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Shogun 2: Total War Guide - Part 4: Units and Battlefield Tactics

by: Simon Hill ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

In this Shogun 2: Total War strategy guide we examine the units and get into some battlefield tactics. Find out how to win military victories in land battles here.

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    Shogun 2 Units and Battlefield Tactics

    We’ve already taken a look at the clans, the basis of a good economy and how to get the most from your generals. It’s about time we turned our attention to unit types and battlefield strategy. In this Shogun 2: Total War strategy guide we’ll examine some of the units you have at your disposal and offer up some useful tactics to get the best from them on the field.

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    Spear Infantry

    Shimazu Army The basic spear infantry are the Yari Ashigaru. There are a few variants for specific clans like the Oda and Hattori. You can also develop Yari Heroes, Samurai and Ronin. These guys are basic defensive units and their speciality is repelling cavalry with the Yari Wall ability. They are vulnerable to ranged units and sword infantry. They can still form a useful part of an attack, and if they get in close they will beat basic archers, but their main strength is defence.

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    Sword Infantry

    There are a lot of different units in this category and they are seriously tough in close combat. They are vulnerable to ranged units and cavalry charges but in melee they’ll give anyone a real fight. Katana Samurai are heavily armoured so they can do a good job defensively. The No-Dachi Samurai have a big charge bonus but light armour, so sitting them on top of a hill as the enemy approaches and then charging at them will work beautifully. Both are good for city assaults as well. The key is to get them in close enough for them to do their work.

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    Heavy Infantry

    Battle Intro 2 The Naginata Samurai and Warrior Monks are like a cross between the spear and sword infantry. They are good in melee and can withstand cavalry but they aren’t as specialist as the other two so they’ll lose melee fights with sword infantry and they won’t stand up to cavalry as well as spear infantry can. The Naginata Samurai are seriously heavily armoured, very slow and handy for protecting your vulnerable units because they’re quite versatile. The Warrior Monks by contrast have very little armour but they do have a special ability called War Cry which decreases the morale of up to four nearby enemy units (this is very handy if timed correctly).

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    Bow Infantry

    All of the units in this category are very weak in melee combat and seriously vulnerable to cavalry attack. Obviously they specialise in ranged attacks and if you place them well they’ll rain down arrows on your helpless opponents. Setting Skirmish mode will prevent most infantry from being able to catch them but you always need to watch out for flanking cavalry. It’s best to protect them with some spear or heavy infantry.

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    Matchlock Infantry

    The Matchlock units are a lot like the bow infantry. The key differences are that they have a slower reload rate and a lower range but they do more damage. They are also useless in melee or against cavalry so you need to protect them. They do have a couple of useful special abilities – Bamboo Wall offers some protection from cavalry but is only useful for defensive battles, Fire by Rank keeps a more constant rate of fire going.

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    You get three kinds of cavalry – spear, sword and bow.

    Light Cavalry Attack Spear cavalry are great for charging in but useless if they get bogged down. Use the Wedge Formation ability to make the most of their charges but make sure you keep them well away from spear infantry units. They’re good for chasing down routing units and if you can flank an enemy army and hit from behind they can win the day.

    Bow cavalry are great for annoying the enemy, they’re too fast for most units to catch so you can set Skirmish mode and use them to harass an approaching army and try to force units to split off from the main group. They also have the Swooping Crane ability which gives them a constant rate of fire as they spin round in a circle.

    Sword cavalry also have the Wedge Formation for charges but the difference is they can hold their own once they get in there with some great melee skills. As long as you keep them away from spear infantry they’ll beat most other unit types.

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    Siege Units

    Your options are Cannons, Mangonels (catapults) and Fire Rockets. You need to choose the spot carefully when you deploy these units and they are all completely useless defensively so if anyone gets close enough they will be easily slaughtered. Make sure you defend them with something. Cannons are the only units capable of destroying castle walls. The other two options will set fire to things and generally panic the enemy. If you hit tightly packed armies you can have a real impact with siege units and they always grind down the enemy morale.

