Shogun 2: The Rise And Fall Of Reginald Samurai, Part 1

By Dan Griliopoulos on April 3rd, 2012 at 11:30 am.

Aren't you a little tall for a shogunate?

Dan has been playing through Total War: Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai for us. Here’s the first diary of his attempts to restore traditionalism to an empire heading towards modernisation: a tale of betrayal, Fukushima and Project Gutenberg.

I’ve been reading an old, pre-WWI tourist book on Japan, Lafcadio Hearn’s Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan. It’s a fantastic book with humiliatingly good writing, it’s forgotten by all but distracted antiquarians like me, and it’s free on Project Gutenberg.The country in those days is all buddhist temples and cocklegatherers and jinrickshas and hungry spirits, but Hearn still manages to convey the feeling that modernisation / westernisation has damaged Japan irreparably. He writes:

“That the critical spirit of modernised Japan is now indirectly aiding rather than opposing the efforts of foreign bigotry to destroy the simple, happy beliefs of the people, and substitute those cruel superstitions which the West has long intellectually outgrown—the fancies of an unforgiving God and an everlasting hell—is surely to be regretted. More than hundred and sixty years ago Kaempfer wrote of the Japanese ‘In the practice of virtue, in purity of life and outward devotion they far outdo the Christians.’ And except where native morals have suffered by foreign contamination, as in the open ports, these words are true of the Japanese to-day. My own conviction, and that of many impartial and more experienced observers of Japanese life, is that Japan has nothing whatever to gain by conversion to Christianity, either morally or otherwise, but very much to lose.”

These conflicted feelings about Westernisation(still visible in Pom Poko and other modern Japanese movies) is the first half of Fall of the Samurai’s theme. The second, entangled, theme is the conflict of 1854 between the spiritual power of the Emperor, declaring that the Westerners must be expelled from Japan, and the temporal power of the Shogun, the country’s actual samurai ruler for the previous 200 years and friend of the Westerners. Half the warriors in the country employ the traditional methods; lamellar armour, yumi (bows), yari (spears) and nihonto (blades), and the other half use antiquated flintlock ‘tanegashima’, first used around 300 years before. Meanwhile, the westerners have Gatling guns and rifling, for sale.

Given that setting, given the resistance to modernisation then, and given the Ghibli-symbolic longing present in modern Japan for those more traditional days, when the spirits were immediate and the currency was a ball of rice, I decide to represent that feeling. I’ll play the game as a traditionalist, focussing on traditional methods of power gathering; diplomacy, shinobi, tanegashima and moving forests of sharpened bamboo. I go for the most traditionalist of the Daimyos, the Aizu. This does ally me with the too-progressive Shogunate, but I figure at least my people will be happy and once the Emperor is removed once and for all, we can have sit-down and a nice cup of tea, and talk about how to roll back modernisation.

Now, I apologise in advance if this diary isn’t as funny as you expect these things to be. It’s just really hard to maintain a sense of humour when your starting area is Fukishima. I mean, if any country in the world has a right to be skeptical about the advance of technology, it’s the country that’s been nuked twice deliberately then once accidentally. Each time I come back to my province, I see that name and just gawp at it. Next to my fleet is the coastline where towns were swept away; near my port is where the Daichi reactors were.

Anyway, enough melancholy. To the game! It is 1864, and I am the new 18-year old Daimyo of Fukushima, commonly called Katamori, but who looks like a Reginald to me. Looking at my situation, it doesn’t seem so bad as the “hard” rating for the Aizu promised; I’m surrounded by well-disposed domains, so my first is obviously to make friends with all my neighbours. I call them all up on Skype and throw money and trade agreements at them until even the Imperials love me. Except for the Utsonmiya that is, who appear to be my implacable mortal enemies. Ho-hum, I think, as a thousand retainers start sharpening bamboo.

