Electron Dance
9Apr/15Off

Lol in Hell: A Short Solium Infernum Tale

This month we're celebrating FIVE YEARS of Electron Dance!

Here’s a story from 2012 that was never published.

A long, long time ago I wrote a nailbiting Neptune’s Pride (Iron Helmet, 2010) diary that kept readers up all night called The Aspiration. This diary took a serious toll though; my mental health over the month of the game was put through the wringer and I knew I never wanted to play such a game EVER THE HELL AGAIN. I later wondered whether an obsession with Neptune's Pride diaries was contributing to a problem of survivorship bias.

However, I was press-ganged into a match of Solium Infernum (Cryptic Comet, 2009). It's a turn-based affair, not something that exists from minute to minute. I was still anxious, though. Solium is about duplicity. About paranoia. But I wanted to repeat the success of The Aspiration, so felt like I should go for it.

But our game stopped after three turns and never got going again. I wrote up a detailed diary for those three turns and I think it's time to reveal it to the public.

Friday June 8, 2012 // Prologue

Solium Infernum AI game outcome

Joe Litobarski may be known to Electron Dance readers as LiberalEurope (but more commonly known in 2015 as Uncaring Cosmos), whose crazy scheme for manipulating conflict in Neptune's Pride resulted in a ramshackle galactic peace pact that almost survived the game. After that game, Joe thought it would be a great idea to try something else. Something just as deliciously devious and painfully paranoid.

Joe invited Kent Sutherland, Todd Page, mwm, Shaun Green and myself to join him in a game of Solium Infernum.

Shit. I said yes.

While I waited for our game to start, I read the fifty-page manual and tried out a game against several AI. Three things happened in this game:

  • My brain exploded trying to hold the full scope of the rules in my head
  • I was inundated with insults and demands and, thus, panicked
  • Uh, I won?

I think that probably says more about the AI than my Solium tactical power. I didn't achieve much in the game but I did learn that I'm going to spend my entire time biting my nails. Like Armageddon Empires (Cryptic Comet, 2007) before it, a game I've written plenty about, Solium is all about scarcity – of resources and ability. Every action is going to count.

Thankfully, this thing is a PBEM game and not real-time like Neptune's Pride. Still, I'm going to sweat like a pig if the avatar building step is anything to go by. Where am I going to spend my 30 points? On bulking up my attributes? On raising my Infernal Rank? On purchasing perks?

And so, this is Lol.

lol

All of the players are familiar with the flowery alien poetry I wrote for The Aspiration so I have to give Lol a completely different voice. I decide that Lol was once a teenage gamer who was a master at any multiplayer FPS you cared to mention, but he never left the basement and subsisted on a diet of pizza rolls, French fries and Jolt Cola. One day he got too excited when writing a rant on a gaming forum about how poor an experience Dear Esther was compared to the delights of Gears of War and his heart gave out. Will anyone work out that I am the basement gamer?

Even though Lol is now thousands of Hellyears old he still can't hold a conversation without making an inane joke or calling someone a bitch. This thing, however, wants to rule Hell, and turn the signals of Pandemonium upwards, through the magma sea between the Real and the Underworld, and let them seep into the consoles and televisions. He wants to make Stay Tuned a reality.

Lol was created and I sent him forth, through mail, towards his destination in Hell.

And so, it begins.

Saturday 16 June, 2012 // Turn 1

So. Turn one, huh? Here we are.

Solium Infernum - game start

It should be easy. The first few turns are dubbed “slow” because all the demons do is push a few legions around trying to pick up hexes and Places of Power. So that's what I did, I moved straight for a place of power. But then I looked farther afield and wondered... if that's really what I should be doing. I was on the verge of submitting the turn. But I went away to think for two days.

Wow, this game didn’t take long to reach the “second-guess yourself” stage.

Here's an annotated view of the map.

Solium Infernum annotated map

I've drawn red over all the hexes which are normally impassible (without the right special legions to negotiate them). I've also ringed the Places of Power, which are targets because simply holding them generates more prestige; they are important for healing legions as well. At the end of the game, the person with the most prestige is declared the new ruler of Hell. The Place marked with an orange circle is Pandemonium, which is basically Hell's parliament: the alternative way to win the game is to take Pandemonium. Hah, good luck executing that one.

So in each turn, there is incredibly little we can do. We have just two order slots and one legion at present. We're all going to be doing the same – one order will be devoted to moving a legion to claim hexes another will be devoted to collecting tribute. There are four different types of resources – souls, darkness, ichor and hellfire – which are needed for practically everything and the main way to get these resources is to demand tribute from your enthusiastic followers. But you'll spend most of the game wishing you had more and more of it.

