This time let's discuss something that nobody has written any guide about, but is critically important - Logistics. Most of logistics is purely boring common knowledge, such as do not walk back and forth between two points... We will avoid repeating any of that and only mention the less-obvious aspects. Also, devils live in details. The most important thing to have good logistics is patience and carefulness.
The goal of logistics is to maximize our kingdom's efficiency and expansion rate. I am not saying you should all race to see who finishes the game the earliest - go with your preferred styles and have fun. But logistics is about how to optimize the efficiency within your own style (unless your style is "chaotic mess"). In general, the faster we expand, the less army the AI has, and therefore the easier our battles will become. Good logistics ensure the supply of armies, agents, and funds to allow the smoothest expansion.
A1. Knowing the army composition
First, we need to know the goal - what's our army composed of? Ideally, we want the least number of units to accomplish the widest range of tasks. Any extra unit creates unecessary burden to the kingdom. My favorite army composition goes like this:
- 8 units of Naginata Samurai (or the clan's favorite's melee infantry type). Early game they are just Yari Ashigaru.
- 9 units of Bow Ashigaru (later on, replace a few with Bow Warrior Monks)
- 2 units of Yari Cavalry. Early game I will simply use general or Light Cavalry.
- 1 unit of commanding general
This allows me to deal with every kind of battle in the game. I usually format my armies more or less to meet this goal. Welcome to test out your own favorite army composition.
A2. Placing orders
I find that only two types of production centers are required - one for melee, and one for ranged. The direct and indirect cost of upgrading castles are just too high and it is better to have just two recruitment centers. For melee units I go for the best armor possible. For range units of course +accuracy.
After we decide on a good army composition, we need to estimate how many armies our income can support. On Legendary, an all-Ashigaru army costs about 2000 koku of upkeep per turn. As you throw in better units, you can expect 3000-4000 koku per army. Again, we want to MINIMIZE the number of armies required. If you are backed up by the sea, the most you need is FOUR armies. If you are in the middle of Japan, you can often expand on SIX directions at the same time. It is also critical to have enough spare income so you can upgrade worthy economic infrastructures (rice exchange is usually not) and pay for agents' important missions (don't assassinate any AI general you see). Later, when you become rich, you can afford more armies.
After we decide how many armies we will have, we can work out the exact number of units to be ordered from our recruitment centers. And since we know the recruitment rate, we can work out when we should start placing orders. For example, if we need 27 more units of +25% accuracy Bow Ashigaru, and our level-4 Castle produces 3 units per turn, we have to recruit for 9 turns. Samurai take twice longer to train, so it is common to have constant recruitment as soon as the best armorer buildings (+5 armor) becomes available.
But that does not include shipping.
A3. Shipping units
Units are shipped either on land (safe but slow) and on the sea (dangerous but fast). Due to the relay mechanics, shipping on the sea can be made extremely fast if there are no enemy ships to distrupt our relay chain. So go ahead and base your unit production center in Satsuma or Iwate.
The above practice is especially important when we enter the stage of development prior to Realm Divide. The preparation of triggering the Realm Divide usually happen years before. Here is an example of one of my campaigns:
Please follow the red line (Army upkeep). You can see a sharp increase of army upkeep after turn 60. But I did not trigger the Realm Divide until turn 78. The preparation started 18 turns before the real action begins. And after Realm Divide I only used 12 turns to take down 38 more provinces and won the campaign.
Testimony: I could not have pulled it off without logistics!
Next we will talk about broader aspects of logistics - building planning.
In this section let's look at the logstics of buildings - the planning of the sequence of buildings. Buildings serve three purposes:
1. Hire specialized units
In the first section we discussed the planning, ordering, and shipping of specialized units. Now let's take a step back and look at the the preparation of their buildings.
In general, we wish to start building up our unit recruitment centers as soon as we take control of one, so we can field quality units as soon as possible. The time we start fielding advanced units directly impacts our expansion.
