Part 3: Update 1 (Spring 1175 - Winter 1175)The crane awakens...
Spring of 1175
Kiyomori knew that the key to Japan was wealth and ordered dispatches sent to both his vassals, Sakasi and Watanabe, ordering that their gates be opened to his merchants. A humble beginning to a trade empire, the journey is composed of a thousand steps. The Ishikawa were a noble, if small, clan located to the south of Settsu and graciously accepted the offer of trade between the clans. If it was fear or simply a desire for wealth, he could not say.
We have a strong economic position, but we are going to be hard pressed to maintain troop production and upkeep while expanding without finding additional sources of income. Although we have no special resources to trade, we can still levy tariffs on simple goods traded between clans in order to procure some additional koku. Not only does this increase our income, but it also improves relations with the clans that we have no immediate plans to annex. Although Total War games get a lot of flak for being a bit obtuse with respect to how diplomacy works, the big thing to remember to avoid the "death spiral" is that the computer likes to dogpile and once you get a certain number of enemies it can be tricky to dig yourself out. Aggressive troop production early on and short wars mean you can keep most people onside until you can handle the extra pressure. The biggest mistake people make is going for elite troops right off the bat, you want a lot of chaff for many reasons, diplomacy is one of them.
"With the additional tariffs from our new trade routes, we can support growth and military production faster than ever before."
As you can see, we have gained an additional 226 koku a turn, enough to support the upkeep of an additional 6 Naginata Levy units without impacting our cashflow. That's the difference between a war being a blitzkreig or you army being badly damaged. It can also be used to protect more vunerable borders to stop the AI becoming so opportunistic and it helps diplomatically as the computer sees you as a stong opponent not to be trifled with. A big mistake new players make is to either focus too heavily on economy and being a soft target or to buy too many units and cripple their growth. Trade is essential to balancing these, but you should never have more army upkeep than tax income.
Remembering well his fathers words "Kyoto is the soul of Japan, defend it with such ferocity that ten thousand men will not take it", Munemori orders his forces to secure the town and sends for his administrators.
"Tell the guard captain I want men. Levy what peasants you need, we will carry the cost. Treat them well."
We need an invasion force to prosecute our planned war against our northern neighbours. The area surrounding Kyoto is well defended and a vassal covers most of it. The army is withdrawn to the town to act as a defensive force while troops are raised in sufficient numbers.
These two words were all that was on the message to Tomomori from his father. Ordering his men to return to Kii and man the walls, he rode north at full speed wondering if he would finally get his chance to lead the clan to glory.
Kii is a fairly secure area and has no need for a general to languish watching rice grow. Tomomori is moved north towards Settsu with the plan of collecting the additional troops and taking them to Kyoto. As most of our forces are Levy at this point, we really need the additional general for the extra aura, otherwise our flanks would be dangerously fragile.
"Old friend, to the north are clans that were once loyal to the Taira. Find them and convince them to raise our banner, their renewed loyalty will be richly rewarded" spoke Kiyomori.
"Your will be done, my Lord" replied Mitsukazu, as proper as ever. "All will know of the glory of the Taira."
Mitsukazu is an junsatsushi, the first type of agent we have run across in this game, having started with one. Agents are special characters that perform unique actions and are produced from their associated building chain. You can only have as many agents as you have provinces with their building chain (up to a maximum of 5). Junsatsushi are the secret police of a clan, acting as both negotiators and counter-intelligence.
Junsatsushi can perform the following actions:
Oversee forces - Placed in an army, the agent increases the loyalty of the generals and reduces the liklihood of enemy agents making successful actions.
Oversee town - By preventing corruption and improving tax collection, the agent increases the base tax rate by 5% per level. Enemy agent actions against the town are less likely to succeed.
Apprehend Agent - Bringing an enemy agent into custody and trial to remove them from the game. Can remove them for a set number of turns or permanently depending on the level of success.
Request Allegiance - Through diplomacy, bribery and outright threats, a province that has more than 50% support for the clan can be taken, along with the garrison. This is an act of war. Provinces with an enemy Daimyo can not be taken in this way unless it is their last province.
In addition, whichever province the Junsatsushi is in will change allegiance towards the agent's clan. Rigging elections, cronyism and propoganda are their trade.
