Gameboys From Hell: Solium Infernum Finale


Who will rule hell? Good question.

The answer follows.

We’re in the endgame now. Things are… somewhat tense. If you’re new, I’d suggest you go and catch up with previous parts before going here. At the least, the last couple of turns makes the following more dramatic. There is tension here.

Kieron/Quinns: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60] [61-66]
Scrofula: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60] [61-66]
Poisoned Sponge: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60] [61-66]

Sponge and Scrofula’s 61-66 reports will be new to you if you’re mainly following it here.

And cliffhangers… unhung:

Turn 68 – Quinns:
Oh my word I’m still here. Oh praise be. Oh, sweet merciful fuck.

My judo block praetor-swap worked. Scrofula flung the Burning Legion at my stronghold as fast as he could, and they shattered against my battlements when the melee round happened first. Barbatos, I’d kiss you if I only knew how to do it without cutting my face open.

What happened? Well, the Burning Legion might have been tooled up with an artifact and a praetor, but that didn’t help their limited combat experience; their low level. When the battle began and the game rolled for combat advantage it naturally went to my stronghold. Where luck came in was that it boosted my melee, of all things, from 11 to 13, enough to eradicate the Burning Legion before they got their apocalyptic ranged volley off.

And– oh, my God. It looks like I wasn’t Scrofula’s only target. He tried exactly the same play against Zah’Hak’s stronghold, except it worked! Zah’hak’s presence and all his legions have vanished overnight. Look at this stuff!

And then there were five. Looking at this picture is honestly very creepy. The insane part is, this turn also saw Zah’hak making his very first attack of the game as his legions rebounded off my Tree of Woe. He spends 70 turns cowering, then dies the moment he flings a weak legion against a weak Place of Power.

And that’s not all. Kieron made a genuine attempt to conquer Pandemonium! Fuck me. He’s excommunicated too. What on Earth is going on?

Wait, I know what’s going on. I no longer need conclave permission to touch either Kieron or Scrofula, both of whom have just suffered brutal military defeats. What’s going on is I’m going to make those salty jerks rue the day they tried anything as clever as this. I have two strong legions and two enemies. This will be neat and tidy.

Turn 68 – Kieron:
Quinns is being more than a little blase with that “naturally” above, of course. Combat Advantage is worked out with the level difference plus a random number from 1-6. He had +3, which works out roughly to a 3/4 chance of winning advantage. And then there was only a 1 in 3 chance of the combat advantage going to the stat which he actually needed it to – that is, Melee. So all in all – what? – a 1 in 4 chance of stopping Scrofula from having skinned Quinns and using him as a posing pouch. That was, to steal my comrade in arms’ line, tight.

I dwell on the odds, because dwelling on the odds is pretty much all I’ve been doing in these turns. I basically had a 1 in 6 chance to take Pandemonium, roughly. I needed my combat card to turn up on 6. It didn’t. Pandemonium is not mine. Sad emoticon.

Worse, when I sent the Gorgons forth, I thought that if they didn’t take it, they’d survive the combat… just. Remember that wine-glass I mentioned earlier? It conspired with my noggin, and I’d somehow forgot that ground battles have two rounds. Pandemonium gets a second Melee-round on the Gorgons, with inevitable results. My Girls are torn asunder and Descarbi goes back to the pit for the third time. It’s like he’s got a holiday home in eternal agony.

Thing is, while it’s sad to lose the Gorgons, even if I hadn’t fell prey to total amateur play, I’d have moved on Pandemonium. Around a 1-in-6 chance? It’s all I have. It’ll do.

There is a bright side though.

Since the Gorgons are dead, it means I don’t have to pay ’em. That’s a couple of resources I can use for…

Well, not much. Scrofula and I regroup and talk about what to do next. I had no idea he was also going for Zah’hak, and I’m impressed he’s got at least one scalp for his belt. We talk about other ways to take out Quinns and Speedo Demon – Speedo is easy, but Quinns is going to take some thinking. I know Quinns is on my border, and now, with everything free, he’s inevitably going to sweep in and crush me. Still – a couple of turns to play with still. Scrofula is going to suffer similar things with Poisoned sponge, but his mastery of Combat cards is going to make that harder for him. So we plan and scheme and work out what best to do.