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    Special Infantry

    Fire Bomb Throwers and Kisho Ninja are your special unit options and they can both be very useful.

    Fire Bomb Throwers can take the sting out of a charging opponent and put a dent in enemy morale, not to mention numbers. You have to micro-manage them though, don’t let them fire at will or you’ll probably encounter some friendly fire incidents.

    Kisho Ninjas are awesome. They’re good in melee attack and have a decent charge but they also have two vital special abilities. Stealth allows them to remain hidden for a period of time (even when moving). Blinding Grenades can be employed to confuse the enemy and seriously hamper their effectiveness. The Stealth ability is great for castle assaults.

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    Battlefield Strategy

    Siege Bodies 

    Veterans of Total War will be well aware of the general tactics that lead to success on the battlefield and they are exactly the same in Shogun 2. Take advantage of the terrain. If you are defending and there is a hill set your bowmen up on the highest part and put them on Skirmish mode, sit some spear infantry and sword infantry behind them. They’ll fire on the approaching enemy and then run away when they get close at which point you should charge your infantry in. If you have some cavalry then try to flank the enemy and get at their bowmen or general. If you can hit their army from behind while it is engaging your infantry there’s a good chance of a mass rout.

    Heroic Victory It’s important to make sure your units are covering each other. Don’t be tempted to chase enemy units off too far. Don’t leave bowmen or siege units unprotected. Try to break the enemy army apart, pull their cavalry (or if you’re lucky their general) far enough away from the main force that they can’t get infantry support. If you can isolate the general send every troop you can to kill him, the morale hit on the enemy army can often be enough to win the battle. Bow cavalry are great at pulling enemy armies apart, set them up on the flanks of an enemy army and force them to chase you, just watch out you don’t get in range of their bowmen because they’ll cut your bow cavalry down fast.

    If you are attacking an enemy in a defensive position then don’t hit them head on, use flanking manoeuvres with your cavalry to break their shape. Try to tempt units away from their defensive formation to work an opening. Don’t waste time chasing down routing units unless you are already winning the battle, it’s better to force a mass rout and get the win before they rally.

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    Siege Assault You should avoid sieging a city unless you have a decent numerical advantage. It can be pretty tough to gain the momentum necessary to win a siege against a well-organized defensive force. Remember you can capture the gates and towers by occupying the capture zones. Try using a ninja to sabotage the gates for you before you start the siege.

    Siege Defence Defending is obviously a lot easier. You can repel a far bigger force of attackers and even apparently insurmountable odds can be overcome with a careful defence. Bowmen should be at the walls until the enemy starts to climb them. Keep your units inside out of range of enemy bowmen. Charge anyone daft enough to enter and hit them hard, preferably with sword infantry. If you have cavalry it can be effective to wait until the enemy is well engaged climbing the walls and then charge them out the gate and hit anyone still outside your city walls.

    Make sure your general is close enough to give a morale boost to your fighting men and use his special abilities to inspire and rally. As a final roll of the dice, if the enemy is rushing in, try using the Stand and Fight ability.

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    Quick Save and Auto-resolve

    Battle Deployment It is always worth using the Quick Save option before a battle, it won’t overwrite your main save but it will allow you to skip back and try again if you have a nightmare on the battlefield. Don’t use auto-resolve unless you have a big numbers advantage, it’s a handy time saver when you face a small army with a huge force and the results are often good in that scenario. If you face an army of equal size or even slightly smaller than you then auto-resolve is usually pretty costly, you’ll lose less troops fighting it yourself. The skill of your general is a factor so don’t auto-resolve if he doesn’t have any experience.

    That’s it for units and battlefield tactics. Next we’ll take a look at special agents, victory conditions and a couple of other things we haven’t covered so far in this Shogun 2: Total War Strategy Guide.

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    All information and screenshots from Shogun 2: Total War by The Creative Assembly.