Gameboys From Hell: Solium Infernum Part 5

By Kieron Gillen on January 19th, 2010 at 4:30 pm.

An episode otherwise known as “Let’s get Speedo”.

For those joining us here, the turns so far…

Kieron/Quinns: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40]
Scrofula: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40]
Poisoned Sponge: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40]

If you’ve just been following the story here, you won’t have read Sponge or Scrofula’s 31-40, in which case, the links are above.

Just as a reminder, this is the world map…

While the borders have altered slightly since then, that’s the general shape. Though, in the 40s, this will change. As you will see.

Turn 41 – Quinns:
Is everyone still LAUGHING AT ME for getting BOMBED by Kieron in the last few turns? WELL? C’MON, LET’S GO. WHAT HAVE YOU GOT? What have you GOT?

HERE IS THE MAP:

See those circles? They’re my THREE Places of Power. Just thought I’d REMIND YOU that for all my setbacks no-one’s been able to claw a SINGLE ONE OF THEM out of my hands.

Now, my plan: Last turn Speedo “safely” rejected my demand because Kieron had obliterated my northern forces. But thanks to the looping nature of the map, the eastern edge of Speedo’s territory also nuzzles into my west. He’s like a housecat so busy staring at me he’s not paying attention to his tail.

I’M GONNA EAT HIS TAIL.

Turn 41 – Kieron:
There’s something I didn’t say last time, as it slipped my mind in all the excitement. I managed to do something which is actually tricky. That is, assemble one of the game’s 3 part manuscripts. This is one of the other parts of the game which I haven’t actually been writing about, as it doesn’t rest heavily on my plans. As well as normal resources, you can find rare manuscripts. Many of these are in multi-part sets. The more parts and the more powerful whatever it makes actually is. I’ve fluked all three parts for a manuscript. The Rite of Aether Rupture – which, when I performed it in the late 30s, raised my intelligence by two. That means my prophecy is actually topped out on a 6.

Obviously, I’m not complaining, but – as previously explained – Prophecy hasn’t proved that useful. In fact now, with my epic intellect, while I’m capable of finding out anything when I scan anyone, the chance of finding out what I’m actually interested in drops because of all the options it’s selecting between. Also, I can’t really afford the to use the top level powers with my income. The biggest advantage is that I now have five ritual slots, which means that I can – if I have the orders – use five rituals in a turn. Or, if I have artifacts which boost abilities, use the ritual slots to store them in rather than putting them on the map (where they can be stolen).

That, frankly, proves extremely useful.

Turn 42 – Quinns:
THREAT LEVELS:: ADVANCE SPEEDO TO TOP OF LIST.

LARCENY:: ACTIVATE.

Speedo’s bought a relic called the Amulet of Shadows which gives him a +3 bonus defending against Deceit rituals. That means it stops people stealing his shit. Naturally, I’m going to steal it. Don’t forget, I took that perk at character creation that gives me a +4 bonus to my Deceit rituals, which . Once the amulet’s nicked, I’m going to focus on stealing Speedo’s combat-enhancing praetors and artifacts out from under him.

There’s a second purpose to this besides undermining him. The six of us Archfiends are gearing up for the endgame now, and if I want to win I’ve got to plan for the worst. The worst is that I stumble into the lead and the other five players rush me, so I need defenses, which will take the form of praetors and artifacts. A stitch in time saves my ass, basically.

Meanwhile, I am of course marching the freshly reconstituted Chosen of Quinns northwest towards Speedo’s tail.

Turn 42 – Kieron:
While I abstractly won, the war against Quinns cost me. I started the 40s without an obvious standing army – so I bought one and start moving it into position. By the time my actual Disciples reform – your main unit reappears if it’s beaten up, just with worse stats – I’ve picked up three relatively cannon-fodder units. So despite having no martial skill at all, I’ve somehow ended up with 4 units on the board. This makes me look an inch more fearsome than I am, if only because everyone will be presuming I have loads of top class Praetors and spangly hellish tools of destruction waiting to put into play.

Of course, I haven’t. I’ve only got a handful. I’m showing all my cards and hoping it makes people think I have more cards up my sleeve.

However, since Quinns and I are in detente – annihilating his prime unit means that he’d have to spend a good four or five turns marching another unit over if he wanted to try and invade – I turn my eyes elsewhere. Mainly, at Speedo Demon, whose Praetor-baiting ways are going to have to be dealt with. Problem being… well, this is the situation.

Quinns has managed to get a Vendetta going, so is invading – I can expect Speedo to move his meagre forces over. But I quite fancy invading too. Problem being, I haven’t actually got a land border with him. Zah’hak is in the way. I need to carve a land-bridge.

