Saturday, September 24, 2011
Author Tadashi Ehara has a long history in the gaming industry, having been involved with Chaosium Publications and their primary line “The Call of Cthulhu” as well as being the publisher of “Different Worlds” magazine. Being born in Sapporo, Japan, Tadashi developed an interest in the history of his homeland that came to the forefront when he was gifted with a copy of E. Papinot’s classic “Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan” in the 1980’s. It formed the basis for “Daimyo of 1867”, and while still an inspiration for “Shogun & Daimyo”, Tadashi told the SA that he incorporated much more from other sources for the new book.
Ehara is frank in his admission that “this is not a scholarly piece of work”. Despite this, Shogun & Daimyo’s main sources are for the most part pretty impressive and standard college level texts. Some of them include William Deal’s “Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan”, Papinot’s “Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan”, Edwin Reischauer’s “Japan: The Story of a Nation”, Kenneth Grossberg’s “Japan’s Renaissance”, John Whitney Hall’s “Japan Before Tokugawa”, and other works by Paul Varley, Hiroaki Sato, and Conrad Totman among others. The Samurai Archives is also listed as a source (so it MUST be accurate, eh?). The book is generally laid out three columns to the page and contains hundreds of illustrations, photos, prints, family trees, and crests. It’s a nice looking trade paperback and weighs in at over 335 pages. While it might not be suitable for, say, writing a college dissertation on “Rice Weighing Methods of the Merchants of Sakai During the 11th Month of Bunroku 2” or even “Why Kiyomori Wasn’ t A Daimyo Even Though The Heike Monogatari Calls Him One” ;), you won’t find a better sourcebook for gamers (whether of the RPG variety or historical variety), authors, or amateur historians.
The book’s first section gives some background information such as how to pronounce Japanese kana and also details how certain things will be represented in the book-for example, the Japanese calendar and the order of Japanese names. It’s followed up by a timeline extending over several pages that gives a short history of the different eras from about 35000 BC to 1868. After that is an examination of the governmental systems employed by the Imperial Court, the Kamakura Shogunate, the Muromachi Shogunate, and the Tokugawa Shogunate. The organizational charts and explanations of offices for each will make this section alone a great reason to pick up the book. If you’ve ever wondered how the sometimes bewildering mishmash of offices, titles, and positions relate to each other, this will lay it all out in black and white.
After that comes biographies of the different men who held the office of “Shogun” under the Minamoto, Ashikaga, and Tokugawa. There are also bios given for the Hojo Shikken (regents) who took over from the Minamoto, along with the puppet Shoguns from the Fujiwara and Imperial Family (yes, strange as it seems, Imperial Princes actually served as Shogun at one point). Family trees for the Hojo, Ashikaga, and Tokuagawa are included. Going through this section will give the reader an excellent overview of the flow of Japanese history during the majority of the samurai era.
Following that is the real meat and potatoes of the book-a listing of over 170 daimyo clans with the clan mon, biographies of well-known family members, descriptions of their holdings, and the occasional family tree. It’s lavishly illustrated and a gold mine of information on the more notable figures of the samurai era. The entries are broken up into eras with each of the clans being listed in the era it ceased to be a player. While this is a bit confusing at first, it’s rescued by an excellent dual purpose index sorted into clans and individuals. The index also lists (in italics) all of the corresponding entries in the earlier volume “Daimyo of 1867”, so you can quickly find virtually any samurai of import with little trouble. Some of the entries further split clans into different branches-for example, the Saga-Genji, Daigo-Genji, Murakami-Genji, Uda-Genji, and Seiwa-Genji branches of the Minamoto. Some of the biographies are quite extensive, running a page or more. As with “Daimyo of 1867”, there will be many names familiar to readers but a lot of surprises as well. These entries take up roughly 200 pages on their own.
Next is a short section specifically aimed at gamers. There’s a listing of over 100 chanbara films with short recaps of each, along with how to incorporate the character types into game campaigns. It’s followed by a kanji primer where the more common kanji are laid out for use in a game setting. Suggestions for campaigns follows this, and after that another great historical resource-a gazetteer of the major roads of Japan during the Edo period. It covers the “Gokaido” (the five major roads of Japan) and supplies maps, entries for the various way stations along with ‘tourist attractions’ for each, and a general history of how the roads were set up and utilized by the populace. This would no doubt be of great help to any RPG campaign set in the Edo period, but also to those just looking for information on the day to day life of the Edo period.
Filling the book out is a random clan mon generator, a section that explains the Goshichido (the traditional regions of Japan), a modern prefecture to traditional province converter, a listing of other traditional regional names, and an extensive glossary of Japanese terms (many of which even we had never heard of). Want to know what a rensho was? How about a ryokoken or ryoshitsuji? They’re actually all the same thing-an associate regent for the Hojo Shikken that sealed the documents of the Bakufu. The answers to the mysteries of the Bunei No Eki, Udaiben, Kakitsu No Hen, Kumonjo, Fushibugyo, and Chinjufu Shogun can all be solved here as well.
