Every dog has his day. Some days, you have to be a dog.
Or do you?
If you're joining us so far, here's all the previous parts...
Kieron/Quinns: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50]
Scrofula: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50]
Poisoned Sponge: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50]
If you've been following it primarily here, you'll want to read Sponge and Scrofula's 41-50, as they're new.
Turn 51 - Quinns:
Last instalment I mentioned Sponge had gotten in touch with me with a master plan. It goes like this:
The orthodox way of winning a game of Solium Infernum is having the most Prestige points when the game rumbles to a close. The Infernal Conclave then automatically vote you the new Ruler of Hell, and you (presumably) get to eke out the rest of eternity eating the ballbags of your old enemies like the Romans ate grapes. But since prestige points are very slowly accumulated throughout the entire game, some players inevitably end up trailing behind with little to play for.
The response to this is the Blood Vassals feature. If you have half the prestige and half the territory of a player who borders you, you can appeal to become their Blood Vassal. At this point, here's what I understand about Blood Vassals: Blood Vassals are locked out of all diplomacy, the Vassal and their Lord are free to move legions through one another's territory, and at the end of the game both of your prestige totals are added together.
So! Sponge, with his average military strength and embarrassing prestige, wants to become my Vassal. It works for me- right now I'm jockeying for first place with Speedo Demon and Scrofula, but with the added prestige of a vassal I'll be in a different class.
In short, the game and Hell will be mine. The only difference is I'll have to share my victory with some miserable lieutenant.
But there's a problem with this (obviously).
Sponge has more territory than me. Way more. As previously discussed, my holdings are small, yet valuable. They are TIGHT. Sponge has a whopping 15 cantons more than I do.
The solution to this is both dramatic and boring. The solution is WAR! Just not a real one. That's what you can see in the picture. A couple of turns ago Sponge insulted me, and now in pseudo-retaliation I'm laboriously dragging three whole legions across his turf. It's trickier than it looks. If we accidentally order our legions into the same canton, they'll have at each other and potentially prevent me from completing the vendetta in time.
The funny part is that Scrofula began a vendetta against Sponge just as I started taking control of the terrain between them, thereby locking Scrofula out and making sure he keeps his violence to himself. HANDS OFF MY SLAVE, SCROFFS. This is awesome. In a few turns he'll have failed his vendetta and he'll have to hand over some prestige to Sponge, which means in the long run he'll be handing it to me.
Turn 53 - Quinns:
Alright, that's the last of Sponge's cantons secured.
And what's that exciting new border I have in the bottom left? Ohmigosh! It's another border with Kieron! Now if he tries to start any more trouble on my Northern border I'm going to come at him, arms windmilling, right here.
You know, there was a possibility in all this that I was being played.
If Sponge was really, genuinely cunning and spiteful (he's not) he'd have got in touch about becoming my blood vassal, then he'd have let me come to the conclusion that we needed a war as a means of passing cantons to one another, and then after I'd initiated the vendetta he'd have come at my unprepared legions with everything he had. After that, with me in a weakened position, he could have spent the rest of the game earning prestige by flinging insults at me.
Anyway! That didn't happen. Although there's a different and even more improbable way Sponge could be playing me.
When you create your archfiend there's this very expensive perk you can take called The Power Behind The Throne. It means if you end the game as a Blood Vassal, you don't just come second. You win the game, and your Blood Lord's the one who comes second.
I don't know whether Sponge took it or not, but I'm pretty sure taking it and then spending the last 50 turns simply pretending he sucks is beyond him. I'm going with my gut on this one.
Turn 55 - Kieron
I think most people were suspecting something like this. Sponge in diplomacy tries to sell it as a possible Power Behind the Throne play, but I disregard that. That particular perk takes about half of your points for building your archdemon, and he'd shown enough power to imply that he was starting with a fully-fledged guy. And from this point, Sponge's turns noticeably start to lag. There's a few life issues in the way, but they're lagging anyway. Someone with a Power Behind The Throne plan wouldn't be visibly losing interest in the shape of the game. That's what someone who knows they've just become a lapdog. This is also where the Diplomacy exchanges become fun. Here's a bunch...
Me: "Just remember, before you all bow down to Quinns, who actually took out that legion and gave everyone else a chance in open combat. ALSO REMEMBER WHO GOT DOWN ON HIS KNEES - LIKE A DOG - FIRST."
Scrofula: "Less like a dog, more like an annoying fly that's been buzzing around my head all game. What's that? Another request for tribute? Ho ho ho, Sponge, when will you learn that sooner or later flies get swatted."
Quinns: "Don't worry Kieron. After the game's finished we'll all hang up plaques up in our bedrooms with your ever-so-mighty achievements on. After all, that's the point of the game, isn't it? Who cares if you come 5th out of 6th. What matters is making sure to give everybody else a chance in open combat. I imagine it was an accident that Vic left that bit out of the manual"
Me: "I am going to have Vic rewrite the manual to make it the rules!"
Quinns: "You do that. Actually, now I think about it, coming 5th out of 6 is really seriously bad"
And then we go onto jokes about sexual intercourse with mothers while I send a mail to everyone else.
"More seriously, gentlemen. We should talk. Quinns was actually much weaker than he looked. He's not a fighter. He hasn't got enough actions to manouvere his armies. I'm surprised no-one had tried invading him, especially those of you who I know have more than a few points in wrath. Problem being, with Sponge as a lapdog, he gets a lot of what he's missing - as in, someone who can throw wrath and armies around. I'm still going to win my Vendetta against him, of course. It'll be less clean than I'd have liked it and it's possible I'll lose that shrine, but that's something like 36 prestige points torn out of his hide. What next?"
