Game-related ramblings.

A Cold War In Hell: A Solium Infernum Story

I have written many words about Solium Infernum, including two epic turn-by-turn diaries. But I haven’t stopped playing, and the stories haven’t stopped coming. This account won’t describe every single turn, but will instead offer a summary, from my perspective only, of a recent game with a particularly dramatic finish. You should be able to follow along even if you aren’t familiar with the game, but if you want to learn more about how Solium Infernum works, you may wish to read my original post about it, or peruse one or both of the two huge diaries, first. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Lucifer’s throne stands empty. Six archfiends will vie for it, in a test moderated by the Infernal Conclave. Unfolding in turn-based fashion, the archfiends will submit orders that will be processed simultaneously every few days, leaving plenty of time for behind-the-scenes scheming. This contest will be longer than in the past; once the Conclave has drawn 20 tokens — a process which will take months of real time — the most Prestigious archfiend shall be appointed ruler of Hell. The arena, a wide expanse of the Hellish plain, is also larger than before, and peppered with more numerous Places of Power. Archfiends will surely conquer the garrisons of these Places and take command to earn Prestige each turn, then engineer vendettas with their rivals in order to fight short, strategic wars over them.

But not my archfiend, Brunt. He is not a fighter. His personal legion is pathetically weak. Brunt is, however, a Master Administrator, able to attach an extra Unholy Relic (or praetor commander) to each of his Places of Power. He will amass as many Unholy Relics as possible, using them to grow his power and Prestige. He also happens to be an Infernal Cardinal, letting him demand better tribute than the other archfiends in order to finance his collection. He might conquer a Place of Power or two, but only to use them as places to display his Relics, inspiring awe and fear in his rivals.

At least, that’s the plan. But in Hell, things rarely go to plan.

My stronghold sits between a small mountain range to the south, and an impassable chasm to the northwest. Only a small break in the chasm farther north allows access to the land on the other side, where the stronghold of the fiend known as crystal goose lies. Oðin’s territory is to the southwest, nestled between the chasm and a river, with Perun farther south. The land to the east is more open; my legion is standing next to a neutral Place of Power, but is no match for its garrison. No matter, let the others fight over them; I need to fill my coffers. Necrophos, to the northeast, has a powerful legion, but there are enough nearby Places of Power to keep him occupied so he is unlikely to come nipping at my borders. The final contender, Thanatos, lies north of Necrophos, far enough that I need not worry.

Oðin surprises me by sending a demand to Perun on the very first turn. If Perun doesn’t pay the requested tribute, Oðin will have grounds to claim vendetta, but he’s used most of his measly 10 starting Prestige to initiate the demand, so he won’t have much left to wager on a vendetta. He’s also Slothful, so his legion, while powerful, can only move one canton per turn, instead of two — choosing this granted extra points to spend on other aspects of his avatar. I’m not sure what Oðin’s game is, but Perun isn’t having it, and Oðin has claimed vendetta by turn 4. He’s also purchased an Unholy Relic, the Black Heart, from the Infernal Bazaar, and attached it to his stronghold to help defend against Destruction rituals. I, however, have my eye on the Book of Enoch, a Relic which grants an extra order slot. An early boost from two to three actions per turn will make a huge difference as I try to amass enough money to buy a spate of Prestige-boosting Relics. By turn 4 I’ve scraped together enough money to place a bid, and on turn 5 I’m the proud owner, installing it in my ritual chamber so the others won’t be able to see I have it.

Meanwhile, Necrophos has expanded rapidly, as expected. By turn 5 he’s captured three Places of Power, and his legion has gained a level and become even stronger. Earlier, Thanatos got in touch, asking for help in curbing Necrophos’ expansion. I politely declined, as I need to focus on bringing in tribute, especially after paying for the Book of Enoch. Necrophos may be taking an early lead in Prestige, but this is a long contest, and all his efforts on war must have stretched his resources thin. I focus on tribute calls for the next few turns, to get ready for some more purchases and to pay to boost my attributes and eventually unlock more order slots.

But then, on turn 7, Necrophos does something that is certainly not expected. He hurls a Destruction ritual at Pandemonium, the capital city, in open defiance of the Infernal Conclave. For this treasonous act he is excommunicated, and all diplomatic protections are lifted. He is now in open war with the rest of us.

Worse, he has maneuvered his powerful legion to within striking distance of Thanatos’ stronghold. Due to the initiative order, only Thanatos and crystal goose will get to act before Necrophos strikes. If Thanatos loses his stronghold, he’ll be banished to the Abyss, out of the game for good.

I can’t figure out Necrophos’ strategy with this move. Excommunicated archfiends can only win in two ways: they can conquer the capital city of Pandemonium and hold it for five turns while also defending their own stronghold, or they can eliminate all other archfiends by conquering their strongholds. Necrophos isn’t anywhere near Pandemonium, and his legion isn’t strong enough to take it anyway. And he only has one legion, with no ability to buy more since the Infernal Bazaar is closed to excommunicated archfiends, so it would take him ages to march around towards everyone else’s strongholds. And he hasn’t done anything to protect his own stronghold from attack. The only way this makes sense to me is if he’s holding the Writ of Rescindment event card. That would allow him to come back into the fold after excommunication, giving him a chance to eliminate Thanatos, take his stuff, and then return to polite society before any of us can attack him.

