Keep your helmet on tighter even after the war is won.

— Japanese saying

Shōen Retainers: Vital statistics

Unit type

Heavy infantry

Built/trained at


Damage and weapon type




Production cost

  • Pop cost: 1
  • Resource cost: 50Ore; 60Food
  • Ramp cost: 5Food


  • Melee
  • Low LOS

Unit move and creation speed

  • Unit movement speed: Slow
  • Creation speed: Slow

Unit HP

Rather high

Technological requirements

Factions available


In the wake of the ineffectuality of centralised government and the lack of economic governance, local landlords and even peasants and monks have begun to take up arms for the defence of their homes or the extension of their influence. Shōen Retainers are people from all walks of life — military men, militia, and even vagabonds and undesirables — who have been lured with the promise of an iron rice bowl to join in the struggles of an increasingly feudalised society where the production of food and the means to do so is all that matters.

As such, Shōen Retainers have one bizarre trait — whereas Russian heavy infantry may sacrifice food consumption at the cost of metal efficiency, here it is quite the opposite: Shoen Retainers cost little in metal, their ramp mostly in the form of food. If combined with Japan's Suicide Soldiers, these units can be quite an unspeakable force: the savings of food from Suicide Soldiers can be used to salary the Shōen, which, with a metal discount, will be relatively cheaper than the heavy infantry of other nations, such as those of Mongolia or France, thus providing a perfect defensive infantry force to survive the early-game Peasant Levy marauding that is bound to take place. On the other hand, given Japan's ability to generate free Shōen Retainers with each new barracks built, these heavy infantry units can be used on a banzai rush against your opponent themselves!

Towards the end of the Heian period, the growing decentralised nature of Japan due to bureaucratic incompetence saw the rise of the military class, now collectively labelled as the "men at arms", or bushi. For the next six hundred years, the bushi became the mainstay of provincial and local power holders, and even civil and religious institutions had independent control of their own private bushi to protect themselves. By the Kamakura period, all power in Japan was in the hands of military leaders and their bushi, who were becoming increasingly more powerful, tactics-wise and politics-wise, and it was these men who would eventually form the class of warriors known as saburai.

Unit summaryEdit

  • Heavy infantry unit which has a reduced metal cost but has an increased rate of food consumption, compared to normal Spearmen.
  • Living to Eat — Although they cost more food, training Shōen Retainers is actually not a problem, since you can use the savings from Suicide Soldiers to train more of them, providing a perfect defensive force to survive early-game Peasant Levy rushes. This is actually made easier, given the fact that Japan will spawn a few of these warriors with each barracks built, so Japan is quite well-suited towards a Dark Age infantry rush.

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