Gameboys From Hell: Solium Infernum Part 3

By Kieron Gillen on January 15th, 2010 at 4:30 pm.

Right – where were we?

Oh yes, here. In Hell.

This is Comment-thread Noc’s handily recoloured map, circa about turn 11. Since then, the little tree in the top left of my area has swapped to Quinns. I didn’t want it anyway (probably). Also, I’m told the order of the Black Ring is actually an event card which was played to boost Quinns’ hyperunit stats. Not an XP upgrade or a crusade survivor. Look, we’ve gone past the point when I care how he got the thing. All I care that…

i) He has it.
ii) He has it by me.
iii) He’s a bastard.

Oh – before we progress into the 20s, Sponge’s turns 10-20 are over here. And here’s Scrofula/Hentzau’s.

Turn 21 – Quinns:
I don’t like this. It’s too quiet. Everyone’s hunkering down, licking their wounds. Everyone’s scheming these stinking black meat-reek schemes. I can smell their ambition on the poison air. And here’s me, schemeless, sat here in the lead and slowly, simply, trying to increase my deceit stat. I feel a touch doomed, but it’s a distant, easily-forgettable doom.

Turn 21 – Kieron:
I start actually skirting Speedo Demon, casting a prophecy ritual on him. As mentioned, bar our infernal rank, no-one knows anything about anything else. Knowing what sort of build of demon can be useful, and the low-level prophecy skill – as long as you overpower his defences – gives you useful information. Unfortunately, the ritual only finds out what’s in his vaults. As in, how much resources he has. Not exactly what I’m looking for. One of the quirks of the ability is that the higher your prophecy skill, the more sorts of things you can discover. However, you only actually uncover one of them, and can’t pick which one you’re after. In other words, while you’re more likely to find out something the higher your prophecy skill, the chance of it being what you wanted to know reduces. As the game progresses, I end up close to abandoning this sort of scrying use of prophecy. With my relatively low charisma build, wasting resources on finding out something you already have found out - I don’t care about his hidden objectives right now, you bastard - proved to be a low priority. But still – I look at the map and figure it’s worth a shot. I prepare to demand stuff off him next turn, expecting Speedo to tell me to sling my hook so I can claim Vendetta to put it in action.

Turn 23 – Kieron:
Which Speedo turns down, presumably thinking – much like earlier – what can I do against him? After all, I’m across a bloody chasm. Let’s show you the situation as it was when I concieved the plan.

What I want is his shrine, which will double my prestige output in a single action. You may note, there’s a big old chasm between us, which kind of puts a cramp on normal expansion. However, I’ve got these chaps…

They’re called the Tormentors. They’re Ranged 4/Melee 7/Infernal 0, thanks to the Lance of the Leper King which I’ve attached to them. They can also fly four spaces.

Yes, you may see where this is going.

There’s a problem with flying attacks, which I’ve discovered in my previous game against PCs. They need somewhere to land. If they don’t, they die. The other stroke of luck. There’s an unclaimed hex by the castle. So, abstractly, I can attack, wipe out the castle, and then land safely. The problem comes if Sponge, for no real reason, decides to march one square north and get the canton. He’s no reason to, really, but he could – and at this point, I’m thinking on a fairly expansionist bent, so suspect other people would to. If he does that, my enemies would only have hostile squares to land on. While that’s okay if the Vendetta is still on, my Vendetta would be to claim a shrine – the Vaults of Avarice. And if I win the battle, I have a horrible feeling it ends the Vendetta immediately – meaning I can’t enter his hexes any more. So if the square is claimed, the unit will die and… oh, you see what I mean.

Feeling a little panicky, I decide to fly over and claim the square early. This will actually give Speedo the nod what I’m up to, but with a bit of a march, hopefully I’ll get away it.

Turn 25 – Quinns:
Victory, of sorts. I’ve finally managed to combine the necessary resource cards and reached Deceit level IV. Do you know, I can’t think of a way I’d rather spend this quiet patch of our game than stealing from my peers. Ready or not children, here I come!