But we have to take the threat seriously. A flurry of emails are exchanged as the loyal archfiends determine how to respond. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s anything to be done to save Thanatos. His own legion is out of position, leaving his stronghold on its own. Certain event cards can be used to kill legions, but none of us have them. Deceit rituals could slow or stop Necrophos’ march, but his legion is now an absurd level 8, so it will shrug off most rituals cast on it. We can, however, strike at Necrophos’ stronghold, and it turns out I’m the closest. My terrible legion could be there in two turns, but it will need a combat boost to be able to defeat the garrison. I divert the money I’ve accrued over the last few turns towards a bid on the praetor Eligos. With him in command, my legion would get a hefty boost to its ranged combat strength, which would give it the edge. Assuming Necrophos doesn’t bolster his defenses, or cast a Destruction ritual at my legion to destroy it.

I am not surprised when Necrophos takes Thanatos’ stronghold, banishing him to the Abyss. I am surprised when I meet no resistance in my own march. On turn 8 I put Eligos in command of my legion and give the order to attack. On turn 9 I receive news of my victory. Before we’ve even reached turn 10, two of the archfiends are gone, and I’m staring at a wide, empty map. Everything that Necrophos and Thanatos used to own is up for grabs again, and I’m the only one near it. Oðin and Perun are far to the south, and crystal goose — who can be reached either through the small gap in the chasm to the west, or by crossing the wide plain to the east, since the map wraps around on itself — has been minding his own business, likely filling his vaults with resources and boosting his own powers. That was my plan too, but now I have a battle-ready legion in position to start capturing Places of Power, and an open expanse peppered with them, ripe for the taking. There’s one that used to belong to Necrophos already within reach of my legion. It would be foolish not to seize the opportunity.

And so I, Brunt, become a conqueror. My legion, with Eligos in command, takes a Place of Power and is heading for another when a savvy opponent uses an event card to unleash the Angelic Host to rampage across Hell. It completely destroys my legion, and Eligos with it, before heading after the other archfiends. If anything, this only steels my resolve. I’m still an Infernal Cardinal, and I have enough money to hire the Legion of the Maw as a replacement, sending it north to continue the crusade. Over the next 10 turns the Legion of the Maw marches north and east, capturing two more Places of Power, including Thanatos’ old stronghold. I now control the strongholds of both banished archfiends in addition to my own, as well as two other Places of Power, earning me a hefty 7 Prestige every turn. By contrast, crystal goose is only earning 1 Prestige per turn, and Oðin and Perun aren’t earning any. Add in the extra Prestige I earned for each of my military victories, and I’m far in the lead.

My crusade has taken weeks of real time, and yet crystal goose has been ominously silent. He has watched impassively as I captured Place of Power after Place of Power. His legion has not moved. He has made no attempt to secure the Places of Power that remain neutral in the vast plain between us. He has not engaged in diplomacy. He is just sitting there, biding his time. My only hint as to his plans came when the Unholy Relic known as A Beliit appeared in the Bazaar, offering a huge boost to the quality of one’s tribute. I placed a bid, overpaying for this valuable prize, but he placed an even higher one and won the auction. He is surely focused on building his wealth and unholy powers, while I have been distracted with conquest. I may have a big lead in Prestige, but he will be growing in power faster than I, and could prove to be very dangerous. Though my newfound thirst for power makes it hard to turn away when there are still so many neutral Places of Power ripe for the taking, I decide to end my rampage for now. I don’t need more Prestige, and I certainly don’t need Prestige-generating Relics as I’d originally planned. I need to improve my own attributes and ritual powers if I am to defend against the onslaught that crystal goose must be planning. Fortunately, I was able to boost my Charisma to 5, letting me cast the Demand of Supplication ritual to bring in much better tribute. I will start using it to get the resources I need.

Meanwhile, Oðin and Perun have been at each other’s throats. They settled a vendetta by single combat of champions, with Oðin’s Haagenti besting Perun’s Morax in a test of brawn versus magic. But Perun (at least, I think it was Perun) played an event card to bring Morax back from his banishment. They’re both quiet for a time, licking their wounds and building their power, before Oðin starts sending demands again. By this point Perun has expanded a little, capturing a neutral Place of Power, but Odin seems content to sit by his stronghold and harass Perun with diplomatic actions.

I focus on gathering tribute and using it to increase my attributes. It seems crystal goose is unlikely to try to engage my military, so I need to shore up my defenses in other areas. I decide to bid on the Goblet of the Traitor, an Unholy Relic that will allow me to cast the Annointed of Ash ritual, turning a praetor into a fearsome duelist. Then I can train up a strong single combatant, in case crystal goose (or anyone else) tries to challenge me that way. I win the bid, but it’s replaced by the Key of Solomon, which offers a boost to one’s Diabolism power, increasing the quality of one’s tribute. That’s much more useful, but having just spent my money on the Goblet, I can’t bid right away and someone else snaps it up. Probably crystal goose. Curses.

After a few more turns, I’ve increased my attributes enough to get another order slot, and the fifth Conclave Token is drawn. We’re one quarter of the way through our contest. I have a big Prestige lead and I’m no longer convinced that crystal goose is going to try to overtake me. Instead, I think he’s going to try what Necrophos did earlier: an excommunication play. But I doubt he’ll make the same mistakes that Necrophos did. No, crystal goose will make sure he has powerful rituals and an army of legions before he strikes. I don’t know whether he will try to conquer Pandemonium or simply aim for each of our strongholds, but I have to have my defenses ready.

