Gameboys From Hell: Solium Infernum Part 2

By Kieron Gillen on January 14th, 2010 at 7:38 pm.

Solium Infernum’s borders get set early, and then don’t move by much. By turn 11, things were in the basic formation they were for the rest of the game. And this is it…

Kieron: And, yes, that did involve me doing old skool games journalism multiple screenshots and lining up. I also removed all the armies, so it’s easier to refer back to. Man! The things I do for you readers. The borders – which you can probably see faintly – are of Turn 11. And do alter a little, but not enough to worry about the general placements. Also, it’s worth taking a walk around the Kingdoms, just to intro everyone properly…

As a general rule, if someone’s written something for RPS, we go with their real names. If someone’s a reader, we go with their in-game name. Which we have to do, as otherwise we’d miss the glory of SPEEDO DEMON. I’ll tell you who they are in these write-ups, just for the record.

First up, me. I’m in the middle. Well, I am in my head. You note that the only unit on the map is in all four corners – that’s to show how the map loops. Everyone is in the middle and surrounded on all sides. I have foolishly extended to create this long, snake-like empire. An impassable chasm on my west makes it a bit more defendable, but not by much. The only reason I’ve expanded so much is to try and grab hold of as many shrines as possible, each of which earns prestige if you own. As of turn 10, I’ve grabbed three – but, alas, three shit ones which only earn a single VP a turn. The shrines all have their own names, which I suspect will come up in conversation later. Enormous vagina-shaped gates, basically. It takes all sorts.

To my east is Scrofula, who has a similarly sprawling Empire, in a similarly foolishly elongated shape, without even a decent natural defence to help him. I’d worry about a land war, but I think he’s going to get a lot of attention anyway. He’s Hentazu - who you may remember for slaughtering my Skaven – and is writing up his turns over at his blog. Here’s his 1-10, if you want to get up to date.

To my north is Poisoned Sponge aka Phill Cameron, who has written a load of stuff for us. A tighter Kingdom by most. Frankly, if I get defeated by Quinns, It getting close to the position where we don’t share a border. He’s also writing up his turns over at his blog, and here’s his 1-10. It’s worth noting that the mistake I made last turn, saying his unit was wiped out. It as actually Quinns who got wiped out, but sending a weakling unit. It was Sponge who got a unit back from the crusade, and reaped the rewards. In other words, he has a hard unit, ready to biff.

To my North West (also, my South, but with a natural boundary separating us) is Quinns. Now, his actual unit actually got its boost by conquering the two shrines in his area, and getting a level up – and his level up was to get a devilish medal which gives enormous bonuses. Only one unit in the whole game can have this advance. So it’s just as lucky, in a different way, and is still threatening my borders. It’s worth noting that there’s going to be several bits where one of us mis-reads what another person has actually done. That we missed what the other person actually *did* is a big chunk of my point.

To my west is the small kingdom of Zah’lak (aka Stalin’s Ghost from the comments). Very compressed, but with shrines captured. Has armies massing on the west, and looks to be starting trouble with Scrofula.

Finally, there’s Speedodemon (aka Bossman from the comments) who is the one fiend who I share no border with. I presume this makes him not my problem. I couldn’t be more wrong than if I allied with Quinns.

Oh – there’s also Pandemonium marked on the map. This is where the conclave live, who decides who’s Boss-demon at the end of the game. You’re able to attack it if you want, and automatically win if you hold it… but that means dealing with its enormous defences, and surviving five turns with all the other players able to bash the hell out of you. Or bash you out of hell. One or the other.

Turn 11 – Quinns:

YES! Chaos and disorder reigns supreme! Thanks to Speedo Demon and Kieron neglecting to discuss an intelligent joint response to my demands (such as both refusing), Speedo coughed up the four tribute cards I asked of him while Kieron refused. The way this works now is that I can take that refusal to the Infernal Conclave, act insulted, and they’ll give me permission to claim a vendetta. In a couple of turns I’ll be able to waltz my mighty legion across Kieron’s border and take one of his Places of Power. Or two… No, can’t be greedy, and I mustn’t overextend myself. Just a short, sharp incision that’ll leave him smarting and prove to everybody that I mean business. Maybe it’ll make the other Archfiends think twice before refusing a demand of mine. Or maybe it’ll unite them against me. We’ll see.