So I make a demand to him. As well as that, I send a note along with my turn to Zah’hak, explaining my intentions. I’m going to invade the east of his realm, taking the two hexes required to connect my kingdom with Speedo’s. As I start my vendetta against him, I’m also going to make a demand of Speedo. He’ll almost certainly turn me down, thinking there’s nothing I can do and wanting to concentrate on dealing with the invading Quinns. That’ll allow me to claim vendetta against Speedo, and march my army directly into his kingdom. In other words, I set up a Vendetta deliberately, aiming to fail, just to get the land, so I can go against my real target.

Turn 43 – Kieron:
And Zah’hak agrees.

Zah’hak is the one player who regularly used the in-game communication system rather than e-mail or instant-messanger. He also kept in character the whole time. For a deceit-heavy tribute-stealing bastard, he was a sweetie.

Turn 43 – Quinns:
Finally, I’m getting the battle with Speedo I’ve been lusting after for 25 turns. But I’m not liking the look of this map.

This turn Speedo’s equipped the ONE Legion in his possession with Wyrmm Mounts, which means they’re now riding enormous worm-looking things. This gives them a little more punch in melee combat, but more importantly it also increases their movement from 2 cantons a turn to 3. Suddenly, Speedo’s legion is in range of the Citadel of Wrath on my Northern Border.

By the looks of things, the next turn will go like this: Speedo takes my citadel while I take the Vaults of Avarice in the east, thereby completing my vendetta and locking out any further hostilities between us. This is hardly the kick in the face I intended to give him. Unless I do something, it’ll be an exchange.

But here’s the twist: Even with the Wyrmm Mounts, Speedo’s legion isn’t actually strong enough to take the Citadel. That means he’ll probably attach a praetor or artifact to them in order slot 1 and save marching them on the Citadel of Wrath for order slot 2. That gives me order slot 1 to attach something to the Citadel before ordering my own Legion to attack the Vaults of Avarice in order slot 2, thereby producing the best case scenario that he dashes himself against the Citadel and loses his legion while I successfully conquer the Vaults of Avarice.

Turn 44 – Quinns:
I wonder if God ever has days like this.

Speedo didn’t attack the Citadel of Wrath. He attached a praetor to the Vaults of Avarice in order slot 1, so when I fought it in order slot 2 the maths was fucked. My Legion dealt 2hp damage to it and eroded a large part of themselves in the process.

Worse, in order slot 2 he began marching his legion east. In order slot 1 of this turn he’s inevitably going to move them behind the Vaults, thereby supporting it and increasing its stats further.

Want to know what the real pisser is?

My Chosen is the only legion in the game with the Mountain Walk trait, meaning they can march right across (or sit in) those mountainous cantons which are impassable to everyone else. That means, given time I could weave around the Vaults are slaughter Speedo’s relatively weak legion, thereby removing the support its giving the Vaults.

Problem is, my vendetta expires this turn. I was so confident I could march up and take the vaults I only paid for a 4 turn war.

I’m spent. Not sure where to proceed from here. This war business isn’t working out for me. If only there was some other way to win the game…

Turn 45 – Kieron:
My units tear through Zah’hak’s kingdom. I play with the possibility of a back-stab, and just taking more terrain than we’ve agreed. I decide against it. While Zah’hak has shown a reticence to engage in any kind of Land-war, letting him keep a channel to Speedo is probably a good idea – and besides, it doesn’t hurt to make people think I’m capable of acting honourably. At least occasionally.

I send the demand to Speedo. Will he bites? He does. INVASION IS GO.

Turn 45 – Quinns:
Soothing my bruised ego with some retail therapy. I’ve bought the Vats of Ichor, which will let my legions heal themselves with demonic salve when they’re away from home, and the Hellfire Ballista, which’ll give them a terrifying ranged stat.

Actually, this is just making me depressed. Why couldn’t I have grabbed this stuff before this war began?

Turn 46 – Quinns:
Oh boy, the Pillars of Malebolge just rebelled. Now I need to send a legion down to restore order. Fuck this game.