Since I already have the Goblet of the Traitor, I decide to hire the praetor Raum and cast Annointed of Ash on him. I’ve also been collecting some manuscripts along with my tribute, and I’ve managed to complete a Rite to boost my Wickedness to the maximum of 6, as well as a Machine which will lower everyone else’s Wickedness by 2 points. I give the orders for both of those, and further increase my Cunning to get up to the maximum of six order slots. Now I must turn my attention towards defense. I’ve become accustomed to looking at crystal goose across the vast plain to the east, wondering if he was going to conquer any of the neutral Places of Power out there, but the shortest distance to his realm is through the small break in the ravine to the west. I need to head him off there so he can’t send an army through. I order my Legion of the Maw, the main force of my northern crusade, to march southwest towards the ravine.

As if on queue, crystal goose starts purchasing legions on the very same turn. He’s hired two new legions, and someone (presumably also crystal goose) has purchased the Wyrmm Mounts, which can be attached to a legion to grant it an extra movement point. He is surely arming himself for an assault. I need to respond in kind. I should purchase some of the legions available for sale, like one of the replacement legions in the Bazaar, The Illuminatus, who not only have a strong ranged attack but a special ability that adds extra ranged damage. But then I realize, to my dismay, that my Command Rating is too low. I can only command a maximum of three legions, which means I can only buy one more. In my rush to get more order slots, I’d ignored my Martial Prowess attribute, which is still sitting at zero. I need to increase that quickly if I want to build an army. I put a bid in on The Illuminatus and start working on my Martial Prowess. But I fear I’ll be on the back foot as crystal goose builds his forces.

Still, I was able to block off the small land bridge across the ravine, which will make it a lot harder for crystal goose to get his forces through. And I won my bid for the Illuminatus, who are now defending my stronghold. Perun also purchased a legion, presumably to get back at Oðin, who has been sitting back and casting Destruction rituals. Perun has expanded a little to box Oðin in, and with his purchase and mine there are two new legions on offer in the Bazaar, both with three movement points. Since most legions only have two movement points, these fast-marching legions provide a big advantage. I want to get at least one of them, but my Command Rating still isn’t high enough. I pay to increase my Martial Prowess some more, and order my Legion of the Maw to keep marching. They’re not strong enough to capture the neutral Temple of Lust that sits between me and crystal goose, so I have them march around it to head him off.

But crystal goose heads me off instead. Worse, he’s purchased both of the fast-marching legions. The Hounds of Hell and the Scourge of God are now in crystal goose’s service, and soon the Hounds have joined his Devoted of Lucifer at our new border at the break in the ravine. Since we do not have an active vendetta, our legions cannot attack each other, so they just stare each other down nervously. Meanwhile someone, presumably crystal goose, has purchased another Evil Artifact from the Bazaar. That gives me an idea. While I can’t buy new legions as quickly as crystal goose, since I also need to boost my Command Rating, there’s nothing stopping me from buying Artifacts. These can be attached to legions to provide various bonuses in combat. I give orders to further raise my Martial Prowess, and place bids on legions and Artifacts.

And so the arms race begins in earnest. I hire Acheron’s Butchers, while crystal goose welcomes the Chains of Torment to his service. I purchase the Wicked Wain and the Tent of the Flayed Apostate, while The Claw is removed from sale and packed up for shipping, presumably to crystal goose. Amidst this flurry of war spending, it is my turn to act as regent. Regents draw special event cards which can be very useful in the right situations. I’ve just drawn A Great Fissure, which will open up a new ravine in the Hellish plain at a place of my choosing, dropping any legions that happened to be there to their doom. I was already holding another event card, Capricious Wrath Targeted, which I could use to destroy one of crystal goose’s legions, but unfortunately I can only keep one card. Capricious Wrath would be useful if crystal goose makes an excommunication play, since excommunicated archfiends cannot purchase more legions. Which is why I was holding on to it. But the Fissure is probably more useful right now, as it has the potential to kill two legions and strategically alter the landscape. For example, if I used it on his two legions at our border, it would not only destroy them, but completely close off the land bridge between our holdings. Only flying legions would be able to cross; the rest would have to take the long way around, through the vast plain to the east.

I decide to do it. It will cut off my most direct route towards crystal goose’s stronghold, but his army is growing faster than mine and this will be a great defensive move. Both the Devoted of Lucifer and the Hounds of Hell are swallowed up by the chasm, and I order the Legion of the Maw to start marching back towards my stronghold to join my slowly growing army.

The closing of my western border may have postponed a full military conflict, but it hasn’t stopped the arms race. As crystal goose hires more legions, the Gorgons appear in the Bazaar. Most legions in Solium Infernum are relatively weak, needing praetor commanders, Evil Artifacts, combat cards, or ritual boosts to make them effective in combat. But some legions, like the Gorgons, are much more powerful, requiring constant upkeep every turn to keep them in the field. Hamstrung by my need to increase my Command Rating, I can’t hire them right away, and crystal goose snaps them up instead. But their replacement, Fulminata, are decent, and have the ability to reinforce a Place of Power, joining its garrison as a permanent upgrade. After getting my Command Rating up I manage to buy them and have them reinforce my stronghold, in case crystal goose tries to excommunicate himself and make a direct assault on my fortress. Later, I’m able to purchase the Adamantium Guard and add them to my stronghold’s garrison as well.

