Solium Infernum's borders get set early, and then don't move by much. By turn 11, things were in the basic formation they were for the rest of the game. And this is it...
Kieron: And, yes, that did involve me doing old skool games journalism multiple screenshots and lining up. I also removed all the armies, so it's easier to refer back to. Man! The things I do for you readers. The borders - which you can probably see faintly - are of Turn 11. And do alter a little, but not enough to worry about the general placements. Also, it's worth taking a walk around the Kingdoms, just to intro everyone properly...
As a general rule, if someone's written something for RPS, we go with their real names. If someone's a reader, we go with their in-game name. Which we have to do, as otherwise we'd miss the glory of SPEEDO DEMON. I'll tell you who they are in these write-ups, just for the record.
First up, me. I'm in the middle. Well, I am in my head. You note that the only unit on the map is in all four corners - that's to show how the map loops. Everyone is in the middle and surrounded on all sides. I have foolishly extended to create this long, snake-like empire. An impassable chasm on my west makes it a bit more defendable, but not by much. The only reason I've expanded so much is to try and grab hold of as many shrines as possible, each of which earns prestige if you own. As of turn 10, I've grabbed three - but, alas, three shit ones which only earn a single VP a turn. The shrines all have their own names, which I suspect will come up in conversation later. Enormous vagina-shaped gates, basically. It takes all sorts.
To my east is Scrofula, who has a similarly sprawling Empire, in a similarly foolishly elongated shape, without even a decent natural defence to help him. I'd worry about a land war, but I think he's going to get a lot of attention anyway. He's Hentazu - who you may remember for slaughtering my Skaven - and is writing up his turns over at his blog. Here's his 1-10, if you want to get up to date.
To my north is Poisoned Sponge aka Phill Cameron, who has written a load of stuff for us. A tighter Kingdom by most. Frankly, if I get defeated by Quinns, It getting close to the position where we don't share a border. He's also writing up his turns over at his blog, and here's his 1-10. It's worth noting that the mistake I made last turn, saying his unit was wiped out. It as actually Quinns who got wiped out, but sending a weakling unit. It was Sponge who got a unit back from the crusade, and reaped the rewards. In other words, he has a hard unit, ready to biff.
To my North West (also, my South, but with a natural boundary separating us) is Quinns. Now, his actual unit actually got its boost by conquering the two shrines in his area, and getting a level up - and his level up was to get a devilish medal which gives enormous bonuses. Only one unit in the whole game can have this advance. So it's just as lucky, in a different way, and is still threatening my borders. It's worth noting that there's going to be several bits where one of us mis-reads what another person has actually done. That we missed what the other person actually *did* is a big chunk of my point.
To my west is the small kingdom of Zah'lak (aka Stalin's Ghost from the comments). Very compressed, but with shrines captured. Has armies massing on the west, and looks to be starting trouble with Scrofula.
Finally, there's Speedodemon (aka Bossman from the comments) who is the one fiend who I share no border with. I presume this makes him not my problem. I couldn't be more wrong than if I allied with Quinns.
Oh - there's also Pandemonium marked on the map. This is where the conclave live, who decides who's Boss-demon at the end of the game. You're able to attack it if you want, and automatically win if you hold it... but that means dealing with its enormous defences, and surviving five turns with all the other players able to bash the hell out of you. Or bash you out of hell. One or the other.
Turn 11 – Quinns:
YES! Chaos and disorder reigns supreme! Thanks to Speedo Demon and Kieron neglecting to discuss an intelligent joint response to my demands (such as both refusing), Speedo coughed up the four tribute cards I asked of him while Kieron refused. The way this works now is that I can take that refusal to the Infernal Conclave, act insulted, and they'll give me permission to claim a vendetta. In a couple of turns I'll be able to waltz my mighty legion across Kieron's border and take one of his Places of Power. Or two... No, can't be greedy, and I mustn't overextend myself. Just a short, sharp incision that'll leave him smarting and prove to everybody that I mean business. Maybe it'll make the other Archfiends think twice before refusing a demand of mine. Or maybe it'll unite them against me. We'll see.
Turn 11 - Kieron:
You want stuff from me, Speedo? Without a border? What are you going to do? Throw stuff at me across that chasm. Fuck right off, my son.
Turn 12 – Quinns:
The Hellmouth's still closed, and everyone's got very much into this demands business. I like it. When resources dry up in Hell and we can't demand tribute from our minions, we demand it from one another. Of course!
I managed to buy that new legion to protect my southern border. They're the Sisters of Flame, and they look like this:
With Ranged 0, Melee 4 and Infernal 4 they're a bit crap, but at this stage of the game it's nothing attaching a praetor (Solium's heroes/officers) won't fix. Besides, they have a flame aura, meaning they deal a little unavoidable damage at the end of each combat round. Damaged legions are a pretty serious factor in Solium. Nursing your armies back to full strength only happens in proximity of a Place of Power or your stronghold, and even then it can be slow going.
Anyway! Fuck all that! My vendetta against Kieron's now in place, so I can finally begin my Northern invasion of the uppity bastard's territory. I've ordered my super-legion to march on his Tree of Woe and take the satisfaction which is rightly mine, and I've set capturing a Place of Power as the victory condition for the vendetta. Assuming I win the battle, come next turn our war will already be over and I'll even get a slice of Kieron's prestige for winning it.
It's stupid. My legion's stats render it almost indestructible. Kieron has no visible defenses. Naturally, utter paranoia is starting to set in. When I made my demand of Kieron my legion was /right there/ next to his Tree. Why would Kieron allow me to start a vendetta unless he didn't fear my legion? Maybe he considers the tree useless. Or maybe he knows something I don't.
