Total War: Shogun 2 – Guide to Factions

This guide gives an overview of the way the armies will progress through the campaign for both the original Shogun 2 campaign and the Rise of the Samurai expansion.


Unlike other Total War games, Shogun 2’s factions have a lot in common (barring some exceptions) when it comes to military progression. This is because the game represents what was a civil war between Japanese clans. This applies to all of the campaigns however this guide will focus on the Sengoku Jidai (original) and Gempei War (Rise of the Samurai) campaigns.

There is army diversity however and it manifests in two ways:

  • Faction speciality and bonuses
  • Research decisions

Faction speciality consists of bonuses to common units to steer army composition in particular directions (e.g. bow troops) as well as a small number of faction specific units (e.g. Daikyu Samurai). However, most units are unlocked by research, buildings and resources and it takes a long time to unlock all which forces the player will have to make a choice as to where they want to focus their research and the units this gives them access to. Captured buildings are usable even without the research to build them so it is a plausible strategy to focus on your strengths and leverage these for diversity. Campaign length plays a part as there are some technology choices that will not pay off in the shorter campaigns.

Sengoku Jidai Campaign

The main campaign starts in 1545 and runs to 1575/1580 or 1600 depending on campaign length. It is set during the Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States, period which started in 1467 with a war which saw the collapse of the Ashikaga Shogunate, the feudal military government of Japan. This power vacuum led to the rise of powerful Daimyo (warlords) fighting for control over puppet governments. The narrative for the player is to command one of these Daimyos, build support, take control of the Imperial seat of Kyoto and claim the title of Shogun.

There are three primary societal classes that participated in the wars: the Ashigaru who were the paid regulars (not militia or peasant levy), the Samurai who were the military elite of the clans (analogous to European knights) and the elite Sohei warrior monks who supported various sides in this conflict. Socially, the period also saw involvement by European powers, especially the Portuguese and the rise of a fanatical religious sect Ikko Ikki that sought to redefine the social order.

Sengoku Jidai Army Progression

Unit progression for the main clans is a multi-branch tree so it is hard to describe a linear path but there are some common aspects to recruitment. All Ashigaru units (Spear, Bow and Matchlock) are recruitable from the first level of Fort, Matchlock however requires technology to unlock.

The first two tiers of weapon Dojos (Spear, Bow and Sword) enable Samurai and Warrior Monk (in conjunction with Temples) units, the third tier buffs recruitment while the final unlocks Heroes. Cavalry relies on both weapon and cavalry Dojos so recruitment is focussed on the second and third tiers. Gunpowder units recruit from the Siege line requiring the third tier to get Matchlock Samurai.

In terms of technology, within the two main areas – Bushido and Way of Chi – there are branches that guide unit unlocks. Within Bushido, there is a branch under Strategy of Defence which covers all Yari, Naginata, Matchlock and Siege unlocks, while the Strategy of Attack branch covers Sword, Bow and Cavalry unlocks. Warrior Monks are unlocked via the Zen branch of the Way of Chi area.
As can be seen by the table below, Bow, Yari and Sword infantry is the most accessible, while Monks, Cavalry and Siege units require more focus, and may be assisted by faction starting positions and bonuses.

Sengoku Jidai Naval Progressions

Naval unit progression is quite straightforward as strong navies are not essential for campaign victory for some factions. Progression starts with traditional style vessels, with bow armed troops and defensive style vessels. As the game progresses, gunpowder and faster ships brings tactical diversity. The arrival of Europeans offers western vessels, troops and artillery via the naval building chain.

The first two tier unlock small and medium traditional weapon ships Bow Kobaya and Medium Bune as well as the matchlock armed Siege Tower Bune when the arts are researched.

The third tier unlocks the traditional Heavy Bune as well as a fast medium ship the Sengoku Bune. It also recruits the Fire Bomb Kobaya when the arts are researched. The final tier unlocks a diverse set of ships in the very heavy Nihon Maru, the fast heavy O Ataka Bune, the gunpowder armed Cannon Bune and Matchlock Kobaya

At the third tier there is a second branch when the Nanban Trade Port is available. This enables the Imported Matchlock Ashigaru Infantry, while the fourth tier unlocks European Cannons, Portuguese Tercos (Otomo) and the well-armed Nanban Trade Ship.