The Gorgons are sitting next to the fissure I made, flaunting both the Wyrmm Mounts and the Banner of the Flayed Apostate. As I was already planning to further increase my Cunning attribute, I decide to engage in a little bit of espionage. A few turns later, and my Deceit rituals have successfully stolen both of these Artifacts.

Crystal goose does not take this lightly. The very next turn, courtesy of crystal goose, I find myself under the effects of a Planar Lock, a high-level Destruction ritual that knocks me down from six order slots to two. The fact that it removed four order slots, instead of just two, means that that crystal goose has maxed out his Destruction power at 6 (usually done by increasing one’s Wickedness attribute to 6, but some Relics can boost Destruction power as well). And the fact that I’m not in a vendetta or blood feud with anyone implies that the caster has at least Deceit level 5, in order to mask their rituals. I’m not surprised that crystal goose is so powerful. But two can play at that game: I now have Deceit 5 and Destruction 6, so I fire off a Planar Lock of my own. Further, my periodic Demands of Supplication have brought in a bunch of manuscripts as well as resources, and I’ve just collected the final piece of the Machine of Vengeance. I use my second order to construct it, which will knock everyone else’s Martial Prowess attribute down by 2 ranks.

When I notify the other players of the new turn by email, I mention the Planar Lock. Crystal goose replies and denies responsibility, claiming he was framed. This is possible. Archfiends who have reached rank 5 in Deceit can frame others for their rituals, so another archfiend may have done it. Could Oðin or Perun be behind this? They’ve been relatively quiet during the arms race, although Perun did buy a few items for himself. I thought they were stuck in their own squabbles, but on the same turn I got hit with the Planar Lock, Perun sent an emissary to Oðin. These usually bring an offering of resources or powerful items, suggesting a budding alliance. And it does seem that Oðin was focusing on his Destruction power, so he might have the ability to cast Planar Lock. It’s an interesting possibility, but given crystal goose’s threat, I decide to proceed with my Planar Lock against him anyway. Besides, I know he’s powerful enough to cast it, so he may just be lying to me.

The following turn, the Infernal Inquisition appears. This is triggered by an event card, and it forces everyone’s legions to make a loyalty check or be banished. I lose two legions: the Bloody Hands, and my faithful Legion of the Maw, which had cast out the heretic Necrophos and led the northern crusade so many turns ago. I had been hoping to use an event card of my own to vastly increase their combat abilities, but alas they are no more. I must find another suitable legion, and hopefully before my turn as regent comes around again and I draw a new event card. For his part, crystal goose doesn’t seem to have lost any of his legions, although his damned Gorgons have marched away from the rift now.

I’m also surprised to discover that I’m no longer under the Planar Lock. Many rituals in Solium Infernum can be maintained each turn just by paying the resource cost again, but a quick check of the rules reveals that Planar Lock rituals can only be maintained in this way when in vendetta, blood feud, or one of the archfiends is excommunicated. If Planar Lock is cast in secret using ritual masking, it cannot be automatically maintained and must be manually re-cast again. That hardly seems worth it, and I don’t bother to re-cast it. My adversary seems to feel similarly; I’m hit with one more the following turn, but then they cease.

The arms race has been going on for ten turns now — several weeks of real time — but it shows no sign of stopping. Unholy Relics have started to disappear from the Bazaar at an alarming rate, presumably heading to crystal goose’s vaults. While Brunt had originally intended to use these Relics as a means of generating Prestige, crystal goose must want them for the powers they grant. Some give direct boosts to an archfiend’s ritual strength, while others offer special rituals that cannot otherwise be cast, or the ability to curse a rival. With my diminished army, I need to focus on legions for the time being, so I can only watch as Relic after Relic is snapped up. Fortunately I’ve managed to get a couple new legions, including the Hell Spawn, who can fly. That makes it much easier to move them around my territory, but unfortunately they’re not very strong in combat. So I use my event card to grant them the Order of the Black Ring, making them much stronger. I have them fly to the Temple of Lust near the western fissure to conquer it, before moving east again and taking the Testament of Tyrants, which has stayed neutral this whole time despite its proximity to my stronghold. I don’t need any more Prestige at this point, but I’m hoping that the Hell Spawn will level up from the battles and become even more powerful. Sadly, they do not; they’re still only level 2, which makes them susceptible to rituals. Oh well. In the meantime, I manage to snag another flying legion, the Lords of the Pit, and since the area around my stronghold is already occupied, they appear in the far north of my territory instead.

But crystal goose hasn’t forgotten about hiring more legions either, and by the time 10 of the 20 Conclave Tokens have been drawn, he finally starts attacking the neutral Places of Power that lie in the vast plain east of my holdings. I’m now leading by 238 Prestige, which is an absurd margin, so I don’t think he wants the Places of Power for their Prestige generation. I think that, like me, he just wants to level up his legions, which is why he’s sending his powerful Gorgons to do the fighting. He continues to march them west, towards my territory, and presumably heading for the Citadel of Wrath, which stands neutral right at my border. There’s not much I can do to stop them, although I do consider using masked Destruction rituals to try to kill them outright. I fear, however, that that will only provoke crystal goose to do the same to my army, and I”m not ready to lose my Hell Spawn yet.