Construction often takes a long time - start early! Hold off the economic infrastructures elsewhere if there is not enough funds to develop them all. We often have more income than we can spend in mid-late game so there is no need to be too keen on money-making buildings.
Here are a few commonly seen considerations:
Armor +5: The first level armory upgrade requires nothing, but the second requires Iron. There are only three sources of iron in the game: Miyagi (northeast), Mimasaka (the only inland province in the chugoku region), and the most northeastern trade node. If we do not own any the above provinces or trade node, we have to trade with a clan who owns it. Once we queue the construction of the advanced armory, it is fine to subsequently lose the iron.
p.s.1 There is never a clear description of battle mechanics, so it is really hard for us to compare benefits of armor, melee attack, morale, and charge bonus. But since staying alive is usually the most important thing for melee units especially against the hordes of AI armies, the armor bonus cannot be wrong.
p.s.2 By the way, if you are one turn away from finishing an upgrade building, do not start queuing a unit that takes 2 turns or more to hire. The finished unit will not carry the new bonus - only the old bonus.
Accuracy +25%: The second level upgrade requires the Chi research Chonindo, which also unlocks the highest-level farm upgrade. We will discuss this further in the research section.
Level 4 Castle: Start as early as possible. The extra slots can be used to build various dojos, the camp line, monastary, and even a market if there is a left-over slot.
Advanced melee dojo? - They often require advanced techs, but only provide additional experiences and no actual upgrade on units. These buildings are of very low prority unless you aim to recruit heroes (which I never tried, so I cannot comment on their usefulness). It only takes one or two battles for a level-0 unit to level up to level-2. After a few battles they will reach level 5, then it takes them forever to level up further. We will discuss this further in the research section.
Sengoku Jidai DLC units - They look great, so you might want to field armies with lots of them and plan your buildings accordingly. Be careful - high-end units usually comes with a ridiculously low limit of numbers. For example, you can only have FOUR units of Date Bullet-proof samurai. But apparently there is no limit for lower-end special units such as Mori Wako Raiders.
Navy - There are four naval tradition provinces in the game, but two are in Kyushu. If you own one (if not you can always ship a stack to Hizen), definitely build a military port there and the pirate den line building to produce level 3 and later level 5 ships. After patches, the 3%-6% tariff bonus for the alternative upgrade line is very weak.
2. Hire agents
Agents can make magnificant contributions that often surpass what military can accomplish - and their operation fee is just a fraction of the military's upkeep. For example, a ninja can forever stop an invasion as long as we have the money for it. A monk can single handedly turn many provinces in to rebels. Metsuke can bring fortunes equivalent to the richest trade node. Agents are the second priority just behind military only because they can be hired very quickly; the economy buildings can wait further.
Depending on people's preference, there are mainly two ways to use agents. The first style is more of an RPG or action game style - if an agent dies, restart from the latest save. Essentially the agents never die on the final record, although we could have compiled a long movie of all the gruesome death scenes in between. This style of course allows best efficiency of agents, and we only need 5 provinces to hire all 15 agents (who will last forever).
My personal preference is the order of Ninja -> Monks -> Metsuke. At the start of the game, I would build a Sake Den in every province. Even if my capital starts with something else, I demolish it and build a Sake Den. When I have 5 provinces, I already have 5 ninja. Then I demolish the Sake Dens to build 5 Temples. After hiring 5 monks, I demolish the Temples to build 5 Markets and hire 5 Metsuke. The markests stay to make money for the rest of the game.
Why Ninja first? Ninja often makes a big difference right from the beginning. They cripple an enemy so much that it almost guarantees the success of our early expansion effort. Training ninja by sabotage is cheap, as the lowest-level building only costs 100 koku to sabotage.
