Dynamo Daimyo: A First Look At Sengoku

Earlier today I got a chance to look at the upcoming wargame, Sengoku. Paradox’s games come in a number of flavours. Space flavour is good, as is fantasy and jellied goblin, but I have say I am also partial to the burnt caramel whiff of pseudo-real-time feudalism. Various Paradox games deal with European feudalism – and we’re particularly interested in Crusader Kings 2, as you can see from Quintin’s preview – but look East and you see less coverage. That’s where Sengoku comes in. Based on the Crusader Kings 2 engine, it’s a take on Japanese feudalism, and is an interesting “where next” for folks who got a kick out of Shogun 2’s campaign map.

Sengoku is, according to Paradox’s aptly-named strategy producer Chris King, somewhere between the most recent iterations of Europa Universalis (from which it derives much of its warfare system) and Crusader Kings 2, where its map and diplomacy gubbins find their origin. (It is much closer to Crusader King 2, of course.) The plan isn’t simply to collide these two big history games together and then paint the resulting entanglement in the colours of Japan, but to build on them with something resembling the way feudalism might have worked during the Sengoku period. So it’s a Japanese-styled game ecology layered lovingly across a Crusader Kings backbone, and includes things like having your children taken hostage by more powerful clans to force you to adhere to their plans for vassal-choking domination. Could be rather good!

The key new system for Sengoku is the honour system, which is essentially a kind of diplomatic currency. You earn cash in the normal way, of course- building up provinces and levying taxes – but honour must be earned politically. For example, if you honour an alliance with another clan, and step in when he gets attacked, then you might earn serious honour. Likewise if you do the honourable thing and grant minions the kinds of titles and property rights they actually deserve, then that will add to your pool of honour too.

Spending honour is all too easy, however. Set up a ninja to attack an enemy and have him get caught, and you’ll find yourself losing honour. Likewise you’ll spend from this pool if you take hostile actions that look bad to the rest of Japan. The overall amount of honour you retain can even have an impact on your wider game. If you maintain a high honour then any vassals you have under you will be forced to behave and won’t rebel, or plot against you.

Ah, yes, /plots/. So familiar to us here at the backstab-happy court of Castle Shotgun, but so rarely represented in any interesting way in games. In Sengoku horrible intrigues gets their own screen and menu options, with you able to add allies to your secret plots before you launch your coup, or claim on a title, or attack on an enemy. Plots can be extremely useful to you, since often you’ll be playing as the vassal of a greater power. If you want to overthrow the big guy then enlisting other vassals, or even his direct enemies, could be a good idea.

Sengoku is, as you’d expect from this kind of historical grand strategy, pretty heavy on the menus, but many of them take an unfamiliar twist, even to those familiar with Paradox’s way of doing things. Building infrastructure in Sengoku does not entail saving up cash and then click the relevant build icon, for example. Instead you appoint one of your courtiers to take charge of improving your regions. This means that the ongoing improvement and building side of the game is handled indirectly, and will depend on your choice of courtier for its success.

As in Crusader Kings its the people that matter in Sengoku, and both interacting with them and even finding them has been streamlined. While it’s still possible to scroll through vast lists of faces to find who you’re looking for, you can also denote specific characters as “persons of interest” and then events that happen to them, even if they are a remote bod on the far side of the map, will be pinged to you in your message log.

That message log too is an example of the tweaking this game has received: rather than being bombarded with pop-ups about events and happenings in your world, they are queued into high and low priority messages, which you can examine and discard at your leisure. It’s one of those little rejigs of how things work that should make the game a lot less laborious to play.

Whether Sengoku’s flavour of feudalism really does satisfy our appetite for war and diplomacy will, ultimately, rest on how well the AI manages to model the many aspects of the struggle for medieval Japan that the game tries to present. Whether it makes good decisions, and whether it delivers a believable experience – that’s going to make or break it. That’s hard to discern from this unfinished, unbalanced early version of the game, but I’m sure we’ll find out come September.


  1. President Weasel says:

    What does Fred Wester, CEO of Paradox Interactive have to say about this game?
    Will it have a Vietnam expansion?

  2. Gap Gen says:

    Presumably someone at Paradox sent the developers a screenshot of Shogun 2 with a post-it note saying “DO THIS”.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Perhaps, but it’s quite a bit more involved than Shogun 2.

    • Zinic says:

      Long as that is the case, that’s fine.

      But what exactly does that mean though? “Shogun 2, but better”?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Crusader Kings, but Japaner.

      It’s all turn-based, with hefty diplomacy options. It’s basically less militartistic than Shogun 2, and more about managing people, relations etc.