I’d like to avoid direct confrontation with crystal goose’s forces, as he enjoys an iniative advantage over me (randomly assigned at the start of the game) such that he will almost always get to act first. But it seems he’s responding to my unwillingness to engage by employing covert action. An infiltrator has stolen my Talisman of Greed, which I’d installed in my stronghold. Soon afterwards I’m hit with a Dark Augury ritual, which has uncovered some manner of information about me. I respond with some espionage of my own, attempting to bribe crystal goose’s Gorgons into my service. Sadly, this attempt is unsuccessful, so I decide to try some masked Infernal Affliction rituals against them in the hopes of destroying them instead. This, too, fails, as they display a remakable resistance to Destruction rituals. In small consolation, my Hell Spawn have finally leveled up after conquering another neutral Place of Power, which will increase their own resistance. I’ve also drawn an event card that will call a tournament of champions, to which all archfiends must submit a praetor combatant or lose Prestige. I play the event, and use some of the manuscripts I’ve been accumulating to train my praetor Raum with a set of special moves for the duels.

Meanwhile, the Gorgons have conquered the Citadel of Wrath, right on my border. Crystal goose sends a courier message telling me not to worry, that he means no harm by it. It’s not very reassuring. Evil Artifacts and Unholy Relics are being bought up left and right, and I’m hit with a Curse of Destruction cast by one of my opponents. This makes me directly lose Prestige points, but I’m still leading by nearly 250. There’s no way such curses could actually hurt my chances in a Prestige race. It feels more like an arrogant reminder that my nemesis has a huge collection of Relics and has amassed great power, and will strike me at any moment. Unable to do much in return, I place bids on some of the new Artifacts and Relics in the Bazaar. I win the Adamantine Golem, which grants great melee bonuses to a legion, and the Orb of Oblivion, which turns a legion into a suicide bomber, destroying its opponent even if it loses the battle. But crystal goose outbids me for Faust’s Contract, which increases an archfiend’s ability to bring in resources. Curses.

I’m afraid that crystal goose will make his move at any moment. The tournament I called was anticlimactic, as only Oðin bothered to send a praetor, who fell easily to my champion Raum. Raum’s crown feels like a hollow achievement. But the event card I got next is the Writ of Rescindment, which grants me the power to return an excommunicated archfiend — including myself — to the fold. I’m sorely tempted to make a surprise attack of my own. I could cast a Destruction ritual at the capital city of Pandemonium, which is punishable by excommunication, then launch a direct assault on crystal goose’s stronghold. Once he’s been banished to the Abyss, I could use the Writ of Rescindment to overturn my excommunication. Unfortunately, crystal goose has a superior army, a vault full of Unholy Relics, and formidable ritual powers at his disposal. I would need to strike before he could react. I could use one of my flying legions to cross the chasm to the west and catch his stronghold unawares, but there’s one problem. Excommunicated archfiends can never serve as regent, and the initiative order in this game means that I would never be able to act first against crystal goose. That means he’d be able to see my attack coming and muster a defense for his stronghold, likely through a powerful combat card that grants one-time bonuses to its combat statistics. I decide this plan is too risky, but I’ll hold on to the Writ of Rescindment just in case. At the very least, it will prevent him from getting his hands on it and trying a similar surprise attack against me.

Someone has played the event card that starts the Infernal Monsoons, preventing any legion from flying and reducing all movement to 1 hex per turn for a few turns. This puts our military actions on hold, so I focus on building up my arsenal. Now that crystal goose has purchased Faust’s Contract, the Black Monolith has shown up in the Bazaar. This powerful Relic can render a Place of Power immune to capture. If crystal goose gets it, he can use as an ironclad defense for his stronghold, preventing me from taking him out of the game. So I need to buy it instead. I place a heavy overbid and snatch it up, placing it in my ritual chamber to make it harder for crystal goose to steal it. I also cast some Dark Augury rituals to do a little spying on him.

My rituals reveal crystal goose’s perks. He has Infernal Cardinal, like I do, which means he brings in better tribute and gets rich more easily. He also has Toughness, which grants him extra resistance to Destruction rituals. No wonder my blasts against his Gorgons failed. With the Monsoons on and little hope of doing any damage with Destruction rituals, I’m left wondering what to do. I’m waiting for crystal goose to make his move, and hoping I have enough tricks in my bag to defend against it. I’m keeping an eye on the Bazaar but I’m still left with extra order slots and nothing to use them for. My attributes are all maxed out at this point, so I’m really just hoarding money and manuscripts to use when the attack comes. I decide I may as well use some more of those manuscripts to train my praetor Raum, and send him against the champions of Pandemonium. This will earn me more Prestige that I don’t need, but it will also let Raum gain some levels, making him harder to steal if my opponents get any ideas.

Speaking of my opponents, I’ve been ignoring Oðin and Perun. They haven’t seemed concerned with the two superpowers frantically arming themselves in the north, content to pursue their own vendettas with each other. Perun has Oðin is backed into a corner and they’ve been throwing demands at each other, but Perun also sent Oðin an emissary a while back. Could they be plotting something? I cast some Dark Augury rituals on them for good measure. While Raum fells the Butcher, the first of the champions of Pandemonium, I receive intel on Oðin’s and Perun’s perks. Perun has Harbinger, which increases the power of his Destruction rituals, and Toughness, which increases his resistance to the same. Oðin only has Slothful, suggesting he spent the extra points on high starting attributes. He seemed to be planning Destruction attacks against Perun but hadn’t counted on Perun’s Toughness. Anyway, neither of them has anything sneaky like Power Behind the Throne or Kingmaker, which could potentially let them snatch victory from me if I win through Prestige. I shift my focus back to crystal goose.

