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It seems that every time I try to manually siege a castle in Shogun 2 Total War, I always get my ass kicked, no matter what tactics I use to siege the castle. Even blowing up the entrance with cannons and charging in, the enemy always defends against me and slaughters my forces.

Anyone have a good strategy on how to siege a castle, particularly one with losing as less men as possible?

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Step 1) Have a ninja infiltrate the castle to open the gates. Step 2) march your melee forces in through whichever side is least well defended, then if the defender moves all their units to block you, have the cavalry quick-trot to the other side and go in from there. – Shadur Aug 16 '12 at 9:45
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Tactics will vary depending on your army composition, and that of the enemy. I'll mostly be talking about PvE, as that is my strong point, having played only a few field battles in the multiplayer portion of the game. IIRC, in PvP you only get 40% of the attacker's army size for balance purposes: It is obviously very advantageous to defend. Luckily, the AI can be beat with an equal-sized army on a regular basis, and with even less sometimes.

I always run a purely ashigaru force on Legendary, rarely bringing cannons "for the lulz", and almost never using matchlocks in my army composition. Hence, my advice on exotic stuff is limited: Siege weapons seem mostly useless, forcing you to take on a repair bill as well as a public order decrease, having damage that's mostly inferior to a normal ranged unit with the only benefit being range, and IIRC slowing your army down. Guns are great as a defender and useless as an attacker. Stealth looks neat, but is mostly pointless.

Bows are pointless in a siege, especially as the attacker, if you can't get a full quiver's mileage out of them - they just can't do the damage of their melee counterparts if you only get five or six volleys in, and they cost more. If, for any reason, you can't get ten minutes of continuous arrow fire to use up all your ammo, if you have to make a charge for the walls under enemy fire, use you bows as cannon fodder. Move them in range of the enemy archers before your melee units, preferably in a scattered formation and as a very wide, shallow line. The same should be done if you have to scale the walls under fire and have already used up your bows' ammo (great job!). They don't necessarily have to just stand there either: You can use them to scale the walls first, often on the side opposite to your melee units, sacrificing them in droves to force enemy units off your main approach route. This will often get enemy archers to leave the walls, turn around, and shoot at your diversion, making the main wave's push 100% safe. On the very rare case where they don't, you can still engage them yourself. Still, scaling walls bow-first is a bloody endeavor, and should be avoided unless you really know your stuff - it's a very good way to waste five to ten units for a marginal benefit that wasn't necessary. Burning down the gate and charging in a clumped mass of 600 bodies should give your diversion a ton of staying power, but for the most part, keep to just using scattered lines to absorb enemy fire.

Now, I advised using up all your arrows. How do you do that, you ask? Flanking. Unless you're fighting a 20v20 siege with a good amount of archers thrown in, your enemy will have an unguarded portion of the wall. The AI tends to stack archers against your melee units and your general: positioning your archers on the opposite side of the fort, or on the flanks, will usually get them facing unguarded sections. As long as you keep your melee units in place, the enemy bows will obligingly stand and watch in the only direction they can't fire in, waiting for those 500 yaris that are just outside arrow range (or 1km away, it doesn't seem to matter) to close in, as you gleefully slaughter their comrades. If any towers are shooting at your archers, you can burn them down by using melee mode, which gets your archers to chuck torches at them just like a melee unit: You don't need to have fire arrows researched, and even if you do, save the ability to boost damage and don't waste it on structures.

enter image description here

In this screenshot, four bows are facing the three yari on the opposite side of the fort, offscreen, and two are facing the direction my own bows and the general came from initially. They never moved from there and were later killed in melee. My own bows are not at max squad size due to previous battles; very few were killed as they approached through the forest (which acts as heavy cover against arrows), and not a single arrow was fired at them after they got in position.