Mitsukazu rode north, his greying hair ruffled by the breeze. Years of loyal service to Kiyomori and the clan had honed his wits to a razor edge. The diplomat's diplomat, in all his years there was never a problem he couldn't talk his way out of. Not as fast as a younger man, his sword arm was still sufficient to defend himself against bandits, if need be.
This is the character card for our junsatsushi, Mitsukazu. In the top left we have the vital statistics of our agent, he is 46 years old and rank one, the lowest rank. To the right of that we can see his XP bar and skill tree button. He has no skill points to spend and has currently got no experience. Exerience is gained for completing or failing missions. Completing risky missions gives you the most, 15 xp. Failing a mission gives you 3xp and a safe mission (overseeing towns/armies) gives 3xp per turn. Any unique skills or traits he has gathered throughout the game are shown in the middle left section. The middle right section gives a breakdown of all modifiers to the character and shows actions that the agent is considered a higher (or lower!) level at. The bottom level shows any retainers that the character has picked up in their travels.
"The Daimyo commands raising two regiments of attendants" barked the garrison commander to the recruits. "You are a sorry lot, but we will make you worth that armour yet!"
Levy alone won't win us many battles, we need a core of more reliable troops. Naginata Attendants are the best we can muster and do a reasonable job of being an early game core. Settsu is our military province and is currently the only place where we can raise non-levy troops.
Recruitment : Each province gains a recruitment slot from it's Tadokoro. In addition, the capital of a clan gets a bonus slot, for us, this is Settsu. If you want more recruitment slots, you must upgrade the Tadokoro to the Mustering building chain. Land slots and Navy slots are different.
Summer of 1175
"The young junsatsushi believe that glory, honour and victory are found only on the battlefield" mused Mitsukazu on the long ride north. "I will show them that inspired words have more power than a thousand swords!"
Missions are a combination of random and scripted events which help give narrative and shape to the game. The early turns tend to have a few scripted missions that are designed to introduce the new player to some styles of play and to give guidance. These missions, like this one, are designed to help you and are rarely timed. Often the rewards are supercharging whatever mechanic is being introduced to make you play with it some more. In this case, the mechanic that is being introduced is the ability of junsatsushi to convert provinces to your cause. It's an extremely powerful ability and I plan to use it a lot!
The new archers stood at attention or at least as close as they could manage.
Munemori sighed. "We go to war with this? They have the best bows and clothes, yet not one man in thirty can hit a target!"
This is our recruitment summary. Since we only have recruited a single unit this turn, it gives us the unit description. In turns where we are recruiting multiple units, we will just get the unit type/name and location. This turn we recruited Bow Levy in Kyoto. Just in case you are wondering if Munemori is being a bit melodramatic, if anything, he's being an optomist. These guys are terrible, but right now we need quantity.
"The diplomats from the Kusunoki and Koide have arrived my lord" the attendant announced.
Gesturing to the man, Kiyomori stood up from his chair. "I will see them now, we have much to discuss."
We have found two new clans on the map! The Kusunoki and Koide are located to the north and will be our neighbours when we take Tamba. Once we have met a clan, we can always conduct diplomatic measures with them. Currently I don't plan to get too friendly, since I may expand in that direction and I don't want the diplomatic hit for breaking diplomatic agreements.
"Father!" exclaimed Tomomori, embracing the old man. "I came as soon as I could. What news?"
"It's good to see you too, son. We have a lot more troops to manage, I want to show you some tricks" Kiyomori smiled.
Moving our Commissioner for War into Settsu in readiness for the troops to be ferried to Kyoto and also giving an old man a chance to see his son.
Autumn of 1175
Reading the reports of troop numbers from his quartermaster, Kiyomori allowed himself a small sigh of relief. These loyal men would keep his family and the clan safe. Expecting no more of the men than he was willing to give, he promised himself he would ensure their families were kept safe, just as those men kept his.
Our army production is starting to pay off, we produced three units this turn. A Bow Levy was raised in Kyoto and two Naginata Attendants were raised in Settsu. Our consolidated force is enough to fend off all early game attacks and is in a good position to make strikes if the situation calls for it.
"Tomomori, I want you to take this message to your brother in Kyoto. The good captain and his men will accompany you." spoke Kiyomori. "I'm proud of both of you, tell him that."
Dispatching our troops and Tomomori to Kyoto to consolidate our armies, we have substantial force projection in the area. Our army is a little small for invading and it's the wrong time for it, with the next month being winter.