Turn 47 – Kieron:
Okay. My Vendetta is a simple one. I’ve just got to kill one of his units to get the prestige reward. Since he only has one unit, that suits me fine. Even better, somehow Speedo managed to hold off Quinns’ invasion, meaning that I could come out of this not just with a prestige bonus – but a prestige generating machine. This is exciting. Here’s the situation…

His Disciples are a 1/5/10 unit with 10 Health points. In other words, pretty damn mean, as long as they’re alive after the ranged and melee round have taken place. Clearly, I don’t plan to let that happen. The Abyssal Strideers are a 7/3/0 unit – thanks to Descarbia, who I rescued from the Abyss with an event earlier. Oni’s faithful are a 3/4/0 unit. My plan is as such:

I start by getting my Demonic premonitions rolling. This is a prophecy power that defends you against deceit abilities – and with my rite-boosted prophecy skill, defends you pretty well. I put Descarbia on the map last turn, trying to attract someone to try and steal him before the attack – hopefully Speedo, whose build is still somewhat mysterious to me. That’d eat one of his actions. I move the Oni to the square south-west of his Disciples. And then, my Abyssal striders advance, getting a combat bonus from the now-adjacent Oni. Even so, this won’t be enough to defeat the Disciples before the Infernal comes into play. I turn to my own infernal powers, blasting the unit. This should reduce his HP enough to mean the Abyssal Striders’ first strike wipes ‘em out. I then aim a second blast at the Vaults of Avarice, because – since the boys from the Abyss are pretty damn nippy – I plan to advance them to take that as well this turn, and a little softening up will help.

It’s more risky stuff than I’d like, but I think worth it. I have to do it this turn, as when I kill the Disciples, the Vendetta ends, and I’ll have to get a new one to claim the shgrine… and with a unit sitting next to the shrine, it’s unlikely he’ll let me have one. Blitzkreig! All or nothing.

Turn 48 – Kieron:

It’s nothing.

But… wait. The Vaults defeated me? So at least I took the Disciples and… no, they’re still on the map. What happened?

Now, more than any other move in the whole game, this is the one I wondered about. It was either simply smart play by Speedo which worked out a lot better than it should have, or openly genius play. You see, rather than fight – and why not fight my weak units? – he retreated to behind his shrine. That means when the Abyssal Striders advanced, they just ran into the shrine. However – and this is the bit which would be genius if it it’s deliberate – the move just didn’t take the Disciples out of harms way. By being beside the shrine, it means that it’s supporting it in combat. In other words, the shrine gets combat bonuses – and combat bonuses that are just enough to defeat the Striders. The battle ends with the shrine with a single health-point.

Hindsight shows me I was being greedy in the wrong way. If I was going to use my destruction abilities, rather than splitting them between the two enemy units, I should have hammered one. Either one would have done. Weakening the shrine by another health point would have made me won the battle. A second blast on the disciples would have had a chance of killing them, meaning they wouldn’t have a chance to support. Or… well, there’s lots of other ways.

Either way, you have to applaud Speedo. He’s beaten off two attacks by superior military forces, pretty much simultaneously.

Turn 49 – Kieron:
Well, he hasn’t beaten me completely. I spend the turn casting destruction rites at his Speedo’s Disciples, wiping it off the face of hell with – appropriately – big towers of hellfire. It’s at times like this the multiple-rituals which high level prophecy allows becomes terribly handy. I win the Vendetta, but fail to get the treasure I really want.

It’s not enough. It’s at this point I’m sure that I’ve played this badly. My avatar is increasingly brutal, but I lack the mechanism for generating prestige – not helped by botching the attacks I’ve managed to arrange. I’ve shown a degree of flair – nothing as tedious as just announcing war for me – but I’ve also shown a complete lack of attention to the details. The game, on average, would have finished by now, and I’m simply not a contender and no way of generating the amount of prestige required. However, the game’s ending is actually semi random. It occurs when 15 tokens are drawn, with the chance of a token being drawn increasing with every token. It’s turn 49, and 9 have been drawn – less than usual. While other demons are speculating that there’s about 10 or so left, I’d say with standard luck that means there’s 20. There’s still time to look for an alternative future…

Turn 49 – Quinns:
Sponge has gotten in touch. He says he’s convinced he can now longer win the game through traditional methods, but has a plan.

I like his plan. I like it a lot. It’s going to take me at least the next six turns to orchestrate it with him, and when we’re finished the two of us will be… well, let’s just say we’ll be targets. Beautiful, strong, proud targets.

Hell will be mine yet.

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90 Comments »

  1. Ivan Joukov says:

    Shit I’m going to work, I’ll have to wait to read that. Love those reports!

  2. Heliosicle says:

    I just thought it would be nice if this appeared, and here it is!

  3. Hat Galleon says:

    The links to the Kieron/Quinns turn reports are missing Part 4 of this series. Just a heads-up.

  4. StalinsGhost says:

    That Amulet of Shadows looked lovely all locked up in the municipal museum (of darkness) in my City of Dis. I couldn’t let anyone be stealing their stuff back now could I? It certainly kept those amateur thieves in the underworld out of my vault from then onwards.

