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Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 17: The Battle of Okehazama

By Josh
on Thursday Mar 22, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning



And so our protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, finds himself in a precarious position. Completely untested in battle, he now faces off against two of the most skilled and renowned generals in all of Japan, and the strongest single army in the country.


There’s a certain irony – or perhaps, poetry – to how all of these elements have managed to fall into just the right place.

In real life, Nobunaga’s first decisive battle was the Battle of Okehazama. Imagawa Yoshimoto, who you may remember as one of the first opponents we had in this campaign, was leading an absolutely massive army (allegedly some 25,000 to 40,000 men) towards Kyoto to “lend aid” to the Ashikaga Shogunate. Winning a string of victories as he marched his forces east towards Kyoto, Yoshimoto entered Nobunaga’s Owari Province and took several border forts without much difficulty. Nobunaga, on the other hand, only had some 2,500 to 3,000 men to stand against the Imagawa army – impossible odds, or so his retainers thought.

Other samurai might have tried to fortify the remaining forts in the province and wait out the aggressors, or charged the Imagawa center in a suicidal attack to satisfy their honor, or – indeed – simply surrender, as many of Nobunaga’s retainers urged him to do. But Nobunaga was nothing if not shrewd and ambitious, and he viewed this as an opportunity to become the greatest warlord in all of Japan practically overnight.

Leaving a token force at the temple where he had been gathering his forces, he gave them a disproportionate number of banners in order to fool the Imagawa into thinking he was still focused there. With the rest of the army, he snuck around to the rear of the Imagawa force, where Yoshimoto and his officers had set up camp and were celebrating their recent victories. Caught completely unawares by the sudden Oda charge, Yoshimoto is said to have thought the attack was actually a brawl that had broken out between his own men. While his unprepared guards fled, Yoshimoto and most of his officers were killed. With no lord to serve, the remaining officers of the army pledged their allegiance to Nobunaga, and most notable among them was one Matsudaira Motoyasu – the man who would become Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The parallels between this decisive battle and the one on which we are about to embark are striking. Okehazama took place in June, 1560; and in our Shogun 2 campaign, it’s the winter of 1559. Our opponent may be entirely different, but their army is the strongest we’ve yet encountered in this campaign by far. And the real kicker? Nobunaga is standing practically on top of the historical battle site – it can’t be more than a few dozen kilometers, at most, from where we’re fighting this battle.


A number of people mentioned in the comments last week that the river crossing this battle is supposed to be taking place near could end up being my saving grace.



That’s not on this map.

Shogun 2 is a little odd in this respect. Terrain features on the campaign map don’t seem to directly translate into the battle map very often, aside from how rough, in general, the terrain is.


On the upside, we have a number of new units at our disposal that should open up new tactical opportunities for us, including matchlock-armed ashigaru, yari-armed cavalry, and everyone’s favorite, Kisho Ninjas.


Fortunately, this area is not bereft of hills, and the bulk of our force will be deploying on this rocky knoll under the cover of those trees. The cavalry are hiding off on our flank – you can see them to the right of the image – waiting to ride out and ambush the enemy generals or flank the melee line.


One of the more useful aspects of ninjas is that they can deploy anywhere on the battlefield, as long as they remain a certain distance from the enemy deployment zone. I’ve deployed both of mine close to the edge of the battlefield, hiding them in a thin forest. The idea is that they’ll wait for the enemy to march past, then attack their rear while they’re occupied fighting my main line.


I’ve also had my archers deploy screens on my right flank. Normally they’d shoot out from behind them, but I don’t want to leave my only bow unit so exposed, so they’ll abandon the screens when the battle starts and retreat back to the treeline. The screens will remain, though, and my hope is that they’ll break up any enemy flanking maneuvers on that side.


The Ikko Ikki army approaches in a haphazard formation. One of their generals marches out ahead of the force.


…Way out ahead.

My cavalry, seeing their chance to lop off the serpent’s head before it can strike (one of its heads, at any rate), charges out from their hiding spot to crush the general and his bodyguard.


