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Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 13: Realpolitik

By Josh
on Tuesday Feb 7, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning



With the Murakami defeated, the east now looks fairly secure. Though I’ve not had the time to fortify the castles along that border, I have on the order of 45 units in the area split between three different armies. I’m now fairly confident in saying that the first phase of my plan is complete – it would take an absolutely massive assault or a series of tactical blunders on my part for any clan to mount a successful offensive against us on the eastern front. Now, I can turn my focus to the second phase – building a new army to take the capital region to the west. But before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at the minimap:


At this point, the field has been reduced to four major players: The Date to the east, shown in dark blue, our own clan, the Oda, in gold near the center, the Hatakeyama in green just to the west of us, and the Mori in bright red to the far west. Of these, the Mori clan controls the largest area, with 11 provinces, and we are close behind with our 10. The Hatakeyama control 8, and the Date control 6 of the largest provinces far to the northeast.

While the relatively small realm of the Date may seem like less of a threat than the larger Mori or Hatakeyama, in reality, it’s almost certainly my most immediate concern. The Date are a major clan – that is, one that can be played directly like the Takeda and the Oda – and thus has its own special units. Worse, the Date focus is on extremely powerful, high quality samurai shock troops – the Nodachi samurai unit. Essentially a katana samurai with less armor and armed with a nodachi (or odachi, depending on who you ask) – a large, katana-styled blade that better resembles a European Zweihänder or Claymore than any other Japanese blade in terms of weight and length – they are devastating on the charge and have one of the highest base melee attack stats in the game, but possess very little defense. They’re also one of the least historically-accurate units in the entire Total War franchise – if the nodachi or odachi were ever used on the battlefield at all, they were probably used in a manner similar to the older but similary shaped Chinese zhan ma dao: for chopping riders off of their horses. And it probably wouldn’t have been very effective in such a role anyway.

But hey, it’s a Big Freakin’ Sword unit. I don’t see many people complaining.

In any case, late-game Date tend to use their easily-produced special unit to great effect, and often steamrolls the other major northeastern clans – as they’re doing to the Uesugi at this very moment. Worse, expanding further to the east or north before realm divide is not in my best interests – I could unintentionally trigger realm divide before I have time to build a proper besieging army to send against Kyoto. Securing an alliance with the Date, then, should be considered our top priority.



Unfortunately, they’re not going for our old trick of offering useless military access in exchange for everything we want, so we may actually need to offer something of substance. I know, I know, it’s unfathomable, isn’t it? The audacity of these Date, asking for things in exchange for other things!

All right, fine, let’s see if there’s anything they want…

I’m reluctant to offer money for anything at the moment – even one season’s profit is that much less money that I can reinvest into our infrastructure. The Date Daimyo, Harumune, has a daughter of suitable age for a political marriage, but I don’t have anyone eligible. Damn, now I’m wishing I hadn’t jumped at the chance to immediately get Nobunaga married. I could wait for Nobuyuki, the next son – he’s 17 right now and could come of age at any moment – but I’d rather not risk waiting for a few seasons and coming back to the table with a less interested/more power hungry Date.

Wait, hang on…


I could offer the third son, Oda Taneyori, as a hostage. He’s five years old right now in 1553, and I have until 1575 to finish this campaign. By the time he’s 18 and ready to come of age, it will be 1566, and I expect I’ll have either won or been wiped out by that point. In other words – it doesn’t matter if he gets killed, he won’t likely be relevant anyway. And if that sounds unnecessarily cold and manipulative, you can console yourself with the fact that Taneyori is a character made up by the game that never actually existed – the third son (technically fourth since Nobuhide had a bastard that was older than Nobunaga) was named Oda Nobukane.

In reality, the practice of sending family members as political hostages to other clans in exchange for various agreements was a common practice in the tumultuous, feudal landscape of this period. Indeed, the most famous of all Japanese warlords, daimyo, and Shoguns – Tokugawa Ieyasu – was a hostage of the Imagawa clan for much of his childhood. And these affairs were more civilized – if you can call it that – than the word “hostage” might imply. While there was always the implicit threat of retaliation against the hostage if the other clan did not comply with the terms of the agreement, the hostages themselves were treated with a great deal of respect, and were often educated and trained in the ways of the samurai with all of the attention and care they would have received in their own family.


