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Badgers & Katanas Don't Generally Mix(Articles)


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Hi guys

I hope you've all been bright eyed and bushy tailed since I last popped in to torture you with inane babble. I know it's been a little while since I said hello, but I'm still around and I have peeked in from the sidelines now and again.

Today I come to you bristling with Oriental pointy bits and bursting with medieval action. A couple of weeks ago I bought "Total War: Shogun 2" and having found my way around the tutorial and made a start on my first campaign, I decided it had to be shouted about and where else would I do that but here? Natch.

So put the cat out, unplug the telephone and get comfy in your favorite chair my friends. Because this could take a while.


The “Total War” series has finally come full circle.

I’ve always been captivated by Japanese culture and history. But starved of much in the way of exposure to it, unless you count multiple re-reads of James Clavells “Shogun” and re-watches of “The Water Margin”. So I waited in great anticipation for the release of “Shogun Total War” after its announcement back in 1999 and pounced on it on release in 2000.

Set in Japan from 15th to 17th century, the first in the “Total War” series saw the player tasked with becoming Shogun (Supreme military ruler) over all the clans during the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States) period.

It was a bold new venture for “The Creative Assembly” and a bit of a high risk gamble at the time, but little could they have known how huge the series would eventually become and how handsomely the gamble would pay off.

Dancing gracefully around in history, “Total War” covered Medieval Japan, before moving onto Medieval Europe, which it revisited later in a sequel. It saw players lacing up their sandals in the early Roman Empire and eventually broadened its historical brush, challenging players to Carve out an Empire across the globe.

But despite enjoying all those incarnations (though never having bought an add on pack) I can honestly say that none have captured my imagination more than the first and I was exited to discover that “CA” was revisiting Japan and thrilled when despite my worst fears, “Shogun 2” ran beautifully on my ageing rig.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/comparison.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

Returning to 16th century Japan, “Shogun 2” once again pits you against the warring clans of the period in a bid to become supreme military ruler. But this time benefiting from the innovations, some subtle and some huge, built up through the series since its birth back at the millennium.

I’m having great fun with it and wanted to tell you about the game, but not wanting to go down the route of a traditional “paws on” this time around I decided to try something a little different and though this is new territory for me, here is a “Battle Report” (Or “AAR” as you call them here in Combat sims hallowed halls) based on my first encounter with the enemy in my campaign. It’s handbags at dawn in the attack on Osumi Castle! I hope you enjoy it.

“Shogun 2” allows you to play through a campaign as any of the warring clans. Each is different in difficulty depending on its position on the map, dictating how many immediate threats it has to its borders and each has different traits strengths and skills, which bring the potential for a variety of tactics in battle.

Though my traditional leaning toward all things Bow, saw me very tempted to continue with the Chosokabe Clan (Played in the demo, masters of “the land” and master Bowmen) with their ability to recruit superior archers. (No, not the radio show!) I decided after much deliberation to go with the Shimazu Clan, whose expertise lies more in the area of swords.

Starting out on the south westerly island of Kyushu, (the largest of Japans four main islands) the Shimazu have the sea to their backs and although technically are still open to attack from two borders, they are only openly at war with one of the clans involved and so this is considered an “easy” campaign. Just the thing for your Badger then.

As with all “Total War” games, individual missions are issued to you during the course of your campaign, completion of which (or not) carries implications in the form of either rewards or consequences. My first mission is to take Osumi castle, currently held by my hated neighbour the Ito clan. My reward for success will be a boost to the number of units I can recruit at any one time.

I need little excuse to attack the Ito in any case. Their arrogant Daimyo Ito Yoshisuke, Lord of Hyuga Province and all around bad egg, has dared to suggest that Ito haiku are more poignant, delicate and beautiful than Shimazu haiku!

For this insult he must die horribly! (Some removal of head might be in the offing) As must his family, his clan and his Horses, Cows and Chickens. For obviously none are more poignant, delicate and beautiful than we!

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/map.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

Osumi Castle is only a short march away and looks to be relatively undefended, but the approach of my general Tanegashima Tomokata on the campaign map reveals an Ito army of comparable size to our own, under the general Chiba Sukomochi, skulking a little way beyond the city walls.

I take the executive decision to confront Sukomochi first, as I don’t want to be busy attacking Osumi and have this general turn up as reinforcements.

Though our armies looked roughly balanced, it turns out Tomokata has the advantage over our enemy in terms of man power. But the task ahead of us is to eliminate Sukomochi while taking as few casualties as possible. As we still have the castle assault to contend with.

