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Civilization V: Brave New World - title

Continuing my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's modified civilizations, I'm going to take a look at strategies for Oda Nobunaga's Japan. Since Brave New World's Fall patch (2013) Japan was given additional buffs towards culture and coastal starts.

Japan is a series of four large island and numerous smaller islands that were formed by volcanoes. It has been inhabited since the upper paleolithic era (about 30 thousand years ago), and its people have lived in relative isolation for much of its history. It has gone through periods of war with its closest neighbors across the sea: China and Korea, and has had significant cultural influences from both, such native Shinto's two competing religions: Buddhism and Confucianism. Throughout most of Japanese history, the country has been in a feudal state, with regional populations being loyal to a warlord who is granted land and titles from the emperor (or "Shogun"). In-fighting between warlords was common, and power often ebbed and flowed between different clans and families.

Samurai Daimyo Oda Nobunaga helped Ashikaga Yoshiaki to reclaim the title of Shogun for his clan in 1568, and Nobunaga used the leader as a puppet to enable his own conquests. He was a brutal warrior who once set fire to an enemy complex, killing tens of thousands of civilian non-combatants (including women and children) in order to put down a rebellion of farmers and monks. He eventually attained military control of more than half of the territories of Japan on behalf of the Shogun. His successor, Hashiba Hideyoshi, would complete the unification of Japan 11 years after political and personal tensions lead to Nobunaga's assassination by a vassal clan.

In the 19th century, Japan's isolation finally ended and it began the process of rapidly modernizing. By the 1930's, Japan had developed into a modern military-industrial machine that was almost the technological equivalent of the United States and European powers. It became the dominant power in the Pacific prior to being defeated by the United States in the second half of World War II.

Civilization V - Oda Nobunaga of Japan

Japanese uniques in Civilization V: Brave New World (post-Fall patch)

Civilization V - Japanese flag

Japan is a heavily military-focused civilization. It has two unique units and a very strong combat-oriented national trait. Since the Fall patch for Brave New World, Japan was given some additional buffs to culture from sea resources in order to round them out a bit, and a higher priority for coastal starts to make the buff useful. But Japan remains a strong domination-focused civ.


Civilization V - Oda Nobunaga, Leader of the Japanese Civilization
"Units fight as though they were at full strength even when damaged. +1 Culture from each Fishing Boat and +2 Culture from each Atoll."

Japan has one of the strongest military-focused national abilities in the game. The ability to fight at full strength when wounded allows Japanese units to deal substantial amounts of damage to enemy units - whether on offense or defense. This leaves enemy units more vulnerable to counter attacks, and may force an enemy to second-guess whether to push on with an attack. Japanese units, on the other hand, can often press on with an attack with less risk. Bushido also enables Japan to defend itself with a smaller defensive army, freeing up more units to be used for conquest.

Bushido might not work exactly how you think it does. A damaged unit's strength is not a simple ratio of its hitpoints (as in Civ IV). Instead, the unit's strength is reduced down to a minimum of 2/3 of its original strength. So a normal unit with 10 strength, but 1 HP, will fight as though its strength is 6.7 (instead of having a strength of 0.1). So at best, Japan's Bushido ability is equivalent to a 33% strength bonus.

 NormalElite ForcesJapanese
Wounded Penalty:33%8%0%
HPNormal % StrElite Forces % StrBushido % Str

This means that Japanese units continue to do the maximum amount of damage to an enemy unit, while the amount of damage that the enemy unit deals is reduced as it takes damage. This means that an evenly-matched enemy unit cannot stand toe-to-toe with an equivalent Japanese unit. And even if a single Japanese unit is attacked by multiple enemy melee units, each of those units will take more damage, which leaves them somewhat more vulnerable to a Japanese counter attack.

The Bushido ability applies to all Japanese units, allowing Japan to be militarily dominant on land, sea, and air. This ability does stack with any other promotions that increase combat strength, so that such promotions always modify the unit's full strength rather than its partial strength. Note that Bushido does not stack with Autocracy's Elite Forces tenet, so Japan should never take Elite Forces.

Civilization V - damaged unit fighting with Bushido
Due to Bushido, wounded Japanese units deal more damage to opponents and are more likely to survive.

Unlike the Shoshone "Pride of the Ancestors" promotion that comes with their "Great Expanse" ability, Japan's Bushido is not a promotion. Therefore, units gifted to other civilizations from Japan do not retain that bonus.