Now we all have objectives. If we complete an objective, we get 30 prestige points at the end of the game. Players Ialdabaoth and Hornwrath have gone for the “greed” objective: this means they are going to try to hog as much resources in their vaults as possible. Good luck with not spending all that lovely currency! Bruteaen and Boozlebub have gone for Wrath: which means kill another player, basically, storm their stronghold. Screwstaples has taken “lust” which means take the Temple of Lust which, unfortunately, is not going to be easy because it's just next door to Bruteaen.

What about me? Well, I've built my avatar for deceit, so my objective is Envy which is basically a reward for being a kleptomaniac.

An extremely important point to be aware of is this: Places of Power and hexes do not work in the same way as other strategy games. If you own half the map, yes, it means you're more likely to win. But it does not mean you have more resources or guns or bombs. What you have at your disposal has very little correlation to what you own which makes my next decision more difficult.

At first I was worried about Bruteaen having so many Places of Power and land mass available to him. It meant he was more likely to win but not stronger. Then I saw poor old Boozlebub who looked like his options for movement would be limited. In fact, I could cut him off from the rest of the map very easily.

The other thing about Solium Infernum, you see, is that it's not exactly about fighting and war. You can't just go punch someone in the face and tussle over land because, well, it's so much more polite. Boozlebub can't just take these hexes from me with a powerful legion; he is going to have to engineer a vendetta between us. That could involve an insult or make a demand. I'm sure we'll get to this later.

So the question is, do I box in Boozlebub instead of grabbing that Place of Power just above? It will limit his expansion and likely lose him the game but have absolutely no impact on how strong he will become. Note also that his goal is Wrath – to wipe out another player and I'm going to be his nearest neighbour, unless he manages to buy some flying bozo at the Infernal Bazaar.

Maybe it offers other possibilities too? A potential bargaining chip later, where I don't contest a hex if he wants to come out? I don't know. I move my legion to take one hex. After the next turn, he'll be locked in.

Joe has put together a wonderful new site to manage our communication better than the game. I just hope Joe resists the temptation to peek inside his site.

infernal conclave - beginning

It's pretty clear from the opening announcement that Joe is Ialdabaoth. Bruteaen, he of great open wide plains, responds: “Aye, it would be best for all involved to resolve our current crisis as quickly as can. There is hope yet that the scripts of Malphorian were composed of trickery and falsehoods; harsh times are predicted upon our kind...”

It's very wordy and long. I follow up with: “love this shit, top words from my bro bertie. i got some cool plans of my own though. want to spam the kids upstairs with hell mcsignals, ha ha, for the lulz you know! right alright all you Call of Duty sheep and truth haters, always and forever, fucking lol yo” (snippet in here taken from a Steam forum).

I then send a few messages to my diabolical brethren.

To bruteaen a missive titled “watch out for that freak yo” where I point out that screwstaples is looking for the Temple of Lust:

hey hey bertie, long time no seeeee! wanna fill you in, right, i think that dude screwloosestaples, his public objective, like - very fucking interesting to you i think, yeah! no need to say thanks no man, dont even think it – fucking lol yo

To hornwrath, my neighbour to the right, a message titled “howz it chiggin' man”:

yo horny, its been awhiiiiile, thank shit that boring asshol lucy is gone from the throne. anywayz, bertie down below, i mean whaddya thinkin? i mean, i love that bro, man, with his long dickish words and everything, but =serious= he seems he's going to pwn a whole frikkin park down there. shit, man, no fair, i call foul. hah! like everything is foul here, hah! – fucking lol yo

To screwstaples, “hellloooooooo”

yo yo yo screwy how you doing my man bros4evar amirite

To ialdabaoth, another “hellloooooooo”:

mad props to you alan, u are my fave, totally down with u sorting this shit out an all. just 1 word of advice like from bro 2 bro, right? i wuldnt get ahead of myself thiking like "im a princely dude, gonna win this thang no problemo senor, 4 real" coz some of these guys, right, love them all, bertie, horny and everyone - but unless u are squat on that fucking chair i dont think they gonna honor u with respect amirite? fucking lol yo

I don't send anything to Boozlebub, who I intend to call “boozebrain”, because I hacked his account on the conclave. Joe gave us all the same password. So I logged into Boozlebub's account and changed the password. Lol did just for lulz.