Turn 25 – Kieron

Yeah, I didn’t get away with it. In the end, I simply didn’t understand how the combat system worked. The good side of it being that now, I actually get the maths behind winning and losing and won’t make the same mistake again. And I don’t. I just make a series of exciting mistakes.

Combat is actually pretty simple, at basic. Each character has 3 stats. Ranged, Melee and Infernal. You fight the combat in that order – ranged damage first, then melee, then infernal. Damage is simply the difference in the stats. So while my surprise attack worked – Speedo wasn’t able to march the unit the distance in the time to help – with the stats as they were, I couldn’t have won. I was a 4/7/0 with 8 HP. The shrine was 4/4/4 with 8HP. Ranged round, neither of hurt one another. Melee round, I did 3 damage. Infernal round, he does 4 to me. Then we fight a second round… and, clearly, he kills me. I thought there was something more to it than pure numbers. And there is… but we’ll talk about that when it comes into play. As it is, I’d have had to have required something else to pull it off. Annoyingly, with deciet skills, I do have things to lower opponents’ combat advantages. Pah. That’s this Vendetta screwed, and my chance to cripple Speedo – i.e. Force him to make some ground troops rather than concentrate on Praetors – thrown. Still – I’m pleased with the attempt.

On the other hands, Quinns isn’t mentioning that he didn’t send a Praetor to meet Speedo Demon in combat, so gave up a fat wad of Prestige. Am I the only one who’s even going to fight this fucker?

Turn 27 – Kieron:
After several Scrying attempts, I finally get one to work against Sponge. I discover his perks. Sponge has no perks. This is the point I’m giving up on bloody scrying.

Turn 28 – Quinns:
Hahaha. Oh, man! My new Looting The Vaults ritual combined with my Master of Lies trait is just the best thing. This turn I stole 7 tribute cards from Scrofula! Seven! Ee. This is as efficient as asking my minions for tribute, except now I’m taking resources from the claw of my opponents.

The irritating thing is, what I really want to do with this new looting ritual is cycle through my opponents. That’d prevent any one of them from becoming so infuriated with my thieving that they either retaliate somehow or raise their Prophecy stat, which will lower the effectiveness of any burglary. But I mentioned Threat Levels earlier. I have to pay resources to initiate each looting, and that cost becomes exorbitant on all archfiends but the ones I’ve ranked as being the biggest threat. I could change my threat levels, sure, but that costs resources too and it takes up an order. Tricky.

Turn 29 – Quinns:
Wait, hang on. Oh, fuck. I’ve only just noticed something. I’m no longer in the lead.

Here’s a grab of the diplomacy screen:

The six of us are sat in a circle because that shows the order in which our… uh, orders are carried out each turn. It goes clockwise from whoever’s currently the regent, indicated by the little gold orb and scepter on their portrait. So on this turn it’ll go: Zah’hak first order, Kieron’s first order, and so on, until it reaches Zah’hak again and we get his second order, then Kieron’s second order, and so on, until finally the next turn begins and the Kieron becomes regent (because he’s sat clockwise from Zah’Hak).

Kieron:
To quickly interject here, I didn’t realise this until nearly the end of the game. I thought who went first was randomised every turn, and then clockwise from them. Except it’s not – that’s only in the first turn of the game. I’d read that in the manual, and thought it was the same for every turn. This is the sort of knowledge which is handy. For the next thirty or forty turns, Imagine me praying as the turns arrive for the results to be favourable. That’ s a whole lot of wasted praying. Obviously! We’re in hell!

Quinns:
The blue line indicates I’m currently locked into a single combat vendetta with Speedo Demon, a date I’m not going to bother sending a champion to because I’m positive Speedo controls the single biggest and most vicious bastard in the game. My thinking here is that in refusing his demand and then lazily waiting for his vendetta to time out, I’m losing prestige but limiting the number of demands he can make of me. I find out much, much later that my logic here is totally broke, but nevermind.