As of the Fall patch (2013) for Brave New World, Japan also earns culture from working Fishing Boat tiles and atolls, and they have been given a much higher coastal start bias. This can provide a nice boost to early-game culture assuming that you dedicate some time to building Work Boats. But don't go overboard on Work Boats, since your unique Samurai will be able to build Fishing Boats without expending themselves. Note that Offshore Platforms built for Oil are not Fishing Boats (although both require a Work Boat normally), so Bushido will not give them culture and your Samurai can't build them.

Civilization V - Fishing Boat culture converted to tourism
Fishing Boat culture will be converted to tourism by Hotels and Airports.
Atoll culture will not be converted, since it isn't an improvement!

The extra culture also gives Japan a slight tourism bonus later in the game. The culture from fishing boats will be converted to tourism by Hotels and Airports along with culture generated by any other tile improvements (even though the respective buildings' civilopedia descriptions don't explicitly name fishing boats). Atoll culture, however, is not converted to tourism, since it is not an improvement!


Game Info: "Powerful Medieval infantry Unit. Only the Japanese may build it. This Unit fights more effectively and helps produce Great Generals more quickly than the Longswordsman, which it replaces. Embarked Samurai can build Fishing Boats in one turn without being consumed (which makes them useful even in times of peace)."

Civilization V - Japanese Samurai


Civilopedia Strategy: "The Samurai are the Japanese unique unit, replacing the Longswordsman. As powerful as the Swordsman, the Samurai automatically receives the "Shock I" promotion, giving it a bonus when fighting in open terrain. Success in combat with a Samurai has an increased chance of generating Great Generals. Can build fishing boats without being consumed."



Replaces: Longswordsman.

Requirements: Steel technology, 1 Iron resource, and 1 gold per turn maintenance (same as Longswordsman).

Obsoleted: Rifling technology (instead of Gunpowder like the Longswordsman).

Upgrades To: Rifleman (instead of Musketman like the Longswordsman).

Cost: 120 Production / 240 Faith / 460 Gold (same as Longswordsman) [Standard speed].

Attack Type: Melee, Combat Class: Melee, Combat Strength 21 (same as Longswordsman).

Movement Speed: 2 (same as Longswordsman).

Bonuses: Shock I (+15% Combat Strength on Open terrain),
Great Generals II (+100% Great General XP),
and Can build Fishing Boats while embarked (without consuming the unit)

The Samurai is a modest unique unit. It is not any stronger than the Longswordsman that it replaces, nor does it have any special combat promotions. It does, however, start with Shock I by default, so it is more effective on open terrain.

The real military benefit of the Samurai is that they receive a special promotion that increases the Great General experience that they gain from combat. Great Generals II and Shock I are both carried over when the unit upgrades, so you'll continue to generate more generals even after Samurai have become obsolete. The extra generals will help ensure that all your combat units receive the +15% combat bonus from a nearby general, and can give you extra leeway in creating Citadels.

Civilization V - Samurai creating fishing boat Civilization V - ice-blocked Samurai fishing boat
[LEFT] Samurai can instantly create Fishing Boats and are not expended when they do so,
and they can embark to access locations that Work Boats cannot reach ([RIGHT]).

As of the Fall patch, the last benefit of the Samurai is that embarked Samurai can create Fishing Boats on top of sea resources. Doing so is instantaneous and does not consume the unit (like it does with a Work Boat) although it will consume all the remaining movement points of the Samurai. One indirect benefit of this ability, is that since they can disembark onto land, Samurai can access some sea tiles that may be inaccessible to normal Work Boats.

The ability to build Fishing Boats is not a promotion; it is an ability intrinsic to the Samurai unit (like the Roman Legion's ability to build roads and forts). As such, it does not carry over when upgraded. Fortunately, Samurai don't become obsolete until Rifling, which means that you can continue to build them throughout the Renaissance Era if you need more Fishing Boats. It may be advisable to camp a couple Samurai in your cities and never upgrade them, so you will have them in case you need to build more Fishing Boats or replace pillaged ones.


Game Info: "Air Unit designed to wrest control of the skies and intercept incoming enemy aircraft. Only the Japanese may build it. This Unit has a bonus against other Fighters and does not require Oil."
Civilization V - Japanese Zero


Civilopedia Strategy: "The Zero is the Japanese unique unit, replacing the Fighter. The Zero is a moderately-powerful air unit. It is like the standard fighter, except that it gets a significant combat bonus when battling other fighters and does not require the Oil resource. It can be based in any city you own or aboard an aircraft carrier. It can move from city to city (or carrier) and can perform "missions" within its range of 8 tiles. See the rules on Aircraft for more information."


Replaces: Fighter.

Requirements: Radar technology, and 1 gold per turn maintenance (same as Fighter).

Obsoleted: Never (same as Fighter).