Tuesday 24 July, 2012 // Turn 2

It's been awhile because there were some problems getting one of the players' turns processed.

But I started getting proper diplomatic messages after I had submitted my turn.

Bruteaen tells me to fuck off the Place of Power directly to my south:

Why, I don’t thank you at all. Instead, I deeply appreciate it. If I may, I would like to inform you of my intentions regarding our future borders. I mean to annex the Mouth of Abbadon, then the Temple of Lust. I may be dissuaded from such a course if necessary, of course

There's not much I can do about this – if he wants to take it, he can. I can only appeal to his long-term nature.

hehehehe well i am sittin here thinkin about cutting out my bro boozebrain, he always in his inebriate winter dude! after lucy up and gone, who do we want in the throne? not a stretch to say not a demon with a few dnd offences on the conclave pinboard, amirite? he drunk so much he looked a frikkin succubus these days, have u seen his foto?

sooo i am happy to take his heat man because fuck knows its hot anyway! but will be at the expense of my fave unholy fountain spot im sure my bro horny is itching to sink his nuts into, up to u if you want to help out a bro. i will remember it because once u pick up all those sunny spots down in ur zone ain't no one gonna be your friend for some time, know what i mean???? yeah u do!

dudes4ever, fucking lol yo

He comes back indicating that he had absolutely no intention to negotiate despite the tone of his original message:

No, no. When I said that I was looking to capture the Mouth and Lust, I meant it. I don't much intend to expand beyond that. You are welcome to, if you care, take the Temple of the Damned under your care, which would have the added benefit of a border with Pandemonium. You'll have to race Screwstaple though, and sacrifice the Unholy Fountain, so it's your call. Otherwise, the Bronze Pyramid is too distant to control properly, and Erebus is only a possible acquisition.

Hey, did you notice that special ability your guys have? It adds 1-4 damage every infernal round, meaning you have the best army by far. However, Boozlebub has its opposite, Black Lightning, which adds 1-4 damage to ranged. With luck, he could destroy your men before they laid upon him a finger. I'd say the chance of that is nearly 1 in 3 (accounting for combat bonus). Plus, since he's down, he'll likely prioritize beefing his army, or using rituals to attack. Keep this in mind, and good luck."

Thank you for all those details, but they are a bit too helpful. Like – look over there, you can attack that dude! And you're pretty powerful I think! Nice muscles. Thank you but I'm not falling for this again like when I was The Aspiration. If I find out who Kent is, I know not to trust a god damn thing that comes out of his mouth. Kent won Neptune's Pride through playing his opponents off each other, and being “nice”.

From Screwstaples, who is not really on my immediate radar, but he responds to my point about how Bruteaen has all that space to play with. And the Temple of Lust.

bros4life dawg. How could I forget all of the times you and I have wallowed in the infernal filth pits or warmed our hands over the pleasant heat radiating from the lake of fire?

That Brutey fellow sure does have a nice bit of land. Just a hop and a skip away from three places of power.

I reply:

yeah and he already thretenin me telling me to lay off some shit, some leader he will be! how u going to get his temple of lust i got no idea dude

Screwstaples comes back:

What did he threaten you about? You’re a good distance away from him. Re: the Temple of Lust, not sure exactly. I know who will be at the top of my threat list though.

I reply again:

not that i want to rat on a bro, but he told me he was totally going for the mouth of abaddon unless i was nice to him. dude greedy somewhat? ha ha, its all good tho right. insult a bro in private is one thing. i wanna see if bertie can man up in public. poor old boozebrain tho, i feel a bit bad as im about to shut his ass out of play... fucking lol yo

Here we go again. Shut his ass out of play. This is not going to look good in a minute.

Ialdabaoth responds too:

My dear Marquis,

You wisdom is sage (even if the manner it comes in is slightly… unorthodox). A title of nobility may be given, but respect is earned. And, as the mortal Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (who is, I believe, knocking around these parts somewhere) once wrote: it is better to be feared than loved.

Cordialmente,

Prince-Bishop Ialdabaoth

So I worked out that Hornwrath is Todd Page, the guy who organised the Neptune's Pride game on Electron Dance. He congratulated Joe on creating a great site. As soon as I got the e-mail, I went on to the Conclave site: Hornwrath was logged in. That was pretty much a giveaway for his identity! I am soooo anal.

But the more I think about my move away from the nearby Place of Power, the Unholy Fountain, the more I'm wondering if blocking out Boozlebub is worth it. As the game's turns have not yet been processed I ask game runner Joe if I can redo it. He doesn't want to approve but as there's been a problem with the uploads I have to resubmit the turn anyway... so he leaves this moral choice up to me.