What units to target: Generally, focus on melee units first, cavalry second (unless you're using a ton of katanas and no spears), and don't even bother with archers, even if they are out of cover. Get squads down to 20%-40% of their maximum size and move on to another: shooting at a unit of 20 soldiers is a waste of ammo. Shoot on units that won't change their direction until the arrows land: Your archers will lead the enemy, but they don't do any advance prediction, and always assume that the target will keep its speed and heading for the projectile's entire flight...even if there's a castle wall a meter ahead. Shoot either at units standing still, or at units moving in a straight line that are unlikely to stop or turn soon. Disable manual fire. For best effect, shoot at the flanks or rear of enemy formations. Target deep formations relative to your shooting direction: This way, even arrows that miss have a good chance of hitting the troops behind. Sneak in as many generals as you can in your group of archers: Sometimes, they'll get enemy archers to reposition, in which case you should return them to your melee units. When this doesn't happen, the inspires they provide are great for boosting arrow efficiency, while Stand and Fight makes everything better.

If the enemy does have enough bows to cover the entire wall, don't panic. It's fully possible to burn down a gate and sacrifice a single Yari Ashigaru per Bow Ashigaru troop (if you're less confident in yourself, go for three units for two troops) to make an opening. They'll be swarmed and die, but provided you time it reasonably well, they'll destroy all but a dozen of a previously full squad. Against samurai and above, you're probably out of luck: Unlike ashigaru, they can survive reasonably well in melee, even against expensiver units. Still, except for Kyoto, most sieges don't involve a 100% samurai defense. If enemy bows move in to intercept your flanking force, peel off a squad and abuse another opening, gradually adding more until all enemy archers are stuck waiting for a single bow unit (preferably depleted) to come in range, in a situation analogous to those camping the meleers.

Don't tire your men. The main (only, even) reason the AI can't to reliably win sieges with twice the defenders' force is because it can't stop running. Running is not needed in a siege: Even the 10-meter deadzone before under the walls can be walked through, although saving energy from that is needlessly risky. Once your melee units have scaled the wall, they are every bit as capable as the enemy, only handicap being the amount of fatigue they've accumulated from the climb: Hence, keep to scaling short sections if you can help it. Scaling is best done from every direction, to flank the enemy: While morale doesn't matter, a troop in the rear inflicts many more kills, decreasing your own attrition. For the melee phase of the battle, don't forget to use your depleted archers: having 1200 men stand around is a huge waste. The most basic thing they can be tasked with is capturing the fort control zone: a mass of even cheap units can easily crowd the place and make it unreachable to enemies unless they can cut at a heroic pace. The only problem is getting there in the first place, easily solved by scaling second, as a flanking force, from multiple directions. Archers can also be used to tie down enemy bows or charge flanks. Be bold when using them and prepare to take huge losses with little gains: Soon, you'll learn what works and what doesn't.

Scaling the walls is generally for when you're wiping the enemy out, burning the gates down is for when the battle isn't going your way. When scaling, the enemy should only have a third to a tenth of their original melee force left (and who cares about archers, they suck at melee and invariably get forced into it within the first fifteen seconds of the charge), allowing you to swarm and massacre. If there are a lot of enemies left, presumably because you failed to empty your quivers or because you attacked with a much smaller force (good job, but why are you reading this then?), I'll describe a moderately advanced trick I try every once in a while that may work for you. Burn down a gate and make a deep yari wall formation in guard mode get inside, but don't expose their flanks: there is a castle model where some of the gates have inner walls, allowing the entire formation to get in while only exposing the front. For most, you just have to support them from the side or barely get inside. A yari wall has great staying power, especially if you manage to get enemy yari to attack it first, as opposed to katana units. If all goes well, soon the entire garrison will be swarming your diversion: they can easily hold out if the flank is safe. If not all units are engaged, burn down a second gate and approach with a similar formation, tying up the rest. Then, scale from a third direction using a squad with big unit size, or even several, massing the fort capture point: put a wall of bodies in front of the area, making sure that the enemy can't kill enough in a minute to get to the location. Your bow squads are perfect for this. Usually, only one or two squads will break off to meet you, letting you capture the point with little losses against what could have been unwinnable odds.

