If you sup with the devil, bring a long spoon.
Or an vengeful archdemon.
If you're joining us at this late stage, here's all the previous parts...
Kieron/Quinns: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60]
Scrofula: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60]
Poisoned Sponge: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60]
If you're mainly following here, Sponge and Scrofula's 51-60 will be new. Go read, then return...
Turn 61 - Kieron:
This is the important mail. It was at Scrofula.
Just a word:
I haven't looked at the manual for this, but something I believe is true.
If you're excommunicated, you can attack anyone's stronghold directly - so, if you destroy them, wiping them out the game.
(I pick this up from the tactic where someone has six orders and excommunicates themselves, then uses the other 5 orders to use something called the Puzzle Box to annihilate all the opponent's strongholds)
In other words... we've probably lost. However, you're in striking room of Quinns' stronghold. Quinns isn't defending himself. His stronghold is really quite weak. Attack Pandemonium with a Destruction-zap. Get yourself excommunicated. Next turn, march in and destroy Quinns' citadel. He's out the game. Then, with no-one else near Pandemonium, you've got more chance of taking it and holding it than you have in making up the Prestige.
(I doubly haven't checked the manual, but if Quinns is out... then I think Sponge is too.)
A few minutes late, I send a second mail.
(This game just involves sending the best e-mails)
If you'll pardon the hellish-blasphemy, Amen to that.
In the first one, I'm not even lying on not having checked it out on the manual. It's something that's been thinking about for a while. Here's a way for Scofula to fuck over Quinns. We start talking. At first, he's a little reticent, but warms to the idea. I offer my deceit help as much as I can. He decides that he's going to need a few turns to get into position, but it's on. We're no longer playing a Prestige game. We're now playing an annihilate-our-enemies-how-do-you-like-the-taste-of-that-ball-bag game.
The main thing which moved him towards this perfidy? It's not Quinns. He's had little problem with Quinns and would have been happy coming runner-up to him. The problem was Quinns' puppy-dog. That Sponge was his slave meant that Sponge would come ahead of him - and Scrofula was never going to accept that, after everything Sponge had done. It was an agreeable and admirable rage, and I was more than happy to give it a means of expression.
Meanwhile, while Scrofula was turning his powers towards revenge, I was planning to secure the throne of hell.
Turn 62 - Quinns:
Those infernal monsoons are still falling all across Hell, hampering my opposition as they continue to try and mobilise armies against my new slave and I. I'm siiiinging in the rain! Or, more accurately, getting burgled in the rain. I'm talking daylight and nightime robbery.
Deceit rituals are the one means everybody has of fucking with me without a vendetta. As such, my vaults are being looted to the point where I might as well leave them unlocked and all of my praetors have been bribed away with the exception of one very loyal elephant. At least, he looks like an elephant. His name's Temeluchas(?). What matters is that he gives the legion he's attached to a loyalty boost, so after attaching him to my high level, high loyalty Chosen of Quinns they become a mobile Fort Knox for any artifacts I choose to give them.
It's a little unsettling how alone I am now compared to the forces I was maneuvering 10 turns ago. Between theft and Kieron's spamming of lethal Wrath rituals, I've been decimated. The only legions I have left are the Chosen of Quinns and these cheery lads:
Meet the Legion of Maw. I bought them from the bazaar at great expense because of their relatively high level, which is what offers protection against Hellfire, theft and acts of God. Handy, as I'm currently locked in yet another war with Kieron where he's clearly chosen the goal of destroying several of my legions. With my boys now all thoroughly fireproof, I'm not sure how he can win.
One more time: My mass of Prestige points puts me so far in the lead that what I need now is for the game to end as soon as possible. We're on the 13th of the 15 conclave tokens, so there can't be more than 5 turns left till the game ends.
It's funny. Scrofula and Kieron are flinging all these valuable armies and dark, unknowable rituals at me, yet what I really fear is something they haven't done yet. I'm living in fear of a co-ordinated insulting. If they begin flinging endless insults at me at the Infernal Conclave and persuade Speedo and Zah'hak to do the same they'd be backing me into a corner. With each insult I'd have to decide whether to accept it, losing a chunk of my prestige there and then, or defend my honour by initiating a war, something I can't possibly do on 2 fronts, let alone 4. Besides, the end of the game's so close now I'd probably never win any of those wars in time to recoup any prestige.
The other fear is, of course, that somebody becomes a blood vassal to Scrofula or Speedo demon, thereby handing them a huge wad of prestige and creating a Transformers style situation where one enormous combination of robots is defeated by another.
But I'm not scared of that second one. I've been watching my opponents play for a month now. They're all far too headstrong to do anything that sensible.