Strangely, I decide to stick to my original decision. Consequences and all that. We can't undo what we can't undo, right? I'm not going to play a sad and jaded old demon, but an upbeat force of evil, basically high all of the time.

And I now suspect Bruteaen may be Kent Sutherland as two of us who uploaded turns early have to resubmit again - myself and Kent. Myself and Bruteaen were the first two guys logged onto the site other than Joe. How typical that he gets all the space. That matches the very bloody helpful tone. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.

Oh yeah, he is definitely enemy number one.

And here is the interesting lesson of Empire I discovered when writing Survivorship Bias. In Empire, no one is anonymous which means if you're a backstabby kind of person – that becomes your history, your legacy. Players stop trusting you. Over time, Empire has evolved a playerbase that behaves with honour. Backstabs are now considered extremely poor form.

I probably won't trust Joe (Ialdabaoth) either. If he mentions anything like a formal pact like he proposed for his Neptune's Pride game, well, I won't be signing up.

But anyway, when the first turn is processed it turns out double-bad. I was hoping Hornwrath wouldn't race me to the Unholy Fountain to the north because I would win the race; somehow he is going for it anyway and as I am not going that way, he is definitely going to win that race now.

Further, I'm not even blocking Boozlebub who seems like he can pass over Lava Flows which is fucking annoying. I checked this in the manual to make sure. He doesn't have special abilities to do that as far as I'm aware. In fact he is about to block me from the southern section with Bruteaen. Curses!

solium infernum - turn 2 moving

So I've made the sad decision to shoot to the left and try to corral the “Bronze Pyramid”. My guys are actually not that strong enough to take it at this point, so the best I can do is surround it. And I still don't have the ability to buy a legion, dammit, which means I'm limited to gaining just 2 hexes per turn through my one loyal legion.

Ialdabaoth raises a hello through the in-game interface asking if I'm a potential ally. To be honest, I think the time for alliances is a bit early. I have no plans and no needs. Making this shit up as I go along. So I respond:

it's my main man, alan! i am totally a potential ally cos all i want is to get on with my master HAHAHA AAA plan right? we got lots of shit down here and i know how we can kick this shit upstairs. whoever is the grand princey throne boy around here, when da dust done clearing, i know he's gonna listen. we all BFF and all that shit. fucking lol yo.

Not particularly happy with the direction of this now. I seem to have taken a promising start and thrown away my advantages. Ah well, maybe it will all turn around in turn three!

Monday 13 August, 2012 // Turn 3

I spent quite a bit of time “getting in to the game” at the start but now... well, what with the huge delay before we could get started for real, I'm just not into it right now. It's a distraction from other interesting things. I think a lot about every move and this feels more like work right now; a job to be done. It probably doesn't help that I screwed my own situation and now forced to watch a woeful opening game play itself out.

Things have gone kinda wrong. I told you I threw away my chance to get an easy Place of Power so I could lock Boozlebub into a small valley except... except that he was able to leave across hexes that I assumed were impassable. And I decided to stride over to the west, see if I could grab a fuckhard Place of Power on the other side of Boozlebub, which would take me across “impassable” hexes as well.

solium infernum - somewhat sad

Well, irritatingly, Boozlebub bought a new legion in the Bazaar and it got dumped right next to me. This means that we now have a race. If we both decide to expend our first move taking the hex to the left, the current order of play means Boozlebub will actually take the hex and my order will be blocked out – wasted, in fact. Rather than conceding – or even trying to negotiate which is pointless as every one else has submitted their turn already – I'm going to take a chance.

On my side, you see, is the fact that Boozlebub is also racing against Brutaean/Kent in the southeast towards a Place of Power. To be honest, if they race, Kent will take it. So most likely my order will get blocked out.

To my north-east, it also appears that Hornwrath has decided to skip around the Place of Power I “conceded” with my early moves... possibly in an attempt to lock me in and prevent expansion.

I'm trying to buy a low-power legion in the Bazaar to speed up my expansion; paid a smidgen over the odds for it in case I'm facing someone else in auction. It would be great for something nice to happen to me for a change. You know, something nice in Hell.

solium infernum - bazaar purchase

But it's not going so well in Camp Lol.

// the premature end

We probably needed to play much more quickly. It is time that engenders terror. The longer we care about our virtual empires, the more terrifying we find the possibility of failure and the more deeply we feel its associated loss.