Turn 13 – Quinns:
Success. Thank Christ. Emailing your orders off into the void and having to wait for the result is a really disturbing mechanic.
Seems like Kieron tried a weak confusion ritual to lower my Legion's abilities (I think he's focusing on a deception-focused Archfiend, like me) but it didn't work. My Legion crumpled up the Tree's defense forces like a paper bag. Vendetta complete! THat brings me up to 3 Places of Power and a hearty +5 prestige each turn.
Time to take stock of what's going on. I'm in the lead in prestige and prestige per turn, yet I'm safe. My northern border is still protected by a ludicrous Legion and the South simply isn't an easy target. The guy who's 2nd in our game, Scrofula, had to go scrambling all over the map to claim his places of power. My holdings are comparatively small and easy to defend.
What to do next? Probably the smart thing would be to sit tight for a bit, let the prestige and tribute roll in, and watch the board like a hawk.
Turn 13 - Kieron
Yeah, that ritual to stun them didn't work. It was a tad optimistic - I discover around now that the actual bodyguard top-unit has infinite loyalty, so can't actually be subverted. This doesn't mean that it can't actually be influenced by Deciet skills, of course - it just means that it's pretty damn hard, and you can't actually lure them over to your side. As if I'd want any of Quinns' stinky troops anyway. And I can't do it, as you need a level 6 deciet skill to build it up. Getting to the top of the stats takes... well, a lot of resources. Fuck it. At least the Vendetta is over now. I'll give up one Place of Power now rather than give up the resources, as I need it for development. That's basically my tactic now - develop my self so I can actually defend.
Of course, telling Speedo to fuck right off my son has lead to him claiming a Vendetta - but rather than a military force, he's actually demanding a fight by Champions. These Praetors can be bought, and attached to units to boost their fighting abilities - alternatively, sent out to do what Speedo is. As in, a duel of honour. Clearly, I'd meet him on the field of battle, but I - er- haven't a praetor. Well, if I had one, he'd only go and get himself killed. Abstractly, this is my tactic still - fold, lose the prestige now, and earn it back later when the resources I've gathered makes me a nifty demon. It's a long game. Right now, resources is more important than prestige.
This is, at least, what I tell myself.
Turn 15 - Kieron
The funniest part of this stage of the game is that it seems that everyone is sitting, waiting for someone to start a vendetta against someone else... at which point everyone else makes a demand or an insult against the victim, knowing that they'll probably settle, not wanting to be in multiple wars at once. Well, that's what it looks from my perspective. I suspect Scrofula is feeling a little differently.
Turn 15 – Quinns:
Attached a praetor to my southern legion, thereby locking down my borders. Sponge is moving against Scrofula, so I don't think I have to. Frail Kieron's asked if I want to team up, but I don't need him or trust him. I have, however, told him something about one of his neighbours as a show of good faith.
Terrible paranoia is creeping in. My early lead simply can't have escaped everyone's notice. The smart thing would be to try and keep the other five Archfiends on the back foot, so I guess I'll look into making another demand or two in a bit. The fact is, I own and am earning so much prestige that I'm practically paralyzed. Starting a war might upset this pile I'm currently sat at the top of.
Turn 19 - Kieron
I've spent the last few turns building up my resources. I've picked up an artifact called the Leamington Seal, and slid it into an artifact slot. This gives my prophecy a boost, taking it to level 4. This is a crucial stage, as it means I have 3 actions. In other words, no more worrying about not being able to demand souls - which thankfully we can do again, now the hellgate is open - if you have two things to do. Alternatively, I could throw two orders on gathering souls. This makes it less efficient - everyone one after the first gains less and less - but it's better than nothing if you've an action to spare.
I'm going to build my powers even more. I still don't have a Praetor - though I see Speedo is still challenging everyone, implying his guy is a hefty chap. He's troublesome. I can't believe no-one has given him a slap. Hell, I could have, if I had a border. I start thinking of alternative ways of fucking him over, without actually having to march there.
Not having a Praetor at this point is a bit stupid, so I play an event which means that no-one can challenge me for 3-6 turns. In other words, a nice window where I don't have to worry about being stomped.
Turn 20 – Quinns:
Not much is happening. Denied a demand from Speedo, sent one to Scrofula. No wars though. Speedo wanted his vendetta settled by single combat of champions, and Scrofula handed over the resources I asked for. That surprised me. Watching the hasty, eager way Scrofula had been moving his legions, I figured he had more ego than that.
I'm currently trying to amass the agonising wad of souls and darkness required to boost my Deceit stat to level IV. That'll give me an extra order each turn, not to mention the ability to bribe enemy praetors to my side. I need this. I need to make use of the Master of Lies perk I took at character creation that boosts my Deceit rituals. Besides, I get the feeling everybody else is snatching up relics and boosting stats on the sly. It's worrying, these pockets of radio silence that go on for turns at a time. You know that when a fight does kick off, you'll be facing a stronger, quicker, smarter opponent.
I'm currently in talks with Sponge. We're trading, if you can believe that. I'm giving him 8 hellfire for 4 souls and 2 darkness, bringing me within 2 souls of Deceit IV. There is, of course, the possibility Sponge will betray the trade and send me nothing in return. If that happens I'm ruining him. I'm wiping him off the map. Winning the game goes out of the window.
On a less veangeful note, I'm starting to realise that the only way to stay ahead in Solium Infernum is to help others up. You might be #1, but if you help out #3 then that'll tie up numbers #3 and #2, and you'll still be #1.
Turn 20 - Kieron:
I'm looking for targets. Speedo has barely any defences. He's already challenged me a few times. I don't like the cut of his jib. And I think I have a plan...