Shimazu Forces

Tomokata & Mounted Samurai bodyguard. 30 men.

Yari Samurai 1 unit 120 men. (“Yari” is Spear.)

Yari Ashigaru 2 units 300 men.

Bow Ashigaru 2 units 240 men.

Ito Forces

Sukomochi and Light Cavalry unit 45 men.

Yari Ashigaru 1 unit 150 men.

Bow Ashigaru 2 units 240 men.

“Ashigaru”, which translates as “Light Foot”, were chiefly commoners and low class warriors for hire, many of these would have been pressed into service.

The long standing “Rock, Paper, Scissors theme of the “Total War” series continues with “Shogun 2”. “Yari Ashigaru” with their long spears could form a “wall” which spelled death for an ill conceived Cavalry charge. But they fared less well in standard melee against sword troops. “Bow Ashigaru” were poorly equipped and once they ran out of arrows they were easily despatched in melee. They were still expected to wade into the fray though… here’s hoping they at least had a good works pension scheme!

Interestingly enough, the advent of firearms did not make the traditional Bowman obsolete. Initially at least the range of the Bowman was greater than that of the primitive firearm and in the time it took the firearm user to fire, reload and fire again, the Bow Ashigaru or faster Bow Samurai, could loose a dozen arrows into his enemies terrified ranks!

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/turnone.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

The first phase of the battle is the deployment stage, where whichever troops you have brought into the field can be arranged inside a defined area. This is your opportunity to pick a pre arranged battle formation or to arrange your own, playing to the strengths of the units you have and the terrain where the battle is to take place.

Here the area was small plains and natural valleys, formed by numerous surrounding heavily wooded hills. A mist sat heavily in the valley floors (ah yes the mist…not great for screen shots. Sorry.) and perhaps this could be worked to our advantage.

Mindful of having to take as few casualties as possible (surely desirable whatever the ongoing situation?) I decided to keep out of sight until I had determined the position and tactics of the enemy. (You can’t see them until after you finalise your deployment… D’oh!) So I started my men out on a hilltop behind the tree line.

As the battle got underway I could see Sukomachi’s troops clustered on flat ground beyond the hill opposite and they seemed in no rush to go anywhere. Of course at this point they couldn’t see me and so were probably trying to decide where I was before taking any action.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/startingpositions.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

A cunning plan took shape. I would suggest to Sukomochi, where I might be. I would present him with a tempting target in the hopes of provoking a charge from his Light Cavalry. Whereupon my sacrificial lambs would turn out to be not so sacrificial after all. Disappearing back into the tree line, where the following Cavalry would instead encounter my Ashigaru spear wall! (Heh! A master plan!)

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/ashigaruspearwall.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

I marched my Yari Samurai down out of the woods, onto the plain beyond and into plain sight of the Ito dogs across the field. Their armour glinted in the morning sunlight and the sound of their marching ringing out clearly through the still air. Could they be any more tempting?

Well apparently yes they could, as the Ito just sat there and stared at them, while Sukomochi ate sandwiches and crisps, pointing as he scoffed.

This was almost too much of an insult to bear and with my superior numbers after all I could in theory just romp over there and clean house! Or could I?? Problem was that he had two units of Bow Ashigaru over there and they could do an awful lot of damage to my units as I charged across the field. Not to mention the fact that my depleted forces would also be tired by the time they arrived there and suddenly my advantage in numbers is not looking like quite such an advantage any more.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/theenemy.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

Right then.. a variation on the original plan. If my Samurai were not tempting enough, how about Tomokata himself!?

As Tomokata rode proudly onto the field, his thirty strong bodyguard clustered around him, the enemy reacted instantly! (Yes!!) Sukomochi’s Light Cavalry spurred forward and the rest of his troops started marching behind them. But they didn’t chase Tomokata.. They made a beeline for the hill next to them and vanished into the woodland at its top! (NO!!)

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Alright, it’s time for a rethink. So far this battle is not going anywhere fast. Our sharp Katanas are as yet untested on enemy necks and now everybody is in the woods! Very scary for the squirrels, but not very good for the campaign.

Somebody obviously had to break the deadlock and since I did have a time limit, it seemed obvious that “somebody” would have to be me.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/turnfour.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

Selecting one unit each of Bow and Yari Ashigaru, I set them to marching through the woods to our left, emerging briefly between two hills before moving up into the woodland on the next one and working their way around to Sukomochi’s flank.