Then I launch my campaign against the Utsunomiya. I have no family members and just one general, Hiroshi, who is *very* good at walking. He is rapidly adopted as my heir and son, and I dearly love his funny little moustache that you could only get away with before WWII. He takes the majority of my army to hide in a thicket near the Utsunomiya. I then spend all the money my ancestors have spent the last two hundred years saving to have my shinsegumi (a Shogunate factotum) incite a rebellion in the Utsonmiya province, shortly before the Utsonmiya attack me.

Our first skirmish is decisive; I use my solitary unit of White Tiger gunmen to draw the opponents’ massed fire and just fling five hundred spearmen at them. I lose half my army, he loses his entire force. Sadly, my heir lead the charge and is the first of many heirs I will lose in the next two years. They seem somewhat headstrong, always ending up just in front of the first volley of the enemy guns.

That’s the last easy battle I fight.

My idiot decision to squander my treasury on an insurrection means there’s now a MAMMOTH rebel army standing between me, my reinforcements and the enemy castle, Tochigi. I hesitate, not knowing whether to fight them or attack the Utsonmiya or worry about the Numata who just declared war on me for no reason and the Shogun is ordering me to wipe out and I don’t even know where they are..! (and breath)… so I send assassins against the Utsonmiya Daimyo, whilst bravely running my army back into the woods. Whilst my shinsegumi is using the new poison bottle he found on the enemy Daimyo, the rebels crushes the Utsonmiya forces and take his capital. Much rejoicing is heard.

War having commenced (even though I was attacked, on my territory, by a clan who everyone agrees are the degenerate, inbred descendants of ambulatory penii), two of my allies immediately betray me, cancelling our trade routes and sending armies my way. With the Imperial Numata, it’s fair enough, because they’ve got to obey that Emperor chap and his asthmatic sidekick on Coruscant, so they’re practically born evil, but my fellow Shogunners?

Now, this maybe because I’m playing on hard with the hardest clan, but all these allies betraying me seems mean. I mean, the Jozai changed their allegiance of 200 years just to fuck me over. The Sendai just declared war even though we were on the same side! That’s hardcore! And, yes, I’m well aware the scholars out there are saying that this is an excellent representation of realpolitik in 19th century Japan but they can sod back off to their Gilbert & Sullivan and Mikado (I remember when it was called Pocky).

Anyway, the first to betray me are my first allies, the Jozai clan, breaking the alliance and sending all their troops against me in one turn. My force is once again trapped between the walls of the effing Castle of Tochigi and an advancing army. I attack the rebels, gambling that if I get inside the walls I’ll be safe. My shinsengumi again sneaks into the castle and assassinates the rebel leader, whilst my force attempts to besiege it – only to be met by the surprisingly large rebel force sallying out into the misty forests…

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60 Comments »

  1. Shadowcat says:

    Super.

    • Askeladd says:

      I want more of this. I have a opinion of my own what this game does great and at what it completly fails.

      I’m hoping for a conclusion after some battle reports.

  2. lunarplasma says:

    Not funny? The “ambulatory penii” description nearly made me spill my coffee. :)

    Fall of the Samurai, when it was announced, made me think… meh. I have to admit though that this battle report is stoking my interest.

    • Dan Griliopoulos says:

      Aw, thanks. It’s worth a go, despite the cockmongering AIs.

      • Ateius says:

        The AI in Total War games has always been a right unreliable backstabbing bastard, in my experience. I’ve found, however, that it’s become increasingly aggravating since Empire, when they introduced the notion that a huge portion of your income must derive from foreign trade – meaning that when three AIs at +200 relations decide to backstab you, you go from rolling in cash to haemorrhaging it.

        This is as opposed to RTW and MTW2, where loss of foreign trade would hurt but internal trade kept you going, and MTW1, where – although it’s been years – I can’t recall trade routes being a thing at all.

        • Askeladd says:

          And you are absolutly right. And with fall fo samurai they added another feature: After you lost your navy you are unable to defend against naval bombardment. Its absolutley free to bombard a city and inflict massiv damages, which makes it rather frustrating when 6 full stacks of ships bombard all your regions on the coastline. Unrealistic and not fun.