They kill the idiot general and retreat, suffering only a few casualties from an enemy fire-arrow barrage before getting out of range.

Not to complain, but catching an enemy general out far ahead of his army like this, well… It’s not exactly as impressive as launching a complete surprise attack on a general in the heart of his camp with his army of 40,000, is it?


The enemy is coming in force now. Seeing another opportunity to deal some serious damage to the enemy army, my cavalry charge out again, this time to strike at the bow ashigaru that chased my cavalry to the edge of the forest.


But these are rank nine units, the highest level of veterancy that a unit can achieve, and they have both impressive morale and downright ridiculous melee stats. My cavalry quickly rout, despite their charge advantage.


Around the same time, I rush my ninjas from their hiding place, targeting the enemy back-line (composed of more super-archers) and more particularly, the enemy daimyo.

Ninjas have an ability to enter a stealth mode for about thirty seconds, which allows them to run at a full sprint and remain almost completely undetectable – they can literally run to within twenty meters of an enemy unit and not be seen.

But my own attack on the enemy rear is fated to a more grim outcome than Nobunaga’s, as the duration of the stealth ability ends before the ninjas can run the full distance and get into range. Despite one of them managing to throw a volley of bombs into the ranks of the archers, the daimyo sees them before they can launch a similar attack on him. Ninjas, while good in melee, are poor at defending against cavalry charges, and with my own cavalry gone, there’s no way I can support them.

Ultimately, neither my ninjas nor my cavalry have turned out to be as decisive as I had been hoping. The duty now falls to my main line.


And the battle along the main line is raging. Most of the enemy melee units – comprised primarily of veteran loan-sword ashigaru, a peasant sword unit unique to the Ikko-Ikki – have been compressed into attacking a single point. In fact, I think only a single spear-walled long-yari ashigaru is actually engaging those four or five units clumped together at the right.

It’s not easy to see in this screenshot, but their center-line is actually attacking a shallow incline between two impassible ridges; and that is the only way up the rest of the hill from the front. I’ve detached three other units to intercept the enemy flank and stop them from moving around the side so they can’t get around to attack my rear.


And just as I’d hoped, the screens my archers deployed are doing an excellent job of halting further flank attacks, and even has the AI confused enough…


…to charge their daimyo right into a spear-wall on the other side.

And with that, the most fearsome general in the entire country lies slain upon my spears, defeated by a wall of bamboo planks and bad pathfinding. Truly an occasion for the history books.


Remarkably, in the contest between my one long-yari ashigaru and four enemy loan-sword ashigaru, I’m winning. I throw all of my reserves into the fight, and swing around with my right wing to encircle and destroy the enemy infantry.


With the main line routed, all that’s left are the enemy reserves – mostly bow units. And now the true strength of rank-nine veterans is revealed to me. It’s not terribly obvious from this screenshot, but you see those four bow units in the center there? The ones locked in melee combat with my spear infantry? They’re winning.


It takes me marshalling most of my infantry into a big blob – supported by a number of reinforcements that have arrived from Owari’s castle – to finally rout these super-powered bow-wielding peasants.

Mind throwing less of those at me in the future, Shogun 2? I’d really appreciate it.


And so our battle of Okehazama has come to an end. Our victory was hard-fought, and it came only at a massive cost in lives. Over half of our force was killed, and four full units of men were completely wiped out, including one-each of kisho ninjas and yari cavalry. It’s certainly a testament to the skill and power the Ikko-Ikki wielded.

But in the end, we were victorious. And the great power of the Ikko-Ikki is no more. Oda Nobunaga has ridden headlong into the hottest fires of battle and emerged unscathed. He has taken his first step towards the ultimate object of his ambitions: The Shogunate.

Comments (63)

  1. Pastacat says:

    Do you have any impressions of Fall of the Samurai yet?

  2. silver Harloe says:

    Aside from your posts, I’m completely unfamiliar with this game or, indeed, any of the Total War games, so I have a n00b question: just how long would it take you to get rank 9 units of your own? They seem pretty amazing.