Upgrades To: Jet Fighter (same as Fighter).

Cost: 375 Production / 1090 Gold (same as Fighter) [Standard speed].

Attack Type: Ranged, Combat Class: Fighter (air),
Range: 8, Ranged Strength 45 (same as Fighter).

Interception Range: 8, Movement Points: 2 (same as Fighter).

Bonuses: Can Intercept other aircraft, Interception (100) (100% chance to Intercept*), Air Sweep (can perform Air Sweep missions), Air Recon (passive ability that reveals tiles within 6 distance from the unit), Bonus versus Bombers /Helicopters (150) (+150% Combat Strength vs Bombers and Helicopters) (all same as Fighter)
Bonus vs Fighters (+33% versus other fighters).

The Zero is not a particularly strong unit. It is the only unique Fighter replacement in the game, and so it has a decent bonus against other fighters. This makes it a good intercepting unit if the enemy uses its own fighters to perform Air Sweeps. The Zero's own Air Sweeps will also be more effective, which means that you can more quickly clear a path for your own Bombers to start reducing enemy cities' defenses to ruins. Sadly the Zero doesn't receive any additional bonus against incoming Bombers. But since air power becomes very important in the late game, do not underestimate the value of the Zero!

Being a late-game unit, the Zero never becomes obsolete. It also has the benefit of not requiring Oil in order to build it. So be sure to fill your cities up with them to protect yourself from bombers. Since its anti-fighter bonus carries over on upgrade, it is recommended that Japan never build Jet Fighters directly; instead, build a Zero and pay to upgrade it to a Jet Fighter.

Civilization V - Zeroes do not require Oil
Zeroes do not require Oil and never go obsolete, so Japan can build them indefinitely as defensive units.

If you want to further improve the effectiveness of your Zero, then try to build as many Triplanes as you can before researching Radar. Triplanes have a +50% (base) Interception chance that also carries over when upgraded. Your Zeros would then have 150% base chance to Intercept. This does not mean they can intercept Stealth Bombers (which have 100% Evasion), but it does mean that wounded fighters will intercept more often (with full combat strength due to Bushido) since the current interception chance is adjusted relative to the intercepting unit's current health.

Bonus v other Fighters (33)

For example: a regular Fighter with 67 HP and Interception (100) would only have an effective 67% chance to intercept (100% base chance x 67% health). A Zero with 67 HP and 150% base interception will have an effective 100% chance to intercept (150% base chance x 67% health). This pairs well with Bushido, since the wounded Zero will still intercept at 100% combat strength.

Bringing honor to to Japan

Civilization V - island with atolls
Islands with atolls are great targets for early cities, since the culture is immediate.

The best place for Japan to start the game is near an atoll; however, this rarely happens since the map likes to give resources to capitals instead of atolls. But if your early explorations uncover a nearby atoll, then consider settling a new city in that area as soon as possible. Atolls are slightly better early game than Fishing Boat resources, since they provide their +2 Culture immediately without needing to spend the time or money to improve it with a Work Boat. That's like having an extra Monument in your city!

Civilization V - Bushido and God of the Sea Fishing Boats
God of the Sea pantheon turns Fishing Boats
into power tiles for Japan

If you are stuck with sea resources rather than atolls, then it is probably a good idea to try to get a Work Boat or two out early in order to start getting some culture from a few of those tiles. Don't go overboard on the Work Boats though, since they are expensive and are only good for a single use. Improve the sea resources that you will be working right away and then hold off on improving your waters until you get some Samurai. The God of the Sea pantheon (+1 production from Fishing Boats) can also help make the investment in a couple early Work Boats more worthwhile.

You don't necessarily have to rush to found coastal cities, since their start-up cost is usually pretty high. If you see a nice, atoll-rich location, then you should settle it immediately for the early culture boost. Otherwise, you can expand your first couple cities inland to procure territory and resources (particularly iron). Then, when you have Samurai, start founding coastal cities with access to sea resources. Send a swordsman to escort any settler. Once you research Steel (and Optics), you can then upgrade that sword into a Samurai and use it to quickly improve your sea resources.

Don't hesitate to start using Japan's military buffs to your advantage. I suggest opening Honor fairly early in the game so that you can start using your honorable Bushido military to start earning culture, gold, and City-State influence from killing barbarians and clearing encampments. With Bushido, even Scouts can become viable barbarian hunters after you get your initial exploration out of the way. You won't have to spend as much time healing, and so after clearing one encampment, you can immediately send your troops to the next one if any are present.

Unfortunately, City-States don't seem to take Bushido into consideration when determining whether to be afraid of Japan. So you won't be any more effective at demanding tribute from City-States than you would be with any other equivalent military force.