As he approached Wakasa, Mitsukazu wondered what method would be best for completing his mission. The glorious Taira emblem upon his clothes brought him respect and safe passage on his approach to the city, the Taira were well loved here.
This is one of the actions a junsatsushi can perform. For a modest amount of gold (which increases at a ludicrous rate based on the garrison size) a junsatsushi can attempt to gain control of a province peacefully, gaining you the province with no (or little) blood shed. Failure can get expensive fast, although you can manage to convince a portion of the garrison even if you fail.
"The Ochi are a noble clan, we don't need the protection of the Taira" declared the daimyo, Ochi Nomokara.
"None doubt your honour" replied Mitsukazu "but your family has Taira blood, the Fujiwara and Minamoto would see you ruined."
"That may be" countered Nomokara "but we will face them head on".
Out junsatsushi was unable to secure the province for us this turn. While not as expensive as if the mission was completed, you still have to pay for failed actions, usually 25% of the cost of the mission for a total failure. As the chance of success is based on Taira support in the province and our junsatsushi increases support for each turn he is present, our next shot will give us a better chance at securing our objective.
Winter of 1175
Left to ponder the maxim "Without peasants, what use fields? Without fields, what use peasants?", the administrator of Kii saw his plan of expanded farming and agriculture completed. Pondering the same maxim, the administrator of Kyoto constructed a vast marketplace to facilitate commerce and employment.
The construction of our new Barter Exchange and Dry Field Agriculture helps increase the wealth that our additional troops have been consuming in upkeep. The additional food will serve a dual purpose of being a cost effective wealth multiplier and also enabling better castles and bigger towns. The Barter Exchange provides the additional growth to Kyoto that will pay for itself many times over during the course of the game.
In game encyclopaedia - Barter Exchange posted:
A barter exchange allows farmers, fishermen, traders, indeed anyone, to swap goods they produce for other items they need. It improves the wealth of a province because people can specialise and become experts if they can swap their surplus for someone else's surplus. If, for example, a farmer can barter he can spend all his time farming, rather than wasting time trying to be an indifferent weaver.
Barter is probably the oldest and most universal form of trade in the world. Anyone can understand the simple idea of swapping one thing, or pile of things, for another. Anyone with a surplus of something can become "richer" by trading that surplus away for other goods: his new possessions are his for less overall effort than if he had made them himself. It is, however, quite difficult to calculate fractional values for goods, or to organise complicated swaps involving more than a couple of goods or traders. Trade in kind is a very simple "spot market", and really rather hard to tax in a practical way. Is a tax of a bag of grain the same as taking a goat, a chicken or a bullock? And where does the taxman keep all these chickens and rice bags he has taxed?
The first building of both the Market chain and the Granary chain, this building provides both a reasonable wealth boost (worth around 50 koku a turn at 25% effective tax) and a solid growth boost (an extra koku a turn tax growth at at 25% effective tax). In addition, it is the building chain for junsatsushis enabling an extra one allowed for every province with a Barter Exchange in it. Few buildings provide such effective all round economic benefits for such a low price (Remember junsatsushis can oversee a town for a bonus 5% to base tax for each star).
"Look at the men!" crowed Tomomori. "Their spirits shine and their foes tremble!"
"Yet still not one in thirty can hit a target" Munemori observed.
"Bah!" spat Tomomori "when the enemy comes, we shall tear them limb from limb like oni!"
The bulk recruitment of levy continues in earnest, adding mass to our forces while keeping costs under control to ensure our economic engine is given the time it needs to fire up. Levy are very useful for this purpose, as they cost little to recruit or maintain. Right now numbers are the key to victory and you need to act fast to keep up with the AI at times. Levy are also easy to replace losses and as such are useful for taking arrows or charges intended for more veteran or elite troops.
"My lord, a great samurai has pledged his allegiance to you" the advisor informed Kiyomori. "His only wish is that he be allowed to found a school to teach what he has learned"
Bushi gives us the second level of the Bushi tree, which would enable us to build Foot Samurai. These units will be covered when we see them deployed in earnest.
In game encyclopaedia - Bushi posted:
Victor and vanquished:
Both little more than autumn dew,
On the leaf of time.
To be a samurai is a position of honour, but long years spent learning all there is to know about being a samurai show even greater worth.