What I’d like to draw your attention to is the number above our portrait. That? That’s our prestige. That’s the game, right there. And it doesn’t take Will Wright to notice that my prestige is no longer the highest.

I was happy to relax because my nearest opponent, Scrofula, was tied up defending his broad holdings from at least three of the other archfiends. Their bullying of him has been merciless. Obviously, I thought this was marvellous. What didn’t occur to me is that he’s been /winning/ most of those costly battles and vendettas, so while I’m earning more prestige than him from Places of Power he’s been ripping fat chunks of prestige from Sponge and Zah’hak as they jab at his sides. He’s not losing the game because he’s bogged down in warfare, he’s winning because he’s defending himself so well.

This is bad. This is the worst. How could I let myself get this complacent? I was so scared of losing my tree, tower and pillars that I lost sight of the bigger picture. Now I’m trailing in prestige and he has far more practical experience fighting wars and duels than I do.

The solution to this won’t be easy, but it is at least obvious. It’s time to go on the offensive. I’ve got to win some wars of my own, perhaps even against him. This turn I’m increasing my martial stat, which’ll give me some more options when it comes to commanding legions. Get ready, Hell. Quinns is putting his boots on again, and he’s tying them up tight.

Turn 30 – Kieron
While I was sulking and losing Vendettas, I actually hit Deciet level 4. This puts me on 4 actions, which opens things up nicely. I celebrate by stealing a Praetor from someone. He’s called Focalor, and is pretty useless…

But he’s mine, and that’s all that matters. The 20s in the game – with three archlords who appear to be playing heavy deceit builds (Quinns, Zah’hak and myself) – were characterised by an initial wave of stealing stuff. At which point, people start being a bit smarter. Rather than putting their best equipment on the map where everyone else can see it (and steal it) they start keeping it in their hidden Vaults and only actually giving it to a unit when it goes to battle. This means that it’s increasingly hard to work out exactly how powerful a unit is, because you can’t be sure what equipment they’re going to have when you knock heads. Smart players would start to make notes of what everyone has on the map, and note when something gets stolen. I am not a smart player.

Quinns also lost another 34 Prestige points to Speedo by not turning up to a duel. I’d like to mention that, because he’s clearly not going to. I’m at the point where I just wish I had 34 points to lose. Seeing everyone get in a fight with Scrofula, I throw a mild insult at him. Surely he won’t want to fight me too?

This proves to be a misreading of Scrofula’s character.

, .

60 Comments »

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  1. Quinns says:

    Hang on, that was my fucking praetor. That’s the guy I attached to the Sisters of Flame. You fuck!

  2. Ian says:

    Sounds like it could be time to pray to Horace, Kieron.

    • Bhazor says:

      I was going to ask why no one played as Horace. But then I realized that would have completely unbalanced the game.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    This game looks like it could end life-long friendships.

    Great read!

  4. Hentzau says:

    Incidentally, Quinns isn’t losing 34 prestige points. What happens in a vendetta is that both players wager points on the outcome (i.e. them winning it) and then whoever does win takes the lot. So Quinns is only losing 17-odd points, and Speedo is merely getting the other 17 he wagered in the first place back.

    • Quinns says:

      Not to mention I get 7 or 8 of his prestige for denying the demand in the first place. So really, each rejected-demand-followed-by-a-duel-I-don’t-show-up-to only takes maybe 10 of my prestige. Maybe.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yeah, but it’s much better to say otherwise, innit?

      KG

    • Quinns says:

      Yes. Yes it is. *Turns to look out of window as eyes mist over*

  5. Max says:

    Oh my god, I love those Solium Infernum reports so much!
    Thanks for doing these, they give a great insight into the game =)

  6. HexagonalBolts says:

    Fantastic read. Reading these articles is so funny it makes me want to buy the game, but I’m worried that it’s RPS’s humour that’s made me so attached rather than the actual merits of the game. Has anyone else played it / have any thoughts on it?