Civilization V - Statue of Zeus wonder

A couple of high-priority techs for Japan to pursue (once you've researched your necessary luxury techs) are Iron Working and Optics. Iron Working will unlock the Heroic Epic, which is a high-priority national wonder for Japan. Bronze Working is also a prerequisite for Iron Working, which will unlock the Statue of Zeus world wonder that is always useful for a military-oriented civ. If you plan on a domination victory and opened Honor, then you should consider building the Statue of Zeus. Bronze Working will also reveal Iron, so that you can start planning your expansion to ensure that you'll have a large supply of Iron for your Samurai.

Optics also has some important features for Japan. Lighthouses are useful for ensuring that your sea tiles are worth working and will help augment your Fishing Boat tiles. The ability to embark is also critical for your Samurai's ability to construct Fishing Boats. It also unlocks the Great Lighthouse, which may be worth pursuing.

Civilization V -
Iron Working and Optics should be early tech priorities (and Philosophy on harder difficulties), then move on to Steel.

At higher difficulty levels (Emperor and above), you'll also want to detour to Philosophy. This will unlock the National College, which will allow you to remain technologically competitive with the A.I.s and dramatically speed up your progress towards researching your ultimate early-game tech goal: Steel.

Civilization V - Himeji Castle wonder

Defensive wonders like the Great Wall and Himeji Castle will boost the effectiveness of your defensive army, allowing you allocate more units to offensive engagement. A melee unit fortified in a citadel with a general and the Himeji Castle bonus will require a lot of cannon fodder or ranged support in order to topple, especially if he has more friendly units backing him up.

Once you have a respectable force of Samurai, you'll likely want to start looking toward conquest (if you haven't started doing so already). Bushido generally allows Japan to send more of its standing forces to the front lines rather than stay behind as a defensive force. Be sure to use your Samurai in combat whenever possible so that you can quickly spawn Great Generals, but be careful not to over-reach and get your Samurai killed. They are valuable units, but they aren't any stronger than standard Longswords.

With a steady supply of generals being spawned during the Medieval and Renaissance periods, you can likely afford to citadel your borders on multiple fronts. This will come in handy later, as it can lock down your territory from land wars and force enemies to have to defeat you on sea or in the air.

Even if you are actively in a state of war, you'll want to leave one or two Samurai behind in your territory. This serves three purposes:

  1. Defend your own cities from invasion,
  2. Build Fishing Boats.
  3. Replace any Fishing Boats that are pillaged by enemies.

Samurai are not expended when they build a Fishing Boat, so you won't need many of them to remain behind. If you don't have the time or money to spend on a navy, then keeping some Samurai in your territory will also allow you to replace any fishing boats that get pillaged by barbarians or enemy units. It may also be worthwhile to keep one or two Samurai for the remainder of the game so that you can continue to build more fishing boats in later eras if you annex, conquer, or settle new territory.

Civilization V - Samurai army
Go to war with your Samurai in order to start earning Great Generals.

That being said, please don't rely on your Samurai as a crutch and neglect a navy! While it is true that you don't have to worry as much about your sea resources being pillaged, your coastal start bias will mean that a large chunk of your trade will be via Cargo Ships. You'll need to protect those ships from barbarians, enemy civs, and City-States that are allied to enemy civs. This becomes especially important in the mid-game when enemy Caravels start showing up seemingly out of nowhere, and your two triremes guarding your coastal borders on either side won't be enough to combat this new threat.

Later in the game, aircraft carriers will become very important on most map types. Carriers filled with Zeroes are powerful offensive and defensive units. Having one or two Zeroes with Interception I & II, Sortie, and Air Repair promotions can quickly eradicate an opponent's offensive air force.

Peace through strength

Though Japan is a strong military power and is heavily geared towards domination victories, they can also be effective in peaceful games. The military benefits of Bushido allow Japan to maintain fewer defensive units, and even a few short defensive wars may be enough for its Samurai to generate a general or two that can be used to place citadels along your borders to keep out hostile neighbors. If you don't want to incur warmonger hate, then avoid capturing cities. You can even use your samurai to fight a perpetual war against a single City-State in order to gain general XP.

You can also use your military to attack other warmonger civilizations and liberate the capitals of other civs and / or City-States. This can earn you some easy friends that will help you towards Diplomatic Victories. Just be sure that you don't capture any cities that you can't liberate back to its original owner.