    These were a frustrating set of turns for me otherwise however. No matter how much stuff I stole, no matter how hard I whipped the minions, I just could not get the resources together to ascend to Cunning 6, while a failed effort to steal Quinns’ rebellious Pillars of Maleborge set me back a while.

    My threat to steal Kieron’s legions if he broke out agreement almost certainly look a bit hollow, given I had no such ability.

  5. Taillefer says:

    Say, Speedo had predicted the destruction rituals and dismissed his unit before they were destroyed by them. Would the vendetta have been a failure, or would that count as a destroyed legion… in which case, what if two vendettas were against him at the same time, both needing to destroy that legion… Hmm.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Taillefer: One rule we haven’t touched on is that you don’t know what the rules of the Vendetta are against you. So you have no idea if they’re going for units or shrines or hexes.

      KG

    • Taillefer says:

      KG: Ahh, I see. I assume a dismissed unit would have to count as it being destroyed for that purpose though? Which could create some interesting tactics like buying a terrible unit just to dismiss it in an attempt to save another. A desperate move, perhaps.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Taillefer: I suspect it may just fuck up the Vendetta. A vendetta isn’t about units being destroyed – it’s about you destroying the unit, I thnk. You can claim vendettas with unachievable objectives – like saying you’ll destroy 3 units when your opponent has less than 3. Finding a loophole is totally fair, I think.

      Of course, a really clever opponent may try and trick you. As in, letting it slip that he’s going after units. You dismiss your one unit, and he’s actually going after something else.

      KG

    • brog says:

      Taillefer: Y’know, I haven’t tried this, but I don’t think they do. I expect you could dismiss all your legions to prevent someone succeeding at a “kill X legions” vendetta.. but of course, as mentioned, you don’t know what the terms are, so you could just be making it easier for them to take territory or PoPs.

    • Taillefer says:

      Me: Yeah, it would rarely be worth the risk. I mean, I guess you could dismiss your weak units and keep a strong one in play, or something. My problem with games like this is trying to think of some unexpected way to play, then desperately attempting to apply it even to my own detriment just because if it worked, you know, it would look awesome.

    • brog says:

      Taillefer: what you could do is ATTACK his legion with a weak one of yours, so they’ll die and count as one destroyed legion, hopefully ending the vendetta before he kills the legion you’re trying to protect.
      but yeah. not worth the risk. and really, what good is your supposed “strong” legion if it can’t take his guys? and why wouldn’t he have declared his goal as being slaughtering TWO legions if there are two he can take within range?

    • Taillefer says:

      Brog: It was awesome in my mind! My original thought was that you had a weak legion far away and want to save another you had plans for…or it had…stuff. And you dismiss this weak legion, vendetta ends. And why, if I need these stupid ideas, did I risk doing something that allowed him to claim a vendetta in the first place, huh?

  6. R3D says:

    have bought and loving this

  7. Earl_of_Josh says:

    Yeah, this is awesome. I did purchase. Will be looking for games soon (tonight?) :-D

  8. Martin Edelius says:

    This has a lot more spelling errors than I’m used to from RPS. Some even make it quite confusing to understand (as it’s quite confusing to begin with).

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Martin: Have you never read one of my posts before or something?

      KG

    • Martin Edelius says:

      Kieron: I have, and they are usually more proof read than this. But it’s Quinns that has created the most confusing sentence in this post:

      “Don’t forget, I took that perk at character creation that gives me a +4 bonus to my Deceit rituals, which .”

      “Which” what?

  9. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Meh, boring. It’s a Hollywood movie, so Kieron will win in the end, because he’s the Star. That predictability takes away all the appeal.

  10. Pijama says:

    LOWER THE PRICE, DAMMIT!

    30 bux is too much for me. :(

  11. plugmonkey says:

    I’ve just read Sponge’s plan on his blog.

    I also like his plan. :)

    • brog says:

      It is an excellent plan.
      I think Blood-Vassalage is mostly overlooked because the first place you hear about it is when you see the “Power behind the throne” perk during character generation. IMO it would have been better to leave that perk for an expansion to mix things up once people are used to the idea of joining to someone else for a chance to move up from ~last place to second.

    • AS says:

      @brog: It doesn’t seem to me that many people would be interested in Vassalage. The people I’ve encountered seem the be the all-or-nothing type, preferring a chance to get revenge in the next game rather than settle for second – unless a scoring system was in place for ranks.

    • brog says:

      Yeah; that attitude combined with the power-behind-the-throne perk make it very unlikely to happen much. Which is why I think it would have been best to leave the perk for an expansion, then he could’ve at least started out trying to cultivate a culture of trying to place as high as possible first.