Turn 63 - Quinns:
Are you kidding. Are you KIDDING?!
I was right, the objective of Kieron's vendetta against me was to destroy my legions. And I was right, he planned to do it using his goddamn Internal Affliction rituals, and I was right again that my legions were too experienced to be affected by them.
Kieron didn't target my legions. He targeted Bad Slave Sponge's legions. This is how I find out the hard way that your blood vassal's more than just muscle, he's a fully-fledged extension of you and your holdings. With Sponge, I thought I was getting a wife. Instead, I got a Siamese twin.
That's yet more prestige lost, giving my ankle another firm downward yank as I climb this ladder to victory.
Turn 63 - Kieron:
If they won't vote me king of hell, I'll seize the throne myself. As referenced in the earlier mail as a "this is a way you can win" to Scrofula, you can also claim the game by militarily taking over Pandemonium - Hell's Capital - and holding it for 5 turns. I suspect - correctly - that if someone is holding Pandemonium, the conclave stops drawing tokens (because it's hard to debate who should lead hell when an upstart has taken over Government and is busy making them lick his boils). In other words, if someone takes Pandemonium, it doesn't matter what prestige everyone has. The clock's stopped.
Pandemonium is a brutal Kingdom. It has the best Champions - which you can challenge in open combat to gain Prestige, something which Speedo has done once (cutting down a brute called the Butcher) and is doing again against some spry naked sword-weilding lady called The Queen of the Damned - and it has the best defences. You need something pretty hefty to bash down its doors.
Meet my girls.
There's not many actually decent combat units you can buy in the game, but these are one of them. 10/0/9 with 10 hit points - and their lack of melee ability is covered by a little by their 3 levels of melee resist (i.e. -3 Melee damage) and the fact that with them, melee comes last. So you have to live through the Gorgon's hefty powers. And - somehow, though exactly how escapes me - I've brought Descarbia back from the pit for a second time. In other word, a boost to ranged and a second round of ranged combat. It's still not enough to comfortably take Pandemonium, of course... but I'll be propping that up with every combat card and deceit ritual I have available. The one advantage of fighting Pandemonium is that it can't throw any spanners in the works - and I think everyone is going to be busy enough with what's going on to worry about little ol' me.
I put the bid in this turn. While I'm winning my little wars with Quinns, they're secondary. I'll hope the appearance of the brutish Gorgons will make the attacks pause - as the ladies can take out whatever is thrown at them. However, fear will also keep the troops at the front line... which means there's less chance of anyone getting in the way of Hentzau's attack when it comes. Meanwhile, I'll be marching them southwards, into position...
There is one problem. As tough as they are, they cost. You don't just buy them. You have to pay them upkeep. As such, I'm using a good chunk of my actions trying to gather as many resources as possible, just to funnel into my beautiful engine of destruction.
Turn 65 - Kieron:
My plan's underway. Hentzau is being delayed a little due to the Angelic Horde stomping his unit - another thing which he's bitter about. Everyone else gets some piece of Cannon-fodder smashed, and he gets his top boys. Still, it should be ready to go in a couple turn. Meanwhile, the Gorgons continue south and...
Forget it. Let's take a break from the main event. Something happens which makes everyone cheer. Speedo's champion has been slaughtered. The Minotaur who's bullied us all has been cut to ribbons by the Queen of the Damned. Let's show the fight...
This continues for another couple of rounds, that enormous health-point reservoir being taken away slice by painful slice. I'm applauding, while imagining a Bayonetta-esque slaughter of Speedo's brute.
Conversation turns to hammering Speedo. Of course, that's not what I'm really thinking about...
Turn 65 - Quinns:
Speedo's champion is dead! That rock-hard Minotaur is dead! And you know what? I don't care!
If I wasn't so busy trying to keep a firm grip on my current prestige total I might give the Legion of Maw a siege weapon and send them up north to re-visit Speedo's territory, just for the Hell of it, but the fact is that while I might loathe him and his (now dearly departed) monster, as total bastards go he's always been fairly indiscriminate. His ceaseless demands were made at everybody, not just me, so I bear less of a grudge towards him than I do towards Kieron and Scrofula. Those two are being total pricks to me right here and right now, and so Speedo lives to see another day.
Oh, my God. I cannot believe the maths I'm doing every single turn just to minimise the damage done to my prestige each turn. I'm so TIRED.
Turn 66 - Quinns:
ZAH'HAK's going to war with me? ZAH'HAK? Never-fought-a-battle-in-the-game Zah'hak!? Does he even know what a battle IS? Did he click on the wrong button? DOES HE KNOW WHO I AM? I HAVE A SLAVE.