  7. qrter says:

    These are fun to read, indeed.

    I like how Kieron has branded the word ‘abstractly’ to now mean “the following will not work”.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Qrter: The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.

      Also, my shitty ones.

      KG

    • qrter says:

      Everytime I read a sentence that starts with ‘abstractly’, I can almost see the faint glimmer of hope in your eyes. It’s quite inspiring. :)

    • Web Cole says:

      Woo, Burns! :D

      These are awesome, can’t wait for more.

  8. Alikchi says:

    Yep, you’ve inspired me to buy this. Great read and well done. I wonder exactly how I would find opponents, though? I don’t think any of my friends are interested in a PBEM Hell Simulator.

    • Yargh says:

      I would try posting in the RPS social club forum to see if anyone wants to play a game. It seems to have worked pretty well for Bloodbowl.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      I believe I would be interested in playing against some RPS types as well – it looks like a lot of fun. Put a thread up in the forum and lets see if we can get a game together.

    • Alikchi says:

      Well yay, I’m in then!

    • spelk says:

      There are also a number of games being set up on sites like Quarter to Three, Wargamer and Octopus Overlords, not to mention the main Cryptic Comet game forums.

    • Yargh says:

      Also of note: KG and Quinns have also created an RPS Solium Infernum spinoff group (Rock, Paper, Satan) at http://steamcommunity.com/groups/RPSatan which I believe they use to organise games.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Morph says:

    Ah… the turn order is like Puerto Rico. Sort of.

  10. Ivan Joukov says:

    I’m on the demo for a few days and yes, this game is awesome. Even with the 25 turn limit of the demo and only AI players it’s awesome. Just try by yourself Hexagonal, that just need to insist a bit to understand everything then it rocks.

    And those RPS reports are very nice to understand the game :)

  11. Cunzy1 1 says:

    A key part of the fun to be had from board and vidja games like this seems to stem from all players not really having a firm grasp of the rules.

    • Noc says:

      This is extremely true. I’d even say it applies to most video games, because it means people are constantly surprising each other with stuff no one else realized was possible.

      Board games slightly less so, because not knowing what’s going on leads to more tedious scrabbling around trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing.

      I’m sort of wondering if SI is the sort of game that banks on this and gets less fun once you’ve grasped everything and settled into a more optimized playstyle, or if it’s the sort of game where a firm grasp of the rules just unlocks potential for more complex and convoluted ploys and maneuvers.

    • Premium User Badge

      AS says:

      @Noc: I’d say having a firm grasp of the rules brings in more paranoia than not, because of all the possibilities out there that could come from any direction. (Note stolen praetor above.) You lose the frantic “what am I doing and why did that work” feeling, but the blind drawing of avatars, the counters to every strategy (and a little luck) brings enough variability every game.

      Optimization only goes so far pre-game with your avatar, after that it’s down to where luck throws you on the board and what you start out with.

  12. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    And here’s my own part three. This is the first actual lull in the game, I think. It’s just ten turns of everyone sort of taking a breather and figuring out where next to go all out. Which is far, far more terrifying than everyone going all out. At least you can deal with that, instead of the fear.

    http://poisonedsponge.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/to-reign-in-hell-part-3/

  13. spelk says:

    I’m enjoying the AAR folks (RPS, Hentzau and Sponge), its really interesting stuff to be able to follow a game from several perspectives and layout the thought process behind the positions and situations that are unfolding.

    I’m currently blogging about a PBeM game I’m in, but its only my perspective. However I did decide early on to do it on a turn by turn basis, to try and eek out every last drop of mental machinations that the game forces you into. We’re only into turn 20 at the moment, but even in the slow early days theres been some very wild swings in emotions. It seems the game promotes intense paranoia.

    Heres the link to the page detailing the turns and also all the other AAR’s I can find being documented about SI games.
    http://sugarfreegamer.com/?page_id=14

    Looking forward to hearing about how the rest of the game pans out.

