They are peasants drafted to fight as soldiers for the Daimyo. They’re mostly reluctant to fight, which means that they have low morale and will break easily in dire times. They’re mostly ineffective against Samurai, unless very experienced, so charging against a Samurai army with an Ashigaru force is basically suicide. The Ashigaru are basically foot soldiers that fill in the gaps of your army that are voided by lack of Samurai and other more experienced troops.
The warrior class of feudal Japan, they’ve been trained since birth to fight. They have high morale as they follow Bushido, the Way of the Warrior, which makes them very loyal to their daimyo. They are the elite troops that you’d want to replace greenhorn Ashigaru soldiers with. Their offensive and defensive capabilities are much higher than that of the Ashigaru.
These are Buddhist warrior monks who are bolstered by their adherence to the middle path. They have even higher morale than the Samurai due to their faith. However, they’re inaccessible if you convert to Christianity. Their Warcry ability scares Ashigaru away and softens most Samurai’s resolve. They have good offensive capabilities, but at the cost of armor.
They are officers with a few retainers and bodyguards at their side. They almost never break and they give morale boost to nearby units. A hero unit can take on 5 normal units, but only normal units at this situation. They’ll have a harder time against anything stronger, but heroes can still hold their own weight regardless.
Light spear infantry that focuses on numbers, making it the largest unit in Shogun 2 by body count. They do well in melee combat, but are no match for Samurai. Effective shock troops that can deal good damage against a lot of enemy unit types, then can be pulled back for Samurai units to finish the job. They can be used in loose formation to rush archer units quite effectively. But their true strength lies in defense against enemy cavalry. Spears in general are very good against cavalry charges by using the spear wall to make them fall upon your piecing spearhead without needing to breaking a sweat.
Effective against lightly armoured targets and can soften up most targets, making them one of the most useful units you can have during the early parts of the game. Having a lot of them fire at a single charging enemy unit would have them stumbling on their feet way before they reach your front ranks. As long as the target is lightly armored, Bow Ashigaru units can take them out. Anything with better armor would only be a waste of arrows. Bow Ashigaru also make great siege defense units, keeping invaders at bay while your other defenses deal with the rest.
Defensive specialists that can take out attackers and send them fleeing if you use them right, the Matchlock Ashigaru should be micromanaged to use them properly. Having them directly behind other units will only see you kill your own troops since they’d be blocking the guns. However, they are incredible when used in elevated terrain, where they can get a clearer view and a better shot. They excel in killing units with high armor, as well as breaking the enemy units’ morale. You can definitely use them to target heroes and generals to win battles quickly.
One of the best melee units in the game, they are most reliable in close quarters when things get really hot. While quite expensive, they pay dividends with how good they are in the battlefield. However, you’ll have to steer clear of enemy cavalry and Bow Samurai as they are the Katana Samurai’s weaknesses. While the No-Dachi Samurai is initially strong in a charge, the Katana Samurai has better staying power. When needed, you can use the Katana Samurai to charge against unsuspecting archers while in loose formations to minimize losses.
Just like the Yari Ashigaru, they are your go-to units when enemy cavalry are around. Also, they can be used to charge against enemy archers while in loose formations. The Yari Samurai have the Rapid Advance ability to speed them up for a short time, which makes them better than Katana Samurai in routing archers. However, it’s quite a conundrum that they don’t have a spear wall formation to defend against cavalry charges, which makes Yari Samurai fall a bit short.
The intermediate between Katana Samurai and Yari Samurai, the Naginata Samurai are all-around warriors that are versatile and can fit in a lot of situations. They’re also one of the most heavily armored, only second to the Katana Hero. This makes them very durable against archers and most melee attackers. They are great agaisnt all Ashigaru, but they fall a bit short against enemy Katana Samurai though.
While smaller in size compared to the Bow Ashigaru, the Bow Samurai have faster reload times and greater accuracy. They are also better against armored units, making them very effective in controlling the battlefield despite facing a more powerful force. Short of Cannons, they are your “snipers” against most enemy units. They can also engage in melee combat, which is handy when they’re being charged by enemy forces.