I found the systems of the game fascinating but you can see that I’ve screwed up very early because I’ve somehow misunderstood whether legions can cross lava plains or not. I can’t tell you whether this was going to lose the game but it was definitely going to impact me. Being damaged this early by “stupidity” already managed to upset me and ruin my mood; I remember not wanting to play and finding it difficult to get the enthusiasm up to figure out my turn. But I might have discovered that this “drawback” would not have affected me in the long run. Or discovered other wonderfully stupid mistakes to make.

And with that thought, Lol's story comes to an early end.

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Comments (11) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Ha! Well, this is a blast from the past.

    I was Boozlebub, and at no point did I have the faintest idea what I was doing. Prepare to see ALL REVEALED, as I copy and paste in my unedited notes on the game…

    * * *

    SETUP

    Finally we begin! It’s taken well over a month, mostly due to Kent struggling to get a copy of the game. Stupid Hong Kong.

    In classic game diary style I’ve initially had grand plans around learning how to play the game and have even read, like, two thirds of the manual and had a poke at a single player game. But without the impetus to really get stuck in I’ve gotten distracted and still don’t really have much of a grasp on how to play the game.

    I suspect I’m going to do quite badly. Not only am I not sure what I’m doing, I’m also very bad at being deceitful, malicious, cruel, conniving… all the things one must do in order to reign in hell.

    Ah well… here we go.

    Character Avatar:
    Baron of Hell (one rank up from the bottom, because it doesn’t cost much and confers some small advantage)
    Infernal Cardinal (extra tribute, because resources are good)
    Toughness (to better survive destruction rituals)
    Martial Prowess and Charisma all set to 2 (as these affect minions and combat) and Wickedness at 1 (for destruction/hatred).

    Basically, because I have no fucking clue what I’m doing, I’m going for a character who is pretty straightforward. Hopefully with some loyal legions who are decent in a scrap, plus higher quality resources, I’ll be able to play a simpler game to my strengths compared to those who are getting fancy with the conniving.

    This does mean that I’m enormously vulnerable to that kind of play, but I can’t second-guess how that might work. I’m going to have to commit to a playstyle.

    Oh boy. I’m gonna be exterminated.

    The first turn begins…

    TURN 1

    Well, there’s not much to do right now. I’m not in the best position by my feeble understanding of the game – a chasm to my west and mountains to my right. I suppose that arguably it gives me a stronger defensive position and some bottlenecks to take advantage of? Hmm.

    Anyway, my starting legion marches south and east. I fancy me a place of power. I do so hope that capturing them doesn’t involve my legion getting exterminated.
    I also send out my minions to acquire tribute. Delicious, juicy tribute.

    I accept a mix of starting tribute cards. Not really knowing what the different resource types are I simply try to acquire the largest possible amount of each, with a focus on ichor which I *think* is supposed to be the most important/flexible.

    Next I have a little look at who’s nearby. Hmm. To my south is Ialdaboath. He’s already tipped his hand outside of the game – he’s mwm aka. Maurice. To my northeast is Lol. To my southwest is Screwstaples. West, around that chasm, is Brutaean. Hornwrath is off to the northwest.

    Well, eventually I might be fighting some folks. But first let’s see who looks weak…

    TURN 2

    Right, so someone has acquired a Praetor, Ialdaboath has messaged me with a mild insult and a request for an alliance, the Sceptre of the Regent has passed to Lol, and I’ve got a little tribute from my minions. My legion has captured two more cantons as planned.

    Lol’s legion is just a few cantons from my borders – I wonder if he’s going to try and capture unclaimed cantons and wall me in to the north. Well, two can play at that game: I can do so from the south whilst marching toward the place of power (the Mouth of Abaddon, incidentally).

    Ialdaboath’s legion… hey, is it gone? Did it die assaulting that place of power right by his starting area?

    THE WOOD OF THE SUICIDES
    Level 4
    HP 9/9
    Ranged 4
    Melee 2
    Infernal 7

    Let’s compare that to…

    THE MOUTH OF ABADDON
    Level 4
    HP 10/10
    Ranged 7
    Melee 0
    Infernal 8

    You know, that’s beefier than my legion. Maybe I’ll leave it alone for now. After all, Ialdaboath is now somewhat defenceless… perhaps I can fling an insult his way to gain a little prestige? I’m curious about how he’ll react to that. I can always go along with his alliance offer anyway; if he has no legion it’s certain he’ll accept the insult and lose prestige rather than risk a vendetta and losing everything.