Since some of the book’s sources are older, occasionally the information is a bit outdated or conflicting. For example, Kira Yoshihisa (he of “47 Ronin” fame) is given the older rendering of Kira Yoshinaka. It’s mentioned that three of Minamoto Yoshtiomo’s sons were spared by the Taira in the aftermath of the Heiji Incident-actually, it was six. Minamoto Yoritomo on page 104 is claimed to have been in the custody of Minamoto Yoshitsune’s mother, Tokiwa Gozen, when he was spared (he had actually been captured by Taira forces while fleeing with his father eastward-this entry also implies he was Tokiwa’s son, but Yoritomo’s correct mother is given in his earlier biographical entry). As you can see, these types of outdated information tend to be very minor and not nearly as bad as what’s seen in a typical Stephen Turnbull book.
An occasional outright error finds its way into the text-for example, the synopsis for the film “13 Assassins” actually describes the film “Ninjutsu Gozenjiai/Torawakamaru” (which doesn’t appear in the listings). At least two pages in the index are reversed so they don’t run in alphabetical order. And the dangers of using Wikipedia as a source come to full light in the entry for the Chiba family when it’s stated that “…the clan controlled…an area called Soma, which included the Grand Shrine of Ise”. While the scions of the Chiba would be pleased as punch to lay claim to the Grand Shrine, it is indeed in Ise, and not in the Chiba’s historical holdings in eastern Japan. What actually happened was that the Chiba commended their holdings (in effect, putting them under the Shrine’s sponsorship and protection in exchange for part of the revenue) in Soma to the Ise Grand Shrine to avoid taxation and protect their claim to Soma-this was a very common practice, particularly before the Kamakura Shogunate came along. Whoever wrote that up for Wikipedia totally botched the entry from George Sansom’s “History of Japan” that he based it on. Anyway, the point of this extended aside is not to denigrate the book, but rather to point out that you should NEVER NEVER NEVER use English language Wikipedia as a source. Check out the entry for Nagashino if you don’t believe us. It’s brutal. Anyway…
…as a whole, “Shogun and Daimyo” proves to be an invaluable source for both gamers and historians, particularly when paired with its earlier companion volume “Daimyo of 1867”. As a quick reference work for dates, clans, holdings, and historical figures, it will save much frustrating rooting around in multiple sources. We use “Daimyo of 1867” on a regular basis and it appears the new book will get an even heavier workload. It’s a winning book about the losers of the samurai class. You can pick up “Shogun & Daimyo” on Amazon through the SA Store HERE or directly from Different Worlds Publications. There’s also a special price on the Different Worlds site when picking up the new book along with the original Shogun & Daimyo.
From a historical standpoint, Sengoku emerges as one of the best sims to date. The setup accurately portrays the situation at the beginning of the Onin War, with over 350 small provinces (called ‘kori’) up for grabs. Clan layouts and holdings are accurate and most of the starting characters are taken straight from history. As with any game of this scale, playability tradeoffs had to be made-for example, the highly localized nature of the main Hosokawa-Yamana conflict in Kyoto was difficult to recreate, but clan affiliations and conflicts are historical. Armies in the game don’t have a plethora of goofy and exotic unit types. Rather, they stick to what was actually used-ashigaru footsoldier units and mounted samurai with their foot retainers (both being supported with archers). Having armies comprised of both levies (raised on a regional basis as needed) and personal retinues (a leader’s personal standing army that follows him around) also resonates with history, allowing a clan to greatly increase the size and utility of their troops as their powerbase, economy, and wealth increase. Ninja are rare, difficult and dangerous to employ, have realistic missions, and supplement rather than unbalance the game mechanics. The influence of foreign powers and Christianity is relegated to its proper timeframe, and the advantage of the gunpowder weapons they introduced is more pronounced than in some other games.