We’re past the 50-turn mark now, with 13 of the 20 Conclave tokens drawn, and the Infernal Monsoons have abated. I send my Hell Spawn to conquer the Black Altar of Despair, which is still neutral, by flying from the north over the river. I also try a couple Looting the Vaults rituals to see if I can steal some of crystal goose’s money, and with my spare order slots I continue to train Raum and challenge champions. Raum cuts down the second champion, the Queen of the Damned, without much trouble, but crystal goose resists my rituals and I’m left empty-handed. His Gorgons are marching northeast now, presumably on the path towards the Black Altar of Despair that I’ve just conquered. I’m glad I got there first. I do notice that his Gorgons are stronger than they have any right to be, and have a movement rating of three hexes per turn instead of two, implying that crystal goose used manuscripts to increase their speed and strength.

On the following turn I get a demand from crystal goose. It’s his first diplomatic action of the game. I assume he wants to engineer a vendetta to try to take the Black Altar of Despair or Thanatos’ old stronghold from me, or kill my Hell Spawn. I don’t intend to let him do any of those things. Rather than let him set a vendetta on his own terms I concede to the demand, using some low-quality tribute cards I have lying around from when one of my Demand of Supplication rituals failed. Since Demand of Supplication prevents asking for tribute on the following turn, I’m still finding myself with extra order slots, so in addition to continuing Raum’s ascent through the ranks of Pandemonium champions I’ve started drawing some secret objectives. I don’t really need the Prestige, but it gives me something to do. So far I’ve drawn objectives to have my Wickedness at level 6 (already done) and to own the Black Altar of Despair, which I’ve just conquered, so it’s going fine so far. The best use of order slots, of course, are rituals against crystal goose, but I have fewer ritual chamber slots than I do order slots. This time I choose to cast Dark Augury rituals on crystal goose; I want to know exactly what he has squirreled away in his vaults and ritual chamber.

As Raum defeats the Grey Prince, third of Pandemonium’s champions, my scrying against crystal goose pays off. I see some of his attributes, his ritual chamber, and his vaults. Not only does he appear to have maxed out all his attributes, he’s somehow further boosted his Diabolism, which governs the quality of his tribute, another three points for an absurd total of 9. No wonder his vaults are absolutely overflowing with cash. He also has a veritable treasure trove of Artifacts and Relics. Not only does he have a Beliit, the Key of Solomon, and Faust’s Contract installed in his ritual chamber, he also owns the Reliquary of False Prophets, the Cartographer’s Table, the Claw, the Finger of Betrayal, the Great Scythe, the Rod of Haruspex, the Drums of Woe, the Devourer Statuettes, the Mirror of Obsession, an Alien God in a Bottle, the Hellfire Ballista, the Wheel of the Broken, and the Vasdranai Carpet, not to mention four praetors. Well, it’s time to take some of those for myself.

Except, I can’t. I try to cast a Pilfer, Coerce and Bribe ritual, but when I need to select my target from a list, the game crashes. As far as I can tell, the list of stuff that crystal goose owns is simply too long for the game to handle. This is rather upsetting. These Artifacts and Relics could provide huge boons to their owner in the conflict that I know is coming. I try emailing the one-man developer at Cryptic Comet using the support email explaining the bug, and I’m honestly surprised to get a response. He sends his apologies at being unable to help at this point, and I understand; Solium Infernum is ten years old at the time of writing and its developer has shifted from digital game design to tabletop game design in the interim. I appreciate his reply regardless, and make plans to get by without stealing any of crystal goose’s stuff.

Well, if I can’t steal crystal goose’s hoard of Relics, I can at least try to steal his money. I cast three Looting the Vaults rituals, but only one of them works, netting me a measly two tribute cards. I also send him a demand of my own, to see if he’s willing to fight on my terms instead of his. At the same time, someone steals my Adamantine Golem out of my vault. Apparently I don’t own enough stuff to crash the game yet. It’s extra annoying because I’d accidentally let my Demonic Premonitions ritual, which goes some way to defending against theft, lapse a couple turns ago, and when I recast it last turn it simply failed. If it had been active I might still have my Golem. Sigh. At least Raum has managed to defeat the Balrag, the final Champion of Pandemonium. He’s champion now, ready to take on any challengers. I doubt there will be any.

It seems my demand on crystal goose is the catalyst that sets his plans in motion. On turn 58, with 16 of the 20 Conclave tokens drawn, crystal goose not only refuses my demand, but builds no less than three Infernal Machines. Each of these requires four manuscript pieces, and reduces the attributes of all other archfiends. I’ve lose two points each in my Cunning, Martial Prowess, and Charisma. While losing points in Martial Prowess means that I’ve also lost an order slot and now must operate with only five, losing Charisma hurts the most, as it’s the attribute which governs the quality of my tribute, and tribute is what I need to get these attributes back up. Unfortunately for crystal goose, he’s not the only one who’s been hoarding manuscripts. I have all the pieces needed to perform the Rites of Impure Sacrifice, Infernal Awe, and Flesh Rapture in my vaults. These just happen to increase my Charisma, Martial Prowess and Cunning by two points each. So I can recover from the attack quickly, but it will take three of my five orders this turn to do it.

