Saturday, 9 April 2011

Part 4, in which war is not made

After Murakami and Uesugi, the two great enemies, were destroyed, and the domain of Takeda spread across the Honshu island, the clan entered an era of peace and prosperity. Clan's leaders gave up their bloodthirsty ambitions and spent their lives working for the benefit of the people, living in harmony with their neighbors and haha just kidding let's go kill some dudes.

The game isn't called Total Best Friends Forever, despite evidence to the contrary.

Peace, however, does have its benefits. You can spend time upgrading, expanding and improving your war machine without being distracted by actual war. You can also use the chance to explore territories that you're about to conquer with inconspicuous agents. Protecting your back is a good idea too. All in all, that sounds like a plan to me.

(A note about screenshots: due to two unrelated instances of me not starting Fraps before getting to the game, parts of this and especially the next post won't have appropriate images to go along with the text. Please direct any negative feelings you have about this fact towards ASUS for making graphics cards that double as frying pans and Microsoft for assuming that there may be any conceivable reason for rebooting the PC to apply some updates without direct confirmation from the user.)

Let's start with diplomacy. Sometime between the end of Part 3 and taking of the above screenshot, a marriage between the daughter of Date's daimyo and the heir to Takeda's throne was arranged, boosting the relationship between the two clans, which would hopefully be useful as I expand westwards. Mildly annoying some other clans that are fighting with Date was an unexpected side effect, although apparently nobody was bothered by the fact that both parties were in fact under-age.

Now it's time to put the market of North Shinano and the temple of Echigo to use: I recruit a metsuke and a monk. Monks are pretty straightforward - you can use them to convert enemy agents, incite revolt in regions where your religion is oppressed, inspire your own armies or demoralize those of your enemies.  I expected the metsuke would be traders, considering they are recruited in markets, but apparently they work like a cross between a spy and a diplomat: detecting hidden armies and agents, bribing or infiltrating enemy forces and so on. But none of these abilities are of particular interest to me at the moment as I move both agents west to peacefully explore the land.

Another building that has been ignored for too long - port in Echigo. Without any intention of gaining dominance in the seas, I just build a trade ship and a small bow kobaya for protection, and sail out to try my luck in the trading posts far south.

My army on the border with Anegakoji? Pure coincidence.

It takes time for any of my expeditions to see something interesting, so I turn my flaming lidless eye caring gaze to internal affairs. And there's nothing more internal than an ally army that is stationed half a year's march into your territory for no reason whatsoever.

Er, excuse me? Can I help? Did you lose something here?

I check the diplomacy maps - nope, they can't be taking a shortcut to some enemy of theirs. These Imagawa guys have been my allies from the start of the campaign and show up as "very friendly", so it should not be preparations for an invasion either, although I can't be certain - the main difference between enemies and allies in other Total War games is that you're not prepared when an ally attacks you. However, this case turns out to be entirely meaningless as the army just turns around and goes back to Imagawa territory the next turn. Ah well. They probably heard the bushy forests around here were a popular tourist destination.

Next up - research. One early mission guided me towards researching more cavalry-related stuff, so that's what I do. Aside from a few basic arts, my research tree dives straight down to Horse Mastery, which is in one of the last tiers. Takes a long time, but the rewards are supposed to be good.

True, they always take the tastier oats.

And speaking of horses, I realized I'm not using enough of them: sure, my armies are mostly cavalry by now, but they lack variety. The most basic kind of stables can only train light cavalry. When upgraded to Warhorse Stables, they allow training of the whole spectrum - heavy katana cavalry, lancers and bow horsemen, provided that you also have a katana, spear or bow school (dojo) in town. And since construction space in towns is very limited, it's not reasonable to get all three dojos as well as stables in one town, so some specialization between towns is necessary to get all the units you want.

Kai province, our capital, has had the Warhorse stables and a katana dojo for quite a while now. North Shinano also had the same dojo when we captured it, but I only just realized we really don't need it: swordsmen are nice and all, but a single town can provide all we need for now. One demolition, one upgrade and one construction later, North Shinano becomes ready to train bow cavalry.

They prefer to be called mobile ranged death providers.