Turn 11 – Kieron:

You want stuff from me, Speedo? Without a border? What are you going to do? Throw stuff at me across that chasm. Fuck right off, my son.

Turn 12 – Quinns:

The Hellmouth’s still closed, and everyone’s got very much into this demands business. I like it. When resources dry up in Hell and we can’t demand tribute from our minions, we demand it from one another. Of course!

I managed to buy that new legion to protect my southern border. They’re the Sisters of Flame, and they look like this:

With Ranged 0, Melee 4 and Infernal 4 they’re a bit crap, but at this stage of the game it’s nothing attaching a praetor (Solium’s heroes/officers) won’t fix. Besides, they have a flame aura, meaning they deal a little unavoidable damage at the end of each combat round. Damaged legions are a pretty serious factor in Solium. Nursing your armies back to full strength only happens in proximity of a Place of Power or your stronghold, and even then it can be slow going.

Anyway! Fuck all that! My vendetta against Kieron’s now in place, so I can finally begin my Northern invasion of the uppity bastard’s territory. I’ve ordered my super-legion to march on his Tree of Woe and take the satisfaction which is rightly mine, and I’ve set capturing a Place of Power as the victory condition for the vendetta. Assuming I win the battle, come next turn our war will already be over and I’ll even get a slice of Kieron’s prestige for winning it.

It’s stupid. My legion’s stats render it almost indestructible. Kieron has no visible defenses. Naturally, utter paranoia is starting to set in. When I made my demand of Kieron my legion was /right there/ next to his Tree. Why would Kieron allow me to start a vendetta unless he didn’t fear my legion? Maybe he considers the tree useless. Or maybe he knows something I don’t.

Turn 13 – Quinns:

Success. Thank Christ. Emailing your orders off into the void and having to wait for the result is a really disturbing mechanic.

Seems like Kieron tried a weak confusion ritual to lower my Legion’s abilities (I think he’s focusing on a deception-focused Archfiend, like me) but it didn’t work. My Legion crumpled up the Tree’s defense forces like a paper bag. Vendetta complete! THat brings me up to 3 Places of Power and a hearty +5 prestige each turn.

Time to take stock of what’s going on. I’m in the lead in prestige and prestige per turn, yet I’m safe. My northern border is still protected by a ludicrous Legion and the South simply isn’t an easy target. The guy who’s 2nd in our game, Scrofula, had to go scrambling all over the map to claim his places of power. My holdings are comparatively small and easy to defend.

What to do next? Probably the smart thing would be to sit tight for a bit, let the prestige and tribute roll in, and watch the board like a hawk.

Turn 13 – Kieron

Yeah, that ritual to stun them didn’t work. It was a tad optimistic – I discover around now that the actual bodyguard top-unit has infinite loyalty, so can’t actually be subverted. This doesn’t mean that it can’t actually be influenced by Deciet skills, of course – it just means that it’s pretty damn hard, and you can’t actually lure them over to your side. As if I’d want any of Quinns’ stinky troops anyway. And I can’t do it, as you need a level 6 deciet skill to build it up. Getting to the top of the stats takes… well, a lot of resources. Fuck it. At least the Vendetta is over now. I’ll give up one Place of Power now rather than give up the resources, as I need it for development. That’s basically my tactic now – develop my self so I can actually defend.

Of course, telling Speedo to fuck right off my son has lead to him claiming a Vendetta – but rather than a military force, he’s actually demanding a fight by Champions. These Praetors can be bought, and attached to units to boost their fighting abilities – alternatively, sent out to do what Speedo is. As in, a duel of honour. Clearly, I’d meet him on the field of battle, but I – er- haven’t a praetor. Well, if I had one, he’d only go and get himself killed. Abstractly, this is my tactic still – fold, lose the prestige now, and earn it back later when the resources I’ve gathered makes me a nifty demon. It’s a long game. Right now, resources is more important than prestige.

This is, at least, what I tell myself.

