Return to Hell - Solium Infernum Game Diary, Part I
By MARK WILSON
Welcome to Hell! We’re nice here. Mostly. Except when we’re absolute bastards.
Today I have a treat for you: a game writeup of this amazing game, from three of the people who were involved in it.
The fun of this is that you’ll get to read through the events from multiple perspectives, to understand the foolishness of some actions, and the sneaky duplicity of others. A lot happens behind the curtain in the game, and so this is a chance to peek behind it.
If you have no idea what Solium Infernum (SI) is, click the review link above. It’s an absolute delight, and lends itself well to long-form game writeups like this one. But you’ll be lost as hell (and lost in hell, har!) if you don’t read the overview first. This game report assumes a basic understanding of the game.
Contributors: Me, Richard and Rhasgaz
New Game, New Approach (Celesto/Mark)
This iteration of the game has different settings than the first game. Most specifically, it’s the “Long” game, which means it should last an additional 10-20 turns compared to a normal game.
This is a big deal.
Some strategies take a lot of time to come online, so to speak, so 10-20 more turns is the difference between, say, an unstoppable archfiend that can only cause chaos for 5-10 turns, to one that can rain death on the map for 15-30 turns.
I have never played a long game. I don’t like my chances.
That said, I was going to do something else entirely, but when I saw it was a long game, I pivoted to a long-game strategy. Namely, resources. Lots of resources. More particularly, manuscripts. I’m going with an archfiend build that should net me more and better manuscripts than my opponents.
Most manuscripts take a while to complete, but once completed, can be utterly devastating. Others buff Praetors (single combatants) and legions. It’s a backdoor way to getting buff forces. But it takes time.
The goal is to get to the completed manuscripts that damage archfiends directly, and to do it before anyone else gets there.
I don’t care about Prestige. Like, at all. I’m guessing the game will end with someone taking Pandemonium, or a wave of excommunications resulting in everyone destroying one another. When that happens, I want to be prepared to buy and bolster anything and everything. I also want my opponents far weaker than they expect.
My opening 20-25 turns are likely going to be spent just gathering resources and upgrading my archfiend stats. It will be a slow early game, but hopefully a terrifying mid-game and endgame build.
Turn 1 (Celesto/Mark)
The Lake of Fire (our map) always has a really tough Place of Power (PoP) in it that gives you +1 Order Slot, which is massively useful. I started very close to it. No starting legion can conquer it by itself.
But The Beast is available in the Bazaar, arguably the most powerful single legion in the game. He requires upkeep, which means you have to pay resources for him every turn, so it’s usually folly to purchase him before you have a ton of resources. However, if I can pay for The Beast for just a turn or two, he can get me the PoP, and maybe another juicy one that would give a +1 to one of my stats. Then I’ll stop paying upkeep and let him go back to the Bazaar.
I don’t care about the prestige the PoPs give me. But those extras are too tempting.
It’s an unorthodox plan, but if I have three orders by turn 3 or 4, that would be an absolute coup!
A couple others (Richard and Flatline) seem to have gone for a similar strategy as me. They have weak starting legions, and are likely playing the long game with a resource-heavy build. A couple legions have reasonable starting stats (Shinx, Rhasgaz). Oddly, my archfiend is the “middle” rank (Marquis) but only one other archfiend is ranked above me, which will help me ignore demands in the midgame.
I’m not concerned about their legions, though, or their plans. Whereas my first writeup was more about the external machinations of everyone, this is myopic. I’m going to be silently building my engine, so whatever’s going on around me doesn’t much matter.
Except for The Beast getting me an extra order. Holy hell do I want that!
Nefarious Designs (Richard’s Plan)
When designing an archfiend in Solium Infernum, in addition to assigning points for attributes and rank, players may pick up to three perks which offer special abilities and bonuses. For my archfiend, Richard, I wanted to try the War Master perk, which makes combat cards more effective.
There are many ways to boost the combat effectiveness of legions. Praetor commanders and evil artifacts can be attached to legions to make them stronger and grant them special abilities, but archfiends can also attach combat cards, which grant bonuses for just one battle before they are discarded. The single-use limit is a big drawback, but combat cards have several advantages: they’re very flexible, since archfiends can choose which bonuses to apply to each card, and — critically — other archfiends can’t see what a card does, unless they’re running some decent Prophecy magic to spy on their rivals. The War Master perk will let me add one additional bonus to every combat card I create.
