Monday, 4 April 2011

Part 2, in which a war is beginning

Alright, here we go. As usual, I'm faced with the first choice of the game: which clan should I side with? There are nine options, each with their own perks, different starting locations on the map and specific victory conditions. Aside from briefing this info, the options screen provides a rather excited sounding description of the clan. I can't help but think it would look more natural written in Engrish.

I slowly flip through the pages, carefully weighing each option, until...


I like cavalry. Sooner or later, every country I run turns into Rohan, regardless of their initial specialization. There's nothing quite as satisfying as leading a cavalry charge to the rear of your enemy's formation and seeing them flee. So, picking the clan that is horse-obsessed from the start looks like a good move.

The "initial challenge" item made me a bit wary - I'd heard that the AI was improved to better deal with cavalry attacks, and this coupled with the game's promise of a rough start made me leave the difficulty at "normal". That was probably an unnecessary precaution since I managed to start out smoothly - but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Satisfied with the choice, I start the actual game. A brief cinematic explains the situation, and I'm put in control of the Kai province: a castle town, a rice farm, and a horse breeding ground. Daimyo, the clan's leader, sits in the castle with a couple other units, while his brother is out near the border with a slightly bigger army. On the other side of the border stands an army from the Murakami clan - enemies of old, apparently - and a friendly mission prompt tells me to please kindly go defeat them.

One rather uninteresting battle and a decisive victory later, I get to look around and see what else needs my attention. First things first - research:

Also: a price.

Finding a connection to your spiritual side results in an uncontrollable urge to sell something to gullible suckers, or so I understand. But hey - as long as there's a profit, I'm fine with anything.

Next: construction. With my initial funds, I can pick two out of three available building upgrades. Obviously, providing more food is nowhere as important as breeding horses with a bonus to charge and stables where I can train heavy cavalry, so it doesn't take long to decide.

Finally, after establishing trade routes to all neighbours - the ones that aren't trying to kill me, that is - in order to get even more money, I'm ready to end the first turn.

That's when trouble starts: the remnants of the Murakami army I'd defeated earlier received reinforcements and decided to march into my territory. My own army, though previously victorious, had suffered losses and did not have any reinforcements, and so was outnumbered. To my advantage, my army was able to set up an ambush, so I went into battle hoping to attack fast and catch the enemy unprepared.

Sadly, "fast" is a relative term, and the meaning is not particularly good when your force is still mostly infantry (dammit, if you were born in the saddle, you should've stayed there!). The enemy quickly regrouped on a small hill before I could reach them. My single light cavalry unit didn't quite neutralize their archers, and my spearmen got surrounded during the attack. Seeing the bulk of the army slaughtered, I decided there's no point in sacrificing my general and some archers that stayed further away from the trouble, and bravely ran away.

Over the next few turns, a true Phoney War situation developed: the Murakami army returned to their side of the border, and I immediately sent reinforcements to my badly damaged army in case they came back. A turn or two later, with yet more troops arriving from the capital, it seemed that I'd built up enough of an army to launch an assault myself, but it turned out that Murakami had also been sending as many new units to theirs, and so the stand-off continued.

No tension here.

Fortunately, this situation didn't last long enough for either side to start stockpiling nukes. However, it ended quite anticlimactically: the Murakami army went out of my range of vision and... disappeared? I never saw it again; it probably went to defend against some other enemy, of which there later turned out to be a few.

Hungry for action, my army followed, bravely hiding in the bushes all the way. Not that it was necessary, but the entire road is surrounded by terrain in which an army can hide to set up an ambush, and it looked too inviting to pass on. Disappointingly, I never encountered anybody to ambush. On the other hand, I reached the capital of the province undetected.

Thirteen hundred and twenty one camper.

Not sure how that was possible; I imagine it might have involved the whole army wearing brightly coloured t-shirts and shorts and praising the beautiful countryside to any locals encountered, but the point was that the town was there placed on a platter and ready for taking, with nothing that could offer any resistance in sight.