    • guy says:

      I have no idea because I have literally never done it.

      It’s nearly impossible, at least in previous installments, because when you merge or retrain units they lose some veterancy. It’s rare to break rank 4.

      • N/A says:

        Generally, the only units who can expect to break rank 4 are the one or two units of light cavalry I keep around, who will never go anywhere near the actual battle and whose sole purpose is to run down fleeing enemies to make each defeat hurt the enemy more, and because I’m sadistic like that.

      • DirigibleHate says:

        In Shogun 2, units (slowly) regenerate from their losses, a couple of men every turn, which doesn’t cost Veterancy. While you’re on a war footing, you can’t really expect to wait, but I think in my current game I have a couple of rank 7 Bow Samurai, and then about 10 rank 5 Bow Samurai (Chosokabe, so I only really started having problems with my super bow-heavy mix in really late game.) Come to think of it, one of the only two enemies I have left is the Oda.

    • Guus says:

      Depends on how you exploit the system, in Rome it was really easy to get terrifying generals by getting the enemy to waver and then hitting them in the rear with your general and having him slaughter the lot. I’m not sure if the same works in Shogun 2, but if you have a cavalry unit murder lots of routing dudes they’ll rack up experience really quickly, especially if you manage to keep casualties low. The more casualties they suffer in a battle, the more diluted the experience becomes (or so I think, might be wrong there).
      As for infantry, get them in a good position on a hill, get the enemy to hit them when they’re good and well tired and you’ll rack up kills. Especially if you target cavalry with spear infantry since those are very vulnerable to spears. But you’ll have to get the majority of experience from kills since infantry can’t really give good chase to routing units.

    • Venalitor says:

      On my first play-through, I was able to hold melee units to rank 5-6 by crushing my enemies quickly and decisively and catching them in many flanking maneuvers. This allowed me to route the enemy quickly while letting my infantry take the lion’s share of the kills. I never used cavalry, so my generals got clean-up duty. I also noticed that as archers rarely get into melee, they level up pretty slowly but rarely rank down.
      Another thing I noticed is that when the AI battles the game seems to calculate the winner and they get to walk away with almost their entire army intact, making it very easy for them to level.

    • meyerkev says:

      Can’t speak for Shogun 2, but in my Gondor Third Age:Total War playthrough, my 120 man archer units would get about 300 kills each battle against Mordor (aka “Let’s send 3000 mooks against your ~12-1500 man army every single turn”), and it would take about 10-15 battles to get to Level 5. The army that knocked out 3 entire factions by itself (Mordor, Rhun, Dale) only had 1 gold (Level 7+) unit though I doubt that any man who began the campaign ended it. The entire 8 unit (900 dropping to 400) man army that destroyed the entire faction of Harad had a level 8 general, and 2 Level 6 archer units.

      Now, with that said, General’s Units (aka the magically regenerating demon warriors who are pretty much my ONLY cavalry in several campaigns) tend to hit Level 9 really easily, since they’ll have 2 survivors, and wipe out between 200-500 men. (And when they regenerate, it doesn’t go away). Repeat that for 3-4 battles, and you’ll have a Level 9 general.

      *And for those who are going to call BS on the Harad story, the dirty secret is that they have ~3 family members, so I usually only end up taking out 3-5 cities (using the equivalent of a Nile campaign vs. Egypt in RTW) before their entire family tree dies at once and I can ignore that entire front.

      • krellen says:

        There’s a Middle Earth Total War?

        • Calatar says:

          I think it’s a mod for Medieval 2.

          • guy says:

            Yup. I don’t play it much because for reasons clear only to the writers, pushing into enemy territory early on causes them to get a freaking full-stack, high quality army out of thin air in addition to their normal production. I mean, the Witch King practically breaks armies just by showing up, but that only goes so far.

            • meyerkev says:

              True dat. Here’s how a Gondor campaign against Mordor goes.