    Poor Ialdaboath. I feel almost sorry for him. Banished to the abyss for an eon.

    For now I stick to my original plan and march east toward Lol’s southern corridor and the Mouth of Abaddon. Then I place a bid on a cheap legion with mountain-walking abilities. Contain that, Lol! And that’s it – I’ve only got two order slots. Forgot about that. Well, the insult can wait until next turn, I suppose. In the meantime I reply with a short message:

    “Hail, little Princeling of the Lesser Hells. Your arrogant invocation of our weak ties of brotherhood is noted. If we are to stand as allies, we will require strength, not weakness. So where does your power lie?”

    When I visit the website Joe has set up to upload turns, I notice something odd. It looks like Joe is Ialdaboath, not Maurice. I’m suspicious, though: in our Neptune’s Pride game Joe was a conniving sneak who played everyone for suckers (even if it did, ultimately, result in a sort of galactic peace). I wouldn’t put it past him to lie. Yet he’s also (in emails) listed everyone but Ialdaboath when referring to other players, and posted official announcements on the website as the same. So is Maurice trying to play me? But the message I received read like something written by Maurice, not Joe.

    This bears cautious investigation.

    Also whilst on the site I notice that the other player who’s yet to submit their turn is Screwstaples, and from an email sent by Joe I know that it’s myself and Kent who are yet to submit their turns. So Kent is Screwstaples, and Ialdaboath is either Maurice or Joe.

    I suspect that Todd is the Marquis de Lol, because RoboCaptain and Marquis de Lol seem to fit a pattern, you know? And Brutaean’s comments on the message board read to me like HarbourMaster. So that leaves Hornwrath, who must also be either Maurice or Joe.

    Perhaps the two of them have entered a pact? They’re impersonating one another on the website and in the game? But then why would they let slip in emails that they are both the one? Pure confusion? Or am I being paranoid.

    Never mind. I will crush my enemies, and discern their identities as I inhale the soul from betwixt their dying eyes.

    TURN 3

    Screwstaples has taken possession of the Tree of Woe, has he? WELL I’LL NOT BE HAVING THAT. I’m sure there’s a lot I can do about it. Er.

    I’ve also won the auction for my crawly legion, the Cthonian Crawlers. Meanwhile an unknown archfiend has acquired the artifact the Broken Oath Sword, which sounds stabby but in disrepair, and Brutaean is the Regent of blah de blah. That’s actually all of the news this turn.

    I’ve now learned that Ialdeboath is definitely Joe – Maurice has ‘fessed up to dicking with me – and that Ialdeboath has definitely lost his legion assaulting a place of power. So one part of my assessment was correct. Maurice has also sent me a diary series he’d like to publish on Arcadian Rhythms. This is so sweet, so innocent! It is as if he wishes to expose all of his plans to me. The downside is that the diary he has sent me exposes me to the fact that Maurice actually understands how this game works, and he is criticising some of the moves I’ve made. Shit. I’m showing my arse here. My ignorance is exposed!

    Well, as far as he knows it could all be part of some cunning plan. I will emerge victorious yet. Mark my words.

    One of the points he’s made is that I’ve now got two legions but the new one is crappy in combat and I’ve only got two move slots. This is a good point – if I move both I lose the opportunity to do anything else, and I’ve now spent all of my tribute on this new legion. Well. I guess my plan for now has to be moving both legions to claim cantons, and next turn do some resource scrounging. And maybe I can insult Ialdeboath too! A man can dream.

    Let’s have a quick look around the map.

    Okay, I’m too drunk right now (I *am* called Boozlebub, okay?) to really guess at what other people are up too. Lol is moving west with his legion, trying now to be cut off I guess. Screwstaples has taken the Tree of Woe without too much trouble, apparently. He’s directly to my southwest. Hmm. Brutaean, to my east/west is moving on the same place of power – the Mouth of Abaddon – as I am. Hornwrath is on the border between another place of power and the border of Lol (haha). Damn, I bet he could take that place of power without too much difficulty. Ialdaboath is unreadable on account of having no legion. I guess he’s amassing tribute.

    With my first order slot I order my nippy new legion to cut off Lol’s westward march – the turn moves anti-clockwise so I should get to move before him and cut him off – and I order my initial legion to move eastwards, first next to the place of power and then to its south. If Brutaean attacks and fails I can feast on his crumbs. If he succeeds, well – his legion will be weakened and I can always insult him. We’ll see.