At the time, I believed most of what I say true, though I've screwed the maths on the VP. With hindsight, it definitely was. I knew it was time for some kind of co-operation. Quinns had just gained half the prestige points of his mongrel, which put him well ahead.
Speedo doesn't respond. Zah'hak drops a few jokes. Scrofula and I chew over a few plans.
This pretty much sets the end-game tone. Only Scrof and I seem to grasp what time it is – or if Speedo does, he's playing his own cards very tight to his chest. Bitter and angry, Scrofula and I appear to be something like a team. Not exactly like one, as we'll see, but something like one...
Was I tempted by vassalage? Well, I was doubly screwed. I wasn't doing as badly as Sponge and I had even more terrain. It'd have been a lot of work to get it down to size.
And beside "Better to rule in hell than serve in Heaven" was what lead the boss demon to the pit. Serving in hell? What kind of tosser would want that?
I was going to play to win and fuck anyone who'd settle for second place. I'd rather be dead than bow.
Turn 55 - Quinns:
Sweet Merciful Chr-- uh, Satan. About 20 turns back I described how our game's pace had picked up and it had become like kayaking down rapids. Well, now it's even worse. Every turn that passes the game becomes less quietly Machiavellian and more resembles violence soup.
Kieron's flinging ceaseless Wrath rituals at my poor legions. Paladins have come from Heaven to destroy our artifacts. Somebody just completed a machine of immense power that reduces the Wrath stat of everyone but him by an agonising 2 points. What good is my new Blood Vassal when you're dealing with crap like this?
The ace up my sleeve at this point is an event card called Infernal Monsoons. The monsoons reduce the movement of everyone's legions to 1 canton per turn, prevent any flying legions from taking to the air and last 3-6 turns. They're just what I need for making sure no-one can manuevere against my slave and I.
Sponge is telling me not to use the card. He says he needs his legions to be as fast as possible to win all his wars. Think, man! If you were any good at winning wars you wouldn't have ended up flinging yourself at my feet, now, would you?
Turn 56 - Kieron:
I suspect Quinns is starting to realise what my Vendetta tactic is. It's basically, this...
The destruction zap. A blow, from the heavens. I target whatever unit's weakest is, and annihilate it with multiple ones. Since Quinns is my top-target, it only takes a couple of fire a blast. It's the wrath of god, except without being god. Yay! I've clawed back my shrine which Quinns briefly captured, and set to work winning my vendetta with this orbital hurtage. Sponge lobs some back my way, but I don't really mind.
The bigger problem this turn comes from elsewhere. Zah'hak has constructed the Machine of Agony, one of the aforementioned multi-part manuscripts. It means that everyone loses two points from their wickedness - which is the ability which powers the destruction spells. I had 4, and now am down to 2. This means that as well as being less able to hurt people, I'm also down to four turns an action. Zah'hak also sends a note saying we should avoid insulting one another from now on. Frankly, when you've just scuppered everyone's build - except Quinns - Zah'hak may have mistimed his diplomatic advance.
I'm not sure whether it was deliberate. The fact that it's so tricky to get all the parts of a manuscript makes me suspect if you find yourself with one, you just make it for the hell of it. I mean, when I made mine, I had no idea what it actually did - what a given manuscript does is one of the harder facts to disentangle from Solium Infernum's AI.
Turn 58 - Quinns:
And those rains are gonna come!
Alright! A bit of luck comes my way as the turn log announces the monsoons will last for their maximum of 6 turns.
People are looting my vaults and stealing my praetors. They're making ceaseless demands of me. Someone played an event card, calling down an Angelic Host which promptly obliterated one of my legions. Kieron just obliterated another with a barrage of Internal Affliction rituals. My thrall is failing to win his vendettas. None of it matters. I just need this game OVER.
Unbearably, the Infernal Conclave's only cast 12 of the 15 tokens that determine when the game ends. The rate at which they vote increases with each token (so the first token might be cast in 6 turns, while the last might only take 2) but that still means I've got to weather this shitstorm for another 10 turns.
Still, at least I have a slave to suffer alongside me as I go sorting through all the insults and demands that might otherwise have gone to him. JOY.
Turn 59 - Quinns:
NO! Somewhere in the haze of vendettas I currently exist in Scrofula found himself in a position to take the Pillars of Malebolge from me. They were the first Place of Power I ever captured, and now they're the first one I've ever lost.
If you're wondering what that curious golden piece is, it's the Angelic Host. After destroying that legion of mine it seems they decided to stick around.
The game's been going on for a real-life month at this point. I'm so tired, and I'm losing my grip. But I have to keep fighting. I’ve spent too much time and thought on this game to let it all slip between my fingers now. I can taste victory. It tastes like Kieron's ballbag. And it tastes good.
Turn 60 - Kieron:
Speedo continue to stick to our fruitless exchanges. He makes a demand. I submit, giving up the four tokens. I make a demand. He submits, giving up four tokens. He knows if he rejects it, I'll claim vendetta - I just need to use the Infernal blasts to satisfy the vendettas. I know if I reject it, I have to deal with his unstoppable minotaur. So we sit, wasting an order every few turns, in a stalemate. I start to claw back my wickedness, both because I like having five orders and the blast-centric nature of my current strategy. And despite my hefty deceit, my looting the vault ritual is constantly coming up with a couple of cards stolen. Since it takes a couple of cards to make it work, it's been more than a little disappointing and I end up abandoning it shortly. Just another turn, basically.
My most important action happens outside of the game itself.
I send an e-mail which changes everything.