At times like this your head hits the desk. Then, after a few seconds, your head comes back off the desk and you know that yours is a future where your enemies are dust.
Okay, give me strength. The man is clearly maneuvering legions towards the Tree of Woe. Well, I've got his number. The last 60 turns have tempered me in the ways of war. If I look at the numbers on the board I can see that one careful combat card should have any hasty assaults bouncing off the tree's garrison.
Christ, though. I mean -- Zah'hak?
Turn 67 - Quinns:
I begin the turn as usual, sifting through the mass of notifications in my demonic inbox. Speedo wants to face me in single combat of champions? Urgh. Seems he's still up to his old tricks, minotaur or no minotaur. Kieron concedes to my demand and hands over tribute cards... Guess he can't bundle on me quite as hard as he thought. Something about Scrofula doing a destructive ritual. Someone bought a legion called The Stygian Guard from the bazaar... oh, it was Sponge. Good work, Bad Slave Sponge.
Hang on. Back up.
That's... weird. Scrofula threw a destructive ritual at Pandemonium, the city where the Infernal Conclave is based. He's gotten his ass excommunicated as a result. That means we no longer need conclave-sponsored vendettas to go to attack him.
The only reason he'd perform a destructive ritual on Pandemonium is if he were softening it up to conquer it, which is the alternative way of winning the game. You claim's Hell's throne by force. But a glance at the map shows his legions are still right where they always were, protecting his borders from me and Zah'hak.
No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO. NO.
IT CAN'T END LIKE THIS.
As I realise what Scrofula's about to achieve my heart begins tingling. My blood cools. Yeah, excommunication means none of us need permission to attack him. It also means he no longer needs permission to attack us and he doesn't have to play by anyone's rules.
Scrofula can now attack strongholds as you would any other Place of Power, with the slight difference that conquering a stronghold knocks that player out of the game. Instantly. You just disappear. And that legion he has sat on his border with me? The Burning Legion?
Not only are they a single turn's march from my stronghold, they have a ranged stat of a preposterous 17. He'll have demolished my stronghold's garrison before we even reach the melee round. This time next turn, I will be dead.
I've been fighting, spitting and scheming my way through this game for a real-life month. Now I'm not just in the lead, I've won, and Scrofula's about to take it all away from me with this... ah, fuck it. Yeah, I'll hand it to my opponents. He's about to take it all away from me with a play of shimmering genius.
We're on the 14th conclave token now. The 14th of 15. The game could end literally any turn, and this happens.
Nervous to the point of nausea, I bring up the diplomacy screen. We are, of course, well past diplomacy at this point, but there's something I need to check.
Okay. This turn Zah'hak is regent, so I'm before Scrofula in the turn order. Even if Scrofula attacks in order slot 1 whatever I put in my own order slot 1 will happen before the assault. So, it all comes down to this. Whatever I put in order slot 1 will either win me or lose me the game.
I bring up the map.
The reason Scrofula is set to win this battle is because he's taken a Legion with a decent ranged attack stat, then equipped them with an ugly praetor (even by praetor standards) who boosts ranged and an artifact called the Throne of Skulls which doubles the bonuses of the attached praetor. Because ranged happens first in a battle and the ranged stat of my stronghold is only average, he'll reduce it to negative hitpoints before the melee round even occurs.
I have a legion next to my stronghold which will provide support in the battle, but it's the Legion of Maw. Unsurprisingly if you remember their picture, they'll be adding to my stronghold's melee but contributing nothing to its ranged. Worthlessly, they're also led by a melee-specialist praetor.
So. My options.
I could create a combat card adding a small stat bonus to my stronghold, but it wouldn't be enough to change the battle. I could try and steal Scrofula' Throne of Skulls or, better, bribe his praetor away (thereby making use of the perk I took at character creation all those turns ago), but this VERY TURN I played an event card preventing all rituals from being performed. This, if you can believe it, was my tactic for defending myself. Ha ha. Ahh.
I could attach a praetor to lead my stronghold's garrison, but all I have is my melee specialist Elephant, the melee specialist attached to the legion of maw and an all-rounder I stole from someone or other who's been gathering dust in my vaults for about 20 turns.
Wait. I take a closer look at the Barbatos, the praetor I attached to the Legion of Maw.
Melee occurs first? Does that save me? To keep my Stronghold's defenses from crumbling I'd have to completely wipe out Scrofula's legion in the melee round before they got off a ranged attack.
The Burning Legion have 8hp and a melee stat of 4. That means I need a melee stat of 12 to wipe them out in the first round. My Stronghold has melee 5, but with the support of the nearby Legion of Maw (which is always half of the supporting unit's stats, rounded down) they get another +5 to melee. Barbatos gives a final +2. That's 12! Oh my God! This will work! And it'll be the tactical equivalent of a badass judo block!