    Man, I still have no idea at all what I’m doing. Shit.

    * * *

    Quite funny that your attempt to bottle me in was one of the few things I correctly interpreted. :)

  2. Ha ha. Awesome. It seems I threw you off the sent at least for this part of the game. Somehow figuring out identities was crucial: I didn’t mind having a heart to heart with some newbs like myself but I don’t like being hustled!

    I still don’t know what happened with the lava plains. I felt like I getting to grips with the rules but larger strategy was out of question. Wasting turns based on a simple rule misunderstanding, that really burned.

  3. I was Bruteaen. You can tell because I wrote shittier back then.

    But, yeah, my build was basically what you guys figured; big armies set to beat people up. There are a lot of other paths to victory, but having 1-2 strong legions with 1-2 trash legions makes for a robust setup that’s far stronger than anything else early game and never turns bad outright. Setting up Praetors for the arena is a lengthy and expensive process with a good amount of risk, and focusing more on “magic” attributes is expensive as fuck, but these are both a little more conducive to diplomacy since you make less of your force visible. You can also “sell” your magic diplomatically by conducting rituals for an ally, so there’s that.

    I, uhh, knew what I was doing. And, I, umm… I could tell no one else knew what they were doing. So I went a little out of my way to explain things to people, especially legions’ special abilities which all required a wiki-walk if you wanted to know the math behind them. (I think it’s funny how Joel interpreted my explanation as diplomatic posturing instead of “Hey dude! You’ve got a good army there, but here’s this guy who’s your hard counter. I bet you didn’t know that!”)

    The “diary series” I sent to Arcadian Rhythms was still all anon-style, aimed more towards tips and commentary than anything. It goes without saying that I was going to throw people off my trail as I advised them, but, hey, that’s at least more good than bad.

    It was hilarious how Joe suicided his first legion into a Place of Power he had no chance of taking. Like, this game has a little bit of RNG, so battles are always a little unpredictable, but… He literally had *no* chance of having his legion survive this attack. Bit ironic too; being a prince of hell, Joe was supposed to have the strongest starting legion, but wound up with the weakest.

    Oh, and, last thing: I was planning on getting the biggest meanest legions and I was positioned right next to Pandemonium. There was *no* way I was going to lose this game, ‘cuz, even if I lost in prestige, I could just storm the Throne of Hell. And it wouldn’t *matter* how many legions got sent at me; a strong legion will happily eat dozens of mediocre legions and *only get stronger*. Magic could do me in sure, but everyone was a new player; no way anyone would tech into high level magic and still survive their neighbors.

  4. OMG. After all this time, I was sure I had Bruteaen pegged as Kent! I was very distrusting of anyone trying to “help” after Kent pacified me with lots of friendly words in NP.

    Sounds like you were the dude set up to win the game. A shame we couldn’t get it moving along more stridently, but I was having trouble thinking so much about it (rabbit in the headlights) whilst also writing up each turn.

  5. Haha, thank you so much for posting this, Joel! I’d forgotten all about it, but it’s good to read everybody’s thoughts. It’s a shame it only lasted three turns, but I think it was doomed from the beginning.

    I remember that we had just recently finished our first game of Neptune’s Pride, and I really wanted to replicate that experience. NP wasn’t always a fun experience (it was more often exhausting), but it was such a great groups of players, with everybody willing to roleplay and tell a story together, and the crazy politics of the game almost (but not quite) broke the rules.

    In fact, a few of the original players who took part (me included) still gather once a year for an annual game of Neptune’s Pride. We’ve just finished our 2015 game recently (Josh won… I think he was RoboCaptain in the original game?). They’ve all been awesome games, but none of them have matched that first one.

    And, with Solium Infernum, I had wanted to recapture exactly some of the feeling of the first game. It was folly, but I thought Solium Infernum would be perfect. Both Neptune’s Pride and Solium Infernum had been covered by RockPaperShotgun in high entertaining diaries, and both encourage politics, diplomacy and backstabbing. However, a couple of things went wrong, and I do think that Neptune’s Pride was ultimately better suited for our group:

    1) It took too long. Solium Infernum is a Play-by-Email game, so we were basically only as fast as the slowest player. And I had to administrate the whole thing manually, sending out updates to all the players – so if I didn’t chase people then the game ground to a halt.

    Neptune’s Pride does all this automatically, and even if a player doesn’t log on the game grinds along remorselessly anyway. That’s one of the things that most stresses out NP players (it’s ALWAYS running in the background), but it does have the advantage of not letting one or two players hold up the game for everyone else.

