Apocalypse Begrudge Tempestuous – Part 1


This is Part 1 of a 5-part diary of a Solium Infernum multiplayer game. For full context, see the contents post here.

To start us off, let’s get a look at the competition.

The players


Unlike the original Solium Infernum you don’t get to build your own custom archfiend, which is a bit of a disappointment. Instead you pick from one of 8 specific premade archfiends. Each has a slightly different starting statline that leans into what their strength is supposed to be, and there’s some limited customisation available via picking Relics before game start, which grant permanent bonuses throughout the game. (Some of which are pretty massive if you’re willing to devote all three Relic slots to one bonus.) The real differentiating factor, though, are each archfiend’s special abilities and Stronghold bonuses.


Skippy is playing Astaroth, a classical horned demon with a big sword whose thing is military conquest. Usually you need to go through a few turns of setup to declare war on somebody as you need to set up a casus belli and make a Prestige wager while doing so, but Astaroth’s special ability is that he can just declare limited wars on people with much less setup time. His Stronghold also provides combat support bonuses to adjacent legions, making it an extremely tough nut to crack for anyone looking to outright eliminate him in a war.


Tom is playing Erzebet, another conquest-focused archfiend. Her ability is a one-way Open Borders agreement with other archfiends; usually it’s impossible to enter a hex controlled by someone else without declaring war on them, which makes it difficult to leverage military power against faraway targets.  If somebody accepts her diplomatic proposal, though, Erzebet’s legions can freely pass through their territory. So no-one is really safe from her legions. Her Stronghold has a “Healing rate +1” ability, although it’s unclear whether this is a local bonus that applies only to the stronghold or a global bonus that applies to all her legions.


Zael is playing Belial, a schemer and deceiver. His special power is that he can goad two players into fighting one another by gossiping that one has insulted the other. If the player who was supposedly insulted lets it go, they lose Prestige. The catch is that Belial has to wager some prestige of his own to do this, and if the insulted player decides to trigger a vendetta they keep that Prestige, so it’s not completely free. His stronghold gives him +1 to Deceit ritual strength, making it easier for him to steal things from other players while they’re not looking. Or even if they are looking.


Peter is playing Andromalius, who looks like Remiel from Lucifer. (The comic, not the TV show.) His thing is Praetor duels; all of his Praetor moves do +2 damage, which is actually quite a lot – certainly enough to swing the duel in his favour and give him a significant advantage. His Stronghold gives him +1 voting power in Conclave votes – these occur every 10 turns and do things like reshuffling the turn order or redistributing everyone’s tribute. Not tremendously useful, but the duelling bonus more than makes up for it.


And I am playing Mammon, the money guy. Mammon’s diplomatic power is that they can offer other players a boost: +1 tribute token drawn and picked when taking the Collect Tribute action. The catch is that any unpicked tokens, which would usually be discarded, instead go to Mammon. Mammon’s Stronghold provides an additional tribute token in the tribute package everyone gets when they become Regent (Solium Infernum’s term for the start player), and I also took Relics that increased tribute quality and gave a further additional tribute token pick – doing anything in this game requires money, so having an effective +1 to my Infernal Rank for tribute purposes for the entire game will hopefully give me a lot of flexibility.

Turns 1-25

Are something that I didn’t diarise at the time. From my point of view it was rather dull, for reasons that I’ll go into later. But there were some highlights.


(Crude hex map is necessary because there’s no way of revisiting a game once it’s finished and even if you could it’s not possible to zoom out enough to get this kind of view. Also, the terrain wraps around so that if you went off the eastern edge of this map you’d reappear at the western edge, making directionality a bit of a nonsense – so I’ve opted for a Mammon-centric projection of Hell, mostly because that’s how I was thinking about the game anyway.)

I spawned with Skippy to my north-west, Tom to my north-east, and Peter uncomfortably close  to my south-west, with just 3 hexes separating our strongholds. Zael was further to the north-west past Skippy and Tom – far enough away that it would be very difficult for us to fight each other in a vendetta. To my south, along a single hex-width strip of land between cliffs and a chasm, was a route to Pandaemonium, Hell’s capital city.

Pandaemonium’s location is important because Solium Infernum has a few ways to win; the common one that everyone is working towards for most of the game is the Prestige Victory, where the person with the most Prestige at the end of the game wins. There’s a whole bunch of ways to get Prestige but the most useful tools are diplomatic actions such as Insults and Demands, as these will either lead to a war which you can win for a huge amount of prestige, or your opponent caves to the insult/demand and forfeits Prestige of their own – either way you’re gaining Prestige while your opponents lose it.


If it looks like you’re falling behind in Prestige and don’t think you can catch up, though, there’s an alternative: take and hold Pandaemonium for 5 turns without dying. This is harder than it sounds because all it takes to eliminate somebody from the game is to capture their starting Stronghold. Usually there are very strict rules governing how archfiends can declare war on one another which make it very difficult, if not impossible, to do this during the normal course of play. If you attack Pandaemonium, though, you get excommunicated and you are no longer protected by those rules, and anyone can murder you. This means that in order to pull off a Pandaemonium victory you need to be very strong militarily, as every other player will be trying to stop you by taking your Stronghold — and not only that, but they’ll be actively cooperating in order to do it.