Most of the historical glitches tend to be very minor and bordering on minutiae- for example, the majority of the hairstyles given to female characters come from the later Edo period. Clan flags often have incorrect color schemes, but this actually works better from a gameplay standpoint as it makes factions easier to differentiate (not to mention many of the color schemes have been lost to history). Players can have four wives instead of the one legal wife that would be appropriate (so just assume that the other three are concubines-if it’s Hideyoshi, he should be allowed to have a hundred or more!). And having a ‘Geisha House’ is an anachronism, as Geisha didn’t show their painted faces until the 18th century. It does, however, sound better than ‘Whorehouse’. None of these has any impact on gameplay whatsoever, so they’re largely non-issues. The only serious historical issue we had with Sengoku was its treatment of religion. For most of Japanese history, Buddhism and ‘Shinto’ have coexisted peacefully and hand in hand. Most Buddhist temples have Shinto shrines on their grounds, Shinto deities also have incarnations as Buddhist Bodhisattvas, etc. The game, however, splits them (much as the Meiji government forcibly did in the late 1800’s) and makes a player choose between one or the other for each of their holdings. In an interview with designer Chris King, he told the SA that it was done to highlight the power of the various Buddhist warrior monk groups. We feel that the game would have been better served to have instead split the Buddhist element into different schools (Shingon/Tendai, Jodo Shinshu/Ikko-ikki, and the violent and exclusionist Nichiren school), but this would have brought a new set of problems into play. At any rate, the Shinto/Buddhist split doesn’t seem to be an issue with the playerbase. From an overall historical standpoint, Sengoku is perhaps the most accurate game to date that deals with the samurai era.
The gameplay succeeds every bit as well. Graphics are attractive and there’s a sortable map display for pretty much anything a player might need-by terrain, clan, personal holdings, kuni, diplomacy, relations, factions, and revolt risk. The interface is deep and takes some getting used to-it’s very easy to get lost and have a hard time returning to your start point. Still, any information you might find a use for is readily available. The game plays out in daily turns, but can be sped up or slowed down substantially as needed-most players find it useful to slow down the default speed, as the game moves along smoothly and quickly. Music conveys the mood well and the loading screen artwork is nicely done.
Sengoku is intended as a mid-level Paradox game and is more basic than many of their more complex entries (and more inexpensive), making it a good introduction to the world of serious strategy simulations for new players. It’s also a more straightforward game with a clearly defined goal-take at least 50% of Japan, claim the title of Shogun, and maintain your holdings for 3 years. While things might be overwhelming at first for new players, just playing a few turns of a trial game will have you comfortable with plotting the deaths of enemies and grabbing their territory in no time.
Unlike many games, your character is limited in the amount of territory he can govern-this is called his demense and is usually limited to about five provinces. Trying to govern more than this will outstrip your capacity to effectively govern and result in unrest among the people, leading to potential uprisings. This game mechanic actually works to the player’s advantage-it gives you territory and titles to gift your vassals with, strengthening your relationship with them and reducing the amount of micromanaging. The vassals in turn will develop their lands with buildings, improved castles, and guilds at no cost to yourself. Economics and province development also tend to be very basic, limited to assigning your court ministers to develop buildings that add to an area’s tax base and allow for larger retinues, strengthen castles, or establish guilds that add specific benefits. Again, this is a welcome break from number crunching and micromanaging, allowing players to concentrate on the character interaction that determines the course of the game.
The core of the gameplay is the vassal and diplomacy system. As with all the best games, it’s easy to learn but very difficult to master. Keeping an eye on potential enemies means keeping an eye on EVERYONE-even your most trusted retainers. You can’t win the game without military conquests, but that takes a substantial amount of income, honor, and time invested in plotting. However, plotting and declarations of war can result in a large loss of honor, which in turn leads to your vassals having a lower opinion of you. It’s a constant juggling act between working on keeping your power base secure and expansion. Adding to this is the need to ensure that you have produced a suitable heir (or optimally several of them) and that he’ll have the backing necessary to take command of the clan upon your character’s demise. Marry early and often, and do the same with your heirs! It’s an often overlooked aspect that can kill off a promising game in a hurry. It’s also very easy to end up intermarrying and weakening the genetic pool of your family if you’re not careful. This will result in congenital birth defects that drive down the stats of your characters, making things even harder.
And while your vassals might be happy, your people may not, leading to rebellions that can disrupt the best laid plans. If you’re really unlucky, you might even be the target of a massive Ikko-ikki uprising that could take years or even decades to eradicate. The warlords of Sengoku Japan had a multitude of threats and problems facing them, and the game pretty much throws them all in your path. If something can go wrong-expect it to do so. Never get complacent. Never stop watching your neighbors or vassals. Even the most powerful positions are only a Honno-ji away from failing miserably. And then there’s that damn foreign religion and their powerful weapons lurking in the future…
Developing plots can range from conspiring from within to overthrow a clan leader or working with neighboring clans to attack a common enemy. Plots can take years to come to fruition, and there’s always the danger of being discovered. They’re the most challenging aspect of gameplay to master, but essential to success (especially when playing as a kokujin or daimyo as opposed to a clan leader).
Military matters are handled in a pretty straightforward way that doesn’t involve trickery, battlefield genius (no real-time battles here), or involved use of terrain. Usually the side that has “the fustest and mostest” is going to come out on top. It’s more important for players to weigh the benefits of raising a levy and sending it off to attack or holding it back for defense in the event of a siege. Wise use of the standing retinue army combined with sticking to areas with advantageous terrain (and hoping the game chooses to use them during a battle) and using ‘chokepoint provinces’ (which will be available after the upcoming patch) can help out as well. The mix of units can also be important-samurai mounted horseman are more powerful than ashigaru, but are worthless when directly assaulting a castle. And again, keeping relations strong with your vassals is important as they’re far more likely to come to your aid with their retinue (which you don’t directly control) if your bonds are tight.