The Date are quite pleased with the suggested arrangement, and will hold Taneyori for the next two years. Let’s try not to muck things up before then, shall we?

Indeed, while the way directly to the east of our borders is still raging between the Hojo, Uesugi, and Date, none of the clans give us much trouble. This gives me a much needed breather to finally focus on building up the infrastructure of our hard-won provinces.


For once, even the game seems to agree with me, as this sudden and unexpected boon occurs out of the blue the very next turn after my signing of the Oda – Date Alliance. Full scale production of new ashigaru begins immediately, and in the process I also spread money around for upgrading our training grounds, border castles, and farms all across the Oda realm.


With winter, Nobuyuki reaches maturity, and I immediately offer to betroth him to Date Harumune’s daughter.


Harumune eagerly accepts, and the marriage cements our friendship with a massive boost to the relationship score with the Date – to a total of 237 points. As far as Shogun 2 diplomacy goes, this is pretty significant, although it will decay quickly if I don’t keep trying to appease the Date. The ultimate goal here is to create an alliance that will survive – at least initially – the onset of Realm Divide. Even a few turns could make a huge difference.

The next year is a productive one for the Oda. Every season brings with it another building project completed successfully, our economy is booming, and we’re producing the best trained troops in Japan.


Preferential treatment to merchants has given our economy another solid boost as well, and the army I’m building for Oda Nobunaga’s planned venture into Hatakeyama territory – to take the fight to the Shogunate before they can take it to us – is beginning to take shape.

So what about the other two clans I mentioned at the beginning of this post?

Well, the Mori have continued to expand, and now stand far above any of the other clans with an impressive 13 provinces. They are a major clan as well, focusing on naval superiority, and control much of the lucrative southwestern trade. But they’re so far removed from our realm that I do not anticipate any significant problems from them, short of a full scale naval assault – which is still a possibility, I might add. At some point, I’ll need to build a fleet of sufficient to guard the southern coast of our realm.

Of much greater concern and interest, however, are the Hatakeyama. Masters of central Japan, they control almost every province that directly borders Kyoto, and as such, present an obstacle that cannot be avoided. Fortunately, they are not a major clan by the game’s terms, and have no unique units. Moreover, they are long-standing enemies of our new allies, the Date. We can certainly turn this to our advantage and use it to curry favor with our allies when the time comes.

Unsettled by our lack of specific information about the strength of our soon-to-be enemy, I send one of our ninjas deep into their territory to scout out the division of their forces.


What I find could not be more perfect. They Hatakeyama armies are entirely tied up fighting enemies to the West, and they seem to be coming out with only minimal success. If I can finish building up Nobunaga’s army quickly, I could blitz the Hatakeyama and take three or four of their tightly-packed provinces before they could react.


But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. The Hojo have won a string of unexpected victories against the middling Uesugi armies, taking Musashi province’s capital Edo (which you may know today by a different name: Tokyo) and have decided to take a bold step forward into our territory, bringing a modestly-sized but well trained force of samurai to bear on Kai province.

It seems the war in the East is not quite as quelled as we had thought…

Comments (45)

  1. Dasick says:

    So historically speaking, what were the defining characteristics of the Date clan? And why would anyone replace their identity and culture with “ZOmG SWORdS!”?

    Also, when you reference east, west, north and south, do you mean the directions the way they are in real life or relative to the map, where “north” merely means up?

    • GEBIV says:

      With a dinner and a movie, if you keep your hands to yourself, you might get a goodnight kiss…

    • Josh says:

      They were a relatively powerful northern clan during the Sengoku Jidai, who, under the leadership of Date Masamune (the grandson of Date Harumune, the daimyo I’m dealing with in this let’s play) supported (though reluctantly) Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s disasterous invasion of Korea, and then later supported Tokugawa Ieyasu more readily as he siezed control of the country.

      Masamune is perhaps more notable than the Date clan itself, and his crowning achievement was the construction of the first Japanese-built European-style galleon, the Date Maru, which carried his envoys to Mexico on a trip that would lead them to Rome to establish relations with the Pope, effectively establishing the first, short-lived Japanese/European embassy.