This is basically a Katana Samurai with less armor and a bigger sword. You can command this unit to charge at anything that moves as elite shock troops. they have a charge bonus of 28 which gives them the most devastating charge of any common unit in the game. The only bad thing is that they don’t have staying power since they have no armor. Because of this, they are best for flanking and should stay away from cavalry and archers at all cost or they’ll be swiss cheese.
Much like their Ashigaru counterparts, the only real differences are that they have quicker reload times, better damage, greater accuracy, and the ability to engage in melee combat if they have to.
Bow Warrior Monks
While technically sound, they do have a few problems. They’re light armored and fairly decent in melee, but overall Bow Samurai are still better. They don’t break easily though and they have even better range, accuracy, and reload time than their other counterparts due to their discipline. they’re not very cost effective though as they cost 1,000 and take 220 per upkeep. Being only composed of 75 per unit, it’s one of the smallest in the game. If performance is really what you’re looking for and you have lots of cash to burn, then take this by all means. Otherwise, Bow Samurai is the best you can get.
Naginata Warrior Monks
The warrior monks are renowned in history as Naginata weilding badasses, and it shows as well in this game. With a unit size of 120 and solid stats, they can beat Katana and Naginata Samurai in melee combat, but are countered by the No-Dachi Samurai due to their powerful charge. In terms of cost effectiveness, these aren’t too good. However, they can be good in battles where you’d be worried about morale.
Highly mobile and very cheap, they do have decent enough stats to be a threat. They don’t require horses as a trade resource, which is a big plus. Making lots of these early on gives you a tremendous advantage, owing to how dominant cavalry can be in an infantry-based battle when fought on flat ground. They carry spears in battle, so treat them as lancers and not keep them in a upfront melee for too long. They are to charge, then back off, and then charge again. With a bit of practice, enemy infantry is mince meat when you use Light Cavalry effectively.
It’s basically Light Cavalry with more armor and a charge bonus. That does mean double the cost, but it’s worth it. Charging with this is very devastating on the enemy forces, which can become a go-to strategy for you.
These are mounted archers that were the origin of the Samurai as we know it. You have both mobility and range, which is a very deadly combination for those who know how to use it. Melee units can’t catch up to you and you can wear them down. They’re just as fast as other cavalry units, which only means that they can pick them off with the right micromanagement. They do have a shorter range than Bow Infantry units, but the Swooping Crane ability minimizes casualties against Bow Infantry.
This does not rely on multiple charges to win. You charge them in once and make them duke it out with the enemy cavalry until everyone is dead. With proper flanking and picking the right enemy units to take out, the Katana Cavalry can be very powerful as a result.
Fire Projecting Mangonels
While mostly immobile, they destroy gates, walls, and units. Fire is a huge factor in a lot of things, and it’s most effective in sieges. The fire Projecting Mangonels have great range, but have limited ammunition. If you’re using them, make sure that each shot counts. As far as artillery goes, these are great.
Pretty much the same as Fire Projecting Magonels, but they reload slower. Cannons have a greater range, but only fire in a straight line. Projectiles can’t go over walls and target individual units. In contrast, Mangonels can target enemy generals behind castle walls and can fire over walls. In this regard, Mangonels are more versatile, but Cannons have more range. It all depends on the current battlefield scenario.
Fire Bomb Throwers
These units are special as you’ll learn to really love them soon enough. Have them throw fire bombs at people during sieges and you’ll see how much people really hate fire. The enemy morale will plunge down to the depths of the abyss as these units go to work. Take care to not use them in open fields carelessly though since friendly fire is quite possible. Fire Bomb Throwers are the type of units that can help you snatch victory from the closing jaws of defeat.
They’re great for destroying gates and breaking morale of castle defenders at long range, which is farther than any archer can reach. Fire Rockets are quite effective on open fields as well, being able to make enemy attackers rout out of sheer terror. Keep some of these at hand whenever you can.
The unit with the biggest cool factor in the game, or anywhere else in the world. Ninjas are a lot of fun to use and have very good special abilities. They have stealth, which makes them undetectable for a short time. Even when not in stealth, they are rarely seen unless they’re in extremely close range with the enemy. They can throw blinding grenades and climb castle walls, letting them do their dirty work on their terms. They’re also armed with Katanas, so they’re no pushovers in a straight-up fight.