Chosokabe Clan

This clan has superior (cheaper and better) bow units: Ashigaru, Samurai, Warrior Monk and Hero. They also have the unique Daikyu Samurai Bow unit. As a result, bows will be a key part of this faction’s play style, and they’ll benefit from focusing on the Strategy of Attack branch of Bushido Arts. Their starting province has a port and the Wood resource which reduces the recruitment cost of ships.

Date Clan

This clan’s No-Dachi Samurai are superior (cheaper and better) which encourages an aggressive playing style, while they also have the unique unit Bulletproof Samurai which is a tough spear unit that can withstand bullets better than others. This faction doesn’t require too much specialisation to benefit from their perks but will require a slight focus on Strategy of Attack. Their starting province has a port and the Smithing speciality which enhances either armour or weapons.

Hojo Clan

The Hojo focus on siege techniques, both offensive and defensive. They have (cheaper and better) superior siege units: Fire Bomb Throwers, Fire Projecting Mangonels, Cannons and Fire Rockets. They also have a unique unit, the Hand Mortars. This faction will benefit from focusing on Strategy of Defence. Hojo start with two provinces, one with a Gold mine and the other with a port and the Smithing speciality which enhances either armour or weapons.

Hattori Clan

This clan’s strength is stealth which manifests as Kisho training for most of their infantry, and superior Kisho Ninjas. This gives them guerilla deployment but increases their cost and upkeep. Their unique unit is the Bandits who are recruitable from the Ninja chain. They also receive increased chance of to ninja actions and their Generals all start with Night Attack abilities. To take advantage of the superior units, they will benefit from the School of Shinobi branch of the Chi Arts. This clan starts in a landlocked province with the Ninja speciality.

Mori Clan

The Mori clan have superior (cheaper and better) naval units. They have the unique infantry unit Wako Raiders that are recruitable from Ports. To gain the benefits of their focus, they should concentrate on the Way of the Sea Bushido Arts. This clan’s starting province has a developed level 2 port (Harbour) and the Hallowed Ground speciality which enhances monks or all units’ morale.

Oda Clan

This clan has superior Ashigaru units: Yari, Bow and Matchlock which will shape the nature of their armies throughout the campaign. They also have the unique Long Yari Ashigaru unit which allows for pike and shot techniques. A unique play style, this faction will benefit from Strategy of Defence for the spear unit bonuses. Otherwise they might seek to focus on their economy to facilitate a quantity over quality strategy. Their initial province has a port and no speciality but is very fertile.

Shimazu Clan

Katana’s are the Shimazu’s speciality which gives them superior (cheaper and better) Katana Samurai and Hero units. They combine this with the unique Heavy Gunners matchlock unit recruited from the siege chain. All their generals have increased loyalty. In terms of Chi Arts, they will require Strategy of Attack to gain their superior Katana Samurai but will need to go relatively deep into the Strategy of Defence branch to unlock their Heavy Gunners. Their initial province has a port and the Smithing speciality which enhances either armour or weapons.

Takeda Clan

Historically, the Takeda clan are famous for their cavalry and have superior (cheaper and better) cavalry units: Bow, Light, Yari and Katana Cavalry. They also can recruit the unique yari armed Fire Cavalry. In terms of Chi Arts, most of their unique units do not require more than Bushido itself as resources are more important. They start in a landlocked province with the Warhorse resource.

Tokugawa Clan

This faction is known for diplomatic strength which means superior Metsuke and Kisho Ninja and a bonus to relations with other factions. They also have the unique Mounted Gunners cavalry unit from the Siege chain. They’ll require a nuanced approach to Chi Arts as the Way of Chi buffs their strengths while they’ll need to go deep into Strategy of Defence to unlock the Mounted Gunners. They start with a port and the Warhorse resource.

Uesugi Clan

The Uesegi recruits superior (cheaper and better) warrior monks: Naginata and Bow Warrior Monks, as well as the unique Marathon Monks unit. They also benefit from superior Monks on the campaign map and increased trade income. In terms of Chi Arts, they will benefit from a focus on the Zen branch of the Way of Chi but will need a few early Bushido Arts to unlock their Monks. Their initial province has a port and the Naval Tradition speciality which improves trade and ship experience.

Otomo Clan

This clan starts off as a Christian faction which gives them faster access to European units and buildings. They recruit superior (better and cheaper) matchlock units: Ashigaru and Samurai, as well as receive Imported Matchlock Ashigaru faster. Their unique units are the Portuguese Tercos and Donderbuss Cavalry. To gain the benefits of their strengths, they will benefit from a focus on the Strategy of Defence and Way of the Sea branches of the Bushido Arts. Their initial province has a level 2 port (Nanban Trade Port) and the Naval Tradition speciality which improves trade and naval units.