As the army, quite literally, jumped out of the bushes to capture the town, I discovered I had unexpected allies - or rather, competitors:

Well that's awkward.

An army from Anegakoji clan, roughly equal to mine, was also getting ready to take the same town. I hadn't encountered the clan before, but since we happened to be in the same battlefield and not apparently trying to kill each other, the game assumed we were allies. All for the better, I guess - since my army initiated the siege, it got there first and captured the town while Anegakoji witnessed the kill-steal of epic proportions from a distance.

Later, when looking at the diplomacy screen, I noticed that "past grievances" were affecting the relationship with Anegakoji. I choose to think it relates to this particular incident.

So, now I have two provinces, a strong army and even more neighbours to trade with. Next time: the end of Murakami, a new challenger, and big battles.


  1. Ah, always good to see another commander adhering to the tried and true "if problem - flank with cavalry" school of tactical thought.

    Now, to get my criticism cudgel out:
    Your exploits lack context. You need to give the view of the big picture, ideally - a screenshot of your and neighboring clans' lands showing the border and army disposition at the start and at the end of each post. Without context its easy to get lost in the details and forget what's going on and what lead to the status quo or... something like that.

  2. I have more nuggets of tactical wisdom, such as "fortify in defensive position, keep repeating 'no, you move first'", or "load up on archers, hope for best". There are also some exploitable nuances to soldier psychology in this game that I'll introduce in the next entry.

    Thanks for the suggestion - I'll try to include more context in further entries. Though I haven't yet developed a habit of taking screenshots when I should, so the next one will still probably be lacking. Incidentally, does the current scheme of cropping/resizing images and linking to full-sized versions look good?

  3. The screenshot scheme looks great, if I wasn't a lazy bastard I'd use it too, and wouldn't have to worry about bloated screenshots crawling over the sidebar and messing up the links. I would normally object to having to load a separate site to view the full version, but there is no real need to do that here.

  4. The Takeda, the Rohirrim, the Hippus, the Mongolians, the Horse-fGimli!rs. Their names are rather many. I bet the other ones are just copy-pastes of Tolkien.

    It is fun to use cavalry in Medieval II, too. I had a couple of good times in my last, half-played Holy Roman campaign, and one of them was trying to get my lousy emperor killed. So I had this great defense battle where my general suddenly charged down the mountainside I was defending. The bugger was probably going through the third or fourth Milanese spear militia before he was killed.

    The other fun battle became a historical one. Maybe because I was defending a bridge while being attacked from my side of the river, at the same time. Man, I'd never have won that if the AI was competent.

  5. Playing the Teutonic campaign as Lithuania (obviously) there is no need to ever have any units other than Dzukijan Horsemen (funny sounding hybrid of a word, that) - mounted archers and light/medium cavalry with a big unit size all in one. No matter how many tin cans crusaders put themselves into, the cavalry will outmanoeuvre and destroy them. It almost felt like cheating.

  6. I didn't get the expansion, and never played much with the Eastern horse archer nations, though the stats on Polish nobles did look great.

    Mainly played as England, Venice and Portugal, last one was my favorite purely because of unique Arquebusiers, Aventuros and a healthy selection of great late units (Basilisks, Grande Carracks, etc. (France somehow felt like a newbie country with its awesome unique units all around.) I did use a fair amount of Jinetes, actually.

    What was your favorite faction? Lithuania? :P

  7. I don't really know. In the main game the biggest campaign I played was England, and then Lithuania and Jerusalem in Kingdoms. Lithuania was the easiest, but that's mostly because you only ever need to use one battle strategy (not counting sieges), and aside from Dzukijans/dzūkai, there were only one or two other interesting unit types to be kept around just in case - it's a bit of a one-trick pony, if you'll pardon the expression. When everybody is out to get you near the endgame, the battles can get tedious.

    I guess it's not so much to do with liking the faction itself, but I did enjoy the challenge of turning the tables around and playing as heavy infantry based Jerusalem against Egyptian cavalry. It required planning each battle separately, which was kinda fun.