Early player complaints have been of the minor variety with a common issue being a lack of scripted events to add flavor to the proceedings (something which Paradox is working on for the next patch). The lack of attention given by the game to important diplomatic messages and other vital notices is also a shortcoming that’s been addressed. Still, the game is largely bug-free and seems to work well on most computers. We haven’t taken the opportunity to explore the multiplayer mode, but if you (and up to 31 friends!) would like to give it a try, it opens up a whole new human element. Find out who’s a real friend and who’s a treacherous self-serving bastard as you make and break alliances to combat the AI! You can do this either with a LAN setup, directly through the internet, or facilitated by Paradox’s ‘matchmaking’ metaserver. If the game is eventually released in Japanese language, we’ll be setting it up for a LAN campaign for our father-in-law’s samurai re-enactment group, but we’d be interested in hearing how someone’s multiplayer campaign has went.
Game balance is largely up to the player. There are five difficulty settings ranging from Very Easy to Very Hard. Each playable character is also rated for difficulty based on their holdings, troops, and starting position. Obviously, it’s going to be easier to win with a large clan with few or no enemies that’s in a strong starting position (such as being tucked away in a corner of Japan or on an island). It’s much more difficult to rise from a lowly kokujin, establish your own clan or overthrow the original one, and conquer Japan. Still, we managed to take the Chiba to the top of the rice pile and win the game even though they were a kokujin and faced with being at war with the powerful Uesugi clan. Yeah, it took a few restarts, some amazing luck in the early game with the Uesugi being fractured by internal conflicts, and some daring diplomacy. If you’re going to play as a kokujin, you’ll have to be very familiar with the game system and how plots work, and be VERY lucky. But it can be done!
One of Sengoku's strongest points is that like most Paradox games, it's a work in progress. The development team has been keeping close tabs on player reactions, likes, and dislikes. Many of these suggestions (like extending the short lifespan of characters and not wiping out unfinished construction products done by characters that die) have been incorporated into an upcoming patch which will also address the few bugs that made it into the finished game. Since the game is put together with mods in mind, the player community has wasted no time in putting together a number of interesting mods that are available to anyone who registers their game on the Sengoku forum at Paradox Interactive. Already available are mods that add building options, split some of the powerful clans into branch families, add education events, make mountain ranges truly impassable, and a fantasy scenario extending into the 1800's that shatters Japan into a state where each of its kori is independent. Perhaps the most impressive mod is '1551', where a classic 'Nobunaga no Yabou' type scenario complete with historical daimyo is set up for those who enjoy playing out the late Sengoku. Basic modding can be done by even inexperienced players, with more advanced concepts being not much harder. Without much effort we were able to change the Chiba's battle flag to its historical colors, change some character names to historical names, and boost a few stats. Between the continuing efforts of the development team and the player base, the possibilities for Sengoku are limited only by the imagination.
From both an historical and gameplay standpoint, Sengoku is an unqualified success. Players will come away with a better understanding of why things played out as they did, and an appreciation for just how difficult it was for the warlords of the era to create stability from chaos. Unlike most games where a powerful military can simply steamroll the competition, diplomacy-both internal and external-is every bit as important as martial might, and usually more so. The balancing act of rewarding one’s own vassals, watching them like hawks for treachery, developing holdings, plotting with other leaders, and conducting military campaigns means that even a strong late game position can collapse in the blink of an eye. It also means that there is always hope for those in a weak position if they excel at intrigue and keep their eyes and ears open. The option to play as a lowly kokujin holding a single kori to a powerful clan leader with dozens of vassals and provinces introduces extra levels of difficulty. From start to finish it’s an effort that faithfully reflects the Warring States era of Japan, challenging the player without having to resort to artificial stat boosts for the enemy. It belongs on the shelf of any gamer with an interest in Japanese history, and for strategy gamers in general. The game seems to be doing well, so hopefully we can look forward to expansions and other content in the future. Sengoku storms the Shogun’s mansion and establishes itself as the premier samurai strategy game for some time to come. It's available as a digital download through Amazon and many other outlets.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
The Onin War Trivia Quiz
1) Which of the following two families were the primary combatants in the Onin War?
B) The Hosokawa and Yamana2) Which family was traditionally given the post of Kanto Kanrei (Shogunal Deputy in Eastern Japan)?
A) The Uesugi3) Which location served as the main battleground of the Onin War?
D) Miyako (Kyoto)
4) What does the "Onin" in "Onin War" mean?