The game started with a scramble for Places of Power, locations on the map that have garrisons that need to be defeated in order to capture them, but which provide a steady Prestige income and other passive bonuses, some of which are actually pretty damn good.  Everyone else grabbed theirs in the first 10 turns, while I marched my starting legion in a circle around the nearest one to me to claim the territory, but didn’t take it because my starting legion was so crap that it would have taken 4-5 actions to do it. Since you only start the game with 2 actions per turn, this was nowhere near worth it for a PoP that granted a measly +1 prestige per turn with no other bonuses.

Tom targeted me with the first Demand of the game. A Demand is the lowest form of diplomatic action — you demand some money from somebody, and if they don’t give it to you you can declare Vendetta on them. A Vendetta is a war with a limited goal: taking a certain number of hexes, killing some of their legions, or capturing their Places of Power. I refused the demand because I needed the tribute for other things, and Tom duly declared war on me. It probably would have gone well for him, except…


A turn later, somebody played an event card that summoned an Angel from Heaven to break some heads. The Angel flies around killing one legion from each player, and once it’s had its fill of blood it buggers off back to Heaven. It targets players in order of military strength, and it seems it does take unit level into account, which meant it hit Tom before it hit me and killed his only legion. For most players this was only a temporary annoyance since the starting legion eventually respawns (all other legions are out of the game permanently once they are killed), but this delay meant Tom was unable to finish the war before the time limit on his Vendetta ran out.

Zael had some serious problems with Abyss Striders, wandering monsters that will randomly attack legions and Places of Power. They’re relatively weak, but his starting legion’s statline was even weaker. This meant he blew a bunch of actions retaking PoPs that the Striders had taken and fell behind.

Still, at least he wasn’t Tom, whose bad luck continued when one of his two PoPs reverted to neutral thanks to another event card. Tom then also wasted a bunch of actions retaking it over several turns. And to make matters worse, Peter targeted him with a Praetor Duel – this is the other way of resolving a refused Demand that sidesteps pure military power, where each player sends a single champion called a Praetor into the arena to duke it out, with the winner hauling away a bunch of Prestige and the loser dying. Since Peter’s specialty is Praetor Duels he won handily.

The first twenty-odd turns proceeded with Skippy firmly in the lead in terms of Prestige, and Peter a bit behind him. Skippy bought an immensely powerful legion from the Bazaar called the Sons of Typhon and spent 5 turns marching it up to an unclaimed Place of Power in Peter’s territory. He was also setting up a war with Peter while this was going on, and it looked like they might actually attack each other for a moment – but it was all a ruse. Skippy’s real plan was to walk straight past the PoP and attack Pandaemonium.


Unfortunately for Skippy Solium Infernum is a game with a ton of byzantine rules and edge cases and the tutorial for the remake is awful and doesn’t explain any of them, which meant he fell foul of the rules around hex ownership and made an illegal move. And when you make an illegal move that takes your legion somewhere it shouldn’t be, it turns out that legion doesn’t just get teleported back to its starting position that turn, oh no; it gets teleported all the way back to your stronghold. Which for Skippy was on the other side of the map. It was kind of a shame, it was a beautiful fake-out and I don’t think anybody realised what he was really doing.


And me? After those desultory opening moves I lapsed into torpor. Didn’t move my single legion, didn’t take any PoPs, didn’t equip anything from the Bazaar, I didn’t even react to the war with Tom except for a single half-hearted attempt to block his legion movement. And for their part everyone else seemed content to ignore me and focus on more immediate threats – although they must have noticed that my Prestige was mysteriously increasing every turn, seemingly of its own accord, without me obviously doing anything. I was finally forced into action when I accidentally took the Prestige lead, something which would have been impossible for the other players to ignore. Fortunately this happened at around the same time as my long-term plan came to fruition…

Some contemporaneous random thoughts, mostly between turns 25-28

I have been left alone for far too long. Tom is the only person who has made any aggressive moves towards me, and that was 20 turns ago. The fact that I’ve spent 20 turns apparently doing nothing should be seriously worrying to everyone else, but they keep going after the visible targets.

I have had the Infernal Negotiations ritual going for the past 10 turns or so, which makes it much more expensive to make Demands of me, so that might be one reason why they haven’t done it. If I were in their position I would have done it anyway, though, because they have no way of decreasing my Prestige without making Demands and it keeps ticking up every turn despite me having no legions, PoPs or Praetors, and making no Demands of anyone else – if nothing else they’d get me to reveal some of my cards, which so far I’ve been keeping completely hidden.