The other disadvantage of combat cards is that they rely on an archfiend’s Wrath power level, so they are often rather weak early in the game before archfiends have had a chance to increase their attributes. They also cost resources to create every single time. So, I’ve gone for three points in my Charisma attribute to keep money coming in, and two points in my Martial Prowess attribute so my combat cards won’t be too terrible at the start of the game. Neglecting my other attributes means I’ll have a weak starting legion, so I’ll have to buy a better one and create combat cards for it in order to capture some of the Places of Power I’ll need to generate Prestige every turn.
My hope is that the extra bonus from the War Master perk will make my combat cards good enough even at the start of the game to help me capture some Places of Power, and will let me use some really powerful combat cards late in the game. Essentially I will pay for military power whenever I need it. We’ll see how it goes.
Turn 1 (Richard)
My stronghold is just north of the Lake of Fire, and on its shore sits the legendary Palace on the Lake of Fire, offering an additional order slot to any archfiend powerful enough to conquer its mighty garrison. On the western shore of the Lake, there’s another well-defended Place of Power that offers a +1 bonus to its owner’s Deceit power, which is nearly as desirable a prize. Normally, I couldn’t hope to conquer these until much later in the game, but a quick look at the Infernal Bazaar shows that the Beast is available for hire. It’s the best legion in the game. The Beast is not only absurdly powerful in battle, but can also fly over long distances. It could capture both of these Places of Power unaided, which means whoever can afford to buy it first will get a huge advantage in this game.
All thoughts of conquering through combat cards are pushed aside. I need to spend all of my orders asking for tribute in the hope I can hire the Beast.
Beginnings (Rhasgaz Goreforged Writeup)
I’ve had this game now for close to 10 years. I’ve been playing on and off for that time, but hadn’t picked it up since 2015. In that time’ I’ve only ever played with AI and with pretty limited ideas and understanding of all the intricacies of the game. When your opponents are dumb, you don’t need to push yourself to learn more. There are a lot of strategies I’ve never considered just because the AI doesn’t do a whole lot of complex stuff, so I’m excited and nervous and paranoid!
I’m playing a 6 player game with 5 other fiends, and I believe most are pretty well versed in the online game, but this is my 2nd time with a multiplayer game, and I’ve not finished the first game. Shinx, who is in my other game as well, is here and also “new” at multiplayer, but I think this is their 5th game. As such, I’m using this as a great dive into playing against good people. I build myself as an ‘everydemon’ type, a Baron instead of a lowly Lord, with 1 in every stat and charisma, with Infernal Cardinal. This gives me maximum flexibility depending on what I find in the game. It also gives me a good starting legion to defend myself from the various shenanigans of Hell.
I have the strongest legion and it is a little worrying that some of these legions are so underpowered. I have access to 3 POPs, two are +2 prestige, the other +1. I believe I can take them all out which is nice, so I will. The Palace on the Lake of Fire grants +1 order slots as well, but is quite tough, and a little distance away. It shouldn’t be a problem in game for a while at least due to its strength. No one else can take it with starting legions.
I’m blocked in by mountains to my west, making a pretty protective area for myself. I’m hoping to get some prestige early through POPs and canton taking, and then power up mid game through my good charisma. My thoughts are getting charisma to 4 ASAP, then focusing on another order slot, then charisma 5, and then another order slot for 4 total orders. I’m hoping to do this by turn 30.
Everyone has lust or gluttony as a public objective. Combined with low legion stats and a duke, marquis, 3 barons, and a lord, there are a lot of points out there in perks. I check rituals, artifacts and praetors. Telemachus is there, who I consider the best single combat Praetor. Also, the +3-deceit protection Amulet of Shadows is there, something I very much want. This will protect my stuff from being stolen by other fiendish jerks [Editor’s Note: Oh, will it?].
Manuscripts thus far are nothing to write home about. There are usually some must-get manuscripts, being rites and machines, and maybe legion training ones. Praetor manuscripts aren’t as effective since praetors in general aren’t super useful in single combat.
Turn 2-5 (Rhasgaz)
I will move my legion to take a +2 prestige tower, the Mouth of Abaddon, which I should be able to do with only taking 1 damage. I should then sweep south to the Tower of Pride, as no legion near the Garden of Infernal Delights can actually take it yet. Looking at the board again, I change my order and go after the Tower of Pride first. I can get there before Generic Landlord, who will be at the top of my threat list. Then I can head north to the Mouth, and then west to the Garden. With a few level ups along the way this should be cake.
Fulminata is a strong legion in the Bazaar. I’m going to buy them and either reinforce my stronghold, or Pandemonium. This adds the legion’s stats to the place of power or stronghold, making it more durable against threats. Apparently, most multiplayer games end when someone takes over Pandemonium and holds it for 5 turns. I’m trying to stop this as a charisma build works best in a longer game.