    • theleif says:

      Except it’s not really turn-based is it? Might be wrong, but I’ve assumed it’s pausable real time, like their other strategy titles.

    • UK_John says:

      remember, Shogun 2 has features that seem to be taken from King Arthur the Roleplaying Wargame, like Victory Locations on the tactical map, for example. It also seems to have taken idea’s from other Neocore titles.

      It such a shame we have a market where many reviewers are happy to say King Arthur is a Total War rip-off, when it is so much more, and then ignore it when a large developer pinches ideas from that self same small developer!

      For example, I recognised a lot of Oblivion mods in the new Skyrim features, but are Bethesda going to be open about this, and what about the media – will they report this?

  3. Teronfel says:

    Is this like King Arthur?,the map looks the same.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It’s quite a bit more complex in terms of the number of characters you manage, and the relationships you have with other clans.

      Also there is no real-time element. It is all turn-based.

    • Nimic says:

      That’s a bit of a misrepresentation, I’d say. Or rather, it’s easy for people to misunderstand. It’s only turn based in the most technical of ways. Most of the time the days will be going by very quickly, and most of the rest of the time you’ll have it paused.

  4. OpT1mUs says:

    Only question is : when is it out?

  5. frags says:

    A new Paradox game this year. The only one this year(apart from expansion). Looking forward to it.

  6. vash47 says:

    I thought this was about Sengoku Rance.

    • godkingemperor says:

      I would love to hear RPS thoughts on Sengoku Rance

    • cytokindness says:

      Well, that’s one

    • Dreamhacker says:

      I, for one, would like to hear RPS’ thoughts on:

      -Sengoku Basara
      -Sengoku Drifters
      -Sengoku Nights
      -Sengoku Armors
      -Sengoku Youko
      -Sengoku Tsukiyo
      -Sengoku Danshi Hana no Ran
      -Sengoku Ninja-tai
      -Sengoku station
      -Sengoku 1-9
      -Sengoku Otome
      -Sengoku Majin Goushougun
      -Sengoku Kitan Youtouden
      -Sengoku no Ran 2009
      -Sengoku Jietai 1529
      -Sengoku Bishōjo Emaki
      -Sengoku Strays
      -Sengoku Icecream (nah, I made that one up)

  7. Zwebbie says:

    Is it really turn based? Wouldn’t that be a Paradox first? It looks like it has a regular real time game speed thingie on the screenshots.

    • blankname says:

      Paradox games are technically WEGO with each turn modeling 1 day (or 1 hour in the cases of HoI and maybe Victoria), but you can play at such a speed that it appears and feels real-time.

      Edit: though I suppose you could try and argue that RTS games are WEGO with turns being 1 frame long…

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It was demo’d in a turn-based fashion, but I guess it runs pseudo-real time like Crusader Kings.

  8. Nimic says:

    Except it is in no way similar to Shogun 2 outside of the “involves Japan” aspect.

    Edit: This was supposed to be a reply to a comment. Don’t I look the jackass.

  9. pipman3000 says:

    i’m interested in seeing how paradox will fuck this up.

  10. Yor Fizzlebeef says:

    Such nice blue and orange contrast on this poster…

    I will never be free :(

  11. Huygens says:

    If this is proper turn-based (i.e. like the Shogun 2: Total War strategic map) then it is a definite buy for me; but I never liked the adjustable real-time system used by Paradox, it’s the reason I never really got into tiles like Crusader Kings and EU.

    Ah, well.

    • Nimic says:

      It’s exactly like all the other Paradox games, guaranteed.

    • Huygens says:

      Ah, not the answer I was hoping for, but thank you for clarifying this point :)

  12. LazerBeast says:

    I am looking forward to this. While Shogun interests me I do like the deeper (albeit buggy) aspects that Paradox games bring to the table.

  13. Vinraith says:

    CK in feudal Japan?


  14. Melf_Himself says:

    Can somebody please just do a modern day remake of Sword of the Samurai? Also, I hate 3D campaign maps

    • UK_John says:

      So with you on that! Although I wonder if some games don’t get updated because they are so good they intimidate current developers! In any event, I still have a lot of fun with the original, so i am not that bothered! :)

      Nice to know someone else knows about this undeniable classic Microprose title that nobody knows about!

  15. sendmark says:

    It will likely be buggy on release, but no doubt like most paradox games with a few patches and an expansion it will be quality.

    Honour sounds like a more sophisticated version of their badboy system. This with the crusader kings dynasty aspect should be very good.

  16. Anthile says:

    I’m already sold on this.

  17. The Pink Ninja says:

    Will this game feature Pwngoats and JUSTICE?