      Also, and I should probably have pointed this out somewhere in the post, “Date” is pronounced “Dah-Tey” not “Daet.”

      As for the cardinal directions, the map in game is rotated clockwise some 35 – 45 degrees, so “up” on the map is actually “Northwestish.” In general I try to refer to directions as they are on the globe rather than the map.

      • Grudgeal says:

        Masamune is remembered especially for having lost an eye at a young age and therefore wielding a piratey eye-patch for most of his adult life, not to mention his totally sweet hat (which can be seen perched on top of Harumune’s head in the diplomacy screen… Seriously, Masamune wore that thing in battle. That hat is *not* to be trifled with). He shows up a lot in Japanese period dramas and video games sat in the era such as Samurai Warriors.

        And while we’re at fictional representations of the man, I would be remiss not to add this.

        The Date clan itself were fairly minor players in the actual Sengoku era; they were too distant to openly make a bid for the Shogunate and contended themselves with swallowing up some of their closer neighbors under Masamune. After Masamune backed Ieyasu, he became regional overlord of the northern Sendai domain, which stretched across north-eastern Kanto from southern Iwate to northern Fukushima.

    • Kalil says:

      Date Masamune, for whom the clan is best known, was also considered an honorless rogue. As best I can tell, from reading bits of history, this was because he ignored family and traditional alliances – I’ve not seen any evidence that he ever broke an oath he himself made. Still, he was not given much respect at the time.

      Under his leadership, the Date clan was able to take control of roughly a third of Japan during the Warring States period. After Ieyasu staked his claim (after the death of Nobunaga’s top lieutenant and successor, Hideyoshi), he chose to pledge himself to Ieyasu rather than continue the conflict. This pretty much ended the Warring States period.

      Date had a number of physical traits that were considered remarkable. In addition to the aforementioned eyepatch and hat, he was also very short, but was reputed to be a formidable fighter.

  2. SolkaTruesilver says:

    By the time of Realm Divide, if you prepare adequately to the event, you could possibly convert to christianity to enjoy the cannons of the Nanban Trade Ships? With these, you could easily crush the feeble Mori’s bures.

  3. noahpocalypse says:

    I can see the headlines now…

    Reginald Cuftbert takes Tokyo!

  4. krellen says:

    What sort of bonus would repressing the merchant’s influence have brought?

    • Josh says:

      I actually don’t remember as I forgot to take a screenshot of the other option’s effects, but I think it was a growth thing, which is universally unhelpful in this game.

      • Dys says:

        I’ve attempted to work out the differences between short and long term options before, and it generally works out that the more immediately effective bonus is one or two orders of magnitude more effective.

        It’s not unlikely that the other option would have taken a hundred turns to provide an equivalent bonus. After that, of course, it would have been superior.

  5. Mathias says:

    I disagree, Josh.

    The most historically inaccurate unit in any Total War game ever is the Obudshaer from Medieval 2: Total War, the ultimate unit for the Scandinavian factions.

    First of all, as far as I’ve gathered, the obudshaer were something closer to a militia, and were mostly a Holy Roman Empire kind of thing. On top of that, the obudshaer in the game are equipped with the heaviest plate and carry billhooks. No militia in the world would have scrap enough for that.

    To add to that, this was post-gunpowder, where everyone else figured out that wearing full plate in an age where a steel pellet fired at high velocity could and would go right the the hell through would be a terrible idea.

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      I only have to mention the egyptian theme from the Rome : Total War original game.

      (edit: any idea why this is being moderated?)

    • Grudgeal says:

      And I would counter with the entire Egyptian army from Rome: Total War, who have apparently gone on a retro trip since they’re using 200+ year old pharaoh equipment in a faction that was ruled by a Greek (the Ptolemaios dynasty) and was at the time using armies built up on the Macedonian standard.

      Platemail was used, side-by-side with guns, for almost 200 years following the invention of gunpowder. The word ‘bulletproof’ comes from the fact that armoursmiths shot guns at their own creations as practical demonstrations for customers, using the lack of penetration as a selling point.