Turn 15 – Kieron
The funniest part of this stage of the game is that it seems that everyone is sitting, waiting for someone to start a vendetta against someone else… at which point everyone else makes a demand or an insult against the victim, knowing that they’ll probably settle, not wanting to be in multiple wars at once. Well, that’s what it looks from my perspective. I suspect Scrofula is feeling a little differently.

Turn 15 – Quinns:
Attached a praetor to my southern legion, thereby locking down my borders. Sponge is moving against Scrofula, so I don’t think I have to. Frail Kieron’s asked if I want to team up, but I don’t need him or trust him. I have, however, told him something about one of his neighbours as a show of good faith.

Terrible paranoia is creeping in. My early lead simply can’t have escaped everyone’s notice. The smart thing would be to try and keep the other five Archfiends on the back foot, so I guess I’ll look into making another demand or two in a bit. The fact is, I own and am earning so much prestige that I’m practically paralyzed. Starting a war might upset this pile I’m currently sat at the top of.

Turn 19 – Kieron
I’ve spent the last few turns building up my resources. I’ve picked up an artifact called the Leamington Seal, and slid it into an artifact slot. This gives my prophecy a boost, taking it to level 4. This is a crucial stage, as it means I have 3 actions. In other words, no more worrying about not being able to demand souls – which thankfully we can do again, now the hellgate is open – if you have two things to do. Alternatively, I could throw two orders on gathering souls. This makes it less efficient – everyone one after the first gains less and less – but it’s better than nothing if you’ve an action to spare.

I’m going to build my powers even more. I still don’t have a Praetor – though I see Speedo is still challenging everyone, implying his guy is a hefty chap. He’s troublesome. I can’t believe no-one has given him a slap. Hell, I could have, if I had a border. I start thinking of alternative ways of fucking him over, without actually having to march there.

Not having a Praetor at this point is a bit stupid, so I play an event which means that no-one can challenge me for 3-6 turns. In other words, a nice window where I don’t have to worry about being stomped.

Turn 20 – Quinns:
Not much is happening. Denied a demand from Speedo, sent one to Scrofula. No wars though. Speedo wanted his vendetta settled by single combat of champions, and Scrofula handed over the resources I asked for. That surprised me. Watching the hasty, eager way Scrofula had been moving his legions, I figured he had more ego than that.

I’m currently trying to amass the agonising wad of souls and darkness required to boost my Deceit stat to level IV. That’ll give me an extra order each turn, not to mention the ability to bribe enemy praetors to my side. I need this. I need to make use of the Master of Lies perk I took at character creation that boosts my Deceit rituals. Besides, I get the feeling everybody else is snatching up relics and boosting stats on the sly. It’s worrying, these pockets of radio silence that go on for turns at a time. You know that when a fight does kick off, you’ll be facing a stronger, quicker, smarter opponent.

I’m currently in talks with Sponge. We’re trading, if you can believe that. I’m giving him 8 hellfire for 4 souls and 2 darkness, bringing me within 2 souls of Deceit IV. There is, of course, the possibility Sponge will betray the trade and send me nothing in return. If that happens I’m ruining him. I’m wiping him off the map. Winning the game goes out of the window.

On a less veangeful note, I’m starting to realise that the only way to stay ahead in Solium Infernum is to help others up. You might be #1, but if you help out #3 then that’ll tie up numbers #3 and #2, and you’ll still be #1.

Turn 20 – Kieron:
I’m looking for targets. Speedo has barely any defences. He’s already challenged me a few times. I don’t like the cut of his jib. And I think I have a plan…

, , .

60 Comments »

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  1. StalinsGhost says:

    It’s Zah’Hak!

    (I tend to theme my archfiends after mythological figures. Zah’hak is an ancient Iranian god of lies and other nefarious misdeeds)

    Y’know, I can’t actually remember what I spent these turns doing, really. Probably those leading up to my capture of the City of Dis, and building up my Deceit further. Oddly enough, I get the feeling that Quinns and I had more or less exactly the same build. Prince of Lies is a magnificent perk if you’re going down the deceit route.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Stalin: I’m not re-doing the map. No way.

      Sorry, man.

