By Dan Griliopoulos on April 9th, 2012 at 11:00 am.
Months have passed. Togichi and Fukushima have become relative havens of tranquility – but Hitachi is a permanent wreck; I’ve fought at least a battle there every month, the first three months recapturing it from another rebel force I bribed into existence to kill off the Jozai, and then twelve months of defending it from the huge armies of new enemies; Odawara and Nagaoka, who have changed sides to Imperial, ostensibly to piss off the shogun, but mainly from realpolitik, and Kakegawa.
I have ten years to achieve my objectives and in three I’ve barely made it out of my front yard. I’ve given up on sea battles, because building and maintaining a fleet is too expensive whilst losing tends to give the enemy your best ships. For this reason, every town or building near the coast is a smoking wreck and I’m getting next to no money from trade – which in Fall of the Samurai is your primary source of revenue. I haven’t been able to expand because every time I defeat an army my allies stomp in and seize his territory – before turning on me, obviously.
It’s probably worth taking for granted that I’m winning amazing victories at every turn here, by micromanaging every battle. Occasionally, they’re pyrrhic, but thankfully I completed a mission which gave me 50% bonus income and made trade agreements with both of my Northern neighbours, the Morioko and Matsue. The resulting burst in income was then used to build a craft workshop, which in turn generated yet more income, so for a short period money poured in. Instead of building up my army, I choose to focus on building up my infrastructure. After all, I’ve survived everything they’ve thrown at me, but the only way out of the rut is economic growth. My people remain curiously happy, probably because I’ve never had the money to modernise until now.
Except that the Kakegawa and Nagaoka attack me in the summer of 1867. And they’ve got cannons. And they don’t use cheap troops. The Kakegawa send an army composed entirely of sword and spear Samurai against Hitachi and don’t assault it, but besiege it, with the Odawara backing them up. I’ll have to sally out but, looking at the relative strength of our armies, I’m going to have to be very… lucky. I don’t think I can bear to lose Hitachi again, but I can’t see myself getting out of this corner.
Meanwhile, though Reginald finally managed to break out and push east to grab another province from the Nagaoka, they ignore him and sent two fully-stacked cannon-heavy armies past to take my capital. Even Reginald Samurai’s ability to attack at night isn’t going to help much when he’s stuck over in the distant East. I have to disband all his veteran units just so we can buy some fresh fodder to defend Fukushima. At this point the Matsue, who have just conquered the entire north of the map from the Moriko, switch to the Imperial side, leaving me once again surrounded by enemies.
The Aizu have become minnows in Japan, surviving amidst bloated factions all around them, mainly the Emperor’s men. Consensual Westernisation has failed and so has the Shogun, mainly; now the Western powers are just going to take the nation forcibly, the way they opened China and India to trade; ironclads and Gatling guns.
Reginald looks for a long time at his washikasi, his home seppuku kit. Now, in Sengoku you can commit suicide in the traditional Japanese manner to regain honour for your family, or as part of a piece treaty. Sadly, Shogun 2 doesn’t allow this, but Reginald’s not the type to do it anyway. He has a plan.
(At this point, I admitted defeat with the Aizu. I could keep battling with them, but the game is too unforgiving on this difficulty for us to get a look at Fall of the Samura’s unique elements, rather than just struggling to maintain my current holdings against increasingly proficient armies. My own troops aren’t advancing, because I’m refusing to modernise, and the increasing number of enemy cannon sounds the death knell for any army relying on holding the walls of a broken wooden fort.
Moreover, playing the same battle for Hitachi over and over was destroying my soul. I had the same handful of White Tigers and Spearmen pushing increasingly elite foot soldiers back over the walls in about twenty battles, watching the broken troops run around the fort in the same strange Benny Hill single file.
Each time Alec pops onto to MSN, I’m terrified he’s going to ask me about the diary and I’m going to have to admit that I’m still fighting the Battle of Hitachi. I’m just not good enough to get out of this situation and the AI is behaving suicidally to beat me – the way that it throws armies at me whilst leaving its own provinces undefended against other neighbours is just cheap. The only way I’ll get to write about the new elements of Fall of the Samurai is to restart elsewhere, on easier settings. So…)
On the morning following the last battle of Hitachi (which the Aizu, true to form, won against all odds), Reginald’s bloodstained clothes are found on the beach. It is assumed that this most disrespectful of daimyos has killed himself in a most dishonorable fashion, bring disrespect on his family and cause. His loyal retainers shake their heads, consign his soul to yomi and submit to their new Imperial overlords.
Meanwhile, over in the Satsuma provinces, the long-absent daimyo Shizamu Hisamitsu (AKA Seginald Ramurai) has returned after three years presumed dead. Satsuma in his absence has burgeoned, advanced to perfect modernism despite being an Imperial province. Every town is a city with a giant fort, his as-yet-unchallenged fleet and army are feared across the land, and he’s made contact with every last clan on the map, trading with friends and enemies alike. All by shaving off a moustache.
Seginald looks down at his tax receipts for 1867 and almost weeps for joy. Over in the Aizu lands, his total income before costs was less than one province in Satsuma makes in profit. To spend that money, he also has a trading post with the despised Westerners, specifically the British. This means two things; first, he can buy three units of the absolutely lethal British Marines, which he does immediately.
Secondly, it means he can buy and sail an Ironclad. Which, entirely rationally, becomes his (and my) only aim for the remainder of his short life.