But- NO. Because I'll be taking Barbatos away from the Legion of Maw, that drops their melee from 10 to 8. That means as a supporting unit they don't provide +5, they provide +4, which gives my Stronghold a grand total of melee... 11.
I'm 1 point short. And with that, I've lost the game.
This being Solium Infernum there's still a few variables that could go wrong for Scrofula, but there's far more that could go extra-wrong for me. My biggest worry is that Scrofula won't even send The Burning Legion straight for my stronghold, that he'll march them on the supporting Legion of Maw instead. Without their support, that'd make my stronghold an even easier target next turn. But that's an unlikely play. We're on the 14th Conclave token, so for all we know the game could end next turn. Scrofula's almost certainly going to hit me as fast as he can.
Sod it. Moving Barbatos to my stronghold is still the best play I can offer. It won't save me, but when I no longer exist next turn Scrofula will look at The Burning Legion and notice they have a single hit point left. That's how close I came to stopping him, and it will be my epitaph.
You know, this would be a perfect time for Bad Slave Sponge to show up and save the day. Unfortunately, he's a bad slave.
Fuck 'em. Fuck every last one of them.
Here we go.
Turn 67 - Kieron:
This last turn has been painful. Quinns was traveling, so there's been a week delay while Scrofula and I wait patiently. The first time he gets to actually do his turn is when he's visiting my house for food and drinks with our respective Delightful Girlfriends. He's crouched on the living room floor with my laptop as he takes my turn, so I get to see what Quinns describes above firsthand. The five minutes where he doesn't even notice what Scrofula has done. Then five minutes where he's confused by it. And then the moment of glorious horror...
I have absolutely no poker face. When he notices what Scrofula has done, I claim ignorance - and note that Sponge was equally bewildered. Which he was - Sponge never worked out what he was up to, just cackling that he was able to invade Scrofula without Vendettas. When Quinns actually realised the stab, I end up admitting that I had a little hand in it. Which is stupid - never give away anything you shouldn't - but oddly in character. We're two lords of hell at a Dinner party. It's totally the sort of thing they'd talk about.
I head upstairs to process the turn, and actually choose my orders. As I sip my wine, I play odds and work out how I can un-screw myself.
Because I'm as screwed as Quinns.
Let me show you what my actual plan was...
I wasn't sure that Scrofula could beat Quinns. However, I was pretty sure the effort would hurt him. My plan was to pile straight through Pandemonium and finish him off if Scrofula didn't - or, alternatively, be ready to fight Sponge and Scrofula. Scrofula had noticed the movement, but I explained that it really was primarily against Quinns. Clearly, I'm playing to win - but that inevitable war between us is in the future. Right now, this is about crushing Quinns and Sponge. When I take Pandemonium, I knew everyone would be on top of me. Ideally, that meant just Sponge, Scrofula and Speedo - as Scrofula would have decapitated both Zah'hak and Quinns, for the sin of having a name not beginning with "S". I would have to fight Sponge and Scrofula , but I still had my legion poised on Speedo's stronghold. When I'm excommunicated, I was confident of my ability to annihilate Speedo in one or two turns, max. Holding off Sponge and Scrofula for 5 turns? Tricky, but a damn sight better chance of winning than I have now.
The problem is the event that's just been played. I can't use any rituals for a few turns. The Flux means no-one can, for 3-6 turns. This has fucked Quinns - because it removes a whole load of ways which he can defend himself - but it means that I can't do any of the things against Pandemonium which I have planned (Multiple anti-Ranged weapon deceit strikes, mainly. Anti-melee. That kind of thing). So to strike directly against Pandemonium... I haven't got the pure temporal strength. I can add combat cards to reduce its range, but that's reliant on luck to work out how much is subtracted. And there's always the chance of a positive combat modifier. But, working it out, for all Pandemonium's power, it can't kill me in a combat round.
I consider the other options - like attacking the angels, which if I defeat (and I probably will) could possibly level me up, so making the task easier (Also, would give a suitably heroic end to my narrative if the game did end shortly. As in, I drove heaven from hell, etc).
But no. This is hell's business. The angels are just annoying tourists.
I could wait for the event to end... but there's 14 tokens drawn. The last one can appear any turn. It'll be at least two more turns before I can strike with my full strength. What are the odds the game will end in that time? I'm taking a chance attacking. I'm taking a chance not attacking. But, I remind myself as I finish the wine, I'm playing to win.
I load the Gorgons up with combat cards and point Descarbia and his delightful girlfriends at Pandemonium.
Give them hell, girls. And give me hell too.