              1)Attack Minas Morgul
              2)Garrison Script (fills in major cities with mid-level garrison when attacked) fires. If army less than 10 units, prepare to die. Else If army less than 15 units, prepare to bleed out in the sally. Else wait 10 turns until AI surrenders.

              3) Attack Cirith Ungol. Take it quickly.
              4) Massive army with 3 units of trolls spawns in Mordor. (And since trolls count as infantry, they can climb ladders).

              5) Depending on how masochistic you are (and just how badly your half-stack got bled out by steps 1-4), either try to meet them on the sloping ground in front of Cirith Ungol (and lose), or leave a couple of sacrificial lamb units in Cirith Ungol, while you pull the main army back to Minas Morgul, and rush in reserves. Whatever else you do, DO NOT try and hold Cirith Ungol with your main stack from inside Cirith Ungol. It will be destroyed, because of trolls and terrible lines of fire for your archers.

              If you’re really unlucky, you’ll lose Minas Morgul before you can recover and you’ll have to repeat.

              I think they were trying to overcome the M&M-ness of the AI in Total War (Hard, powerful armies on the outside, soft gooey blitz-able cities on the inside), and reward a more methodical, plodding playstyle, but they went too far.

              Now with that said, it’s still a fun mod once you’ve done a playthrough of the first 30 or so turns on Easy just to figure out where the scripts are. (Or just remod the game files to turn the scripts off).

              /Also, I must admit that some of my more CMOA battles have been terrifying disgusting defeats where my 200 elves killed 1600 orcs out of the 3000 orc army that just popped up out of nowhere (terrain funneled them into chokepoint. Put my General (with epic archer bodyguard) in the chokepoint and archers high and flanking. Only lost because I ran out of arrows and they rolled half their army around my flank, which I didn’t have the troops to protect. Actually, it looked a lot like this battle would have if the only units Josh had were 3 of those level 9 archer units)

  3. Nyctef says:

    Josh Plays !? Aaaargh!

    Unless this actually is a game like Tom Clancy’s X, in which case apologies to Mr. Play :)

  4. Jason says:

    Josh, I started playing total war because of your series and I have to say that your early posts on strategy have made me basically unstoppable on the battlefield. The terrain advantage is huge. I have never lost a defensive fight from a castle because bowmen and spearmen are so powerful when you improve them.

  5. krellen says:

    Did Nobunaga earn any cool bonuses from winning this battle?

  6. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Did your Matchlock Infantry made a difference? Their moral-breaking attacks are always of use against massive undermorale infantry troops or when defending a fort. But vs. elite units? Hmmm…

  7. CheddarTheKnight says:

    Wow! Only a pyrhhic victory huh?
    I can only assume those bowmen were either Highlanders or Rutskarn when he hasn’t eaten tacos in an hour.

  8. AbruptDemise says:

    Oh lord, I thought that the battle was going to go the opposite direction when that river didn’t show up for the party. Still, it was pretty interesting overall.

    I have to say, peasants beating on other peasants with their bows and winning seems to be the point I’d quit the game. Good luck Josh, you’ll need it if you encounter any more enemy troops at such a ridiculous rank.

    • guy says:

      They actually have knives, I’m pretty sure. Also, they’ve literally got more combat experience than anyone else on the battlefield by roughly an order of magnitude, which in real life does matter a hell of a lot. Those were probably the only guys above Rank 7 in the entire game unless the Shogunate spawns with some.

    • Sumanai says:

      I think they carry melee weapons. However, I don’t understand how archers have managed to rack up so much experience in melee that they’d be that powerful.

      • Grudgeal says:

        Experience improves all your stats, no matter how you’ve earned it. Bow and matchlock troops also become better in melee the more people they’ve killed, even if most if not all of those people will be with their ranged attacks.

        • Sumanai says:

          I was thinking along real-life logic, not video game logic.

          • Thomas says:

            Well if you think that apart from the equipment, what separates the samurai from the peasants is motive and training right? And if you reach veterancy it means you’ve been in war camps most of your life, talked to soldiers most of your life, trained, fought most of your life.