Civilization V: Sistine Chapel world wonder

With a little luck, Japan could generate a hefty sum of culture from its coastal cities. Building the Sistine Chapel can expand this benefit and give Japan the ability to rapidly adopt social policies in the mid-game. A coastal city with many fishing boats and / or atolls will likely be your strongest cultural city, and thus a prime location for your Hermitage national wonder. Later on, the Sydney Opera House can further buff the culture output of one of your coastal cities.

Japan's extra culture will help to defend Japan from rival tourism, as well as be converted into a small amount of tourism by Japan's Hotels and Airports. It's not going to be enough culture or tourism to overcome the bonuses of tourism-oriented civs like Brazil or France, but it could slow them down enough for you to achieve your own victory by other means.

Dishonoring Nobunaga: Countering Japan

Bushido is a tough ability to deal with. Entrenched Japanese units can be very difficult to kill, and can possibly kill several of your units in the attempt. Use ranged attacks to weaken Japanese units, and be sure to focus-fire them to death so that they don't survive! Taking the Charge promotion can also be helpful, since it will offset the extra damage done by wounded Japanese units.

Civilization V - pillage Japan's iron
Pillage Japan's iron if you are at war
with them prior to industrial era.

Japan's Samurai can also pump out a lot of generals, so be prepared to deal with the 15% combat bonus, as well as more citadels. But if you can stop them from acquiring iron, then you can also prevent them from building the Samurai necessary to generate the extra generals. If you start near Japan, then research Bronze Working soon so that you can find the nearby sources of iron and settle near them before Japan can. Also, check for nearby City-States that have Iron and make efforts to ally with them before Japan can.

There isn't much you can do to counter Japan's Zero. It doesn't require oil, so taking away Japan's access to oil won't help. Anti-Aircraft Guns are your best defense, since the Zero doesn't have any bonuses against them. Unfortunately, you can't attack Zeros with AA Guns, so the AA guns are mostly to protect you from air strikes.

Zeroes aren't any better against Bombers, so it's not like your air force is pointless. You can still use your own fighters to do air sweeps and then use bombers to attack. The big problem is the sheer number of Zeroes that Japan can build! If air power is necessary, you'll need a significant fleet of Carriers upgraded with Flight Deck promotions in order to have enough fighters to neutralize Japan's Zeroes with air sweeps.

Civilization V - missiles against Japan
Atomic Bombs, Nuclear Missiles, and
Guided Missiles cannot be intercepted.

But since your air power won't be reliable against Japan, be sure to bring plenty of alternative bombardment support: Artillery, Rocket Artillery, Battleships, and Missile Cruisers are more important for taking Japanese cities. Guided Missiles, Atomic Bombs, and Nuclear Missiles can't be intercepted, so you can completely ignore Japan's Zeroes and Bushido if you use those weapons instead of bombers. Just remember that those weapons are one-time-use, so you need to bring enough of them to take a city in a single round of bombardment. If you need to capture additional cities, then send the Carriers, Nuclear Submarines, and Missile Cruisers back to your cities so that you can restock them with Atomic Bombs, Nuclear Missiles, and / or Guided Missiles.

Don't feel that you have to exclusively attack cities with nukes and missiles. You can also use them against groups of units fortified in and around citadels. This can help clear paths for your land units to approach the city(ies) you want to capture.

If you're close enough to Japan that their cities are within range of Stealth Bombers based within your cities, then those units will still be very devastating. But you can't put Stealth Bombers on an aircraft carrier, so they won't be of use if you need to sail across an ocean.

The extra culture from fishing boats and atolls can also give Japan a cushion in its cultural defense against tourism. Expect Japan to take slightly longer to succumb to your tourism influence than many other civs. Maintaining open borders, trade routes, and converting Japan to your religion will all speed up your tourism accumulation against them. Be careful about giving them open borders though, since they may use it to scout out your land for conquest. Building tourism-generating wonders early (such as Great Library or Parthenon) will help give you a tourism head start against Japan if you meet them early in the game.


Discuss this strategy on Civfanatics:

Or on the official 2K forums at:

Listen to the discussion on PolyCast, Episode 220, 03m57s (Jan 31, 2015):

Other Civilization V Strategies

America (BNW)America (BNW)
Arabia (BNW)Arabia (BNW)
Carthage (BNW)Carthage (BNW)
France (BNW)France (BNW)
Germany (BNW)Germany (BNW)
India (BNW)India (BNW)
Iroquois (BNW)Iroquois (BNW)
Japan (BNW)Japan (BNW)
Ottomans (BNW)Ottomans (BNW)
Rome (BNW)Rome (BNW)

Comments (1) -

Tosh Tyler
Tosh Tyler
09/08/2015 00:05:51 #

Of all cities that could of been nuked, you choose Hiroshima... wow

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