"There is no shame in doing what you must for our children" pleaded Nomokara's wife. "Kiyomori is an honourable man, he can ensure our safety and position"
"I would cut out my heart if you willed it" responded the Ochi daimyo, his face gentle. "I'll send a runner to Kiyomori in the morning"
Sitting in the darkened room next door, Mitsukazu smiled to himself. His lord would be pleased.
We have just gained the allegiance of a new province! While it will take a full 12 turns for the province to pay for itself (given the garrison we need, it will be revenue neutral at best for the moment), it is in a solid strategic position and provides access to a port. Given Settsu is penned for a Military Port, this will serve as an ideal location for a civic Harbour when other needs are met.
"A town of little wealth, Wakasa sits in a strategic location and provides access to coastal trade."
Containing a Town, Tadokoro, Fields (Meagre), Trails and Coastal Village, Wakasa is worth a pitiful amount. It is, however, critical access to the northern seas of Japan, as well as a key chokepoint in the event of incursions from the east.
"The Ochi have sworn allegiance to the Fukuhara Taira, welcomed as brothers. The Ochi mon flies no more."
A minor clan has been eliminated! The first of many to be consumed in the civil war.
"Throughout Japan, peasants speak in hushed tones about the rise of the Fukuhara Taira. It seems providence favours the bold, but how long can it last?"
As we gain in size, our fame throughout Japan increases. This is the first indicataion that our ascendancy has been noted. While this has no impact until the final level of fame, it's nice to know how close you are to the Emperor considering you a threat.
As he left Wakasa, Mitsukazu threw his head to the sky and laughed. Oh, the game of words made him feel like a young man! He had fought, and won. The weapons were words, not steel, but the battle decided the fate of thousands. He knew the court would be bubbling with tales to set the heart aflame!
We have completed our first mission! It was fairly easy, being a tutorial style mission, but the benefits will not be wasted.
All around the court, there was whispers of Mitsukazu's great feats of convincing a lord to swear fealty without a single death. Although none pay much heed to the stories saying he stopped an assassin with words alone, all want to wield this weapon crafted of words with the finesse he does.
With the mission completed, we have gained a substantial bonus to the success rate of our junsatsushi. Although we won't be able to get a second agent out in time to take advantage, this boost means we are likely able to sieze and extra two or three provinces with words alone.
"I had forgotten what a true battle of wits was like" Mitsukazu thought to himself. "I was rusty, but my thoughts will be as swift as an arrow"
Our agent has gained enough experience to gain a rank. He is now more resistant to hostile actions and is more likely to perform his task. In addition, his risk of death or misfortune is reduced.
This is the agent screen when you have ranked up. You will notice that the arrow icon on the top right has the number 2 on it, indicating that he has 2 points left to spend on his skills tree. In addition, you will notice that the first retainer slot has a + icon on it. This means that he can choose from one of two retainers that give various abilities. These two retainers are chosen at random. An agent gets a retainer at level 2, 4 and 6.
This is the skill tree for the junsatsushi. Every agent type has their own skill tree. You can only put points in the row that is equal or below your current rank, as demonstrated by the key to the left. Like most of the choices in the game, the junsatsushis tree has two focuses. The left side focuses on killing rival agents and overseeing armies, while the right hand side focuses on gaining support, requesting allegiance and overseeing towns. This early on, there are many provinces that we can convert and the ability to generate extra cash is always handy. There are also few enemy agents to counter, besides, Mitsukazu is a diplomat, not a thief taker!
The Vindicator ability increases (by a respectable amount!) the conversion speed of provinces the agent is in, as well as giving a slight boost to the success chance of requesting allegiance.
Coming across a group of peasants, one of them waves Mitsukazu down. "Word of your loyal heart and wise tongue has spread fast my lord" the peasant announces. "It is the heart of which we beg. I have a fine dog, but winter is cruel and I have no wish to put down so loyal a friend. Will you care for him?"
"Of course" Mitsukazu replied "The Taira care for all who are under their protection."
With the Vindicator Ability and his newfound Dog companion, Mitsukazu converts provinces at a significantly faster rate and has a much higher chance of gaining allegiance. I'm unlikely to be able to afford everything he will enable me to buy, but every tool is useful.
With the arrival of the reinforcements from Settsu, Munemori pondered his father's orders.
"When the snow melts, take your brother and sieze Tamba. The province is critical to our long term survival."
It would be a long winter.
Sneak Peak: The army marches...