      KG

    • StalinsGhost says:

      This is an outrage!

      I demand you hand over 5 tribute cards.

    • JonFitt says:

      Redoing the map for Stalin would give you to use your graphical skills to make the borders remotely readable. Grey against grey is not a good palette.

    • Noc says:

      Here’s a Correctly Labeled and Eye-Preservingly Colored revision.

      With some edit seams smoothed out for good measure.

    • JonFitt says:

      Hurrah! That’s much nicer (sorry KG).

      I notice now that there’s a house-y doodad right near Zah’hak which he hasn’t captured. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?

    • Jad says:

      Its neat having people who are part of the story comment in between installments. That means they can casually drop hints and spoilers as to whats to come next. Of course, I don’t know enough about the game to actually make any use of these spoilers. If only! If only!

      Also, thanks Noc: that makes way more sense now.

    • Matt says:

      StalinsGhost: You named your fiend Zack?

    • StalinsGhost says:

      @matt I named him Zah’hak. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahhak

      @noc Bloomin brilliant job with the map Noc!

      @JonFitt – I couldn’t muster enough legion strength to capture the City of Dis right away. But I wasn’t going to let anyone else have it either, so I surrounded it with my cantons.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      That’s a nice map doo-dah Noc, please, take some kudos.

      I don’t understand how the territory snatching works; Stalin’s Ghost, why didn’t you just capture both of the power things and then leave your territory as four hexes? Or if you get something for all the territory you’ve claimed, why are there so many empty hexes between all the players? Ta.

    • Noc says:

      1) Places of Power have garrisons that need to be conquered before they can be taken, which is why he couldn’t take it immediately.

      2) You can’t move your legions through another player’s territory unless you’ve got a Vendetta going with them. So, even if you can’t take a place, you can claim the territory around it, which’ll prevent someone else from casually waltzing through and conquering it before you do.

      3) You do get a benefit from the hexes you own, I think (it determines what you get when you demand resources) but remember that this is the early game. Before Turn 13, actually, since Kieron still owns the Tree of Woe. So….

      a) most of these guys only have one army, and Sponge had no army for the turns his was away crusading against Heaven. And they’re generally pretty busy doing things like making bee-lines to places of power and watching borders, and can’t necessarily afford to spend precious turns faffing about in the middle of nowhere filling out hexes.

      b) You only get 2 orders per turn in the early game, and there’s a lot to do. An order you could use to send an army puttering about capturing territory could also be used to get resources or buy a new army or do a diplomacy-thing or any number of stuff that’s probably more urgent. I dunno if Kieron’s going to make more maps to show further border-shifting, but I imagine that the map will start to fill out once people start having orders and legions to spare.

  2. skizelo says:

    Kieron, the Order of the Black Ring, the thing which enormo-buffed his legion, is an event: he didn’t get it from capturing the 2 PoPs. Pedant Away!
    And Stalins… were half of the players persuing a deceit-route? Huh.

  3. Noc says:

    Intrigue! Suspense!

  4. JonFitt says:

    Does the Leamington Seal hang around by the river and harass tourists for fish?

  5. Sly Boots says:

    Good work chaps. This isn’t a game I’ve played nor will in all likelihood ever play, but I’m enjoying reading these reports.

    Carry on!

  6. anonymous17 says:

    The paranoia – between the lines.

  7. Ergates says:

    More.

  8. Jacques says:

    These stories are making me want to buy the game. Damn you and your Battle Report writing Kieron!

  9. Skusey says:

    Really wish that I had enough PC friends to play this with now as it fascinates me. Oh well.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      ^this

    • BonusWavePilot says:

      @Skusey: well, given the interest amongst the stalwart commenters here, I reckon you’d probably be able to throw together a squad for an interesting PBEM game by trawling the forums, or just suggesting it here in a comment, no?
      Afraid I’m another of the fence sitters in price terms, but I’m a cheap bastard. Also poor.

  10. DMJ says:

    Superb series. The misunderstandings, corrections, claims and counter-claims that are coming out in this account just add to the interest. It reminds us that we’re reading a subjective and fallible account of the game, written by the participants. What the truth actually is is less important than what everyone believes the truth to be.