            So already the peasants are, apart from armour, better than trained soldiers. They’ve fought in melees, they’ve watched other people fight in melees, they know what works, what doesn’t and they’ve got the mindset to see it through.

            Finally they aren’t just individually veterans, they’re veterans as a group. They each know exactly what the other person is going to do, they can operate simultaneously with perfect efficiency. When they go for the killing blow they know that the guy next to them will defend them just for that second required.

            Individual fighting techniques had a lot of affect on the course of a battle. Hannibal (?) had a lot of success just by working out a leg slash stroke and drilling that. At one point the English worked out how to dummy stroke with pikes and almost literally killed the entirety of the front french line with one movement.

            So I guess you could say all those things, and just act like the games animation system isn’t complex enough to show it.

          • Grudgeal says:

            ‘Real life’?…

            Which development studio did that?

  9. rayen says:

    Your infantry got torn up. What is up with the Ikko Ikki, it seems like they always get really high level troops really fast. then again you’ve been playing for a while now. Still always seems like the moment they have the unstoppable army of death, even if i’d kept them friendly up to that point they declare war on me.

    usually ninjas/monks/my giant army of death/a fairly well defended castle can take of it, but still.

  10. swenson says:

    That was actually pretty gripping to read. I assumed you’d win, but… wasn’t quite sure how! Those level 9 units really are impressive, aren’t they?!

  11. JPH says:

    This game depicts an unrealistic portrayal of ninjas. Real ninjas could have killed those guys way before their invisibility ran out.

  12. Jik says:

    “A number of people mentioned in the comments last week that the river crossing this battle is supposed to be taking place near could end up being my saving grace.

    Unfortunately,That's not on this map.

    Shogun 2 is a little odd in this respect. Terrain features on the campaign map don't seem to directly translate into the battle map very often, aside from how rough, in general, the terrain is.”

    I’ve often wondered how the terrain in the total war series is generated. Is it done procedurally?

    • Adam F says:

      Rome, at least, always had river fords appear when you were on top of one.

      • Thomas says:

        And other features transferred in Rome. Seas, mountains, forests all tended to be roughly where they looked like they should be on the map.

        EDIT: Actually not forests so much

    • Calatar says:

      Not in Empire or Napoleon it isn’t (only ones I’ve played). I’m not sure how many maps there are, but you definitely see some of them get re-used as you go through the campaigns.
      I think the maps are made pretty big though, and the available fighting area is a subset of the map, and that subset changes from battle to battle. Kind of like Dragon Age 2 in that respect, but to a lesser degree.

    • Ateius says:

      In my experience playing through several Total War titles, I think it’s largely done procedurally, taking into account what features are in the area (hills, mountains, forests etc).

      However, one thing that is a full constant is rivers. If the defending army is standing on a bridge or river ford, it will always appear on the battlemap, smack in the centre. Rome even had the appropriate level of bridge appear depending on local road infrastructure, which was neat.

      So why didn’t the bridge show up in this battle? Look closely at the first image. Josh isn’t standing on the bridge. The AI is. In this case, the bridge will only appear in the battle map if the AI is defending.

  13. Grudgeal says:

    “Mind throwing less of those at me in the future, Shogun 2? I'd really appreciate it.”

    Way to taunt Murphy, Josh. You *know* the compy’s going to have another such army up and running in a year. In fact it’s a good bet the Mori already have two of them, and the Date another one. Legendary mode isn’t just a giant cheatyface, it’s blatant about it too.

    • Sumanai says:

      I think it’s a testament to how blatant it is, that I haven’t run into a single person here who has claimed that the AI isn’t cheating.

      • Bubble181 says:

        The AI isn’t cheating.

        There, said it :-P It gets some pretty impressive bonusses all over the place, but no units are “created out of thin air”. Not since Empire, IIRC. At least that’s word of mouth.

