First of all I request that any mod reading this stickies it as I do not see any stickied guide like this. This is may take you a while to read so I recommend reading only the parts you are interested in unless you have some time
The first part deals with their overview and strategies while part two explains how to counter their advantages and best troops.
Credit for the image goes to Shireknight
This is what I thought of the factions and my strategies for playing as them
Mori: As expected, nice but not spectacular for me. Start location is great and allows you to access almost any coastline from the very start but watch your back, you are in the middle of Japan so land attacks will be plentiful and you only have one river which you can use to send out your ships, ALWAYS make sure it is protected.
Chosokabe: With so many water-available factions the island thing turned out to be a letdown (also Mori starts out right beside you so in that case it seems more like a disadvantage, war with Mori= Island becomes your jail.) That said if you manage to have a good naval force you can heavily damage an attacking force (as even the largest army can be seriously damaged by a small amount of ships attacking a navy that is carry troops over.) So really the island is a disadvantage or advantage depending on your playing style and if you would mind paying upkeep for a patrolling navy. The archer bonus is pretty nice though and your island is filled with farms with can definitely boost your economy. Your island need a very strong naval defense in order to keep it completely troop free. this naval defense will have to be so strong that really the upkeep isn't worth it. Boats also travel quite fast in this game so in one turn an enemy could come from off the screen and deploy 3 full stacks of soldiers, 5 agents and 3 generals and you will not be able to do anything about it. making a land defense will be a much better choice as the enemy will have to use land troops in order to do things on your island (that includes ocean sieging, they still have to use land troops in order to attack your castle. Archers are very good however never build an army that relies completely on its archers as countering it will be very easy. Conversion to Christianity is highly un-endorsed when playing as chosokabe as you risk religious revolt to get guns earlier in the game, even when you have a bonus to arrows. If you really want to convert to guns use Date. It is important to remember that archers can run out of arrows so it is important to use them against the targets they will do the most damage to. Later in the military tree there is a research that will give all bow units double ammunition (I don't remember the name but it also lets you build encampments)
Oda: Definitely not my type of army but I think this will be a large crowd pleaser. Allows for large armies by increasing the courage of ashigaru (which fixes the one thing that makes them a letdown and makes them more than make up their cost. Probably the most forgiving faction and one of the best at the same time. Probably categorize as most forgiving and GENERALLY 2nd best (I put generally because these factions excel in different situation, generally refers to most battles) The reasons I put 2nd is because in situations like and against armies like the uesagi who have broader roles they may face some difficulty. If you are new to the series I would recommend playing with this faction first. That said a good veteran can also make wonderful use of this army as superior numbers allows for more flanking and tactical opportunities. A large weakness of this army would most likely be cavalry (cavalry that is exceptional at charging such as yari cavalry would be best) and siege engines (as they can make huge casualties on a massed army and/or force your opponent to send his untrained forces to fight one on one with your better units as their army formation is in shambles.) As far as the campaign map goes Oda will have to compete with 4 other nearby major factions (and the Shimazu and Chosokabe aren't that far off either once they get a navy and/or have an army on the mainland of japan. A large advantage of the Oda though is that they can build powerful ashigaru armies right from the start and capture territories to boost your economy. Within the first 20 turns you should have at least 1 other province if you are playing as the Oda. Make sure to try to aim for that (and it does hurt to be an overachiever and take your first province earlier either!)
Date: Pleasantly surprised, the charge bonus for all units and the no-dachi samurai makes for a good aggressive army that I can definitely see being played by people who like to rush early in the game (quite unlike me.) No-dachi samurai are also great on the charge AND in a prolonged combat because of their katana's. If charged into a unit combined with Date's charge bonus they can decimate a large part of it while also being able to stay in combat and finish the job if needed (like if you are facing warrior monks that do not break easily.) This is also the best faction for converting as getting guns early in the game will be very helpful because guns destroy morale and a gun line of 120 soldiers that fires and then does a Date charge can morally destroy and rout many units that cost much more than them. For this reason fire bomb throwers will also be very handy to bomb the enemy before charging. On the campaign map they also have easy access to trade with china and their large starting province can make an army walk more than usual in order to reach your capital. Just watch out for the nearby Ueugi who may not be happy to see another playable faction hanging around on "their" territory.
Hojo: I'm sorry if people don't like me for saying this but strongly disappointed, their siege units don't seem much better than for example hattori (will talk about next) and once you get inside range of your units (as their range is superior) Hojo seems quite weak. The only thing that actually makes this clan ok is the bonuses to building and repairing castles which is quite deadly combined with their long range units, but they are very expensive (even with Hojo discount) and making a while army out of them or even half an army is not a very effective garrison once they get close enough to your castle. They do start out with 2 provinces however which does give them a nice advantage in their economy early on but don't wait around, by the first 5-10 turns many clans will already have their second province. If you make good use of this advantage though you may be able to get somewhere. Hojo will most likely excel against large armies of units that do not have high morale (such as ashigaru) because ranged fire from on top of a castle wall or from a siege weapon can tear large holes in morale like no other. Make sure to follow up though as seige units can run out of ammo very fast and your castle wall may eventually be penetrated by that one unit of ninja's you didn't think you needed to run down and you let them become hidden again. before that happens you have to make sure to run down the enemy army and give them little chance to regroup and reform. You may find cavalry very useful for this role and they are usually a good pair with siege equipment (unless you are using the siege equipment to siege of course, then it is probably a very bad idea.