      • rrgg says:

        With Roman ninjas and shirtless barbarians I think the original Rome takes the cake for most absurd Total War game. But really, almost any time you see a unit with the word “swordsmen” in its name, it was made up.

        That said though, the problem isn’t so much historically inaccurate units (I applaud giving the player a chance to goof around and experiment) as it is making those units absurdly overpowered. I wouldn’t mind swordsmen in Medieval 2 as much if they weren’t given the best stats in the game and able to carve up even pole-arm-wielding knights in full plate.

      • Thomas says:

        Are you forgetting the frickin’ head hurlers from Rome Total War? They were Britons, who walked around with a basket full of _heads_ that they would then through like arrows/slings/javelins causing decimation and carnage.

        Maybe some heads did get hurled at some point for fear value, but I refuse to believe there has ever been a missile unit in the history of humanity that when trying to choose it’s most effective missile to combat the enemy, chose human heads dipped in lime.

      • Dys says:

        That would perhaps explain why the Egyptian armies were universally the worst in the entire game.

    • Grampy_Bone says:

      Every ninja unit is historically inaccurate, but then again you can’t really have a game set in feudal japan without ninjas.

      Personally though I think the most unrealistic unit is the Sherwood Archer from Medieval 2. Most units we’re talking about existed in some form or another, but those guys are simply Robin Hood and his Merry Goddamned Men.

      • Tse says:

        Ninjas did exist, they just didn’t dress in black, used civilian disguises and often died after completing their task because they didn’t have the Naruto-like magic ninja abilities to escape. Shogun could’ve been somewhat accurate if the ninjas were dressed in dark blue, instead of black.

        • Dys says:

          See also green and, strangely, red. Both of which are more effective than black when hiding at night.

        • Grudgeal says:

          The traditional ‘ninja costume’ consisting of all-body black pajamas actually comes from the costumes worn by stagehands in traditional Japanese theater. Since the use of mechanisms was much less widespread in Japanese theater, the stagehands were responsible for changing scenery and doing similar things in the middle of acts that western theater would use cranes and trapdoors and whatnot for. The black pajamas allowed them to partially blend into the shadows of the stage, but mostly they were there to inform audiences (who would usually spot them anyway) that the stagehands were not a part of the play and that they were to be ignored.

          At some point someone realized the stagehand costume was perfect for people playing the Ninja in theater: Japanese audiences were conditioned to automatically ignore stagehands when they appeared on-screen (much like real-life people would ignore a Ninja dressed like a peasant, street-sweeper, tanner, passing monk, or someone beneath social notice) and would therefore be surprised when the ‘scenery’ suddenly turned out to be part of the play. For a western analogy, imagine if a murder mystery play suddenly involved the curtains being used as the murder weapon.

  6. Nick Bell says:

    Thank you for the map to open the post. It really helped understand where everything is at. Definitely something I’d like to see continued.

    • Dragomok says:

      Indeed. As someone who has both terrible direction sense and absolutely no memory for names, I quit following your series (after about fifth installment) because I had no idea what was happening on territorial level.

  7. Eärlindor says:

    Oh dear. Should I be nervous about the Hojo? I’m feeling a little nervous about this.

  8. Paul Spooner says:

    Well done. I have nothing to add (Or should I say, nothing to take away?) except this typo: “proper5 besieging”

  9. Jeff says:

    Note: “to build a fleet of sufficient to guard” appears to either be missing a word, or has an extra “of”.

  10. Jarenth says:

    Wait, what’s that Ashigaru thing? Did the game just randomly decide all your footsoldiers are now Better, Forever? That’s convenient.

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      It’s a random event that occurs sometimes. And it only means all Ashigaru units you pay for in the next 8 rounds will be built with +2 levels.

      I’ve had the same event but with Samurai instead.

  11. some random dood says:

    Not relevant to this, so feel free to moderate out/delete. Just noticed a piece of news, and wondered at your thoughts on it, maybe in a separate article/rant (if you can dredge up the enthusiasm after already bashing your head against that wall for so long already).
    From Ars Technica, seems that Mass Effect 3 expects you to buy other games on other platforms to improve your chances of success in the main game – nickel and diming to a new dimension? link

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