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I've tried a couple of battles in Shogun 2 multiplayer, where you choose a province and fight against another player with a fixed budget for your army, starting at 5000 koku.

My question is, are players matched according to a skill level indicator, or the number of bonuses they have to their avatar? It seems that players who have been playing multi-player for a while would have a big advantage as you get retainers and skills from winning battles.

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The advantage is actually not that great. If you play a lot you do get more retainers and more experience for your general but it's overall strategy and tactics that will win you the game. My general currently has 8 stars and I remember when I started off I beat a 7 star general without using any veteran units or retainers.

As to how the players are matched, if you let the game manage it, it will try to find a player of your level if one is available, if not, it will keep searching for any available player of sufficiently close rank.

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Thats completely false. Tactics help but when a higher ranked general can field much better units than you such as Bow Monks with a greater range and Great Gaurd always win cav vs cav you don't have much of a chance. Matchmaking is a absolute balls up. –  user10567 Jun 21 '11 at 22:01

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