    This game must be what being in politics is like.

  11. DeliriumWartner says:

    God I really really want to play this game. It sounds like the ultimate paranoid fantasy. I’m tempted to get it, though I’d prefer it from Steam. The more I read, the more likely I am to fold and plonk down the money on it.

  12. JonFitt says:

    I’m enjoying reading the various battle reports, and it sounds like great fun, but probably it really requires a good bunch of people to be at its best.

    To all those wanting to buy and play the game: I suggest starting a forum post here for like-minded individuals to play with.

  13. army of none says:

    Awesome read! MUST FINISH! It’s also convinced me to pick up the game when I get a chance. Marketing companies should pay you to play games and rant about them, really…

  14. Big X says:

    This is awesome. More of this

  15. LionsPhil says:

    I say, more of the thinky-thing turn-based writery-uppery! Jolly good show, chaps. This computerified boardgame affair seems to have some interesting dynamics, what?

  16. Scoteh says:

    Right, I’ve been following all the SI posts that have appeared on RPS, downloaded and played the demo, and this battle reports series has finally tipped the scales. I shall be buying this game, and I will hunt to the ends of the earth if i have to to find a group of people to play it with.

    Good sell.

  17. medwards says:

    I played the demo and REALLY enjoy it. More than Kings Bounty so far. But an asking price of $30 bucks is not inline with current market expectations. Its too bad he didn’t do this a year or two ago because that’d be around when I’d like at the price tag and seriously consider it.

    At this point, all I can do is stare at it and want it and fight that urge with the reality that its not good value for money atm.

    • brog says:

      medwards: Because of all the $2 epic political turn-based strategy games we’re flooded with?

    • medwards says:

      At $2 I’d be buying copies for my friends. But no, that is not what I meant. At $20 I would buy it. The game is built in Adobe Director, and it shows. The interface reminds me of flash games that are trying to have more depth and end up having amateur-hour UIs that remind me of the ‘what-not-to-do’ examples for usability from my computing science degree.

      Now, if I believed that all of that was true, then 2 bucks would be too much. Solium Infernum has really interesting and varieted gameplay. Its UI often needs the edges polished (does nobody else miss the mouse wheel when they play?) and in general could use an overhaul to expose and enable functionality rather than burying it deep deep deep. I have concerns that my “OMG I LOVE THIS” experience in the demo is indicative not of interesting/intriguing game dynamics but of simple ignorance (this was highlighted when I realised I didn’t know how to capture the oppositions spaces for a vendentta). However, I am confident enough in this game to give it a chance and see how I like it. It is not some cheap knock-off flash game that only pretends to have substance, I believe it has genuinely interesting game mechanics that are worth trying.

      However, the price point for ‘I am not sure, but it looks cool so lets find out’ is not $2, but $20. Blame the Steam sale on AI Wars. I didn’t set the market expectations, the vendors did.

  18. deanimate says:

    these write ups are quality :) they really are pushing me towards looking into the possibility of anyone else i know interested in playing.
    could be a good crack :D

  19. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    MOAR

  20. Riesenmaulhai says:

    I really enjoy these features, your write-up of Blood Bowl really got me into the game and it’s the same with Solium Infernum.

    BTW: Can anybody tell me wether the game actually checks the cd-key or something when playing by email? And can I install it on more than one machine?

    • AVarotsis says:

      You bad, bad man. Although, not going to lie, I’m curious as well.

    • mandaya says:

      you can’t play PBM with just one valid copy. it checks at least THAT.

    • Taillefer says:

      Some sort of clone version that can only play against it’s origin could have been a good idea. Possibly restricting the game to one clone per original too. Could have called it Hellspawn.

    • mandaya says:

      … although I SUPPOSE you could maybe just send savegames from the “hotseat”-option around and play it that way with only one key. it would be a drag, though, and you’d have to really trust your fellow players (yeah … right) not to take those vital sneak peeks at your build. so basically, this wouldn’t work. copy protection by social engineering rules.

  21. DerangedStoat says:

    Cheers to Scrofula and Sponge for writing up their bits too (and rather well I must add), it’s fascinating to read what everyone’s thinking was during all this.