        • Erithtotl says:

          I’m all for difficult and challenging AI, but it’s true the AI does seem to be very quick to decalre war on you in the Shogun II games, breaking ancient alliances.

  3. aldo_14 says:

    (I remember when it was called Pocky).

    Aw, now you’ve made me miss Green Tea Pocky.

  4. sneetch says:

    I used to have a hat like that guy in the top picture, I made it myself from a sheet of newspaper.

  5. Inigo says:

    I thought that was a cover of a Tolkien book for a second.

  6. f1x says:

    Well I guess is the same as in Shogun 2 campaign,
    no matter how many marriages you make, how much gold you give, comercial treaties, permission to roam your lands freely, etc….. when you have about 60% of the map everybody will betray you and become your enemy

    • Galcius says:

      Not quite – if you both have the same allegiance they’ll usually stick with you. They also seem more responsive to overwhelming power – i.e. if you’re the most powerful faction around, factions of the same allegiance will often ask for an alliance before they trade with you, similarly they’ll tend to side with the most powerful faction when a war breaks out. That’s probably why Dan got betrayed – they smelled blood.

      Overall I’d say that the diplomatic AI is noticeably better, especially compared with Empire – I’ve even had the AI beg for peace (which i never saw once in Empire). And once you get to the 60% threshold where usually everyone betrays you, you ally ethier with the Shogun or the Emperor (according to your allegiance) or even go rogue. The rogue option is the “everyone against you” path, but if you choose to side with one of the power blocks, you become their “vanguard” and can ally with everyone of the same allegiance. In the play through I’ve been doing I’ve become the “Satsuma Imperial Vanguard” and allied the entire south of Japan (most of which is mine) against the entire north (which is Shogunate).

      The battle AI is still pretty infantile – I’ve repeatedly run it over, only losing against overwhelming odds (and even then I’ve had a few “Heroic Victor[ies]“. It does have a nasty habit of messing up its battle lines, resulting in some units getting into rifle range before the others, with predictable results. Its also pretty bad at positioning Arty, sometimes leaving it’s canon out of range for the entire battle. Having said that, it’s gotten relatively ok at choosing a flank to try and break, which means you sometimes need some hasty re-deployment.

      Naval battles are boring as hell before you get ironclads, then they become marginally entertaining as you plough through out of date ships.

    • Soulstrider says:

      Try to use the Realm Divide mod, it fixes that by making every neutral clan your enemy but every of your allies remains your friend, effectively dividing the Japan in two factions, those whoa are attempting to keep you in check and those who back you up.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      Realm Divide isn’t really everyone betraying you. It’s more a rather large and increasing diplomatic modifier against you.

      The trick is to focus on making one (or two) faction your Bestest Friends, instead of trying to be everyone’s friend at the same time. That sort of alliance can survive into the endgame.

      • Premium User Badge Zephro says:

        Yeah but if you play the campaign on hard you already have some horrid negative modifier. It’s why measuring diplomacy simply on a +/- modifier is a horrible mechanic.

        On hard mode you end up with all your long term allies and vassals betraying you repeatedly. I own half of Japan, you annoying little 1 province vassals stop rebelling when I’m 2 provinces away from total Victory. It just turns into a repetitive slog of putting down the same rebellions over and over. Grrrrrrr.

        It’d make more sense for them to rebel and if you kick their teeth in they won’t rebel again until the tide is turning against you. Like the coalitions against Napoleon.

        Also it doesn’t help that they can rebuild armies so quickly. Having wiped someone out they can have a full army back in the field in a couple turns.

        • f1x says:

          yep thats also another thing that bugged me from shogun2, (and I love the game, played like 90 hours or something) you have this freakin clan with 2 provinces left and they keep pulling full flags of armys in a couple turns.. I mean they cannot possibly have the resources or the time to do that… of course its done to tune up the difficulty but I would prefer if the game was more difficult because of better AI than because of this kind of tricks

          • Askeladd says:

            Play Shogun 2 with the Darthmod on Very Hard. They don’t cheat anymore (can be re-enabled if you wish).