This was a risky plan, (Bold plan.. I mean bold!) in that if it worked Sukomochi would split his forces once he realised the threat on his flank. But if on the other hand he committed his entire force to that flank and attacked? Well my pitiful units would be left dangling, alone beyond any possibility of my arriving in time to help and.. well … basically as Sun Tzu probably wouldn’t have said, up S*** creek without a paddle!

It was a long grim march for those lonely units. But finally they were in position on Sukomochi’s left flank and carefully the Bow Ashigaru exposed themselves at the edge of the forest. Actually, that doesn’t sound right does it! I mean, they weren’t “mooning” the enemy or anything like that, although I suppose that would have got the job done just as well!

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/turnfive.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

At first things looked as though they might take a turn in the wrong direction. Except for one Yari Ashigaru unit, the whole Ito force moved through the woods toward the flank. It looked like my nightmare scenario.

Then things looked up. The Light Cavalry rushed down the hill and made a charge across the gap. Stirred up into a killing frenzy they wanted my archers, wanted them bad! But my Bow unit simply retreated beyond thee tree line and suddenly it looked as though I might have a variation on my original plan unfolding right here.

But the Cavalry stopped short of dashing into the woods and onto the spear points of my waiting Ashigaru. Perhaps some eureka moment or bolt of lightning persuaded Sukomochi not to charge blind into the unknown. Perhaps he thought that if he went down to the woods today, he was in for a big surprise, who knows.

What we do know though is that it was only a half considered decision, because a moment later my archers were raining down arrows onto his “in the open” and now stationary horsemen.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/horsecarnage.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

Men cried out and horses screamed as death rained down around them! Desperate to save his men Sukomochi yelled out the retreat and having lost fully half their unit, the survivors rode, panicked but not broken, back up the hill.

Simultaneously the two units of Ito Bow Ashigaru arrived in firing position and started firing at my single unit. But while they were out in the open, my lone unit was firing from in the tree line and from a slightly more elevated position, so my men were more than holding their own against the superior Ito force and in fact were starting to make them regret their rash attack.

Meanwhile back at the original battle line, the as yet unused and fully rested bulk of the Shimazu force, were eyeing the lone unit of Yari Ashigaru left unsupported by Sukomochi’s ill considered tactics and with a mighty yell Tomokata sent his troops screaming forward like an arrow from a bow, across the space between the hills and crashing into the unprepared enemy.

The general himself galloped around the foot of the hill, with a mind to charge the two Ito archer units still engaged in a slow losing battle with my own men in the trees. This would almost certainly rout them immediately, making them easy pray for the generals bodyguard to chase down and finish off.

It was at this point where “Shogun 2”’s AI did something unexpected. Brave or foolhardy is a question best answered by each reader, but certainly unexpected.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/CavClash.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

As Tomokata rounded the base of the hill and came into sight of his intended victims, Sukomochi and the remnants of his light Cavalry ambushed him, charging into his unprepared left flank!

So the skulking general turned out to be a man of honour after all! His attack was swift and deadly, but ultimately doomed to failure. Tomokata’s bodyguard quickly gathered their senses and turned with fury in their hearts. By the time they were done the Ito Cavalry was gone. Not a man or horse was left standing.

You might notice from the screenshot, that the horsemen are wearing what appear to be large balloons on their backs. Though apparently there is some disagreement among historians as to the full purpose of these balloons, called “Horo”. Most believe that they were used in a combination of decoration, arrow deflecting (you wouldn’t think so, but apparently they were pretty effective at that.) and an announcement on the battlefield that the wearer came from nobility.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/hillsiderout.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

A Samurai, having already offered his life to the Emperor and his Liege Lord, considered himself already dead on going into battle. But although he had little fear of death, he was still concerned about the treatment of his corpse.

Apparently the victors would cut the heads off the corpses and wrap them in a piece of the skin from the Horo. Hmmmm…. Comforting.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/cavbowclash.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

Having dealt the Ito a decisive blow with the loss of Sukomochi, Tomokata and his surviving bodyguard returned to their original plan and smashed headlong into the undefended flank of the Ito Yari Ashigaru. Their attention was so focussed on the almost invisible enemy in the woods, that they didn’t even see their death as it rode them down.