Monks start to shine when they can incite rebellion. It would be nice if we can find a Holy Site (Mori - Aki, Hattori - Yamato, Oda - Ise, Date/Uesugi - Uzen, etc.) to give the fresh recruits level 3, so they can recite rebellion right away. In this case, we can demolish the Sake Den one by one, since we only hire one monk from the designated Holy Site province each season. The province takes longer but the better quality monks should make up for it. Training monk is free (demoralize army).
Metsuke is the most difficult agent to level up as they have to seek enemy agents (only a few clans produce them consistently - Ashikaga in Kyoto and Honma on Sado island comes to mind) or bribe crap units from a warring clan. So it is better to wait for a province with the school capacity (Mori, Shimazu, and Chosokabe look for Tsukushi, Hattori and Oda look for Settsu, etc.) to hire them. Once they reach level 4 (four missions above level 3), they can reach 11 stars of Overseeing Towns, making them very good money-makers in our richest provinces.
The second style is more of a multi-player gamer's honesty - if an agent dies, shrug it off and hire another one, or leave them at home in the first place. This style requires a larger number of agents and a constant replenishing of lost numbers. It is therefore important to setup the appropriate recruitment centers and buildings to hire the best agents right off the training centers, and ship them (like armies) to action as quickly as possible. This of course makes the game more challenging, but when good logistics are applied, they are very effective.
3. Make Money
Let me first say that the fastest way to make lots of money in the game is to ship a stack to Hizen (Northern Kyushu) and grab the four extremely profitable trade nodes there.
Now let's look at slower ways to make lots of money - through buildings. There are so many buildings that make money. Which ones first? Let's roughly divide the money-making buildings in to a few categories in the order of importance.
(3A) Trade Ports - great investment up to a low limit
Trading is undoubtedly the fastest way to make money. Gone are the days where we can trade with the rest of Japan - trading is no longer easy after the FOTS patch. AI trade partners often break trades for no good reason at all. So we no longer have to spam trade ports - just enough to sustain our potential trade partners (which could be difficult to find at many points in the game). On legendary it is reasonable to have 3-4 trading ports, but any more would be wasted.
(3B) Trade-able Resources - great investment
These are the stones, iron, wood, horses, and crafts that can be traded. Look at the extra number of goods we can receive and multiple by unit price. The best scenario allows us to sell them all at full price. The worst case we sell them domestically for half price. In general we will start earning a profit not very long after the investment, as the upgrades are usually cheap. Go for it.
(3C) Taxable Incomes - be very careful
Most non-trade incomes are subject to tax - farms, commerce, mining, and town. We have to look at these number very carefully, as what you see is NOT what you get. If you see +1000 commerce income but runs a 30% tax rate, you only get +300. And that's even before admin cost, which could run into 60% in late game. So you only get +300 x 0.4 = +120! It is a lot less than what you think.
(3C1) Farms - good to great investment for the long term.
Farms in provinces with fertile soils or very fertile soils are of course immensely profitable, but ideally we will upgrade the farms to the fullest even for the poorest province. This is because farms provides food surplus, and that surplus applies to EVERY province to boost town growth. This is the primary way we stay financially healthy in a grand campaign like domination, as our income from towns are multiplied by the number of our provinces.
(3C2) Mines - good investment
Building mines could take years, but they usually provide very good returns. Metsuke loves to ovsersee the gold mines.
(3C3) Advanced Markets - poor investment
Advanced markets are far less useful than they appear - they consume food surplus. In a large kingdom with 20 provinces, losing 1 food surplus means -20 town growth. And the advanced market does not give +20 town growth, just +5 and +10. The benefits on commerce is likely shrinked to 10-20% of the advertised value after tax and admin cost. It takes a large investment in the beginning and many turns to build. I often skip all of the advanced markets in favor of growth in all provinces. However, if we are playing a short campaign with relatively low profits from town growth and less loss of commerce from admin cost, they are probably a good idea.
Now we have looked at the prioritization and planning for buildings. In the next section we will discuss the logistics of arts research.