      But yeah, a server which tracked how people placed and gave people a rating based on it would be awesome, and would encourage vassalage.

  12. MadMatty says:

    Well the game certainly seem to have its intricacies.
    Complex enough to warrant attention- gonna have a look if i can round up a few of my mates of the satanic persuasion, a pick up a few copies at some point.
    I was wondering, is there a lot of 2d art? some of the pictures are quite sexy. sexier than Kieron

    • AS says:

      @MadMatty: There’s unique art for the 15 avatars, 50+ legions, 20-30 praetors, 40-ish artifacts/relics, and most of the 50-ish events, all of them beautifully done. This isn’t counting the manuscripts, which generally combine different pieces to make a single picture.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Matty: Everything is sexier than me.

      Every unit and artifact has its own portrait. Think Magic the Gathering or something similar. Only shrines don’t have unique portraits, but do have unique icons.

      KG

    • MadMatty says:

      mmm nice i liked the spread of art for magic….. unfortunatelt i pissed my satanist friend off, by letting him know that he was missing the S in his finely crafted “World Eater” banner, and has now refused to cooperate… fortunatly enough i have other hell-bent comrades…. so lets see if i can round up some friends…. or strangers will have to suffice. (do you have to let satanists know your email?)

      ps Kieron: Now now, im sure you can b sexy when u wanna b

  13. Earl_of_Josh says:

    Mmm, yes the plan is quite good. No where near as good as if he had chosen Power Behind the Throne, but still pretty decent. It will be really interesting to see how the others respond.

  14. tekDragon says:

    Seriously… cut the price to $9.99 and put it on steam

    • MadMatty says:

      Yeah ill wait till it drops to a tenner since we´re all pretty skint- I need beers aswell, and artists can always write about how theyre starving and suffering- makes for great material im sure.

    • tekDragon says:

      Hogwash… the “artists” are far more likely to eat well if they drop the price to $5 – $10 and put this game one a decent digital distributor.

    • Johnny Go-Time says:

      Yes I too promise to buy for $10 if it appears on Steam.
      As is, the game is just too risky a purchase for me; it’s kind of outside my comfort zone, and I don’t think many of my friends will be interested in it. These turn reports make it sound fantastic, but $30 is too much on such a gamble…I do want to support this kind of product and this company…

    • MadMatty says:

      tekDragon, i wasnt being sarcastic, i was just being mean
      …and YES… it would seem from the latest round of testings that a 5 quid game makes more money than a 30 quid one thru numbers of sales…
      excellent news.
      If only it would be the same with graphics cards,…

  15. Stark says:

    This series has been such an entertaining read. I probably couldn’t get enough folks to get a game like this going, and it’s wicked vicarious fun to read all your different treacherous perspectives.

    Can’t wait for the finale.

  16. CoffeeBean says:

    Please, in the name of all that is good and right in the world, please post the conclusion to these soon!

    I’ve been following all of them, and now have to know how it ends.

    I pulled down the demo and tried my hand at the game in single-player, but no matter what I do for my avatar, I seem to wind up stuck with playing 25 rounds of ‘give me tribute’ with my two orders. I suspect there is a good game lurking underneath this all, but I’ll be damned if I can find it outside of this fantastic narrative. Getting more than two orders has proved to be beyond my grasp, and no matter how strong of a force I build, I seem to lose every battle.

    The manual is decent, but what this game needs most is a comprehensive in-game support system. Mouseover text breaking down all the stats and caveats for everything would be stellar. Barring that, there just needs to be a panel or windowed help index for every card and option to look at. Reading the manual doesn’t give you the context you need to actually comprehend the mechanics. I thought it was just me, but reading Kieron echoing the precise way I feel about it has given me reassurance. This game has so much potential. I just hate seeing it squandered on obtuse and non-intuitive mechanics with misleading or non-existent explanation.

    • Babs says:

      I’d love to see it running in a browser personally. It’s almost perectly suited to the platform.

    • Quinns says:

      Browser play? That’s a really good point. It’d definitely save all the faffing around involved in Play By Email.

  17. Babs says:

    I think this series is probably my favourite thing ever on RPS, and I’ve read everything. I do have a serious hunger for SI AARs though.

    Maybe I should actually get the game. The preposterous email system puts me off though.

    • Vinraith says:

      Play-by-email (PBEM) has been around since virtually the dawn of the internet, it’s an absolute staple of the strategy genre and has served many, many games quite well. Honestly, what’s preposterous is the idea of trying to coordinate a simultaneous TBS play session with 6 working adults on a regular basis. It’d just never happen.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      PBEM is wonderful. Sadly of the few games I’ve had over the years and done it, it always falls apart because some twat drops out with no explanation and the games are never intelligent enough to allow you to dump their ass, replace it with an AI, and just carry on.