Meanwhile the remaining Ito spearmen on the other side of the hill had routed and run in complete panic. Like their unfortunate Bow units, my attention was so keenly focussed on one particular part of the battle, that I failed to notice their dishonourable cowardice until they were too far away for any of my troops to intercept them and so the miserable dogs escaped with their heads on their shoulders.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/feelingIto.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

So, decisive victory and with most of my men unharmed! Ironic then that turning my attention to Osumi Castle (fought in a separate battle) I found that “virtually undefended” was closer to the mark than I had originally assumed.

It seems that when a castle is left without defenders, the AI automatically places a special unit of Samurai retainers as a token defence. They are only 45 strong though and in this case were facing my Shimazu army of more than 600 men!

I decided that as brave defenders they deserved an honourable death and I sent my Bow Ashigaru up to send them a message, backed up by my Yari Samurai to fight them when they came charging out of the gates.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/castledefenders.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

They didn’t come charging out of anywhere though! Oddly they just ran back and forth within the walls as 200 archers peppered them with flights of arrows from which they had nowhere to hide. So I fact their deaths were not honourable after all as one by one they succumbed to stinging death from the sky, until finally the last man fell, a human pin cushion!

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/pincussion.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

Ultimately then Osumi fell with more of a whimper than a bang, or did it?

Lest I become complacent after my victory and rest too easy drinking herbal tea within Osumi’s walls. My spies tell me that the worthless survivors of the battle in the woods, ran until eventually they met up with General Yoshisuke himself! Daimyo and Lord of Hyuga province. Assimilated into his force despite their unworthiness, they now seem likely to face me again in the near future.

<img src='http://i609.photobucket.com/albums/tt178/GreyBadger/map2.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' />

So there sits Yoshisuke on my border, with an even larger army than I faced before. It seems likely that the walls of Osumi have not yet seen their full quota of blood and that this time it will be my turn to defend it. It seems my quest to crush the Ito and silence their inferior haiku forever is far from over.

This post has been promoted to the Articles and News section.

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Great write up Badger old mate , but i think a few Hogs and some napalm would have been i might easier....yes yes i know its Feudal Japan but im a blow things up and hit em with the mini gun type person , my hat off to you these games just confuse the crap out of me never could my noggin around them

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Hi guys

I'm glad you enjoyed the battle.

Sorry for the tardy reply. Would you believe that posting that swirl of Katanas for you, was the last thing my PC managed to do before falling in a dead faint and screaming for a medic!

I got a nasty message from my anti virus while messing about in "Photo Bucket" doing those screen shots. Something about a "Trogan" and did I want to put it in the vault. Followed by a message I wasn't expecting about some file or other being deleted and the next time I looked I couldn't open anything on the PC!!

Please take this as a warning by the way folks. Apparently there are some nasties doing the rounds and from the sequence above it looks as though I might have fallen prey.

At any rate, the PC is now in the shop and I might not get it back for a couple of weeks! I have begged and borrowed access to a laptop to reply to you now but I might nt be online again until my ailing PC is healthy again.

So.. in brief (Because I'm having to type five words at a time here before waiting for the laptop to catch up... I kid you not!)...

@ Mike: I think it was about an hour for that battle Mike. Not counting the seperate battle for the castle itself, although as you might imagine that one was over almost before it started.

You're right about "Total War" being a time sink. I've always thoroughly enjoyed them but that single aspect is what has stopped me ever completing a campaign. I'm blessed with a short attention span and while "Total War" is happy to let you save on the campaign map, it refuses to oblige durig the actual battles!

When you consider an hour plus for the battle above with the paltry forces we brought to the field. You can imagine how long for a serious battle with armies which are all growed up! There is a timer which ticks down, but to be honest I don't really know how long you have. If I had to guess?... I'd say two - three hours.

@ Archie: The concept on the battle map never gets more complicated than "Rock, Paper, Scissors" Archie. But while that's just fine with a six unit army.. make that twenty units over a large map and all happening simultaneously and things can get medieval on your ass pretty quick!

The campaign map can get complicated, at least for the likes of your Badger. At least "Shogun" see's you with one clan to manage and managable options to start. Not like "Empire" which guided you through an ok tutorial, before throwing the whole world at you in the campaign proper and watching you drown!

@ Red: Absolutely! Staring at the enemy troops through the mist, I couldn't help but think how much easier it would be to just "take off and nuke the suckers from orbit... just to be safe!"

Right then that's me for a while. What am I going to do with no PC!!!? I guess I'll go read a book. I remember books.

Badger Out

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