Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Ancient Art of War: Boju

Thanks, Sunzie.

I've tweaked my DOSBox CGA emulation settings before playing this map, and now the colors look more vibrant to my eyes. Is this an improvement, or is it just more garish now? Let me know!

Boju was the site of a decisive battle between the ancient kingdoms of Wu and Chu. Legend, though not historical record, has it that Sun Tzu himself led Wu's pitiably small army to victory, diminishing Chu's power and bringing Wu's to its peak.

In Wu -vs- Ch'u, a fanciful interpretation of this event, you, a young Chu general, face rather significant strength disadvantage against Wu. Their army has 91 men, yours 67, but more importantly, they have twice as many archers as you, made all the more important here by the prevalence of forts, and half of your army consists of arrow fodder knights. On top of that, they control three unit-producing forts, you only get two.

Thankfully, this map has no fog of war, so he can't easily pull off that opposite trick where he looks strong where he's weak and weak where he's strong (corollary - always attack a Sun Tzu-quoting war bro when he looks strong).


My first goal, I figured, would be to besiege the fort closest to the west edge of the map, positioning troops on the hill to cut off its vulnerable supply line.


The main difficulty is the long march, but once reached and secured from the hill, the only way the fort can take it back is by fighting a literal uphill battle, or to cut through the woods to the village while mine need only march downhill to meet them.

First things, though - gotta make sure that the forts will actually provide you with reinforcements. They will do this as long as you have at least one unit in them with fewer than 14 men. At the start, both of your forts have full strength units, so I immediately split them up and leave two one-man units in each - this helps reduces the amount of micromanagement needed to ensure the reinforcements never stop.

The southeast fort dumps its excess troops nearby so they can react to Wu's motions quickly, retreating back into the fort if need be. The northeast fort sends its excess troops westward toward the objective. The units by the mountains head north, to capture one farm I can easily reach, and to support the northeast fort, and I also have one man up north detach and go for the other nearby farm.


Meanwhile, most of Wu's units are holding fast, except for two. The unit by the middle bridge heads southward to reinforce the southwest fort, and the unit by the northwest bridge heads toward the farm on the other side.

I withdraw to the hill. He stupidly follows.

One enemy unit eliminated, I can march unimpeded to my goal.

As I do this, Sun attacks my north position with some surplus soldiers from the fort, eliminating one of my units.

And, unluckily for him, he doesn't stop, sending a unit down from the relative safety of the hill they guard, to attack my unit on the relative safety of the hill I guard.

Now Wu is at a serious strategic weakness.

Look at all those exposed farms! Apart from the one in the far south, I can just march in and take them all, and then wait as two of his three forts are forced to make a move or starve to death.

The difficulty here is that marching such a long distance is tiring, but there's no way around that. Better to pressure the forts with tired, vulnerable troops than to not pressure them at all.

Then, while micromanaging my reinforcements from the forts, I notice Sun Tzu has done something surprising.

He's abandoning yet another farm, sending its sentry back up north to support the middle fortress! I know that the art of war is to surprise the enemy, but surprising him with free lunch might be missing the bigger picture.

And I cross the bridge and take the farm, giving the entire map's food supply to me.


Meanwhile, the enemy unit goes north to threaten my position on the midwest farm.

But this isn't much of a threat. I withdraw to the hill and it follows, where I rout it and easily retake the farm.

A few minutes later, as I wait for the forts to starve, Sun Tzu surprises me yet again.

The south fort is completely abandoned! So I move in to take it.

Our forces clash a few more times at the farms, but he simply can't hold onto them. My forts keep training more men, and before long my forces aren't just better fed than his, but also well outnumber his.

One last farm clash, and he throws in the towel.

His smartest move yet.


  1. I think your new CGA setting is an improvement. Looks better to my eyes anyway. What setting did you change? And to what? (maybe it will help someone else at some point)

    1. In DOSBox-X, Ctrl+F7 toggles between CGA models. I'm not sure what the default one is, but for this map I switched from it.

  2. The new CGA setting looks better to me as well.

  3. It looks better that way - the water is finally blue. That's also the color scheme I am used too.

    I liked this map because you need to adapt to your opponent rather than use a gimmick. If I remember correctly, Sun Tzu makes unexpected moves to "surprise" you because he is such a great strategist. In maps without FoG, it does not work well and the great strategist looks like a fool.
    You can change the default settings of a map before launching it, but of course they are designed with some specific settings in mind.

    1. Funny that the only times you face Sun Tzu are on maps without fog! Of course you could also set him as your opponent for a map designed for fog.

  4. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 6, 2023 at 10:53 AM

    Very fun seeing you play through this game, which I remember fondly. I played its sequel, 'Ancient Art of War at Sea,' even more and still have the original box, manual, and disks. Looking forward to when you get to that one.


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