      I have lots of strategy games where PBEM is the best multiplayer option.

      And really, if you don’t do PBEM, you’re missing out on some fun stuff. The excitement of getting the save back for your turn, seeing what happened that turn, then 10-15 minutes doing your thing before sending the turn on and enjoying the expectation of getting it back again.

      In short, I LOVE PBEM. Wish I got to do it more:(

    • brog says:

      Bonedwarf: You may know this already, but SI actually does allow you to replace a player with an AI.

      (I did this by accident once, but it was possible to go back a turn and load the files again and revert the change, and since then he’s changed the interface to make it hard to do by accident. He’s really responsive like that – usually replies to emails within the hour.)

  18. Hat Galleon says:

    Babs: That’s one of the best parts of it, though. It gives you time to think about your strategy, plan, and scheme with others (if you’re using an IM system of communication at least). With a game this in-depth, having a lobby of any sort would lead to people waiting for the last guy to end his turn for an hour before they all realize he went to sleep. This is a game that is PERFECT for asynchronous multi-player. The only problem I have is that I don’t have enough spare cash right now to get the game. I’ll definitely be saving up for it though, this set of articles turned me towards the demo, which I then got hooked on. It’s an addicting little political strategy game.

    • Babs says:

      Well, I was going to post a counter argument but frankly I think I’ll just cave and buy the game. I still think PBEM is unnecessarily clumsy these days but I guess it’s worth it.

      I just dream of Vic Davies releasing a game that isn’t hamstrung by it’s technology. They’re 2D board-games for christs sake.

  19. dzddz says:

    Loving this series, guys. It just shows how much thinking and sneaking about is required in this game. I love it!!
    Does anyone know if you can PBeM with the demo version? I’d like to try out the multiplayer before I buy it ($30? I’m waiting for a sale or something).

    Also, I’m a little confused with Praetors. Can I attatch them to a unit through the orders menu or what? I haven’t been able to attatch them to anything yet, so I keep getting blasted away in combat :(

    • Quinns says:

      Yeah, it’s on the orders menu. If memory serves you go “Manage Praetors”, then “Transfer Praetor”, then you select where you want them to go, then it’s done, then you cackle, then your plans crumble like a house of cards, then you swear, then you get revenge.

  20. LionsPhil says:

    I love that Sponge has found practical, real-world applications for Solium.

  21. LionsPhil says:

    “Sadly of the few games I’ve had over the years and done it, it always falls apart because some twat drops out with no explanation and the games are never intelligent enough to allow you to dump their ass, replace it with an AI, and just carry on.”

    Stars! (hallowed be thy name) figured this out in 1995, for crying out loud. It also had support for AI housekeepers, for players on vacation, which would just hold the fort without squandering whatever forces and resources they might have been building up on some strategy not of human origin.

    It also had shared-folder multiplayer, which was a great compromise. With Stars! and Windows 3.1 under DOSBox under Linux virtualising a folder which is itself a SSHFS mount of some remote server, you can do Internet multiplayer TBS quite gracefully this way. (This perverse set of incantations is required because Windows sucks quite badly at properly mountable network filesystems, alas—it’d work if you could map a network drive, but there’s no free [or trustworthy, IMO] way to do that for SSHFS, nor even lowly FTP [yes, XP has something that looks like that, but it's not a true filesystem mount, and doesn't work].)

    Anyway, Stars! Venerate its name. Steal all its ideas. Please.

  22. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    I’m going to deviate from my cry for MOAR to applaud Speedo’s tactical brilliance. Well played that demon.

    Also; MOAR.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’d love to see Speedo’s account of the game, if only because—for all the “we’ve got to take down Speedo, he’s a huge threat” plotting—it was probably the same “crap, I’m doomed unless I feign X” as all the others.

  23. Drexer says:

    Ok, I need this game. Time to convince my fellow friends to become mortal enemies with me.

  24. Taillefer says:

    Ha, the Kingmaker perk is horrendous. Can’t wait to see the strategies built around it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The Antis are the interesting one too. But let’s wait a bit before we talk about them, eh?

      KG

  25. Cheshire P says:

    I can’t wait to laugh at the reveal that Speedo is in fact just an alt of another player.

  26. Lambchops says:

    I’ve actually got to the point of trying the demo.