everything above this has been updated to V2, will update more later
Hattori: Wow, just wow. Really happy I received the limited edition because these guys seem amazing. They carry a large roster of specialized units that receive very nice bonuses as well as starting far away from any other playable clan so they have a great start to their economy as well as researching. When these guys bring out their advanced units they are quite unstoppable but be WARNED. The special units are expensive and you will have to focus the early parts of the game in building up your economy if you want to be able to make full use of your abilities later in the game. Their units are also just a tad more expensive than normal. Definitely a late game faction and is vulnerable to rushing and farming. Can be one of the strongest if used correctly but also quite unforgiving should you make a mistake you will find yourself in a financial hole and you will be forced to disband your army. I would have to say for advanced players only.
Takeda: Great cavalry is not only stronger, but more importantly TOUGHER. A clan bonus should allow you to base an army on it if you wish and making cavalry troops tougher allows you to place more cavalry in your roster as cavalry troops are a small part of the force in most armies simply because they need the unit they are attacking to be distracted and not notice them. though that is still recommended this cavalry can hold their own much better and cheaper costs will allow you to make large formations that are sure to devastate. Not my favorite (that would be hattori) but probably my 2nd or 3rd, very nice
Usuegi: Warrior monks are better than most other basic troops and can provide a a very broad role. Usuegi allow for a force that can change strategies on the fly but when it comes to playing more specialized units such as no-dachi samurai, ninjas and the likes your troops will always have the advantage if you do not let them use their specializations. If they do get in the situation where they wan tot be you will most likely see yourself suffering more from it then other armies. Battling in areas like wide, flat plains is your game and you will have the advantage here in many cases. Be wary when playing hattori or date and make sure they cannot use their superior units the way they want to. (example is charging your archers into their units when they get really close, sounds very stupid but may give you a chance at surviving if you surprise Date with a move like this.) They also reap a nice trade bonus which will be useful as monks require heavy armored units to support them (and heavy armor means big money)
Shimazu: Start on an island which is a good advantage (however the island is pretty large making it less useful than for example to chokosobe island because it will be hard to defend, yet it has almost the same amount of provinces and unlike choksobe who specialize in farms AND have them all over their island you don't) Your main advantage lies in your katana units which means that you troops will be adept melee fighters. You first priority on the campaign should be to conquer a province with horses and build the katana chain as well as the horse chain on it. You will now be able to recruit katana horses which will be able to quickly engage enemy ranged units which would normally devastate your katana units. Though you can use spears for this I would advise not to as spears cannot stay fighting in one spot too long while you are relying on your cavalry to hold down your opponent in order for your main katana units to reach. Sieges will be tough but still doable. A cheap trick you can use is to have 2 or more ninjas go to a gate and use stealth (you can capture while stealthed, even though this may later be patched out.) When you are capturing and your first group of ninja's stealth is almost out bring in your second group to take over. Though you will most likely lose your ninja units do to defender missile fire stealth works no matter how close they are to you. Once the gates are open quickly rush in your cavalry before they take the gates again (you will need your cavalry to be on the scene while your ninjas are capturing for this to work) and hold up the units there making sure that they do not capture the gate again. now simply march in your katana troops and the rest should fit into place.
Tokugawa: Tokugawa have very strong ninja's. As a Tokugawa player you will want to get into siege battles where you are the attacker as stealthed units can capture gates and towers. Diplomacy is key to getting near your enemies most important castles and you should focus on destroying an empire in either a few turns (going through everything kind of like a blitzkrieg) or capture a large portion of territory and then make peace again for larger players. After making peace and attacking again another peace will not be likely to work so on the second attack make SURE you can take them down before they have a chance to counter-attack. It should also be noted that sometimes after declaring war a person may not want to have another peace. If you know that you will not be able to take them down in one move plan for a peace because in order for them to agree you must declare peace when you are strong (even when you know you can't take them if you took like 3 provinces in the last 5 turns they will still most likely accept a peace out of sheer fear that you have more soldier than you do.)
All in all I am very happy with MOST of the clans (looking at you Hojo, In other threads before the demo I stated you would be the one I played *starts crying*.) Looking at the numbers my favorite is Hattori because their ninja's do receive a nice bonus to slow down armies and their specialized units can pound down almost anything. I know I am making them sound godly but once again the weakest point of the hattori is their economy which can be easily undermined. I suggest using your campaign ninjas for counter intelligence instead of attacking because you are much more vulnerable to ninja's then your opponent (if you have some extra ninjas then go right ahead.) May e a hard faction to learn with but they are definitely the first ones I am playing.
Unfortunatly because of the character limit and me not being smart enough to reserve a post (woops
) I have moved part to into its own separate thread:http://forums.totalwar.com/showthread.php/11166-The-Clans-a-Complete-Walkthrough-Part-2
Thank you for your understanding and I am sorry for any inconvenience