Random bit of info: An unupgraded, unleveled unit of bow ashigaru without access to inspire has just enough ammo to kill the free samurai retainer unit.

PS: Army composition: The more archers you have, the harder it is to utilize them properly. 16 melee 3 archers is reliable but unremarkable. 16 archers 3 melee is hard to pull off, and is still reliable (this time, in bringing even the best players some embarrassing losses), but can net you amazing kill:death ratios against superior forces. Stay in the 7:12 - 12:7 range for a good mix of reliability and efficiency.

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This took a while to write, I hope that it's helpful and that I haven't missed something. If someone wants to make it less intimidating in size, format it, or add stuff, feel free. Right click->open on the image yields a bigger version. Really, this can be summed up as: "Shoot all yer arrows and then get the archers in melee, don't let them sit around!" – Fadeway Aug 16 '12 at 8:23
My favorite method of storming a castle involves having a Ninja in place to open the gates before I go in. – Shadur Aug 16 '12 at 9:43
But then you have to repair and take the order penalty for a turn. A small tactical bonus for a small strategic setback. Your comment reminds me I haven't written about cavalry: I don't use them at all and they don't have much staying power, plus their role as mostly a morale breaker is negated due to routs being impossible. I can't think of any use for them, but someone more well-versed in that department could write a separate answer detailing their purpose, if there is any. – Fadeway Aug 16 '12 at 10:52
great answer, I still have shogun 2 sitting on my back burner but reading that answer made me bump it up a few spots on the waiting list – l I Aug 16 '12 at 13:15
I'd also note that as the defender archers are excellent, because you have cover and elevation and the enemy needs to cross a fairly long wide open ground to get to their position. Just pull them away from the walls (and if possible, up to the next terrace) once the attackers start climbing up and have your melee units move in. – Shadur Jan 18 '14 at 10:56

Here is what I have discovered about sieges and how to take a castle successfully.

I place a high priority in S2 on understanding the exact weaknesses and strengths of each unit type and applying them accordingly. Unlike another poster here, I like using archers in sieges as you need a way of taking the fight to the enemy without getting your troops murdered in the process.

I prioritise my targeting of the enemy carefully and I am careful and methodical - rush in and chances are you will get your ass kicked.

I won’t go much into the question of unit strengths. You can research that for yourself. Other than perhaps to say this - bombardment weapons like cannon and mangonels are very useful as are archers. I try to make sure that any siege fore is strong on both where I can.

Its crucial to weaken the enemy inside the castle before they can do much harm to you and before you enter. Then if need to you can enter the castle and engage in hand to hand fighting. With luck you may not need to do much of this if you do enough damage first.

I can say I have found priorities to be important. There is little point killing off all the enemy Yari Ashigaru early as they are not too dangerous - unless they are attacking you of course. So focus on the enemy units that are meaningful and most valuable to the enemy and work your way down.

To do this you have to make sure that you turn of fire at will for your cannon, archers, mangonels etc. as ammo is limited and you do not want them wasting it. In a way this sucks - it means you have to micro manage and in a big battle especially that brings its own difficulties - I recently almost lost in a siege when I was up one end of the fortress doing my stuff and the enemy moved up some bow samurai unnoticed into a position near the other end where they could take out my forces which I had moved closer because I was confident that there were no enemy archers in range. When that changed with my troops in "no fire at will" mode they managed to kill a couple of hundred of my people before I realised what was going on.

So first I make sure to kill off any enemy who are attacking me or in a position to attack me. Like the enemy cavalry who start outside the castle walls in the siege tutorial. Give these attackers top priority. One unit I find it useful to kill early is the enemy fire rockets. These suckers do a lot of injury very quickly and as they have long range are hard to combat.

Then I turn my attention to any enemy archers and matchlock units who are on the ramparts of the castle walls. One good tactic is to snipe them using cannon fire. Aim at the top of the castle wall and turn the big guns loose. Your aim is not to hit individual enemy but to bring down parts of the wall. You will find that after a few hits that will suddenly happen taking anything up to a dozen or more enemy with it. For towers who are in range do similarly or, once the bow samurai on the ramparts are whittled down or killed off, quickly move up several units of your archers (BA are fine for this) turn on fire arrows and tell them to shoot the tower in a large single volley. It takes 3-4 units to set a tower alight and they have to all fire at the same time. Then quickly move your archers back out of range of any remaining enemy archers if that's needed.