    Definitely looks like the kind of game where I need to mess around in single player for a bit so I don’t spend my entire time putting myself slap bang into an impossibly difficult situation (as I promptly did in my first playthrough by playing an event that limits the amount of tribute eveyone recieves little realising it would affect me as well and leaving me with fuck all options for doing anything; especially after making some ill advised demands).

    Only gave the manual a quick skim though. I’ll have a look at it again in a bit and see if I’m tempted to buy – while I think it may well be a very good game (and probably the right kind of game at exam time as it will have a nice sedate pace as a play by email job) I’m not quite sure about it yet.

  27. Da5id Jaz says:

    I played the demo of this game and absolutely loved it despite being rather confused for most of it. Reading this has only strengthened this feeling. But, alas, the game costs a wopping $30 bucks. I mean, the game should be $15 tops in my opinion, not because the game isn’t good or entertaining or that it didn’t take a huge amount of effort to make, but because $30 isn’t really in the ’2d-hex-tbs-indie-game’ cost frame. I would definitely pay $15 or even $20 dollars, but $30 is a whole other ballpark. The Orange box cost $30 and that came with 5 games, in full 3d. I think the creator is doing himself a great disservice by making the game cost that much, by cutting the cost down I think he would increase revenue dramatically. But thats just me…

    • malkav11 says:

      You are quite right. $30 is not the 2D-hex-TBS-indie-game cost frame. $55-60 is.

    • Vinraith says:

      @malkav11

      Isn’t that the truth? Sometimes $70 or $80, even. *cough* WitP *cough*

      The thing is, a good strategy game provides so much more game play than almost any other kind of game, sometimes they’re more than worth those absurd prices.

    • Psychopomp says:

      @Logo

      Tell that to the multiplayer community for every 4X game of the past 10 years

    • Vinraith says:

      @Logo

      Oh I understand entirely, I’m not buying SI for exactly the same reason. I deeply dislike being dependent on other people to be able to play and enjoy a game I’ve purchased, so I never buy games that are MP only. SI, as a result of being the kind of game AI simply can’t play, meets that criteria.

      My sole point was that people shouldn’t be so surprised by the price point, independent strategy games have a history of being pricey and quite a lot of them are worth every penny.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yes indeed. It took a loooong time before I was willing to put down the $55 for Dominions 3. In comparison, the $26 or so I paid for Solium Infernum is quite reasonable. (I bought the bundle with Armageddon Empires). I’d love it if they’d reduce prices and use major DD vendors, sure, but it’s not happening. So you can either take what they’re offering and get to play what in both cases are awesome games, or you can set arbitrary expectations and refuse to budge. I know which I’d rather do.

    • Vinraith says:

      @malkav11

      Speaking of which, how’s Dom3′s AI these days?

    • Psychopomp says:

      @Vin

      I’ve always found Dom 3′s AI to be pretty good, if not exactly the most clever. The game, like most of its ilk, really shines in multiplayer, but the single player is plenty worthwhile.

    • malkav11 says:

      I’m not sure. I’ve only played it twice, and neither game actually finished. I only half-grasp the rules and it’s astoundingly complicated so I suspect the AI probably isn’t nearly as good at the game as an actual player. But I had fun. Especially in the second game, where I played Ashen Empire Ermor alongside a friend’s Pangaea (I think it was Pangaea). Stompy zombie armies, whee.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Psychopomp

      I remember reading a lot of complaints about it around release. For my part I only ever played the demo, and didn’t have a firm enough grasp of the game to be able to evaluate AI performance. I’ve always been interested in Dom 3 but doubt I’d ever have anyone to play it with MP. At best I might muster up a co-op partner, but that’s still playing against AI, so AI matters. Well, after the first game or two, anyway.

      How well supported has the game been?

    • Psychopomp says:

      @Vin

      As far as finding opponents, the forums are fairly active to this day, including the section for organizing games.

      As far as support, there were loads of patches, that added new spells, races, units and whatnot, in addition to the standard bug and balance fixes. http://download.shrapnelgames.com/downloads/DOM3_Patch_History.pdf

    • Vinraith says:

      @Psychopomp

      I’m not big on “pick up” games of anything, and the notion of committing to and scheduling the lengthy series of multiplayer sessions necessary to finish a TBS game is completely out of the question, but I’m glad people that want opponents can find them. As far as I’m concerned, with any game, play with friends > play solo > play with random people, and I don’t think I can sell any of my friends on Dom 3.

      I’m glad to hear the support is good. At some point I may pick it up just for the single player.

    • Psychopomp says:

      @Logo

      The complaints about the AI, and preferring single player are fair enough. It’s the ludicrous idea that an indie strategy game isn’t worth 30$ that’s pissing me right off, along with the implications.