I want to buy Fulminata now, so I can guarantee the protection for the game. I over bid by 6 darkness and secure it for myself. I have thought a lot about reinforcing the Conclave. Let none call me disloyal to Hell. However, upon examining the board, I am the most powerful legion. A weakling is surrounding Pandemonium and should be able to protect it by blocking others from reaching it’s walls. Even still, no other legions are mighty enough for now. This is an extremely good legion as well. I decide to keep them in my employ rather than reinforce the conclave or my own stronghold.
I’ll be doing a lot of marching and combat in the early goings, but can’t shirk my duties of tribute and gaining avatar stats. We’ll see how this all plays out I suppose. I use my legion and Fulminata to take cantons and block access where I can, but that bastard Generic Landlord purchased Telemachus, put him on his legion, and took the Garden of Infernal Delights way ahead of schedule. Richard has purchased the Beast, a massive legion that can kill anything. With this, he has the ability to take the Palace on the Lake of Fire. I freak out and move my legion to block the Beast from taking the Mouth of Abaddon. Flatline, for his part, is trying to take cantons surrounding POPS so the Beast cant take anything else.
Turns 2-10 (Celesto/Mark)
Richard got to the Beast juuust before me, which is beyond annoying. I couldn’t have expected to be the only one to have that plan, and it was just luck of the draw with resources, but it still stings.
So I’m sitting and stacking resources. I wasted a couple actions doing things to prep for The Beast’s arrival, but it doesn’t slow me down meaningfully long-term. I’m mixing in manuscript purchases as well, since I’ve decided that’s how I’m going to dominate. Richard is probably in a resource build as well, so now the race begins in earnest, and he’s likely got a lead.
Turns 2-10 (Richard)
I get lucky with my tribute hauls, and have enough to make a bid on the Beast by turn 3. On turn 4, I welcome it to my ranks. But there’s a problem: Flatline, to the south, has been on the march. He’s managed to surround the Palace on the Lake of Fire to cut off access to it, and he’s heading towards the Pit of Tartarus and its tempting +1 Deceit bonus now. Since the Beast can fly, I can still conquer the Palace, but then it would have no legal place to land and would be destroyed. That might still be worth it, but I’d like to take the Pit of Tartarus too if I can.
After checking the turn order, I realize I’ll just barely be able to attack the Pit of Tartarus before Flatline surrounds it. The Beast takes flight, strategically landing outside of Flatline’s reach before launching its aerial attack on The Pit of Tartarus on turn 5. Then I order it to fly across the Lake of Fire on turn 6 to attack the Palace. I’m not sure exactly how this suicide attack is supposed to have played out, but I like to think that the Beast rained destruction on the ramparts from the air, before plummeting, exhausted, into the Lake itself. It’s a worthy sacrifice, as I now have an extra order slot, +1 to my Deceit power, and a hefty Prestige income per turn. I’ve also jumped into the lead in Prestige due to my victories. All of this means I’ve just painted a huge target on my back.
At this point, the best defense is to start boosting my archfiend’s attributes. Since my new Place of Power gives me +1 Deceit, I don’t have to raise my Cunning attribute as high as usual in order to secure a fourth order slot, so I focus on gathering the darkness needed for Cunning boosts. On turn 10, I pay for the upgrade I need to get that fourth order slot.
Turn 6-10 (Rhasgaz)
I forgot the Beast had fly 3. He skirted around Flatline and took the Palace, giving Richard +1 order slot. This is huge. Now I imagine he will be let go… although with another order slot Richard could maintain the cost with tribute rolls. I move my legion to protect my lands and gather more tribute to gain Charisma. At the moment I will just be aiming to gather tribute and consolidate lands as much as possible. Boring, but a decent set up for later in the game. It also appears Flatline has protected the Pandemonium Fortress from anyone else attacking it. I’m glad I kept Fulminata for myself.
Someone else beat me to the +3 deceit resist relic, and I start pining for Bune, a decent combat praetor and legion leader. The beast is let go due to cost I believe, and Shinx and I begin to doubt our abilities against much more experienced foes. I lay the foundations of good relations with him in case we need to help each other later as we are listless and unsure of our plans. At this point I feel like an idiot. I’ve had Master of the Bazaar for a while. I could have made a killing the market, and it’s not like I was buying anything anyway. I’ll wait a few more turns to use it as it seems everyone is recovering from the initial onslaught of purchases. By the end of turn 10 I get to Charisma 4 and take the Mouth of Abaddon.
The Beast has shaped the early game, and placed a target on Richard’s head. Want to keep reading to see if he leverages his early advantages into a win? Check out Part II here.