Hm, all this recruiting, building and upgrading is rather costly. How could we make more money? We're already trading with everybody we can, and the trade ship still has ways to go. Ah yes - taxes, now would be the time to fiddle around with them.

In Total War, there is just one kind of tax, and that is happiness tax. Having an exceptionally rich populace makes them happy without really providing any benefit, but taking money from people makes them less happy (for whatever reason) and provides you with funds. Therefore, a good leader always strives to keep his subjects right at the threshold of misery by raising taxes just high enough to eliminate happiness in favour of contentment yet not so high as to cause unrest. I hope no later game will add a press conference minigame where you have to explain the reasoning behind your choices, or else I'm screwed. Meanwhile, I order more troops to keep order in towns and crank up the tax rate for sweet, sweet profit.

Just as I'm running out of peaceful things to do, Hojo, also one my allies, decides to attack Imagawa. I am presented with a choice - to side with Imagawa and retaliate, or to simply break alliance with them and let Hojo do their thing. After consulting the diplomacy screen and letting sheer pragmatism take over, I decide not to interfere, because Hojo appears to be the stronger clan and more useful as an ally, whereas Imagawa totally didn't collect trash after themselves when they were camping in my land. Also, it's not the war I've been preparing for.

Next time: war I've been preparing for.

* * *

Feedback time! I just realized these posts tend to get rather nit-picky - a thousand or so words covers just two or three in-game years, or around ten turns. Is this a good level of detail, or should I try changing my approach somehow? For example, presenting more gameplay per post in a more condensed way, or more gameplay with the same amount of detail and longer posts? Any other suggestions welcome.


  1. I wouldn't worry about that press conference too much, given your proven talent of being a two-faced lying bastard you would make a great speaker figurehead for any form of government.

    As for the feedback: you do seem to focus on small details of one particular period of play, and then jump forward in time to another detailed period. You should probably mention small things, like movement of trading ships and town rebuilds, in passing, and just outline your general strategic direction.

    Major battles would make a good cutoff point between posts (as we say in the biz).

  2. Sauron really did focus too much on wars, at the cost of internal matters.

    I feel that Medieval II didn't have nearly as much friendly backstabbing as Empire. In fact, the relationship level in Empire seemed rather meaningless: Either way, others wouldn't accept (good!) trade deals, but they would declare war on you.

    Though Medieval did have its quirks, all right. One time I was playing as... Venice was it? England? Anyway, I had Antioch and Jerusalem, and the newly-arrived Mongols were knocking on their gates. Impolitely. But I also had a 6-7 influence diplomat in the region, who certainly earned his upkeep. Each turn, the Mongols would declare war and start to sieging my cities; each turn, my diplomat would negotiate a new peace treaty. With them paying me. Lump sums of thousands.

    And I missed city-level tax settings in Empire. I liked squeezing every last ducat out of them in Medieval, especially as it only affected population growth. And low taxes made your leaders worse... at collecting taxes.

    Research, now, that one really was an improvement in Empire, broken economy notwithstanding. Improved and heavier cannon ammunition and bigger ships probably were half my fun in it. Does Shogun 2 have more or less research? (I'll ask about the economy later, when highest-level buildings are more current.)

    ("marked" -> market) The amount of detail seems alright. Though screenshots from a more zoomed-out view would be interesting. And maybe a bit more about game mechanics. Unit stats, possible rock-paper-scissors, that sort of thing.

    (This damn thing just ate the first shot at this comment, with something to the effect of "I'm sorry, I can't let you do that". Reproduced it. Grr.)

  3. @Someone: thank you for the kind words.

    If you meant this particular post when talking about jumping in time, it's not really what happened: this period had very little stuff happening, and the few things that did happen were slow and going on simultaneously. I just chose to group related events instead of dumping a chronologically ordered mess.

    The problem with outlining the general strategy is that, for one thing, it would be very compressed - several hours of similarly uneventful play in campaign map could turn into a single paragraph when talking about the grand strategy. But also it would be difficult to squeeze fun into the writeup, and that's a must.

    I guess the original question can be rephrased: should there be more posts like this, with details about periods where very little happens, or should they be compressed in favour of combat-heavy sections?