Now I need to carefully assess the situation. Crystal goose has sent a cryptic courier message that simply reads: “Among the ashes… or among flesh. Choose.” He is daring me to claim vendetta on him. His Gorgons have marched northeast around my Black Altar of Despair, and he’s attached the Vasdranai Carpet to them, allowing them to fly. While I’ve managed to strengthen my Hell Spawn significantly, they’re still no match for crystal goose’s Gorgons. I feel I have little to gain from an open war with crystal goose anyway. I have a huge Prestige lead, so why engage? I will make him come to me. I claim a vendetta by single combat of champions. I’ve seen his stock of praetors and none of them can hope to match my Raum.

Crystal goose fans out his legions, most of which had been sitting around his stronghold. He’s flown his Gorgons west, landing just north of my territory. I realize with dismay that they’re in range of the capital city of Pandemonium, although I don’t think they’re powerful enough to capture it. Still, it seems inevitable that crystal goose will try to take the capital city by force, resulting in open war. My first thought is to steal the Vasdranai Carpet so the Gorgons will no longer be able to fly, but then I remember that I can’t steal it due to the bug. I email a warning to Oðin and Perun, although for all I know they’re rooting for crystal goose to take me down. I order my Hell Spawn to start flying west towards crystal goose’s stronghold; they can be in range in two turns. Crystal goose may destroy them with Destruction rituals, but it’s worth a shot. I attach the Banner of the Flayed Apostate to them to grant a level roll bonus which will help them resist rituals. Then I have an even better idea: I cast the Strategic Deception ritual, which should hide my legions from others’ view. If crystal goose can’t see them, he can’t cast rituals at them. And it will hopefully mean he won’t see a strike at his stronghold coming. With my last available ritual slot I cast another Looting the Vaults ritual against crystal goose.

I get lucky and steal a piece of the Machine of Omens. The precise piece I needed to finish it, as it happens. I put in the order to build it, which will lower my opponents’ Intellect attribute by two points. I also order my Hell Spawn to continue their flight towards crystal goose’s stronghold, and order my other flying legion, the Lords of the Pit, to head southwest. They are much weaker than the Hell Spawn but I figure they can act as a backup, boosted by rituals and combat cards if needed. I can have them wait near the chasm to the west, ready to fly over and attack crystal goose’s stronghold if necessary. Crystal goose hasn’t moved his Gorgons yet, but he has been sending other legions to my borders, presumably readying for an all out assault.

On the following turn, it comes. Crystal goose has cast Infernal Juggernaut on his Gorgons, which temporarily makes them much stronger, and used them to capture Pandemonium. For this act, he has been excommunicated. The rest of us have five turns to either liberate Pandemonium, or conquer crystal goose’s stronghold. Surveying the map, I see that the Gorgons have emerged to the northwest of Pandemonium, which puts them in flying range of my stronghold. The garrison at my stronghold is formidable, as I have bolstered it multiple times with reinforcing legions, but I don’t want to leave anything to chance. I take the Black Monolith out of my ritual chamber and attach it to my stronghold, which will make it immune to capture. I also cast Infernal Juggernauts of my own on my two flying legions, and have them fly into position. With any luck, I’ll be able to attack and conquer crystal goose’s stronghold next turn, eliminating him from the game.

The Gorgons stay put, but crystal goose’s Scourge of God marches south and kills my Acheron’s Butchers, who were standing in defense of my stronghold. Crystal goose has cast Infernal Juggernaut on them and had attached a powerful combat card, apparently fearing that I would similarly bolster Acheron’s Butchers’ defenses. But I don’t care about losing legions at this point. As long as my stronghold is safe with its Black Monolith, crystal goose is wasting his time sending legions there. Meanwhile, my Hell Spawn are into position to attack, and the Infernal Juggernaut rituals have made them mighty indeed. But crystal goose has placed a combat card on his stronghold, and given his high attributes it could grant some huge combat bonuses. I’m hoping my Hell Spawn are powerful enough to overwhelm it, and if not, I still have the Lords of the Pit in reserve across the chasm. Besides, my legions should be invisible, so crystal goose won’t know what’s coming. I order the Hell Spawn to attack. Here goes nothing.

When the next turn is crunched, I read through the turn log with trepidation. First there are some boring notifications about maintained rituals. I have to scroll down to find out what happened with my attack. And… it’s bad news. Crystal goose has used an event card to create a fissure, causing my Hell Spawn to plummet to their doom. They never make the planned assault. Honestly, I didn’t even know that an event card could come up more than once; it’s the same card I used to create the chasm between our two territories so many turns ago. I guess there’s some poetic justice in that.

There’s also a courier message from crystal goose, telling me he used the Infernal Eye ritual to see the legions I’d hidden with my Strategic Deception ritual, which is how he knew my Hell Spawn were about to attack. Does that mean he can see all my legions? Or does Infernal Eye have a chance to see each legion individually, meaning that some may still be hidden? I guess we’ll find out soon, because if crystal goose sees my backup legion in position across the chasm — the same one I made with my own event card, in fact — he’ll surely cook up something to take them out.