        Thing is, if a *really* good player goes to play in very easy/very easy mode, he can make these huge armies appear just as easily as the computer does on Legendary. It’s all a matter of perspective. In Legendary, there are just several computer players who all tend to throw everything at you. On easier difficulties, you’ll be able to field more units, and they’ll spend more time weakening each other.

        Obviously, all of this is “shogunate excluded”. Those guys /cheat/

        • Sumanai says:

          I really think that games should inform players in the difficulty select screen how the game will cheat in favour of the player or the AI. Galactic Civilization 2 said when the AI was actually working at full pelt (no cheating of any kind, it just used every dirty trick it could come up with) and when it started getting bonuses. Also if you got any bonuses on the lower difficulties.

          It has been a few years since I played it, so I don’t know how accurately I remember it.

  14. IronCore says:

    That is the first time I’ve heard of bow units routing cavalry. Those bowmen must have had some serious stats to survive a yari cavalry charge and then route them. I’d love to see a screenshot of their actual unit card.

  15. RCN says:

    Good Gods! Rank 9 bowmen?

    The only unit I’ve ever got to reach level 9 were a ballistae crew in Rome: TW. And only because I used the technique known as “hold the enemy lines in a stand-still with bowmen and have your ballistae flank them for massive impalements through their lines.” My ballistae would kill 5-20 men a SHOT. Good times… why did they ever changed to cannons again? I mean, in Total War cannons have a better chance of hitting your own ranks than anywhere near one of the enemy lines. Compared to the amazing precision (even if not range) of the ballistae, I generally feel cheated.

    EDIT: No, wait, I’ve also managed to get an unit of bowmen to rank 9. In rome too. A bowmen unit of mercenaries I had hired in the begging of the campaign because the Brutii have no archers in the beginning and the ones they do get are shit. But by the time I got them to rank 9 their original line of 120 archers were down to something like 16 (can you retrain mercenaries? I’ve never found a way, though they’re usually just hired for a battle and then disbanded because of their outrageous upkeep cost… still, I liked having the option to hire mercs, what happened to that?).

    16 rank 9 archers still won me an impossible battle with the help of a repeating ballista.

    • guy says:

      I actually always made heavy use of mercs, in spite of their outrageous upkeep costs. It was kind of nice to be able to obtain expendable cannon fodder while my army was pressing into enemy territory. My favorites were Hopolites, because roman armies lack spears for much of the game, Peltasts because more skirmisher fire is always good and they were avaliable, light cav because roman factions are perpetually short on cav of all types, and anyone who fought like legionaires because my ridiculous Missile Legionaire exploit worked best with them.

      You see, the roman legionaires were not quite balanced correctly for being set to “Fire at Will” and could completely shred large chunks of the enemy army in a wall of javalins. One battle I obliterated the enemy general in a single massive volley, followed by a number of hopilite units.

  16. Venalitor says:

    While playing Shogun 2 today I realized two things.
    One, Metsuke are awesome. placing them in a province equals increase in taxation to that province 7% for rank two overseeing and 13% for rank 4 overseeing. That could be around 300 koku per turn in a high value, early game town. If you have a school, then you already have the levels to get a metsuke with 4 overseeing. province with gold+sake+market=big profit. The question has been filled in. We now know the fifth step is Metsuke.
    Two, You cannot barter provinces. I had this awesome idea where I would capture Musashi, improve it some, then trade it and gold to the Takeda clan for South Shinano and it’s stone deposits, that is, until I realized I couldn’t.

  17. rayen says:

    anyone else getting crashes after the FotS mega patch?

  18. Bama Bhai says:

    My highlight in Shogun 2 was a battle of Oda against Tokugawa!, history was reversed.
    I sneaked almost all of my forces through the forest on top of a hill near Tokugawa’s position. The hill was only climbable from my side. I also hid two yari samurai on the opposite side of the battlefield which I used to attack his bowmen later on. I then fired my bows, the poor guy had to fight an uphill battle and had to navigate behind me while my archers were continuously whittling him down. In all my spear wall of 3 ashigaru held all of his forces. The result? I lost only 93 while his remaining forces totalled to about 99!
    I still think about it

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