But I know, in my black heart, I’m no longer playing to win. I’m playing, at best, for second place.

Turn 69 – Kieron
In short, bollocks.

I lost track of the turn sequence of ordering. Despite going through the report a couple of times, I couldn’t find any record who was head of the the conclave. I presumed it was a glitch because of the fact two of us were excommunicated – and excomms can’t be head, so can never have first action. Except now, going through the turns, I can find it. I was presumably looking at the wrong tab. Last turn it was Speedo. Which means that this turn, Quinns goes first.

Quinns goes first with his best unit within marching distance of my capital. I have no actions. There’s nothing I can do inside the game to stop him.

Maybe there’s something I can do outside it. Despite the fact Quinns has been our main initial target, he’s not actually leading. Speedo Demon has 344 prestige. Quinns has 276. While there’s lots of bonuses at the end, that’s a big chunk of prestige to catch up. Why risk not being able to do that? There’s only one player in the game who can actually remove Speedo from the table. I hate Speedo more than anyone. I’m the one who’s gone out of my way to attack him most, the Praetor-only tactic offensive to me on some kind of primeval level. Remember: I went to war with someone else just so I could get to Speedo, so I could got to war with him.

So I write a mail to Quinns, explaining this. Don’t crush me. I’m the only one who can kill Speedo. You’re risking a win on revenge, man. Yeah, I almost engineered your destruction with a few well-chosen e-mails. Yes, I’m your mortal enemy. But I’m the only person who can help you win. I send it off and sigh. Scrofula and I sit discussing it. Will he accept? He’s got to. I mean, I would. When you actually have a good shot at winning throwing it away to get rid of the person at the bottom of the ladder is stupid, surely?

We, of course, also discuss how we’re going to fuck up Quinns given an extra turn. Abstractly, we could stab this turn. He has a unit within marching distance of Quinns capital. If I deceit-stun his defensive unit, Quinns won’t be able to move him in the way and… yeah, it’s a bit of a long shot. We decide to assume that Quinns is going to let me keep my scalp. I concentrate on getting the resources I need and setting it up to decapitate Speedo, who I’m pretty sure I can annihilate via a mixture of stealing his units, moving them away and whatever.

Notice something about that previous paragraph? Yes, I’m talking about deceit rituals again. Because the event which blocked rituals is over, ending as early as it possibly could.

So, yes, I had time to wait before attacking Pandemonium.

Hindsight is 20:20. Also, a right fucker.

Turn 69 – Quinns:
The Legion of the Maw just punted Scrofula back out of the Pillars of Malebolge. Today, I discover that justice is delicious. Justice is all you need. Meanwhile, a little to the West the Chosen of Quinns, that legion Kieron so brutally tore apart with the Orb of Oblivion about 30 turns back, are advancing on Kieron’s Stronghold and his pathetic cluster of legions.

Want to see what that looks like?

Ahh.

Not sure what Bad Slave Sponge is doing at this point, but he should be getting involved in this. It’s a very good time.

I decide to begin picking off Kieron’s legions one by one. The more fights my Chosen participate in, the more they’re going to level up and become even more powerful.

My turn complete, I send it off to Kieron. Fifteen minutes later comes an email from him:

“I’m not processing this turn until you’ve read the email I’ve just sent. THINK ABOUT IT MAN.”

I check my inbox for the email he’s talking about. I’m reproducing it here in full:

“You can clearly crush me this turn – annoyingly, the last turn didn’t show me who was head-of-conclave on my results, so I had no idea who went first this time. I’d have done things differently if I knew you were first, next*.

I strongly advise you don’t. At the moment, you’re losing. You only hope of winning is decapitating Speedo Demon in the next turn or so**. I’m the only person who has the faintest chance of doing so.