So many arts, so little time. The logistics of research is to prioritize and plan out a smooth route of research, so we research every art at the right time, wasting no turns. In this section, let's discuss how to carve the most efficient path of research.
Before we begin, let's give each Art some attributes so we can discuss them more easily.
(1) Return Value (High to Low). We can evaluate each art based on their value divided by seasons required to research. Practical consideration is often more complex, as some less valuable techs are pre-requisite of very good techs. Also, different styles of play make certain arts more valuable for some, but not others. I will only make an example out of my preferred style. Welcome to develop your own style and re-evaluate the arts based on your strategies.
(2) Urgency (Immediate to Long term). Some arts offer an instant boost that applies to existing units. Some arts merely unlock buildings that will kick start the training of units, or slowly turn the investment into profit. In general, it is better to hold off the "immediately effective" arts until we actually need them, and go for the long-term army/profits arts so we can get a head start on the investment. However, certain immediate-effect techs are quite vital to survival and should be researched as quickly as possible.
(3) Event Bonus. Many events are random, but some are not. For example, when you complete both second level Chi or Bushido research, you get an event that grants +100% research on either Bushido or Chi for 4 turns. There is another +50% research bonus later. Together, these save you about 6 turns of research. So it would be a good idea to bunch up early Bushido/Chi arts to fully benefit from this bonus event.
I will use my usual style as an example.
(1) Army consists of 45% Bow Ashigaru/Bow Monk, 40% Yari Ashigaru/Naginata Samurai, 15% Cavalry. With the best upgrades as early as possible.
(2) Manually fight land and naval battles if it makes a difference.
(3) Avoiding doing anything that loses Daimyo's honor (unless necessary for survival).
(4) Hire all agents as early as possible. Use Monks to incite rebellion. Metsuke is used to make money and rarely for bribery.
(5) Obtain a large food surplus to boost economy for late game.
(6) Liberally use of backup save files to optimize anything possible.
Now I can look at all 42 arts and see which ones that I think are important, and which ones are not.
First, Chi arts.
The following techs match my style and I will definitely research (red numbers):
#1-3: Fast to research, effective, and essential pre-requisites for others. Complete #2 and #3 also grants a one-year boost of research rate. Obtain as early as possible.
#4: Necessary for Bow Monk. I can delay it until I have capacity to produce +25% accuracy units.
#8, #10, #14: Farm upgrade techs. But I first need the money to allow the farm upgrades, so I can wait a bit to get them.
#6: Kisho Ninja is useful to cut down loss in the assault of high-level castles (climb the wall and occupy arrow towers). So it is a late-game tech. Also, I feel that I have not learned the essential skills to make good use of them, so I will hire them just to see what they can do.
All of the other techs do not match my style and I can simply let go.
Let's just pick a few and explain why I do not need them.
#9, #15: Diplomacy. After observing the AI for some time, I know the AI do not make decisions on whether to attack you or not based on their relationships to you, but mostly due to proximity or the fact that they have nowhere else to attack. And +10 relationship is laughably weak.
#13: There are Geisha movies on youtube. If my Ninja can do the work (I do not assassinate AI generals frequently), I do not need Geisha.
#5, #12, #18: Since I do not convert and my daimyo almost never lose honor, I do not need to have the extra loyalty from the generals and the people.
#19: +5 town growth is quite little compared to the +60 food surplus I will have at that stage.
Now I can optimize my Chi research order as follows:
#1 -> #2 -> #3 -> #8 -> #10 -> #14 -> #4 -> #6
Next let's look at Bushido arts:
The following techs match my style and I will definitely research (red numbers):
#1-3: Great just like low-level Chi arts. Obtain as early as possible.
#5, #12: Naval techs. I'd like to catch the Black Ship manually, so I am definitely going after Heavy Bune.
#6: Fire arrow creates very good damage to thick-armored opponents. Not that much use in naval situations as I rarely field Bow Kobaya.