    • mrmud says:

      No its not ludicrous. The amount of productions values that goes in to a game like this IS lower than what you would expect for a 30$ title. And even if it is worth the money I still think the pricing is a mistake because for people who are merely interested and not commited it may very well be to much.
      If this game was 15-20$ I think I would probably want to take a look at it just because of this series of articles, for 30$ thats never going to happen. Also stating that many indie tbs games are expensive doesnt actually change the fact that this game might very well have sold better at a lower price point.

    • Archonsod says:

      @mrmud

      Yes it is ludicrous. I’m paying for a game, not buying shares in the company. I couldn’t care less how much it cost for them to make it, all I care about is how good the game is and whether it’s worth the asking price. Which SI most certainly is, even in single player (at least in my opinion).

      It’s not a game likely to hold much popular appeal, in fact it’s pretty much niche by definition. With mainstream games you can make money by lowering the price, because price is usually the reason most people don’t buy it. With a niche game on the other hand you’ve pretty much got a limited audience irrespective of the price, while lowering it might see you sell a hundred more copies it’s unlikely you’ll shift the thousand you need to make up the price difference.

  28. Psychopomp says:

    IT’S A GOOD GAME, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS.

    JESUS FUCK, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HARDCORE GAMERS?

    “Oh, it’s a great, innnovative game, BUT LOOK AT THE GRAFFIX NOT WORTH 30$!”

    Meanwhile, Corridor Shooter 5390580 sells millions of copies, and we wonder why great strategy games are rare.

    Yes, I mad.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Remember the mantra. It’s just a game. It’s just a game.

      Then you may grab your battleaxe and hew off the heads of the non-believers.

    • tekDragon says:

      Here’s how it is. SI is a board game. It has a computer initerface and allows a few things that would be difficult to manage if not managed by a computer but the fact remains that if it looks like a board game, feels like a board game, plays like a board game it… a board game.

      A decent board game costs $50-$80 for five to six players to play… SI will cost $150-$180. Pass. I’ll never be able to convice 4-5 of my friends to shell out for it at $30 each.

    • jalf says:

      IT’S A GOOD GAME, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS.

      No. It is not all that matters. At least not to me.

      A lot of factors matter to me when I buy a game. One of them is, “is the game reliant on multiplayer action? And if so, can I convince my friends to buy it”. At $30, the chance of my friends buying it is… slim.

      But even regardless of that, it’s not just “a good game”. It is a good game with, frankly, lousy graphics, an awkward interface, a steep learning curve and, according to some here, unplayable on some systems due to scripting errors.

      My condition for buying a game is not “is it a good game”, but “will I enjoy playing it?”

      With SI, I just don’t know. I would enjoy playing it if 1) my friends are going to get it so I can play against them, 2) the game works on all our systems, 3) the interface isn’t so bad as to make the game painful to play.

      I don’t know that either of those is true. I could still be convinced to buy the game, but not for $30. At that price I want to be reasonably sure I’ll get something out of it.

  29. dzddz says:

    RT Quinns-
    Thanks for the speedy reply about praetors. I also feel like I’m in a constant state of swearing/cackling while playing this game.
    Also, this series has convinced me to sign up to the forums and try to get some games going. If anyone is up for it just reply here or something and I’ll try to work out the play-by-email thing. I’m pretty sure there was a section on it in the manual..

  30. Cuchulainn says:

    I’m definitely up there with the “make it cheaper” crowd. It’s a game to be played with friends. At $10-15 I could easily see four of us buying aa copy to have a tourney. At $30 I don’t think I’d convince any of them to buy it, so I’m certaainly not going to pick it up myself. Pity, it sounds like a good game too..

  31. Autopanda says:

    My biggest problem with SI is that I see it as a board game, rather than a PC game. That means that if I want to play it with 4 friends, it costs £125 for us all to play. A similar board game would cost maybe half that for the equivalent experience and it’s hard to sell that to a group of people, no matter how boardgame-y they are.

    If you could buy group licences for a discounted rate, then it would be a much more sensible purchase and be competitive against some of it’s rivals in that arena.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Autopanda: For the board-game comparison, it’s worth noting there’s hotseat. So you could treat it like a board-game and have it at a price far less than most board-games.

      KG

  32. Vurt says:

    Great read. Thumbs up RPS.

  33. digimortal says:

    Sure, I like to save money as much as the next guy – my wife would say probably more!

    Here in Australia it cost between $16 and $20 to go see a movie. Average length say 2 hours.

    Will I get more then 4 hours enjoyment out of this game? I already have, and we haven’t even started our PBEM game yet.

    It’s cheaper entertainment here than seeing movies.

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