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Well I guess is the same as in Shogun 2 campaign,
      no matter how many marriages you make, how much gold you give, comercial treaties, permission to roam your lands freely, etc….. when you have about 60% of the map everybody will betray you and become your enemy

      Not at all, unless you betray your liege and try to take over the country yourself, in which case it seems reasonable for them to become your enemy. If you do what you’re “supposed” to do, ie become the vanguard for the Shogun or Emperor, then basically it reinforces the existing alliances and enmities. If you’re pro-Shogun, the clans loyal to the Shogunate will be your allies, while all the Emperor-friendly clans will declare war on you. It makes a lot of sense, and is a lot more fun that the vanilla S2TW Realm Divide.

      • f1x says:

        I was talking about the realm divide rule, I just didnt know the name
        but done some research on it I’ve seen you can manage to keep some allies if you really work on some relations
        but you gotta agree the realm divide rule is a bit harsh….

        so my point was if there is a realm divide rule in this fall of the samurai aswell?

        • killias2 says:

          In Fall of the Samurai, it’s really not -that- hard to keep allies. Hell, it’s not hard at all. Trade with everyone who shares your political views (i.e. imperial or bakufu), don’t start wars with people who share your political views, end wars with people who share your political views whenever you’ve accomplished any -clear- goals of said wars, and ally people whenever you get a chance.

          I’m starting on my second campaign already. The first involved no serious “internal” (as in, within the imperial or shogun-side) disputes after I was strong enough to become the Shogun’s main guy. The second is shaping up pretty much the same way.

        • Ginger Yellow says:

          That’s what I was trying to say. There’s a similar end-game event to Realm Divide, but the consequences are very different, as I described. Unless you deliberately go it alone and try to claim the throne for yourself, you will keep most if not all of your existing alliances.

          • f1x says:

            thats nice, I should just replay again then and be more careful about my diplomacy :p

            well, instead I will just do that but in Fall of the Samurai which I havent played yet

  7. Inigo says:

    but all these allies betraying me seems mean.

    Have you not played a Total War game before?

  8. frightlever says:

    Was Japan really that idyllic prior to encountering wicked Western ways?

    • weego says:

      Not really, the samurai caste were brutal and agressive towards lower castes (basically everyone) while relying entirely on them to survive (everything one would consider essential ie the growing of food was beneath them); it’s not entirely unfair to see them as parasites. And that was during the good times, towards the end of that era when there were huge bands of ronin roaming the country it was a fairly grim time.

      The view of the honourable and well loved samurai overseeing their village for the good of everyone is something of a fabrication after the fact.

      • Premium User Badge Harlander says:

        It’s kinda the same as the whitewashed view of the medieval knight.

        Longing for a past that never really happened is pretty much a universal part of the human condition.

      • Premium User Badge Zephro says:

        Yeah and both sides modernised in different ways so the traditional vs modernising angle isn’t quite right.

        • Askeladd says:

          I thought that was strange: You pick the ‘traditionals’ and all they play differently then other clans and the imperials is that you start with different buildings and maybe get a worthless clan boni or too.
          Its just feels rather plain. The techtree is also the same.

          • killias2 says:

            That’s certainly one of the weaker elements to this game. However, at the end of the day, is it that surprising? I mean, for all the huff and puff, both sides adapted to modern warfare techniques. Like, let’s take Saigō Takamori, who was the basis of Ken Watanabe’s character in ‘The Last Samurai.’ He was a traditionalist, through and through, and started a samurai rebellion in order to protect tradition.

            However.. he almost certainly dressed in western-style officer uniforms. His forces, despite popular cultural depictions, also relied on firearms, cannons, and a generally modern approach to warfare. They didn’t have the state-of-the-art equipment of the state army, but it wasn’t until the end (after supplies ran out) that they engaged in arrow-and-sword melee.

            I guess what I’m saying is that -both- sides basically did modernize historically. Although it would’ve been cool to see more variety, this is technically a bit more realistic. Modern rifle units and cannon support were just far, far superior.