The Ikko Ikki

This is a unique faction in that it represents a religious sect rather than a feudal clan. Their unit roster is shaped by the fact that there are no samurai units. Their monks are able to create rebellions that give the faction direct ownership of the province. Being a religious sect, they have a Jodo Shinshu Monastery chain, rather than a Buddhist one.

Their Ashigaru units are larger than normal and they have a katana ashigaru unit, the Loan Sword Ashigaru. Samurai are replaced by inferior Yari, Bow and Katana Ronin units. Their monks are superior (better but not cheaper) and available earlier, and they have the unique Matchlock Warrior Monks and Marathon Monks. Cavalry is a weakness with the faction only recruiting Light Cavalry and the unique Naginata Warrior Monk Cavalry.

As this faction leverages warrior monks, the Zen branch in the Way of Chi will be important. They start with two provinces, one with a port and the Craftwork speciality which buffs bow units and the other with just the Smithing speciality which enhances either armour or weapons.

Gempei War Campaign and Progressions

The Rise of the Samurai campaign is set around the Gempei War in 1175, which was largely seen as the beginning of the Samurai as a noble class and the creation of the shogunate. Similar to the Sengoku Jidai conflict this was a war between three strong clans for hegemony of the Imperial seat or power. It contrasts two approaches to warfare: the traditional Koryu Arts and the rising Samurai Bushi Arts.

Unit progression in this campaign is not as deep as the first campaign given that there is no technological or cultural disruption (gunpowder and Europeans). Armies will initially contain large numbers of peasant levies (lesser quality than Ashigaru) bolstered by small numbers of Attendants, Monks or Samurai. It can be categorised as a Traditional branch down the Koryu side of the Budo Arts and a Samurai branch down the Bushi side of the Budo Arts. Either branch alone can provide well rounded armies if desired.

Both Levy units, Bow and Naginata, are available from all regions from the Tadokoro chain while the third tier Barracks unlocks Fire Bomb Throwers. The first two tiers of Koryu Schools (with Monasteries) unlock Naginata Attendants, Naginata Monks, Bow Warrior Monks while the last two unlock Mounted Naginata and Monk Heroes. The first two tiers of Bushi Schools unlock Sword and Bow Attendants and Foot Samurai, while the last two unlock Mounted Samurai and Mounted Samurai Heroes.

Naval progression is very simple, the first tier builds Light and Heavy Attendants ships. The second tier adds Medium Attendants ships and all Samurai ships which have superior crews. The final tier unlocks Firebomb Medium ships.

The Minamoto Clan

These two factions have an advantage in Samurai units and arts. These factions both start with the Bushi Art already mastered which unlocks the Bushi School and Foot Samurai.

Kamakura Minamoto

With a bonus of 10% reload rate and 20% upkeep reduction to Samurai units this faction will benefit from focusing on the Bushi branch. They also receive an extra 20% to overall Budo Arts mastery rates.

Kiso Minimoto

Receiving a reduction to Samurai recruitment time (1 turn) and 20% greater campaign movement this faction will benefit from focusing on Bushi Arts. They have a penalty to Bunka Arts mastery which pushes them towards an aggressive play style.

The Taira Clan

These factions start with the Koryu Art mastered which gives them an advantage in traditional units and arts.

Yashima Taira

This faction has a 20% increase to naval movement range and a 20% reduction to ship cost which leans them towards domination at sea. Combined with a 15% trade income bonus they are in a good position to dominate trading nodes.

Fukuhara Taira

With a 20% upkeep reduction and +1 armour for naginata units, this faction will have strong traditional armies.

The Fujiwara Clan

These factions have more nuanced characteristics, with benefits in the administrative Arts.

Kubota Fujiwara

This faction focuses on warrior monks, recruiting warrior monks with an additional level of experience, in exchange for a 10% increase in recruitment cost for levies and attendants. They start with Poetry and Literature mastered which gives them a step ahead in monk related Arts. They will still require Koryu Arts to recruit their units. They also benefit from 30% increase to the mastery of Bunka Arts which should allow them to get to higher tier monasteries and build a good income.

Hiraizumi Fujiwara

Starting with Rice Loans already mastered, this faction focuses on campaign strengths, with a 5% tax rate bonus and increased Junsatsushi success chance and reduced action cost. They’ll be able to convert provinces faster than other factions.

Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13372 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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