  14. DeliriumWartner says:

    I’m definitely up for an RPS game if we can manage to get one going. I’ll keep checking the forums. I’m also signed up to the RPS steam community, although it’s pretty quiet on there at the moment.

  15. Dalamar says:

    These reports are definitely very interesting to read. It definitely got me to retry the demo. I’m still struggling a bit with the demo, sometimes I just don’t know if I’m being lucky or not.
    The battle mechanic (the way damage is being done) is very helpful, thanks for that bit of info.

    Just drew an “Expel the Heretic” event card. Very interesting I think: “Play this event to call for a vote of excommunication against a random opponent (3 players must remain). Each player gets a vote equal to their infernal rank but must wager 20 (or all remaining) orestige points to vote for excommunication. If the vote succeeds then the players voting yes get the prestige back. If the vote fails then those who voted no get their prestige back plus a 10 point bonus.”

    That’s just the beauty of this game, there are so many unique ways to do something, a game will never be the same.

  16. Premium User Badge

    DarkNoghri says:

    I’m quite enjoying these as well (I was disappointed when the AI war diaries never continued). I don’t know that this is the type of game that I’d enjoy (30$? Holy cow), but I like reading about it.

    Sidenote: is deciet some odd British spelling of the word that I’ve never heard of, or is Kieron mispelling deceit every. Single. Time.

    • qrter says:

      I’m betting it’s Kieron’s way of taking revenge for all the times people misspel his name as ‘Keiron’!

    • Premium User Badge

      DarkNoghri says:

      Except after ‘c.’ EXCEPT AFTER ‘C!’

      Also, laughing about how you misspelled misspell.

  17. ManaTree says:

    Deceit! Deceit! How dare you deceive me with your spelling!

    In any case (that was really minor), these are fun to read and I barely know the game at all.

    I just hope in the future Vic Davis releases a special edition of both this and AE with proper programming and stuff.

  18. The Unshaven says:

    I’m hoping the game gets picked up by Steam, to be honest. I’m very interested in it, but $30 is way too much for something I want to play with friends – and they’d each need their own copy.

    On Steam raises the possibility of eventual sales, plus the whole Steam Package…

    • Vinraith says:

      @The Unshaven

      Steam’s hardly the only digital download service that has sales.

    • The Unshaven says:

      S’true.

      Essentially, I’d like it picked up by a digital download service. Personally, I favour Steam, although it is far from perfect.

      – The Unshaven.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s true that the other DD services do sales also. But Steam’s are usually the best. And sales directly from the creator (the only way to buy Armageddon Empires and Solium Infernum at present, far as I know) pretty nearly never happen. (Wadjet Eye’s done one or two, Spiderweb Software periodically discounts by a -whole- 10%, woo, and then there’s the World of Goo, Immortal Defense, and Crayon Physics Deluxe “pay what you want” sales, but that’s about all I can remember.)

      Still, I broke down and bought the AE + SI bundle on Vic’s site tonight. I’m going to want to poke at SI some before I do any multiplayer, though.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Unshaven has a point, it’d be nice to see the game get distributed through some of the well known platforms.

      I’m just not really a fan of buying from the developer. Too many websites and login details to keep track of, and the very real possibility of hosting dissapearing forever.

      Plus the DD platforms would get it some nice exposure.

      Also, this post has a disappointing lack of argumentative controversy, so I’m just gonna say it now.

      $30 is too much.

  19. Ergates says:

    More.

    I won’t ask twice.

  20. Owen says:

    These are WONDERFUL guys!! What a game.

  21. Jon says:

    I don’t care who picks it up, I just want it to be cheaper.

  22. Jeremy says:

    This is a great read, though my head’s getting a bit twisted around with the naming conventions, and reading the rounds out of order. Perhaps someone would like to edit these when they’re through to give a full recap with everyone’s turns in proper order?

