m surprised to see you win, though.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Man you could even make Josh watches paint dry interesting.Dont get me wrong,shogun is a fun game to play,but I always found watching others playing strategies(both turn based and real time)quite boring.Especially against the ai.Keep it up.

  9. Jakale says:

    “As intimidating as that wall of spears is, it'd look more intimidating if the hill were a 45 degree incline. And all of my spearmen had guns. And there were dragons flying overhead and the death star was looming in the background.

    Man, that'd be awesome.”

    Any chance someone with artistic ability could make Josh’s preferred battle scenario a glorious reality?

  10. James says:

    Reginald Cuftbert as he would appear in Shogun 2.

    Reginald, is a normal farm boy, with a terrible childhood, he lived in a small settlement, where EVERYONE was a raving lunatic, and his father a, well meaning idiot called Liam Neeson, who miraculously is somehow, the towns scientist, needless to say his dad does something incredibly stupid, and lands him self dead, and his son in trouble with the Oda clan. (now this is where things divulge a bit from the age old Regi) The Oda clan, seeing Reginald, as a hilariously powerful forward line shock troop, use him for various missions that there normal army wont and would die from. each mission Regi, gets more addictions to strange chemicals, at one time being addicted to something he only took in a dream (reference to the Jet wearing off after the simulation ended when he took it in the Jingwai fight). he joins in on some major engagements, where before the fight he vanishes for several hours before returning higher then a kite, somehow carrying 12 swords each of a different type none of which he has training in, and somehow the ones he is wielding are perpetually on fire. he charges off ahead of the main force and kills half the enemy army, before being forced to fall back to a hidden case of drugs and food, and then charges into the melee in the middle of the field, killing the remaining enemy forces and somehow a quarter of his own troop. after not getting payed, ‘cus Regi isn’t a Mercenary, he sets the castle on fire and vanishes for 4 mounths, only to return with a new combat suit, a new hat, MORE swords and a gun. and of course more addictions.

    he later dies in the final fight for Kyoto, and his body upon death explodes with a purple and green flame, and he becomes a legend, the drug abusing, mad man Reginald Cuftbert.

  11. Michael R says:

    For the record, I’m really enjoying this series. Go the fighting Odas.

  12. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Nicely fought, Josh. I rise my hairknot to you.

    You may prove to be a competent tactician after all. Now, onward to the Oda Republic!! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!

  13. Gand says:

    Another excellent installment. I hope this continues for quite a while.

  14. Seth Ghatch says:

    Is it bad that when I read the title I heard a Legionaire going. “RETRIBUTION!”?

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