Or you can tell your archers to finish them off as well. (For this though you generally need Bow Samurai or if you are using BA you need to use fire arrows. The latter won’t be available again for a few minutes hence my warning to move them back.) An alternative is to use fire arrows against enemy ramparts where the enemy archers are positioned. (To be accurate try to set the wooden protective cover alight). That can work too.

Once the enemy archers are killed (you don't need to kill any who are in distant parts of the castle who cannot hit you though) you can then move freely in that part of the castle precinct - so move your forces closer to the castle walls. I will sometimes position YA forces at gates to stop any quick enemy cavalry counter strike. Then I turn my attention to the enemy General. Kill him and his retinue using BS or Bow Heros. That makes your job much easier later.

Then start on any Katana Samurai, Katana Cavalry, Yari Samurai and the like. Use your Bow Samurai for preference but they may be running low on ammo by now (although if possible I will make sure I have some in reserve for this part of the mission) so if necessary I will use BA for this purpose after first turning on fire arrows as these are more effective against armoured troops.

This is where the methodical bit comes in once more - have them shoot their fire arrows at the enemy samurai then move them away out of range to wait for fire arrows to become available again. Then repeat as much as necessary. (Boring I know). By now with luck you should have depleted most troops inside the fort and you can begin to contemplate entering. A big heroic mass attack looks cool but it’s really hard to pull off even against significantly smaller defending forces. I try not to send troops over the wall if possible as most of them suck at this and get killed in falls. Ninja can pull it off as can a few other troops.

My preference is to use my troops to burn down the gates if they are still standing. Yari Ashigaru can do this as can some other categories of unit.

Who do I send in? That depends. Common sense applies and for example if I expect a cavalry response from the enemy I will send YA in first followed by other key units - Katana Samurai and the like. Once you are in the courtyard if there are more towers firing down on you it’s often easiest to just burn them down as first priority. Even a few enemy archers in overlooking towers can do great damage quickly. You may be able to capture the towers but I find that it’s easier faster and safer to just burn them.

I also like to have Ninja in the first units inside as the shock effect of them throwing their grenades at any enemy attacking force is often enough to turn the tide. Matchlock forces can be usefully deployed here too as long as they are backed up by strong melee troops. Very often by now the game is up for the enemy and while they may make a few further attacks if you can fend them off its enough to prompt a surrender. BTW I keep my archers outside but by the walls if possible so they can fire in at any attacking forces. The space inside fortress courtyards is very limited.

A couple of final words. I have found it is a good tactic to move troops in mixed units. Archers, Cavalry Katana samurai and Yari Ashigaru together can do much to compensate for each others weaknesses where even a large force of one type can get destroyed quickly if the enemy responds appropriately. I also am curious about using a technique called "counter battery fire".

In theory this should work but I must admit I have not tried it. If you are in range use some of your cannon or mangonels to target enemy cannon and mangonels who are damaging your troops. This is a valid military tactic which could be useful in a siege or other battle.

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PvE AI exploits

-enemy ranged units will begin the battle manning a wall. placing any unit with 200 range will force the AI to keep these units in place. They will NOT move. Exploit this by placing melee units at the 200 range mark, out of bow shot and move your archers in at an angle which allows them to shoot without being shot.

-when a gate is burned, the AI will station a melee unit to guard the gap in their defenses. Use this to give your archers a fixed, stationary, non cover using target.

-capture archer towers on larger castles and let them do the work.

PvE Good Tactics Attacking -always bring a few fodder units. Cheap and easily replaced. They can be used to force the enemy to respond how you want.