  23. Bonedwarf says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE these reports. And reading the other ones too. So much fun.

    Game is overpriced IMO, but dammit it sounds good. So long as I could get some PBEM action. Like a lot of people I have no friends who’d be interested.

    I mean I have very few friends anyway, and almost none are into the obscure games like I am, so I’m stuck.

    This game does sound fascinating though.

    Enjoying reading this every day.

    And I wish the AI War one had been more than one part too. (Long time reader but only just signed up here since you lot seem fairly decent and not irritating.)

  24. Quine says:

    This is giving me Kings and Things flashbacks.

    Which is good.

    Loving your work…

  25. gryffinp says:

    Have to admit, I’m rooting for Scrofula here, because he seems like the scrappiest.

  26. Chandrose says:

    Come on price drop!

  27. Riesenmaulhai says:

    Did anybody ever mention how many turns this game had in the end?

    • Quinns says:

      The number of turns in any game of Solium is randomised, though you can select the rough duration of your game when you make it.

      At this point, by the end of turn 30, it looked like the game would end around turn 50.

  28. Bonedwarf says:

    Tried the demo tonight. Hugely disappointed. I created my avatar, started the game, and started getting script errors the instant I tried to do anything.

    So I will just live vicariously through these recaps as I ain’t paying $30 for a game that gives me errors within seconds of starting to try and play it.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      what version of the game was the demo, can you tell? I got script errors and program crashes quite easily with the game before also. but on the latest patches or beta patches it works flawlessly. installing these patches is just overwriting some files in the game directory, so maybe it will work with the demo (no idea), take a look http://www.crypticcomet.com/blog/

  29. Craig Stern says:

    First, to Kieron, Quinns, and the RPS gang: I simply love these multi-part game journals. They’re great! I feel like I learn so much more about the game and what it’s like to play it than I would from simply hearing a series of abstract opinions about the game’s qualities. It’s like I’m standing behind you, watching over your shoulder as you play (but in a totally not-creepy sort of way). You could do much worse than to have more of these.

    Second, to the people who say they won’t buy indie games unless they’re on Steam: frankly, you’re making a huge mistake. I understand that it’s more convenient to have everything you own on one service, but you’re going to miss out on some wonderful games with an attitude like that. Valve is notoriously capricious about choosing which titles make it onto Steam, selecting and declining seemingly at random. Why limit yourself to the arbitrary sampling Steam provides? Besides, if you’re really that worried about a game’s download link expiring, heck, just back up the install file.

    • The Unshaven says:

      My main focus is on getting a price cut, since realistically I am not paying $30 USD for a game with spotty single player AI and thus have to rely on my friends chipping in an equal amount in order to play. Each.

      My (potentially flawed) impression is that digital distribution networks are more likely to have sales than when distributors directly sell their own products.

      So for me it’s not so much “Must be on Steam,” so much as “Must be cheaper.”

      Steam is a positive route for me of achieving this – in part because if there was a decent sale, it’d make it way easier to gift copies to the friends I want to play with.

    • The Unshaven says:

      “distributors selling their own products’ should read ‘game creators selling their own products.’ Language fail.

      Hopefully it was clearish what I meant, anyway.

    • Craig Stern says:

      I don’t know a single indie game developer who wouldn’t love to sell their game on Steam! That’s really up to Valve, though.

      If you wait long enough, most indie game developers have their own sales. Sooner or later, I bet Cryptic Comet will too.

  30. bill says:

    Scrofula/Hentzau was the guy who slaughtered Kieron at bloodbowl right?

    Possibly not the guy to be insulting…

  31. Riesenmaulhai says:

    I’m with Speedo Demon/Poisoned Sponge!
    Bribing Zah’Hak/StalinsGhost to get rid of Scrofula’s/Hentzau’s praetor was a totally nice move. Uhm. With “nice” as in “bastard”, but I guess you know what I mean.

  32. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    MOAR

  33. Jeremy says:

    Waiting for the next update, please :)