A) it was the name of the Japanese era (nengo) that the war started in5) Which of the following buildings was constructed by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa after the war, further depleting the Shogunate's treasury and showing how out of touch the Shogun had become?
B) Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion)77% of the entries received had all five answers correct. The most frequently missed question was #2, as some answers confused the Shikken (regents) of the Kamakura Hojo with the later office of Kanto Kanrei (an office that came into existence later under the Ashikaga).
The winners of a digital copy of Sengoku are Christian T. from The Phillipines, Ashley S. from USA, Ian W. from USA, James C. from England, and Christian R. from The Netherlands.
The winners of a digital copy of Europa Universalis III Chronicles are Robert M. from USA, Michal Z. from Poland/Czech Republic, Bruno P. from Portugal, Gonçalo P. from Portugal, and Jon L. from USA.
All winners have been sent their codes via email along with instructions on how to redeem them. If you haven't received the email within 24 hours of this post, please contact us at randyschadelATsamurai-archives.com (replacing AT with @). Thanks to all who took the time and effort to enter, our friends at Paradox for supplying the great prizes, and a special thanks to Boel and Daniela at Paradox! If you're still without a copy of this great game, consider picking it up from any of these outlets.
Watch for the SA's review of the finished game within the next couple of days.
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
“Sengoku”, of course, is the innovative game set in the warring states period of Japanese history (the Sengoku Jidai-roughly 1467-1603) that emphasizes character interaction, diplomacy, and political skill every bit as much as combat. This exciting new simulation promises to deliver a gaming experience never before seen in Japanese history strategy games. We’ve covered it here and here on the Shogun-ki, but here’s Paradox’s capsule summary:
“Wash blood with blood” – ancient Japanese proverb
Rise to power in Feudal Japan with your Samurai family in the epic Grand Strategy Sengoku
In this deep character driven strategy game, you play as the head of an illustrious Samurai family.
The year is 1467 and civil war has broken out. The authority of the Ashikaga Shoguns has collapsed and it is every man for himself in the provinces. Honor and duty vie with survival in the delicate dance of power, conquest and betrayal as you attempt to unite the land of the Rising Sun through a combination of deal-making with foreign powers, sending your powerful samurai armies into battle against your enemies, and unleashing shadowy Ninja clans under the cover of darkness to assassinate your rivals!
Control a noble family in Feudal Japan
Rise in influence and power within your clan and go on to claim the ultimate prize
Conquer and grow while rewarding your most valued retainers in your bid to become Shogun
Detailed historical map of Japan during the warring states period
Make deals with external powers, including the Portuguese and the Dutch
Employ the aid of powerful Ninja clans when your Samurai armies are not enough
“Europa Universalis III: Chronicles” is the classic game that allows you to assume control of virtually any nation at any point in time from 1399-1820. “Chronicles” includes the “Divine Wind” expansion that expands the role of Japan and China within the game. We’ve also covered it here, but Paradox’s capsule for “Divine Wind” follows:
At the demand of the devout fanbase, this is the 4th expansion of the classic historical strategy game Europa Universalis III. Enhancing every aspect of the game to create an even deeper and more rewarding experience.
New graphical style, with detailed and beautiful map, including lots of new provinces.
Play as any of the four major daimyo’s in Japan and vie for influence over the Emperor and control over the Shogunate.
Enhanced diplomacy, with more options for alliances and peace negotiation
Dozens of new culture-specific types of buildings, where you have greater control over the development of your provinces.
More realistic development of trade, with control over strategic resources giving bonuses.
Manage the internal factions in China to keep the Mandate of Heaven.
Over 50 Achievements for players to unlock.
So-what do you need to do to win? Well, since the SA is above all a history site, we thought an easy quiz dealing with the Onin War (the war that kicked off the Sengoku Jidai) would be an appropriate way to award the prizes. All you need to do is send in your answers to the following five simple questions, the answers to which can all be easily found online:
The Onin War Trivia Quiz
1) Which of the following two families were the primary combatants in the Onin War?
A) The Taira and Minamoto
B) The Hosokawa and Yamana
C) The Tokugawa and Toyotomi
D) The Northern Imperial Court and Southern Imperial Court
2) Which family was traditionally given the post of Kanto Kanrei (Shogunal Deputy in Eastern Japan)?
A) The Uesugi
B) The Go-Hojo (later Hojo, as opposed to the Kamakura Hojo)
C) The Ouchi
D) The Chiba
3) Which location served as the main battleground of the Onin War?
B) Osaka Castle
D) Miyako (Kyoto)
4) What does the "Onin" in "Onin War" mean?
A) it was the name of the Japanese era (nengo) that the war started in
B) it was the name of the temple that was burnt down in an incident that instigated the war
C) it was the name of the retired Emperor
D) it was a Shogunal title
5) Which of the following buildings was constructed by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa after the war, further depleting the Shogunate's treasury and showing how out of touch the Shogun had become?
A) Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion)
B) Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion)
C) Higashi Honganji (Eastern Temple of the Original Vow)
D) Nishi Honganji (Western Temple of the Original Vow)
Paradox/Samurai Archives "Sengoku" Onin War Trivia Contest Official Rules
1) To enter, send an email with your answers to the quiz along with your
first name and country of origin to randyschadelATsamurai-
(replacing the AT with @ )
2) The contest is open to everyone-you don't need to be an SA member to
win. But if you like the game, you'll love the SA, so register anyway ;)
3) Only one entry per email address/IP Address. Multiple submissions from
either will result in all being disqualified. The idea here is obviously
one entry per person, but over the net it'd be almost impossible to
enforce. But since we're all honorable samurai who follow the tenets of
Bushido, that shouldn't be a problem, right?
4) Prizes will be drawn from the pool of correct entries. The first five
names drawn will receive a digital copy of Paradox's new "Sengoku" PC
Game, and the next five names will receive a digital copy of Paradox's
"Europa Universalis III Chronicles" PC Game. Odds of winning depend on the
number of correct entries submitted. In the (highly) unlikely event ten
correct entries are not received, remaining prizes will be awarded in a
random drawing from the remaining entries.
5) The contest will be open until 12:01 AM on Saturday, September 17th (as
determined by United States Eastern Standard Time). All entries received
after then will be void. Winners will be announced sometime on Saturday,
September 17th on the Paradox Interactive Forum, The SA's Japanese
Entertainment Forum, and right here.
6) Winners will be notified by email and given their code along with
instructions on how to redeem it.
7) To redeem your prize, you'll need:
A) A computer capable of running the games along with an internet
connection. Here are the specs for running Sengoku:
Operating system: XP/Vista/Windows7
Processor: Intel® Pentium® IV 2.4 GHz or AMD 3500+
Memory: 2 Gb RAM
Hard disk space: 2 GB Available HDD Space
Video: NVIDIA® GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon® X1900
Resolution at least: 1024*768
Sound: Direct X-compatible sound card
DirectX®: DirectX 9
Controller support: 3-button mouse, keyboard and speakers
Special multiplayer requirements: Internet Connection for multiplayer
B) You'll also need a Gamersgate Account. If you don't have an account,
just go to gamersgate.com and register-it's free and the site is great.
C) Substitute codes will not be issued under any circumstances. There will will no substitution of prizes.
8) All decisions of the kami-like judges (that being Tatsunoshi of the SA
and his lovely wife Ayame, who will be drawing the names) are final.
Again, thanks to our friends at Paradox Interactive for providing the
prizes! Special thanks to Boel Bermann, Daniela Sjunnesson, and Susana Meza Graham of the Paradox PR Department.
You can learn more about Sengoku at:
And preorder it at Gamersgate.com .
Friday, September 02, 2011
In the following interview, CK is game designer Chris King, NS is historical researcher Niklas Strid, and SA is the SA’s Tatsunoshi (Randy Schadel).
We first talked with Chris King.
SA: Can you give us a little background on your primary development/design team? Who are they and what are their responsibilities? Have they worked as a team on any other projects?
CK: The core design team was myself (Chris King, the lead designer), Johan Andersson (head of development), and Thomas Johansson (project lead). We worked together on Hearts of Iron 3 and Victoria 2. This is the core team, but after that it was everyone in the team, even those on other projects who all contributed toward the game.
SA: With "Total War: Shogun 2" having been released earlier in the year, there will no doubt be the inevitable comparisons made between it and Sengoku. What about Sengoku will make it an entirely different and fresh game experience for players?
CK: As a general rule when it comes to making a game you create a core focus of the game and stick to it. Everything you add beyond that is to enhance that core experience. The Total War games are firmly focused on the tactical battles, and most players agree they do them very well. When we began to look at development of Sengoku we knew that our strength is something else than what the Total War games offer. We felt we were good at higher level strategy games and we focused away from combat onto the greater strategic interaction, trying to focus in on the interaction between the characters.
SA: Can you give us a general outline of the different steps taken in the development of Sengoku? What all did it go through between the initial concept and the final release?
CK: The first thing we think about when designing a new game is: can we make it fun and would we want to play this game? The answer has to be yes, because if we wouldn’t want to play this game then who will? ;) After that you move onto the practicalities of can you actually produce your concept. Once those two hurdles are cleared all you have to do is make the game.
SA: The Clausewitz Engine (used by Europa Universalis III and Victoria II, among others) along with facets of the upcoming Crusader Kings II were used to build Sengoku. What was behind the decision to use these-what makes them appropriate for Japan's Age of Warring States?