          • Askeladd says:

            Yeah maybe give the traditionalists the abilities to obtain more modern weapons in form of stashes that could be refittet for a more traditional fighting style. In its current state you only get punishes for not going the modern way of things.
            I think the shinsengumi unit is a nice approach to blend old samurai with line infantry of that time.
            The requirements made then difficult to gain though and their upkeep just can’t compare to other units until they are leveled or trained in province with shooting grounds and a gunsmith.

  9. mentor07825 says:

    What’s not said is just how difficult it is to play against Fall of the Samurai people in multiplayer when you don’t have the DLC. The DLC alone for multiplayer is OP.

    • Askeladd says:

      Multiplayer was never balanced in Total war 2 Shogun. Not even without all the DLC.

  10. andytizer says:

    An all this time I thought Mikado was budget Pocky. I have been schooled today.

    • aldo_14 says:

      An all this time I thought Mikado was budget Pocky. I have been schooled today.

      They licensed Pocky and then changed the name for some reason.

  11. Cinnamon says:

    I’m not sure that the Tokugawa shogunate was that idyllic towards the end, or at any point really. The excellent “native morals” included very poor rights for women and a decadent, impoverished samurai class who no longer had any purpose. But since the country was closed at the time I’m not sure how an outsider could really directly see much of what happened outside the foreign trading zones.

    • Premium User Badge Zephro says:

      Because the Japanese had their own historians and wrote it down for us? :-S

      • Cinnamon says:

        They did. That is why I can say with a bit of confidence that there is definitely more to be said about the outside influences that they spoilt the landscape and culture.

  12. Premium User Badge Bluerps says:

    Heh. I lost my first campaign when the Aizu betrayed me. Not only did they have the same allegiance as me, they were also my allies and trade partners from turn 1. The AI players in Shogun 2 are just a collection of assholes.

    • Askeladd says:

      to a point where I don’t want to play anymore… call it a waste of time. I’m waiting for Darth Vadars fix of the game. And don’t get me started on naval bombardment…
      Oh and don’t ever allie with a playable clan. To know who is who look the ‘clans’ up, they are in the wiki.
      I bet all my money you’ll be able to buy all those clans as DLC in a month or so.

  13. Jhoosier says:

    Actually, you have the positions of the shogunate and the emperor opposite. The Tokugawa Shogunate had been running the country for 250 years, and the Meiji Restoration was the restoration of the emperor to a position of power instead of being a figurehead. The Meiji supporters were the progressive ones, the bakufu (bureaucrats) were the conservatives.

    • Premium User Badge Zephro says:

      Not exactly as both wanted to modernise. In terms of the class system the Imperials were more progressive wanting to abolish Samurai privilege unlike the shogunate but they still wanted to maintain/expand the nobility, return to “traditional” shinto, expel the foreigner etc. Yet keep modern rail ways, trade with the west and buy gatling guns.

      Realistically it was a class war with both sides using xenophobic or traditionalist appeals to win people over and buying foreign help as it pleased them.

      Though obviously all wars involve factions appealing to tradition and patriotism or stressing the conservative progression of their cause linking it back to the past. It’s usually a lie.

  14. magnus says:

    Lafcadio Hearn also wrote a book of traditonal japanese ghost stories that formed the basis for the film Kwaidan.

  15. Chris D says:

    I was going to write a long post about why I’m really enjoying Fall of the Samurai but on reflection I think I’m just going to go and play more Fall of the Samurai. Maybe later.

  16. Symbul says:

    Sounds like what you’re saying is that the AI still sucks just as hard as it always has.

    • Askeladd says:

      Play Total War Shogun 2 with the Darth Mod and tell me again the AI is stupid.
      In the first battle you play against it you’ll think you forgot to disable drop in battles.

      • killias2 says:

        I’ll definitely check out the Darth mod. I’d love to be able to half to -think- during the tactical battles, while not worrying about infinite-stacks spawning in the fog.

  17. Bobtree says:

    I cannot say anything constructive about this article. RPS spam filter defeats me.