What I’ve actually been doing is investing all of my tribute to level up my Powers. An archfiend has five Power stats, rated from one to six. Most archfiends start the game with two points in one Power and a single point in a couple of others. Increasing a Power gives you access to additional active and passive abilities appropriate to that power – so Prophecy gives you access to information that’s usually hidden, Destruction lets you hurl fireballs at people etc. etc. However, every Power will give you an additional action slot once you level it up to rank four. Given that you start with just two of them, this is a massive relative increase in power – and the faster you get an additional action, the faster you can get tribute to upgrade the other powers so that they grant actions too. I had a third action by turn 10-12, a fourth by turn 16, and a fifth by turn 20.

Levelling Prophecy second was an opportunistic choice as I already had a point in it and I wanted to get to the extra action ASAP, but it ended up being extremely helpful. It looks pretty crap on paper as you can’t use it to blow anyone up until you get to level 6, but being able to see who is getting what from the Bazaar, what Vendetta conditions are, and the Dark Augury ritual are pretty huge. Hell, the additional ritual slots on their own are potentially game-winning – these are powerful spells that require an empty slot and some resources to cast, so the more slots I have via Prophecy the more scope I have to mess with other people’s plans.


Speaking of rituals, Elocution – a Charisma ritual that grants Prestige whenever somebody else makes a diplomatic action — is the unsung MVP of my game so far. One resource per turn upkeep, and it’s brought in something like 45-50 Prestige so far because everyone else won’t stop threatening one another. Weirdly I get Prestige when somebody makes a demand, and then again when the target refuses that demand, which makes Elocution another thing that’s much better than it looks on paper as it’s getting me 8-9 Prestige per Demand made.

Everyone else is sleeping on the Dark Augury ritual, which reveals other archfiend’s statlines and the contents of their vault — their resources and unassigned artifacts and praetors — which would otherwise be hidden. It’s much easier to plan when you know what people have.


Schemes are also pretty powerful. These are quests you can do for a lump sum of prestige, functioning a bit like the tickets from Ticket To Ride; one action spent Plotting gives you 2-4 Schemes to choose from, depending on your Prophecy level. And some of them are hilariously easy, like  “Have 3 active rituals” – oh, you mean that thing I’m doing every turn anyway? There’s a bunch of garbage ones mixed in there mind, the manuscript ones are far too difficult to complete and you only have a limited number of Scheme slots so you can’t just continually pick new Schemes until you find one you like, but it’s still a big source of Prestige and the main reason I was able to keep up with Skippy.

Skippy’s attempted move on Pandaemonium was bold and he masked it well as a move for an untaken PoP, he was very unfortunate to fall foul of rules minutiae. I don’t think it would have worked though. If his move had gone through it would finally have been obvious what he was trying to do and I would have still had one turn to mess the Sons of Typhon up with Deceit rituals, which is all I need.


My thesis is that Skippy is otherwise playing the game all wrong. Military power is public. This means that if you’ve got a strong military you can make threats and bully and people need to give in – but he hasn’t been doing that much. Certainly not the “Demand every single turn” strat required to leverage it properly. And the flipside of military power being public is that people can plan around it. I’ve had a solution in place for his big boys since about two turns after he bought them. And now that we’re in the midgame, military power on its own is the worst way to get things done. He might have some more surprises up his sleeve, of course, and it’s also possible that I have hugely miscalculated and/or get horrible RNG rolls, but based on current intelligence any Vendetta between us is going to be 1) extremely short and 2) extremely funny.

Why has Peter only tried one Praetor Duel? That’s his thing! Too nervous about the single-round nature of it maybe? The Praetor Duel rework does seem to suck a lot – it used to be resolved over multiple rounds, but now it’s just one round of what amounts to rock-paper-scissors. I stole his good Praetor just in case. Still, he can always buy a new one; of all my competition he is the one that worries me the most, because none of my Rituals give me a 100% foolproof way to subvert a Praetor Duel.


Fairly sure Zael has been trying to run a game on me by trying to convince me in PMs that Skippy and Peter were out to get me, but the cost to me is that I fired off my Diplomatic Immunity event card a bit earlier than I otherwise would have to try and head off a potential attack before I was ready for it. I otherwise haven’t expended any additional resources and actions in response to his insidious rumour-spreading, because it doesn’t actually matter if Peter and Skippy are plotting against me or not. They are my biggest obvious threats, and I’m going to need to take them out one way or the other.

I’m trying a novel strategy of never lying in PMs to other players. Because what would be the point? Tom’s the only one with direct experience of what I’m like in games like this but I feel like my reputation precedes me at this point; I’ve lied so much in TWG, Diplomacy, Civilization 4, Alpha Centauri – and yes, Solium Infernum – that people just automatically assume I am lying whenever I say anything, and that goes double for a game where I’m supposed to be a literal backstabbing devil. So I’ll try not doing that for a bit, and see if I can wrongfoot somebody by actually telling the truth for a change. Albeit a truth worded as creatively as possible.

Click here for Part 2

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