CK: Crusader Kings II is really the key one, Europe during the Crusader Kings II time period shares two key similarities with the Warring States period. The political structure is feudal and the personalities, and their relationships with each other, drove the time period. Starting with that foundation you can a graft onto this foundation a uniquely Japanese experience.
SA: Based on a preview edition of the game, Sengoku does an excellent job of replicating the precarious situation most clan leaders of the time (15th-16th century Japan) found themselves in, no matter how powerful-they were all sitting on a house of cards that their retainers could easily knock out from under them. Many different factors (such as limiting the number of provinces a player can directly control, tying vassals to construction, or giving a boost to a character's stats based on the abilities of his wife and concubines) subtly work together to underline the importance of having trustworthy and capable vassals. Mastering character interaction is as vital to a winning effort as raising and deploying your armies. What are some tips and suggestions you have for players when they first sit down to play the game?
CK: Vassals ability to backstab you is limited by two key factors. Most importantly is your own personal honour. If you keep your honour high enough your vassals have to remain loyal. The second is their relative power. Only when a vassal becomes powerful enough in relation to your clan are all restrictions lifted off them. So watch your own honour and try to avoid having your subordinates get too powerful.
SA: Players can choose to play as a lowly kokujin trying to impress his lord-or as the powerful head of a clan trying to please his retainers, keep the clan united, and wage war (or even be a daimyo, which has elements of both). These make for totally different gaming experiences (and excellent replay value). How many unique characters will players be able to choose from at the beginning of the game-and how much of a chance do those poor kokujin have of clawing their way to the top and claiming the title of Shogun?
CK: We haven’t done a count, but we estimate there are at least 200 unique kokujin in the game at the start. Now to be frank clawing your way from one province to Shogun isn’t easy, but we know that players will want to do this so we have made sure there is a route. Your first job is to become head of a clan. There are two ways to do this. If you are a family member of the clan you are in you can be elected leader of the clan by the vassals of the clan. So you need to convince the other clan members to like you, once you are at the top all you have to do is stay there. Second route is to form your own clan. If you gain enough power, or if your clan is weakened enough you can strike out on your own. From there it is game on.
SA: Why was the traditional Japanese 'Shinto-Buddhist' religious base split into two different factions (and allowing players to only follow one or the other)?
CK: It was because of the power the various warrior monk orders had in Japan. They were already a political force in the Ashikaga Shogunate and continued to be a force all through the Senguko period. So we felt it would be good to split them in two because of this.
SA: Paradox has a strong international player base. Was this the driving force behind the decision to not use too many Japanese terms in game?
CK: Japanese terms add a certain amount of immersion to a game. However, if you add too many you start to confuse things for people. So we tried to strike a balance between immersing players in Japan without demanding they have a Masters Degree in Japanese language, history and culture.
SA: Was there anything left out of the game due to time and budget constraints that you would have liked to have seen included?
CK: There is so much we could have added but felt constrained not to. Still if I were to pick one I would have loved to have added more interesting things to happen with the three religions.
SA: What we've viewed of the artwork (both on the loading screens and the box art) looks excellent. Who are the talented individuals who produced these gems?
CK: Our art team of Fredrik, Jonas and Niklas were behind the graphic look of the game. The worked hard to try and get the graphics in the game looking functional and good while at the same time trying to capture a feeling of Japan. The artist who drew the loading screens was Niklas. The cover art is created by a very talented freelancer named Viktor Titov.
SA: While testing the game, which of your team proved to be the best at thrashing his opponents-or at least THOUGHT they were? Any plans for members of the team to take part in online multiplayer campaigns?
CK: I have to say the current award goes to Darkrenown who decided to go and destroy Podcat in one of our office multiplayer games. Darkrenown justified this because he felt that Podcat should be spending more time patching Hearts of Iron 3.
SA: The staff of Paradox not only develops the games but also plays and supports them once they're released. This takes the form of answering questions from gamers on the Paradox Interactive forums, releasing patches to enhance and expand gameplay, and incorporating suggestions from players in future releases. Does being actively involved with the people who actually play the games help with designing future efforts? Do players ever come up with tactics and strategies that surprise you and weren't factored in while designing a game?
CK: Players always surprise us; it is one of those unwritten rules of game design! So for me it is not a question of what, but when. The nice thing about the forum is we get to know not just what people are doing, but also the details of why it works. This is the key to improving the game in the future and that´s why we really appreciate our active forum and our gamers feedback.
SA: Paradox games are known for being extremely friendly to modding. While no one can predict where the player base might take Sengoku, what do you see as some of the more likely targets for modders to tinker with?
CK: I don’t even try to imagine what modders come up with. The never cease to surprise me! J
SA: What's on the horizon for the team after Sengoku is wrapped up? If the game does well, can we look forward to expansions or similar games on other eras of Japanese history? Any dream projects you'd like to see made reality?