  18. killias2 says:

    Overall, I think this expansion is excellent. It’s not just a cheap, cash-in DLC (which was my initial assumption). It’s essentially a whole new game, with, arguably, more to differentiate it from Shogun 2 than Napoleon from Empire.

    In a lot of ways, it’s the culmination of the last 3 games (Empire, Napoleon, Shogun 2) all in one package. You get to assassinate men with ninjas, storm levy infantry with samurai, then engage in massed rifle infantry battles supported by cannons. It’s quite neat.

    That said, the tactical AI is still.. bad, which results in a game still dependent on auto-generating stacks of enemies. I REALLY wish they would focus on this in the next installment. This series won’t really ‘progress’ until they get decent tactical AI and allow the strategic AI to cheat less. Also, the traditionalist vs. modernist dichotomy, as noted above, is actually quite weak. By mid-game, any decent opponent will have at least somewhat of a modern army. The Shogun vs. Imperial elements also sort of feel tacked on. I LOVE the new Shogun vs. Imperial. vs (possibly) You-if-you-go-for-it element of the end-game. It actually was -fun- to finish the game, whereas the end-game of the Total War series tends to be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. However, beyond that, there aren’t any real differences between Shogun and Imperial forces. It’s just a dichotomous distinction that structures the entire diplomatic experience.

    Overall, get this if you love the Total War series. Seriously. It’s, possibly, their best campaign yet.

    • Askeladd says:

      Yes autoresolve is another thing. Just test this: Get a stack of line infantry and autoresolve some battles, until you know when you will win and when you will lose. If you are certain you will win that battle against 4 samurai units some cavalery and some levy line infantry play that battle on the map. If your line infantry is not around lvl 5 you’ll loose because of the moral.
      Try that in autoresolve and you win. Elite Infantry is even more pure madness. Some even killing 900 with like 5 causalities… talk about realistic odds.

    • Gormongous says:

      The sad thing is that the developers had to lean pretty heavy on the truth to make traditional units even as viable as they currently are. Morale bonuses and absolutely brutal hand-to-hand proficiency still manage to matter quite little when going up against even decently organized line infantry.

      I guess it’s just a different way to play for those that have grown too efficient at killing. The second time I played, I managed to be fully modernized not too much more than three dozen turns in, and the rebellions of ill-equipped peasants that resulted were just good training for my levies. I wish it were more subtle than that, but oh well. Still fun.

  19. Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Ah, the early game dogpile. I almost gave up on my game after having my capital bum-rushed by three different factions over two turns. Thankfully my molesters spent so much of their military force fruitlessly blundering into the castle walls that the Jozai, Odawara and Obama, my last remaining friends in the North, mopped up their home provinces and secured my borders enough to allow a punitive expeditionary force to be launched into the Imperial homelands (where it is merrily romping around to this day).

  20. cassus says:

    Just thought I’d pop in and say that this game is amazing. I’m about 35 hours in and I’m just loving it. One more turn.. And another… 7 hours straight today, and I only quit because a mate was playing Tribes Ascend and I felt like joining.

  21. varangian says:

    >the Numata who just declared war on me for no reason

    Same old TW then. I gave up on this series after Empire and it looks like even a cheap deal on Steam won’t be enough to tempt me back. It seems the designers have a morbid fear of the player being at peace for more than a couple of years so, regardless of whether it makes sense or not, an invisible presence pushes one of your neighbours (or often someone from halfway across the world in Empire) in your direction whilst yelling ‘Fight! Fight!’ Now whilst TW isn’t Civ, where winning by non-lethal means is on the table, this approach takes away any real strategy from the game. When you know more or less everyone is going to fight you sooner or later it removes any possibility of being surprised by betrayal and decisions are reduced down to ‘Which bit of the map do I grab first?’. Worked OK for the early games but they should have found something more than that by now.

  22. luckystriker says:

    I thought Fall of the Samurai was based on the Meiji Restoration. If that’s the case, contrary to what Dan said, wasn’t the Shogunate fighting to maintain the status quo and the Emperor forces fighting to modernize Japan?

  23. Gandaug says:

    Twenty Sided