Except it may not matter anyway. Crystal goose has cast Infernal Juggernaut on two of the legions guarding his stronghold’s perimeter. With their newfound strength, they’re providing so much combat support to his stronghold that my backup flying legion, the Lords of the Pit, won’t be able to overpower the garrison, even though they’re a Juggernaut as well. Checking the numbers, it doesn’t look like a combat card would be enough to tip the scales in my favor either, especially since the stronghold has a combat card of its own already. I may need another way to defeat crystal goose.

The only good news in the turn log is that crystal goose had his Gorgons use their Vasdranai Carpet to conduct an aerial attack on my stronghold, with his Scourge of God offering combat support. It’s an impressive show of strength, given the power of my stronghold’s garrison. The Gorgons had to deal no less than 31 points of damage over two combat rounds to emerge victorious; by comparison, crystal goose’s stronghold only has 7 points of health. Even with all the bolstering I did, however, the Gorgons manage to be stronger, and would have won the battle and taken me out of the game. That is, if it weren’t for my Black Monolith. It protects my stronghold from capture, and even though they won the battle, the Gorgons are destroyed. Later, I learn that they were only destroyed because there was no adjacent hex for them to retreat into after the aerial assault; at the time I thought the Monolith had secured their destruction. However it happened, the Gorgons are gone, which means Pandemonium is undefended. If I can liberate it within three turns (including this one) and prevent crystal goose from recapturing it, then I don’t need to conquer his stronghold.

I’m running low on legions at this point. My Sisters of the Flame are far to the north, but if I cast Infernal Juggernaut on them they’ll get a speed boost and might be able to get there in time. They may need some more boosts to their combat strength too. I start digging through my vaults. I have the Throne of Skulls, which triples any bonuses provided by a praetor commander. Putting Focalor, seated on the Throne, in command of the Order of the Flame will give them a big boost to both ranged and melee combat, and casting Infernal Juggernaut will add a lot more strength on top of that. They just might make it, at the last possible moment. I look through the rest of my vault just to check if there’s anything better to use. And then I see it.

I have the Orb of Oblivion.

I had completely forgotten that I’d bought it, so many turns ago during the arms race. But there it is. The answer to all of my problems. You see, the Orb of Oblivion has a very powerful ability: if a legion carrying the Orb loses a battle, then its opponent has a very high chance to also be destroyed. An evil cackle escapes my lips. Crystal goose may think he has me cornered, but I’m about to flip the tables on him once again.

My Lords of the Pit, waiting across the chasm from crystal goose’s stronghold, are going to be useful after all. All I need to do is give them the Orb of Oblivion and then order the aerial attack. It doesn’t matter that crystal goose’s stronghold has a combat card attached. It doesn’t matter that his huge Juggernaut legions are defending it. The Lords of the Pit will lose the battle, but the Orb will go off anyway, annihilating crystal goose’s stronghold and taking him out of the game.

This is assuming that his Infernal Eye ritual hasn’t penetrated the cloak of invisibility shrouding my Lords of the Pit, and that he doesn’t destroy them with Destruction rituals. But I have a feeling he can’t see them, or we would have done something already. Still, to be safe, I also get the Order of the Flame ready to march towards Pandemonium. If my suicide bomb attack doesn’t work, hopefully my backup plan will be enough.

It works.

Crystal goose’s stronghold is gone. All his legions are gone. His Places of Power — including Pandemonium — have been liberated and are independent again. The map is suddenly so empty. Only Perun and Oðin remain, but they are no threat to me. My Order of the Flame is battle-ready with nothing to fight, so I send it to reclaim some of crystal goose’s old Places of Power for my empire. I spend the last few turns of the game trying to see how much Prestige I can accumulate, just for fun. I capture more Places of Power, complete some secret objectives, and even cast a Burnt Offerings ritual to convert money directly into Prestige. On turn 67 the final Conclave Token is drawn, and I, Brunt, claim the Infernal Throne with a total of 1090 Prestige. The entire contest lasted over five months of real time.

As the new ruler of Hell, Brunt thinks back to his humble beginnings as an aspiring collector of Unholy Relics. It seems so long ago now. His legacy was instead forged in blood and steel, banishing the heretic Necrophos, becoming a conqueror, and building an empire that became one of Hell’s two superpowers. But his struggle against crystal goose was fought more with wits than with weapons, with espionage and economics rather than war, with stealth and guile rather than fire. Crystal goose was a worthy and formidable adversary who nearly took the throne himself with surgical application of military strength. But in the end he was another heretic, joining Necrophos in the Abyss for an aeon of torment, while Brunt claims the Throne that is his right.

As he settles in, Brunt’s minions bring word that the destruction of crystal goose’s stronghold was not total. Some of his hoard of Unholy Relics survived the blast. Well, they’re no use to anyone sitting in that ruined vault. It’s time to put them on display…


Solium Infernum is available directly from developers Cryptic Comet. If you’ve enjoyed this story, and fancy having a go at Solium Infernum yourself, feel free to drop me a line as I’m always happy to play more games. If you just want to read more stories like this one, you might try my two turn-by-turn Solium Infernum diaries. Either way, enjoy your time in Hell.


Keeping Score: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition


History Lessons: DROD: The City Beneath

1 Comment

  1. Excelent as always.

    I did enjoy this story told once more than the longer ones you posted prior.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén