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  • The Sengoku Jidai, the Warring States period. A time of sword and samurai. To live by the

  • sword, and to die by the sword. That is the setting of Creative Assembly's strategy

  • game, Shogun 2: Total War.

  • If our daimyo is to become shogunmilitary ruler of all Japanyou must understand

  • the weapons of war, among which is the iconic Japanese longbow, the yumi. In this Popshots

  • episode, we look at the history of warfare in feudal Japan, and evaluate the role of

  • ubiquitous ranged units in Shogun 2.

  • One can't really talk about Shogun 2 without admiring the history of warfare in Japan.

  • The weapons of the samurai are legendarythe yari, the katana and the yumi. Bows were used

  • in Japan since prehistoric times, though the exact origins of the asymmetric longbow are

  • unknown. Some theorise that the shape was due to the use of a single piece of wood,

  • stronger at the base. Others believe that the asymmetric shape allowed it to be used

  • while kneeling or from horseback. By the time of the samurai, the yumi was made from laminated

  • bamboo, wood and leather, and typically measured 2 metres long.

  • While we might recognise Japanese archery through kyudo, the style used in warfare was

  • kyujutsu. The bow was commonly used in large numbers with foot soldiers, known as ashigaru,

  • but the warrior class, the samurai, were expected to be masters of the bow alongside their other

  • weapons. The bow was, in fact, the primary weapon of the samurai. Their expertise in

  • yabusamemounted archerygave them a unique advantage on the battlefield. It

  • is for this reasonnot because of honourthat samurai were distinct in not carrying

  • shields into battle, as all their weapons were meant to be wielded with two hands.

  • The yumi would see hundreds of years of use, largely unchanged, until the arrival of Portuguese

  • traders. From that point on, the most important weapon became the matchlock musket, adopted

  • more widely and aggressively than European armies, and the bow's presence soon waned.

  • Shogun 2's place in the Total War franchise is interesting, bringing the series from the

  • gunpowder era back to a feudal setting. Unlike in Rome, the armies in Shogun 2 are fairly

  • homogenous, consisting of cheaper ashigaru units and expensive samurai units, with specialised

  • units composing of spears, swords or bows, with marginal advantages given to certain

  • factions. As to be expected from a strategy game, the strengths and weaknesses of each

  • unit type are intended for balance rather than realism.

  • Initially, players will make extensive use of ashigaru units, including the bow ashigaru.

  • These cheap ranged units are available from the beginning, offering high volume of arrows.

  • Bow ashigaru have poor accuracy and have the lowest melee stats and morale. Their main

  • use is to whittle down enemy formations, especially other poorly-armoured ashigaru units, but

  • they find themselves only marginally effective against the better-armoured samurai units.

  • After some technology advancement, players have access to bow samurai. Samurai archers

  • stand out with better melee ability than their ashigaru counterparts, though not as good

  • as specialised melee troops. They also boast better armourmaking them more resistant

  • to arrowsand better accuracy and rate of fire, allowing them to be more effective

  • against other samurai. However, they have fewer numbers than ashigaru.

  • By combining an archery school with a temple, the player can train bow warrior monks. While

  • having poor melee stats and defense, bow warrior monks have greater range, the highest accuracy

  • and rate of fire. Though their numbers are even fewer than bow samurai, several units

  • of monks can break multiple units before they reach combat. Monks also get access to whistling

  • arrows, which provide a morale penalty to targeted units.

  • There are several other specialised ranged units. The bow hero unit is a very small group

  • of archers with near-perfect ranged stats. However, their tiny numbers make them largely

  • ineffective, and are only good for weakening strong armoured units.

  • Bow cavalry are also present. These horse archers provide some utility on the battlefield,

  • though with smaller unit size than foot archers, their effects are not felt as heavily and

  • they require much more micromanagement. The Chosokabe faction also has a unique unit,

  • the Daikyu Samurai, which are slightly better than normal bow samurai, but not as powerful

  • as bow warrior monks.

  • Bows also have a notable role in the naval battles of this period.

  • Outside of the balanced unit structure, further advantages are gained from having more experienced

  • troops and, crucially in the campaign, control of special buildings that can improve accuracy,

  • potentially turning your bow warrior monks into samurai shredders.

  • Bows also play a prominent role in both campaign expansions. In Rise of the Samurai, the bow

  • is used by foot soldiers, but are prominently used by the samurai units, both on foot and

  • on horseback. In this campaign, the samurai represent the pinnacle of combat units, with

  • samurai units fulfilling both melee and ranged roles without the specialism of weapon types

  • in the main campaign. Warrior monks are still available, providing the same advantages as

  • before. If there's any downside to these early ranged units, it's that the default

  • formation for Rise of the Samurai is open, so most arrow volleys will not have a huge

  • impact. This forces the player to adopt more complex small-unit tactics.

  • Fall of the Samurai sees traditional samurai units compressed into foot bowmen and mounted

  • bowmen. While easily outmatched by modern rifle infantry, bows have a role to play in

  • the early campaign, and have unique advantages. Since soldiers are no longer armoured, masses

  • of bowmen can cause devastating damage to infantry formations. In addition, bows can

  • shoot over hills, which gunpowder infantry cannot do. There's a certain element of

  • fun to recreating the stand of the last samurai, but realistically armies with well-deployed

  • gunpowder soldiers will wipe the floor with bowmen.

  • There are a lot of things that Shogun does well with its depiction of archery. Bow units

  • are well balanced and always have a role to play, whether in offensive, defensive or siege

  • battles. The variety of archers allows the players to spam cheap but less effective archer

  • units or invest in late-game armies with samurai and monks. The arrow volleys look and sound

  • great.

  • Through trivial, Shogun 2 is actually the first game in the series to actually model

  • the bowstrings, which were absent due to graphical limitations in previous games. The arrows

  • are even on the correct side of the bow for Japanese archery. That's a huge leap forward!

  • The downsides of Shogun's archery is mostly in the inflexibility of the battle engine.

  • As with other Total War games, the unit formations are fairly rigid. Bow units operate quite

  • similarly to gunpowder units in Empire and Napoleon, with the clearly defined firing

  • arc and the enemy must be specifically in that area to shoot. Shooting animations are

  • awkwardly long for the slow-shooting ashigaru, and individual soldiers hold onto the shot

  • for far too long, and realistically, archers were far more flexible in deployment and rate

  • of fire.

  • Perhaps the best display of the bow's utility is in siege defense, where soldiers on the

  • walls are not locked into shooting by unit and shoot arrows continually, resulting in

  • a rain of arrows closer to what a real battlefield might have looked like.

  • While Shogun 2 has fairly monotonous armies and units aren't really unique enough to

  • stand out, the game is often hailed as one of the best in the series, especially after

  • the mixed reception from Empire, before the glitched release of Rome 2 and before the

  • fantasy-based Warhammer instalments.

  • Shogun 2 gives us a fairly unique way to play out the battlefields of feudal Japan and witness

  • the effects of Japanese archers on foot, on horseback, in castles and even on ships. Though

  • not the most realistic, there are few real-time tactical games that are placed in this setting,

  • and the units forego true historical accuracy and err on the side of balance and funperhaps

  • the honourable choice to make.

  • Thank you for watching another episode of Archery Popshots. This is NUSensei. As always,

  • shoot straight, and aim for your best.

The Sengoku Jidai, the Warring States period. A time of sword and samurai. To live by the

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Archery Popshots | Total War: Shogun 2

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    wei posted on 2018/12/14
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