    @Sekundaari: I think I had more backstabs in Medieval, but then again, everybody being out to get me was par the course most of the time.

    No city-level tax in Shogun either, unfortunately. So much happiness in North Shinano, untaxed! What a waste.

    Research is quite limited, as many of the arts are just excuses to delay building upgrades with slight clan-wide bonuses on the side. I guess it makes sense - you can't expect technological advances to be as numerous or as finely grained in feudal Japan as in Enlightenment-era Europe.

    Not sure about zoomed out screenshots - I can't seem to get anything informative from a faraway campaign camera, though I guess it'll become more useful in big wars when locations of multiple armies are important. (unless you actually mean uncropped screenshots, which are available upon clicking)

    (your comment, this second version, got marked as spam for whatever reason, and first one really appears to be eaten up. Weird.)

  4. @bucaneer: "jumping in time" was referring to your apparent skipping of the quelling of clan Murakami in-between posts. Upon repeated examination of part 3 I realized that you did mention them being eaten by Usagi, but I forgot it due to not paying attention and being terrible with names.

    I can understand the desire to "squeeze fun". After all, I myself spend hours describing stupid little events and sidequests of no consequence, simply for the sake of poking fun at them.

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that without big battles it feels like nothing happens. On the other hand, combat doesn't provide much to riff on.

    The only thing I can propose is to try and squeeze at least one big battle into every post.

  5. @Sekundaari: As far as medieval diplomacy goes, this doesn't seem that out of place. I can almost picture Genghis Khan and some wise old man diplomat playing a game, where Genghis would come up with reasons to start a war and the old man would repeatedly shoot them down with sneaky logic and mind games, and mess with Khan's head.

  6. Don't get me wrong, I got backstabs in Medieval too. But it seems much more rampant in Empire. The European one-province minors make their ├╝berstacks from thin air. Then they decide they need to do some sweet siegin'.

    "Wait a minute - one of my shorter borders is with my friend, the human player! Can't have that, can we. Then they stab me, I wipe out their stack in some tragicomic joke of a battle (canister shot et al. are pretty much counter-anything) and they make vows to never accept a peace.

    (Related: Have you seen this thread? It's unconcentrated awesome.)

    It just seems so much less rational than EU3, for example, where a war without a casus belli is bad for your foreign relations, and causes a stability hit. Backstabs are possible and sometimes beneficial, and they do happen, but they have a proper cost.

    And I didn't notice the uncropped pictures. Nevermind, carry on.

  7. @Someone; Well, it was more of an annual event. (Or every 1.5 years, I guess). Khan declares war, makes a few phone calls to his generals to start the siege engines. Diplomat offers him some of the finest sand of the Mediterranean coast and also this awesome personal fitness device (but wait! there's more!). Khan rejoices and pays the change... of a peace deal tribute... in gold?

  8. @Sekundaari: then the diplomat just sits in his office...tent, messing around for years, trying to come up with new ways to bamboozle the mongolian warlord.

    The Khan: Your nation is weak! We shall burn their cities and take their treasures so that everyone knows we are stronger!

    The Diplomat: But if you crush them, others may think you used trickery and deceit! No, you shall send them your treasure. Let it be known that they are so puny and weak, they receive pity from their enemies!

    Khan: You might be onto something there...

  9. @Someone: yeah, the end of Murakami was rather anticlimactic, just like many potentially tense situations that simply resolved by themselves. "More battles" is surely a good guideline, though.

    @Sekundaari: that thread is so true it hurts.

    Oh, and about the diplomat, it's always possible that he might have been a Jedi.

  10. This sounds like a plot for a summer blockbuster movie.

    *Explosion sound!*
    ONE MAN!
    *Explosion sound!*
    *Distant battle sounds!*
    *Soundtrack full of pathos!*
    rated m for mature

  11. Would watch... though Samuel L. Jackson? I'm thinking Jackie Chan. :P

    Al Pacino would make a fine diplomat.

  12. "I've had suutei tsai with Tsetsegmaa... Half an hour ago!
    She's got a...Great ass! And you've got your head, all the way up it!"

    Diplomacy the likes of which the world has never seen.