CK: If we were to come back to Japan after a successful Sengoku I would love to do an expansion on the game. There are so many areas we felt we should pass over due to time constraints that we could spend an age adding more depth to this era. The invasion of Korea is one such example. But that all depends on if gamers enjoy Sengoku and if they will want more after the game release. Time will tell.
The SA was also fortunate enough to have a talk with Niklas Strid. Niklas is an Associate Developer at Paradox and the Researcher and Scripter on Sengoku. He has two BA’s in Screenwriting as well as a degree in game design. His first project for Paradox was working on Divine Wind, helping to flesh out Manchuria and Korea in the Europa Universalis game series. Aside from Sengoku, he’s currently involved with Crusader Kings II.
SA: Tracking down information on all the 'clans', their leaders, and their holdings at the beginning of the Onin War had to have been a lengthy and involved process, but Sengoku appears to have pulled it off nicely. What were some of your primary sources used to do research for the game?
NS: After browsing the Internet for whatever little information in English I could find there I tried the book stores and local libraries but it was hard to find books on Japan in general and anything before 1900 in particular (in comparison there where usually 10-15 times the number of books on China or Korea). But at the Royal Library in Stockholm I tracked down Paul Varley's book The Onin War from 1967 which turned out to be a lifesaver, and gave me a good general understanding of the conflict and the political climate, as well as a number of important characters and details about some of the succession conflicts that rage when the game starts. The great difficulty with this game was of course that most sources only were available in Japanese and many of them not obtainable on the Internet, so I set out to recruit some additional researchers that could help me out and found a small group of dedicated and very knowledgeable members on our own forum. So even though I'm rather proud of my work when it comes to the historical setup and feel of the game, I would not have been able to achieve it without their invaluable help.
SA: In any historical game, there's a trade-off between playability and accuracy. In your opinion, what was the biggest compromise made in the game between the two?
NS: Personally I think the Onin War and its repercussions were the hardest one to represent in a grand strategy game like this. Even though we have a rather accurate setup of which clans were involved and who was fighting who, we couldn't really represent the fact that the conflict was so centered around the capital, and only later spread out into the provinces. So we have a somewhat larger conflict when the game starts as the involved clans will fight each other over a much larger area. But considering how much accuracy we have managed to squeeze in, I feel that this point is a rather small one. The close-quarter street-fighting just didn't fit into this game.
SA: On the other hand, what were some historical facets you were happy to see make it (or NOT make it) into Sengoku?
NS: I'm happy that we ended up with a much more detailed and accurate setup than what was initially planned for when it comes to things like the map, clans, crests, characters, and the Onin War. And also the inclusion of some important historical events like the arrival of Europeans and the introduction of firearms and the way in which they are spread throughout Japan.
SA: At game's start, about how many of the charcacters in the game are taken straight from history? Will players see new clans emerge into prominence later in the game like the Go-Hojo, Saito, Tokugawa, Maeda, or Hashiba?
NS: Most if not all of the landed characters are taken from history and given traits and stats that reflect their historical counterparts. All in all I think we have somewhere around 400 scripted characters. Many of clans that later became famous are present as small vassal clans at the start of the game, and if they can survive an early onslaught and play it smart they might end up as large independent clans at one point. New clans can also be formed, and these draw their names from other historical clans that aren't represented at the start of the game.
NS: Splitting armies into levies and retinues where done to try and represent the shift in army size that happened during this period, where you at the game's start have access to some levy troops boosted by a small retinue, whereas later these levies will largely play a secondary role as you rely more and more on a large and professional retinue. Many of the clans that get conquered will also turn into wandering retinue bands that you can hire, and as more and more of Japan is solidified under a few clans, more and more of these ronin-for-hire will turn up, making it possible for you to put together armies of the size that the Toyotomi and Tokugawa later commanded.
SA: One of Sengoku's most important game mechanics is that of 'honor'. Rather than equating honor with the later idealized and largely fictional Edo period concept of Bushido, the game instead sees it more as 'being seen to do the right thing enough to where you can get away with being underhanded'. Honor in the game can even be purchased with money. What are some of the things players can do to build up honor and what can they do that will deplete it?"
NS: Honor can be gained in a number of ways from handing out provinces - or kori - that you conquer, to granting some of your vassals the daimyo titles that come under your clan's influence, to sponsoring the Emperor's court. Honor can also be gained from following a religious faction or establishing certain buildings.
The SA would like to thank Chris and Niklas for their time and expertise. Sengoku will be available September 13th for direct download on Gamersgate (along with other venues), and a retail box version can be picked up at Amazon UK. Don’t forget to keep checking the SA for details on the ”Paradox/Samurai Archives Sengoku: Onin War Trivia Contest” to win a downloadable copy of the finished game. Until then, you can always check out the SA’s Sengoku page for the latest news along with Sengoku related links. And watch out for Darkrenown.