#8: Allows camp for recruitment centers. Anything about upgrading to the best army is top priority.
Obviously I don't need gun techs and sword techs - I don't even have them in my army. And do you know that you can only hire TWO Cannon Bune and ONE hero unit even if you have the tech and buildings? What a joke. Spear techs is most about EXP for new recruits that can be easily obtained after 1-2 battles. I am also quite happy with my Yari Ashigaru's spear wall and Naginata's guard mode.
Now I can also work out an optimized Bushido research order.
#1 -> #2 -> #8 -> #3 -> #5 -> #12 -> #6
With a little bit of planning work I have simplified my mental tasks significantly - there are just two lanes of techs for me to jump back and forth. I have to look at the urgency of the situation to decide which lanes to go first. Here is an example.
Here comes a few practical considerations of why I make certain switches:
- Heaven and Earth (B#8) rushed by +100% Bushido research from completing C#2 and C#3. So I can start building up the +5 armory line of camp very early. Also I only need to carry 1/3 less Bow Ashigaru to demolish the same number of castle defenders. Saves upkeep. Gold-armor Yari Ashigaru also lasts a lot longer on the field.
- Give some space between Chonindo(C#14) and Essence of Spirit(C#4). This is because I have to first recruit enough +25% accuracy Bow Ashigaru (usually more than 30 units) before I switch to Bow Monks.
- Leave Fire Arrows (C#6) to the last. Usually at that point of time I have already reached the max. number of province before Realm Divide, and I use diplomacy and agents to keep peace. So there is really no need to make my army any more capable until the eve of Realm Divide.
The above are the bare minimum techs I need to complete a domination campaign, and the research should finish around year 1560-1565, which is usually a good time for me to trigger Realm Divide and start some serious actions.
I am not suggesting that my way is the best or the only way. Not very long ago I read people who base their income entirely from looting, and there are completely different considerations. I think the most important thing is to find your own preferred style and become as good as you can in that style. The general principles are the same:
(1) Minimize waiting for essential units and upgrades
(2) Get the economy started early
(3) Delay the immediate-effect techs until they are required
(4) Pick as few arts as possible
In the next and last section, we will step back and take a look at the great picture of the game's campaign design and figure out some grand-strategy logistics.
In a conventional strategy game where the human player's goal is to expand, the power of the human player can be roughly expressed by straight line, or a curve if a "retarding" mechanics such as the increasing Admin Cost is in place (such as in STW2). The AI opposition's power is usually higher than the human's at the beginning (increasingly higher on a higher difficulty). Let's draw a simple graph to make the concept more easily understood.
Veterans of strategy games should be familiar with the feeling that "only the beginning of the campaign is interesting, then it is just a test of patience". Indeed, once the human player's power surpass that of the AI opposition (Victory Certainty), there is not much challenge left. Furthermore, when the human player expands further, the AIs due to their stupidity usually do not expand as fast. So they will have a slower growth of powers, and eventually the human grows so powerful that the opposition crumbles rapidly.
What really sets STW2 apart from other strategy games is a very dramatic mechanics to turn up the challenge, the Realm Divide (RD). The RD naturally has received a lot of criticism from legions of frustrated players who are slaughtered by the AIs.
What happens in STW2 is that when the human player's province reaches a certain point, the Realm Divide is triggered, and very quickly all of the AI factions will stop fighting each other, but rather unite to oppose the human player. The power of the AI opposition increases dramatically after the Realm Divide, until the rest of Japan has all aligned against the human player (maximum challenge).
An extraordinary human player might be able to manage to expand further even under overwhelming odds. Eventually, the AIs' alliance against human is defeated and rapidly crumble. But the vast majority of human players cannot manage to overcome the huge power difference between the AI opposition and themselves. They cannot expand any further, and their campaign is stuck. Failed. Owned.
Note: There is actually a second point where the AI opposition's power is significantly higher than the human's - the very beginning. Fortunately, STW2 is friendly enough that it does not give each AI one full stack at the beginning of the game even at legendary mode.