-never go toe to toe in archery duals. Always fight with an advantage. Best thing is to use a dense, block formation. 2 units wide, 3 units deep. Charge them as a battle group into range where all six will be able to shoot at the enemy 1 or 2 units. Lead this group with a fodder unit in loose formation to be the pin cushion. NEVER try this tactic on a corner, you will be shot by the men to the sides of the corner as ranged units have a 45 degree arc.

PvE Good Tactics Defending -set all ranged units to "Stand Ground". When they are manning a wall and melee troops climb up, the troops not directing involved in hand to hand combat will continue to shoot.

-always have 1-2 units of light cav. The biggest advantage an attacker will have is freedom of movement. Remove it. Put the pressure on the attacker. Light cav can also lure away large groups of troops and disrupt an attack into a disorganized affair, giving your troops inside the castle a local superiority throughout the longer fight. Works amazingly well with matchlocks.

-treat your garrison troops as expendable and make sure they are the ones taking the casualties. This lets 1 castle resist army after army without reinforcements. -yari ashigaru in yari wall are beasts. Use this in 3 ways depending upon the situation. 1) Place at the base of the outer wall on a small fort with archer support above. This prevents flanking and gives your bows a lot of time to shoot. Samurai will die in droves. 2) Place in a long, thin yari wall as close to the parapet as possible. When large numbers of poor infantry climb the wall they will end up attacking the yari wall in small/manageable numbers. 1v5 your 1 will win 95% of the time. 3) in a 3 tier castle combine these two tactics to crush samuari armies outnumbered 3v1. Set your archers on the top level and your yari on the middle level. Even better with matchlocks. -when large numbers of bows attack, pull back out of range and let the bows start to climb. Then Charge and crush in melee.


-When using matchlocks on defense, don't simply order them onto the walls. Instead, right-click on the section of wall you want them to man and continue to hold the mouse while dragging the cursor out away from the wall. This stretches your unit from 2 men deep on the walls to 1 man deep. This allows all of your men to shoot since only the 1st rank of matchlocks can fire. Bows don't have this issue on doubling up so do it to concentrate your forces.

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Just blast them with mangonels until their ammo wears out. Its a strange thing but if they have troops hiding behind the walls (or whatever they a re called, the wooden blocks that archers hide behind) a hit will kill many, though they wont count as mangonel kills when you see detailed battle statistics, while hitting a unit that is not hiding behind the walls, a hit from a mangonel is much less effective.

Also you are aware that no matter how stupid the A.I. is you will need a superior army, cause no matter how strong a unit is it will lose some troops when climbing walls (except if you burn the gate, which is a good tactic) and while all of your troops get inside the castle, some of your units will find themselves battling 1vs2 or 3.

I very much like the mangonels, not only of sieges but for open battlefield. If the opponent has no mangonels, and if you have even one, the enemy army will always attack, even if you started the battle, since your mangonels have the range to fire on them from across the whole map.

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Ambush skill lvl3 unlocks the night fighting ability (allows you to attack one enemy stack without it being reinforced.

Your best use of cavalry is to have them outside the castle, preferably hiding in a forest within reinforce range of the castle.

Ergo Sum, a general dedicated to ambush & night fighting will serve you well when supporting a garrisoned general.

I prefer lots of sword wielding units for castle defense/assault...spears are great against cavalry, so always keep a few for the times you simply must sally out to break a siege (and are able to)

Issues: (1) if you don't have ambush lvl3, then sabotage ninjas are perfect (albeit expensive) ways of preventing armies from reinforcing others...sadly, so far, i've been unable to sabotage my way out of the original poster's problem (2) What i'm fascinated by is the question of whether night fighting prevents ALL reinforcements during the battle (ie. your reinforcements)

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Use Fire Projecting Mangonels and your archers to attack first. Target towers and archers first.Try getting with your archers in the rear of the enemies.When out of ammo,torch the gates(if still standing) and charge.Try flanking the enemy to get advantage. Or,if the enemy has a lot of reinforcements and few garrison,rush to kill the enemy and climb the walls in the same time.Then,capture the gates and the tenshu.(Capture the towers too!)

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