An episode otherwise known as "Let's get Speedo".
For those joining us here, the turns so far...
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.
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:
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.