  22. Chandrose says:

    I’m with Medwards unfortunately. I definitely want to give this a whirl, but 30 bucks for an indie such as this seems a tad steep. Especially since it seems I’m going to want to pick up a copy for at least one of my cheap ass friends so I have someone to play with. If it shows up on the major digital distribution outlets, or at least has a decent drop in price, I’m in. Otherwise I just can’t justify it.

    • Kakksakkamaddafakka says:

      Yeah, I was really sitting on the fence for quite a while myself, even though the dollar is toilet paper these days. I’m sorry, but it simply doesn’t feel like a $30 game, even though it most definitively is. That’s the real problem. I do not regret buying it at all, but as you say, convincing friends to buy it isn’t easy. Not easy at all. At $20, I think there would have been a lot more players.

    • Rinox says:

      I say that someone who -unlike yours truly- has talent should take this wonderful game and mod it into the Alpha Centauri engine. But that would probably result into an orgasm so powerful that it would slay me, so perhaps it is better not. Man was not meant to see such things.

  23. Pantsmansoy says:

    These two writeups made me go and download the demo. Played for a about an hour and half, burning through it and loving it, then I started to get script errors. Unfortunately, an object error has now broken my save game – just as I was about to steal three cantons from that fool to the east!

    Like the previous posters, I’m not sure if I’d had enough fun, playing with friends regularly, to justify $30.

  24. Yargh says:

    Congratulations to all four of you for keeping the posting speeds up, being able to read each chapter from the different viewpoints is great.

  25. Rinox says:

    Having only briefly played the demo, I gotta ask: can you still expand your territory at this point in the game? Ie not by demanding/declaring vendetta and stealing some from an enemy, but actually marching into empty spaces and claiming them. Or was the territory grab restricted to the beginning of the game?

    Probably a stupid question.

    (and yes, if it had been under 30 $ I probably would have already bought it as well, thanks to the excellent write-ups here)

  26. ManicMiner says:

    No you cannot enter an enemy canton at all, unless you are currently in a state of vendetta or blood feud with them.

    • Quinns says:

      (Or if they’ve been excommunicated for trying to conquer the city of Pandemonium. In which case you can enter their cantons, take their places of power, whatever you like. The rules no longer apply.)

    • Rinox says:

      No I got that from the write-up, but I meant empty cantons. Can they still be claimed later in the game? Cause there seem to be quite a few open cantons left, for example between Kieron and Scrofula.

    • Quinns says:

      Oh. Jah, you can claim empty cantons, but to do so you have to move a legion into them, which both drags your legion away from important areas and takes up an order.

      Unless you’re trying to create a buffer zone between you and another player, you’re creating trouble for yourself. The prestige bonus for cantons owned is very small, and one of the options when you’re starting a vendetta is claiming a set number of enemy cantons. The more cantons you have, the bigger a target you are in a number of ways.

    • Rinox says:

      Cool, thanks!

  27. ManaTree says:

    Likewise…It would’ve been a good risk to hire a programmer instead of trying to recoup costs the other way around, as people would be dropping money if it moved away from the limitations of Director.

  28. F_t_R says:

    So if you think about it, the world in this is actually shaped like a donut

  29. mikeInside says:

    Are there board games that have this kind of vibe to them? I have a hankering for oldschool in-person backstabbing =p Let me know.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      mikeInside: We enjoy Chaos In the Old World.

      KG

    • mikeInside says:

      Thanks KG, will check it out. It’s been a while since I’ve gathered skulls for the throne of Khorne.

    • Pantsmansoy says:

      Mikeinside: I always found that the game Illuminati is one of the most competitive, heartlesss and backstabby boardgames I have ever played. I love it!

  30. pimorte says:

    The idea of this game interests me – it’s just the piss-poor interface and apparently completely passive AI that turn me off.

  31. Cunzy1 1 says:

    The graphics look amazing. The gameplay sounds a bit dull though. Is there bullet time?

  32. abercrombie says:

    The idea of this game interests me – it’s just the piss-poor interface and apparently completely passive AI that turn me off