(In fact, I’m pretty sure I can. It helps that he’s about to get a unit stomped by the heavenly host)

In fact, I’d argue smartest thing to do may actually be to join in with me. We’re both level 5-6 decieters. Two Level 5-6 decieters can cause a whole fucking mess against someone in this position. If you use your first action to – for example – use the order which makes the units freeze and be unable to move, or march them elsewhere or similar, it sets it up for a decapitation next turn. Clearly, I’ll be cursing his city within an inch of its life.

KG

*Admitedly, it probably wouldn’t make a difference. And I should have moved it anyway. Serves me right for rushing this turn. And marching on Pandemonium.
**Or, alternatively, hoping your secret objectives are enough to make up the difference. Which is a gamble, as you don’t know what secret objectives he’s got.”

Huh. Let Kieron go running into the sunset after Speedo Demon? Seems reasonable. Besides, I had no intention to crush him. I was just thinking I’d use his Legions as target practice. I reply that I’ll send him a new turn after breakfast, a meal I’m henceforth referring to as The Murder Breakfast.

During The Murder Breakfast a thought occurred to me. It came spiralling out of my subconscious like a worm. It started as I remembered that Kieron had been manipulating all of the other archfiends for the last 30 turns, and ever since Sponge had become my blood vassal he’d been rallying them against me. How short was my memory? Not two days ago he’d told me, to my horror-stricken face, that it was him who’d put Scrofula up to assassinating me.

From there, my mind folded in on itself. He not only tries to knock me out of the game, but then when his dirty machinations fail he tries to weasel his way out of the consequences? He does this without offering so much as an APOLOGY? How dare he?! If he had his way I’d be DEAD, if he had a chance this very second he’d STILL kill me, and he expects MERCY?

Worse than ALL OF THIS, he’s used his position as the one out of us which processes the turns to his advantage! He refused to process the turn until I’d listened to his lies.

Oh, I’ll send you your turn again, Kieron.

I go back upstairs to find he’s sent me another email. It’s a short one. It reads:

“I like that this is a game where you can convicingly beg for your life.”

Oh, you can, Kieron. BUT IT WON’T DO YOU ANY FUCKING GOOD.

Turn 70 – Quinns:
THERE SHE IS! SHE’S MINE! SHE’S ALL MINE!

(Incidentally, I really like that you have this epic picture accompanied by crashing orchestral music and then you click on the “OK” in the bottom right.

“YOU ARE THE SUPREME RULER OF HELL! ALL OTHERS ARE NAUGHT BUT SHADES OF YOUR LIGHT!” “ok.”)

The game’s over! With Kieron’s legions clawing at the gates of Pandemonium the Infernal Conclave have finally made their horrible minds up and cast the 15th token! Presented here in descending order is the prestige breakdown for each one of us:

You may notice that Kieron’s absent from the ceremony. I think I’ll let him explain that one.

Turn 70 – Kieron
There isn’t much to explain. I open the turn and have a series of gasps.

Firstly, I gasp that the game’s over. Fucking hell. Scrofula and I shouldn’t have waited a turn. We knew we were risking it. Why did we do it. Too late now, eh? Speedo has won.

Secondly, wait… Speedo hasn’t won. Quinns has won, with 423 Prestige. Where did they come from? Oh – I note that Sponge has zero. At the end of the game, the blood-slave’s prestige gets added to its master. I didn’t know that. Scrofula didn’t know that. We thought the bonus you got when you take on the Blood slave was all you got from it. Wait… that means that Quinns was never in any real danger from Speedo. That means he never needed me to take him out. That means…

Thirdly, oh… I’m dead, ground beneath Quinns’ heel as his unit marches all over my capital. While I’d done the actions which would have made me safe next turn for a stab, it’s somewhat too late when I’m getting used to my new existence as part of Quinns’ fetching bone-crown. Or bowel-cleaner. Or both.

I facepalm, followed by a grin and rising my cup of tea in salute at the screen.