    2) Too many technical problems. This is related to the previous point, because it slowed everything down. Basically, various players (including me) had difficulty getting things to run, and it was a nightmare making sure everybody had the latest version of the savegame running. As the host, I had to chase everybody for their savegames, and this quickly became too much like work.

    Also, I ended up setting up a BuddyPress site in order to facilitate communication, because the in-game message system was so clunky, but that just added another layer of administration to the process. Neptune’s Pride does all of this so elegantly and automatically.

    3) I had a baby. This is probably the most important point (though I don’t think anybody was too sorry to see the game end). My wife gave birth at around turn three. I didn’t get back into playing video games until about two years later. So, in hindsight, it was not a great idea to start an intensive PBEM game while my wife was eight months pregnant.

    I also have one more point to make about Joel’s post – I found that Solium Infernum was unfair in a bad way, whereas Neptune’s Pride was unfair in a good way. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I like about Solium Infernum, and it has enormous potential. But the rules in Neptune’s Pride are really simple, and it doesn’t take long to work out how things function. If you get crushed in NP, you at least feel that you understand how it happened.

    By contrast, the rules in Solium Infernum seem so Byzantine and complicated that I just felt cheated when my unit was annihilated after I foolishly tried to take a tower. It felt unfairly unfair, like somebody making up new rules halfway through (though I understand that the complexity is also part of the appeal).

    I had read the rulebook, and I thought I understood, but I still ended up making completely stupid mistakes. The tower example was the biggest one (there was a 0% chance of me taking that tower) but I had others. If we’d played a couple more rounds, then I think I would have gotten the hang of it – but it felt like I didn’t really understand the decisions I was taking, and so it felt unfair.

    Anyway, I did enjoy my time with Solium Infernum – but it was madness to try and recapture that Neptune’s Pride feeling. ;-)

  6. You hellish man-pigs. I played Solium Infernum loads from about… early 2010 to early 2013? Something like that. I had no idea you all owned it and had played at least 3 turns! We could have been great together!

    For the record, I pinned Shaun straight away by his arch demon name. Only someone from AR would be called Boozlebub. A name every bit as great as Lol, amirite?

    Joel, I won’t lie, that annotated map had me shaking my head because I knew those cantons were passable. Little did I know how that that tiny misunderstanding would unravel your early plans — as Mat C once said — ‘faster than an airborne toilet roll’.

    So why did this game wind down? Was there any particular reason? There was so much promise; Gameboys From Hell was so good on RPS.

    — fucking lol yo

  7. Ah, reasons above! Gotcha Cosmos.

    We used Dropbox to manage and sync all the game file sharing, so it was just a case of dropping your turn file into a folder then the host would process them all and spit out a new file for everyone. It was really simple and we also had a text file in there too that served as a primitive chat room of sorts. I can’t imagine having to run a BuddyPress site on top of the manual PBEM stuff though! Yowzers.

  8. Note to self: next time I play Solium Infernum with mwm, (1) figure out who he is, (2) go for that ‘power behind the throne’ victory condition.

    That assumes I’ll play it again, ofc. I haven’t touched it since this game fell apart. I can’t imagine playing it solo and I think multiplayer you really need a group of people who are at least somewhat committed to figuring out how it works, which… well, I won’t speak for anyone else, but in truth I was always planning to wing it and fail, utterly and hilariously, at everything I tried. I read the manual through once but didn’t bother trying to learn more than that. I certainly didn’t delve into wikis and the like, which seems to be necessary to even begin to understand SI.

    Glad you liked the name, Gregg! I remember playing most of my SI turns after getting back from the pub after work, so it all fit. God, 2012 was a difficult year. But still better than 2013.

  9. I love how no one has actually volunteered to host a new match.

    @Gregg B: I *used* to own it. Solium Infernum has a sizable DRM that keeps me from jumping the game over from a borked computer.

    @ShaunCG: I tend to Gary Oak people in multiplayer games.

  10. Mwm, I considered it, but I just don’t think I could keep up the commitment. Maybe I could think about it during my sabbatical month…

    Ah and an argument against DRM. I wonder what this means now that Vic Davis had moved on from making videogames.

  11. He did say “I will naturally continue to support all my customers with tech support and downloads of lost purchases. And I will continue to sell my digital games and support them as well for as long as they keep running. God Bless windows compatibility mode.” So maybe it’d be worth dropping him a line if you want SI back (not sure if you’d need some kind of difficult-to-find proof of purchase though).


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