Fortunately, there is a very easy way to work around Realm Divide, as has been pointed out by various guides and stories.
For a conventional strategy game, there is more or less a linear relationship between the human player's number of provinces and turn number. In many games, there is an exponential relationship - the border of the kingdom grows longer and the expansion accelerates. But Japan is mostly linear that we can pretend the expansion will be quite linear.
To combat realm divide, we can revise our expansion strategy. We will purposely hold off our expansion just before we hit the point of Realm Divide. The exact timing of the pause is very easily decided - just watch our yellow fame bar and stops expansion right before it fills up. We will use this waiting period to seriously strengthen our economy and then upgrade our army. After our power receives a significant boost, we comfortably trigger the RD and steamroll the AIs even if they are all against us.
This is what the power vs. # of province graph looks like with the revised strategy. Just before RD, the human player receives a large boost of power because we know the game better than they do. The AI opposition tries to match up after RD, but the human uses its superior power to suppress the AIs. Even if the rest of Japan all unite against the human player, the human is still a little more powerful. Quickly, the AI reaches the breaking point and the human wins another sweeping victory.
The above concept is probably nothing new to you. So where does logistics come into play?
The answer is that we need to find out the optimal waiting period in order to win the game as early as possible with your style. If we wait for too little, our power will not be enough to fully suppress the AI after Realm Divide, so we will expand rather slowly. If we wait for too long, sure we will overkill the AIs, but we have wasted too much time waiting.
The optimal waiting period is integrated with the consideration of all previous sections - the logistics of army, buildings, and research. Ideally, by the time that we are ready to trigger Realm Divide, our invincible armies are ready, our bank account is full and our income is ever growing, and we have researched every essential tech on the list. Most of this is gaming experience and learning from past mistakes.
Here are two graphs that I made from an actual campaign recently.
The first one is about incomes vs. number of provinces. You can see the "power boost" during the waiting period at 22 provinces.
The second picture is about number of province vs. turn number. The waiting period is between turn 54 and 78.
Concluding notes: Other than personal styles, the game's difficulty is affected by many factors: choice of clan (I have read people beating legendary Oda in 7.5 hours only by auto-resolve), game versions (subsequent patches often fix exploits and "overpowered" aspects), and random factors such as agents' mission outcome, retainers, AI's aggressiveness against the human player, and events. I think we should care less about playing the game as efficiently as possible (and never care at all whether we finish the game earlier than another person), but to find fun from exploring unfamiliar elements. When we gained more knowledge from our explorations, we can naturally make better decisions. If we make each of our thousands of decisions in a campaign based on deep knowledge, careful reasoning, and sound judgement, we have truly mastered the game, and we probably have played our style as efficiently as we can.
Thanks for reading the guide and I hope it helped!
The point of the tactic without preparing for realm divide is to defeat the neighbors before they can react. So it gives you some turns before you could get problems. If you conquered the center of japan before realm divide, you can get about 10 further provinces before the other attack you -> more stacks for you, less stacks may attack -> no problems.
btw, I tryed one time to win as fast as possible on legendary with my tactics. I took the 65th province in turn 61. (without loading old saves for optimize anything)
I'm not good on writing storys.
I think it's interessting how different we play. While you play quite inflexible and well organized, I play very flexible and reckless.
My typical logistic for reinforcments is: the nearest provinces recruit, thats all. I rarely upgrade something else then farms and mines and I rarely research C#8. I typically use only yari ashigaru. They are the efficientest unit and they make my armys flexible. My armys typically consists of 1-5 Stacks, my main-army of 1-3 Stacks. I use 2-3 armys. When units of my mainstacks got weakened to much(or got extinguished, which is normal for me), I simply exchange them. Thats why I prefer to research B#10.
edit: Normaly I split my armys for faster conquering and sometimes one stack joins another army(when they go to far for a job).