It’s a worryingly appropriate end for the game. I spend my whole time manipulating people with e-mails, and the one time I send one with relatively pure intentions, I get killed for it. I’m every single trickster who always – irony of ironies – ends up being caught by his own web of deceit. I wish we’d knew, of course, as we’d have played the end differently – we’d have stabbed this turn, knowing that Quinns would have probably have killed me. I certainly wouldn’t have sent the mail… or maybe I would. If I could enrage Quinns into attacking my castle, it would have made him less able to defend himself, and so possibly lead to us both going out in the same turn. That’d have been worryingly perfect. In fact, in the afterglow of the game, I find myself playing with a particularly apocalyptic scenario, which could have happened with only a few changed orders delaying final moves. Quinns destroys me. Scrofula destroys Quinns. I destroy Speedo. Sponge destroys Scrofula. Which leaves the only person standing at the end of the game, Sponge. The dog having his day…

Yeah, I’m glad that didn’t happen. Quinns deserves his kingship. Sponge deserves his footstooldom.

And looking back over the last seventy turns, I certainly deserve my annihilation. If I’m being Loki in our particular narrative, I do really need to end up in a deep dark pit with a snake dripping venom in my eyes.

Quinns:

Couple of funny things. First of all, as they got dumped to a random canton after the battle with Kieron’s stronghold, my Chosen finally used their mountainwalk.

Second, there’s a combat card in Kieron’s stronghold. There wasn’t last turn. Combat cards get used the moment the unit they’re attached to is exposed to combat, which means it must have been built… after I attacked. So Kieron must have created it in an order slot after the order slot in which I attacked and erased him from existence. He’s defending himself from beyond the grave.

The reason this is doubly amazing is it means Kieron didn’t trust me, even after I sent him an email saying I’d let him live, even after I sent him my turn again, he didn’t trust me, and was filling his order slots with Not Trusting Me instead of using them to go after Speedo like he’d promised.

Haha. That fucker. You’ve got to laugh.

You know, when I first found out I’d won I thought I’d really earned it. I saw myself dodging and weaving my way to first place before knocking the upstart Scrofula back with a smiling uppercut.

If I’ve learned one thing from revisiting our game in two dozen different places for the purposes of this diary, it’s that I was ludicrously lucky. Lucky with my starting position, lucky with my event cards and lucky when Scrofula’s dagger bounced off my throat in the final turns.

That said, Solium Infernum isn’t really a game about luck. If a bad player gets lucky, there are innumerable ways for the other players to chew him back down to size. What I do feel proud about is that I turned my lucky start into a lead which I kept, and even when Scrofula made his move on my Stronghold I saw his move and twisted the numbers to within an inch of saving myself, and I sent my turn off full of hope.

And I guess what I’m really grateful for is that despite my good fortune, my opponents never gave up or started whinging. It’s one of the greatest aspects of Solium from a design perspective- with his mighty brain, Vic Davis has created a game where every single turn is important for every single one of you. I’m just so glad Kieron and Scrofula figured that out.

Vic’s meant to be working on a multiplayer-friendly sales package right now where he sells a bunch of keys for a reduced price. You there, the guy sitting on the fence! Yeah you, with the shoes and the funny nose. If he releases that package or cuts the price at all, I implore you, buy this game. There wasn’t another release in all of 2009 with as many clever design ideas as this, and that makes it the kind of project we need to be supporting.

IN CLOSING:

The game and the demo are available here. There’s a busy forum at Cryptic Comet for arranging games or an RPS Steam Group – Rock Paper Satan – if you fancy playing RPS’ community. Oh – and an associated thread on our forum.

It was quite the game. It couldn’t be the game without the players. Thanks to the ever mysterious Speedo, whose silence only added mystery to the thing. To Sponge, who cannily manouvered into the second position from a weak hand – and for his account of the final turns, head here. To Zah’hak, who was an irritant par excellence, managing to gain the enmity of everyone in the whole game. And to Scrofula, who proved himself a Punisher-style revenge machine with a taste for the jugular – and for a pitbull’s eye view of his final turns, go here.

And, to end on a song, while at times it really was Pantera…

More often, it was more Sleater Kinney.

Some things you lose, some things you give away, etc.

And as in, Indie Rock. And Solium Infernum? This Indie rocks.

Thanks for reading.

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