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.
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).
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!
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.