Monday, March 22, 2010

Solium Infernum Beginner's Guide (Part Five: More Orders)

If you haven't downloaded the demo, please do so here, and start with part onepart twopart three, and part four of this guide.

When we last left off, we were at the orders screen, and today, let's take a closer look at the possible orders that weren't discussed on Thursday.

First off, even though there are sixteen possible options on the order screen, it's not really that intimidating. Here are are the major categories that they represent:
--Bazaar (bid on items)
--Management (Legions, Praetors, Artifacts, Relics)
--Avatar Attributes

I'm going to discuss the order options in the order given on the game screen, but as we discuss this, think about how the items fall into the broader categories I listed above. Understanding that all the order options fall into those five categories makes it much easier to get a handle on the game.

It's also easier to grasp the system if you remember that almost everything you do in the game beyond checking status requires an order. Many of the possible orders are quite simple (attaching a Praetor to a Legion, or attaching a relic to your Stronghold, for example). So even if it seems confusing at first, just hang in there--it won't take long to understand.

We discussed Tribute on Thursday, so let's move to the next order group:
--Bid on a Legion
--Bid on a Praetor
--Bid on an Artifact
--Bid on a Relic
--Bid on a Manuscript

All of these orders involve bidding on an item from the Bazaar--the eBay of supreme Evil. The bidding process is straightforward--you pick the item you want to bid on, then use Tribute cards to match or exceed the minimum required bid (important point to remember: if you do overbid--which improves your chances of winning an item if someone else is bidding against you--extra Souls count twice as much as any of the other resources).

More importantly, though, why should you you want these items, and what do they do?

First off, Legions are combat units, and Praetors are basically heroes (or anti-heroes, in this case) that attach to your Legions to make them more powerful. There's a wide range of Legion and Praetor strength, as well as special abilities, so consult the manual for a further explanation (like I said, the manual is an excellent data dump). At it's most basic, though, Legions have three attacks: Ranged, Melee, and Infernal, and each combat round processes the attacks in that order (although, as always, there are special exceptions). What that means is that if you have a Legion with a high Infernal attack but a very low Ranged attack, for example, the Legion might not survive to even unleash their attack. You can hover over an enemy unit on the map and see their Attributes (not including their bonus from Combat Cards, which we'll discuss later), so it should at least give you a rough idea of whether your ass will be handed to you in short order.

Praetors will add to the attributes of your Legion or Place Of Place, and they can make an average Legion into a very dangerous one. They also have special abilities that can completely change the field of battle.

It's also possible to attach an Artifact to a Legion, and Artifacts have a wide and mind-blowing range of powers.

Relics are similar to Artifacts, but they're attached to a Place Of Power or your Stronghold (a physical location), not a Legion. As an example of what they can do, they can increase an Attribute of your Avatar, for example, or may raise your Tribute rolls (which is particularly powerful).

There are many Artifacts and Relics available for bidding in the Bazaar, but there are a limited number for sale at any one time, so your favorites might not always be available. There is a complete list in the manual Appendix.

Manuscript fragments (the final biddable category) are very versatile. When completed, they can be used to train Legions ("L" manuscripts) or Praetors ("P" manuscripts), reduce the Attributes of other Archfiends ("M" for Machine manuscripts), or increase your own Attributes ("R" for Rites manuscripts). Bidding on Manuscript fragments is a convenient way to complete a rare Manuscript that you collected via Tribute.

In particular, it's a good idea to bid on an additional Legion from the Bazaar as early in the game as possible, while borders are still not fully determined. You'll be given one Legion to start the game, but a second gives you the ability to claim territory in multiple directions on the same turn.

Next in the order list is "Give Legion Orders." We covered that last week, but if you select that option, you'll see a list of your Legions and you can choose one to issue an order.

The "Create a Combat Card" option can be used to create a card that you can attach to a Legion or Place Of Power. The kinds of bonuses you receive from the card is based on your Wrath level (which is based on Martial Prowess)--a higher Wrath level increases your options when creating the card, as well as the power of those options.

One thing to consider when considering whether to create a Combat Card: Legions and Places Of Power have a limited number of attachment slots. I usually prefer to place Praetors and Artifacts in the available slots, because their effects are permanent (as long as they're attached). A Combat Card, though, is used for a single battle only, then removed.

Next is the "Make Diplomatic Effort" option, and this is a major category of action. Solium Infernum has a courtly, Middle Ages kind of diplomacy, which I find both ironic and appropriate in Hell. There are no sneak attacks, no assassinations, no cowardice. Attacking an enemy requires a good deal of challenging and face slapping first, and it requires careful planning. Let's take a look.

When you select the "Make Diplomatic Effort" option, you'll see a list of your opponents. Select the opponent that will be the target of your diplomatic option, and you'll have three options: Make Demand, Hurl Insults, or Send Emissary Bearing Gifts.
[as a language related sidebar, I'd love to know why insults are always "hurled." That phrase has been around forever, but where did it come from?]

Let's look at Make Demand. If you select that option, you'll see a list of demands that you are currently allowed to make. At first, your choices are limited (Tribute cards, generally, although there are exceptions), but successive demands (depending on your rank versus the opponent) offer additional options (including possibly Cantons, or even Relics and Artifacts). If an opponents chooses to concede your demand, there is a waiting period (in turns) before you can make another demand of him.

Making a Demand requires you to wager Prestige Points. If your opponent agrees to your demand, the Prestige Points are returned. If he refuses, though, he claims the Prestige Points.

However, this then gives you the option of declaring a Vendetta. In a Vendetta, you choose a goal (controlling a certain number of Cantons, or defeating a certain number of your opponent's Legions, for example) and a number of turns in which the goal must be accomplished. Claiming a Vendetta also requires the wagering of Prestige Points, but if your goal is achieved, you get them back (and bonus Prestige Points as well).

So what do Vendettas accomplish? First, they allow you to encroach upon enemy territory and attack specified targets. Remember, this is courtly diplomacy, so you can't just barge into an enemy's territory and attack. Vendettas are the hall passes to mayhem, so to speak.

Second, after three successful Vendettas, you can declare a Blood Feud on an opponent. Blood Feuds allow you to attack anywhere, anytime, and even allow you to attack your opponent's Stronghold. If you capture it, you knock him out of the game.

The Demand and Vendetta system make Solium Infernum play out quite differently from most other strategy games. In most games, combat against your opponents is convenient--it's the natural way to acquire power. In some games, it's the only way to acquire power.

In SI, though, combat is not convenient. It requires careful planning, and it's unreliable, because it depends on your opponent refusing your demands. If he just gives in, it takes three conceded demands before you can declare a Vendetta, and with the requirement to wait a number of turns before issuing additional demands, your attack plans could be delayed by ten turns or more.

Like I said, it turns traditional strategy on its head. Military action is unreliable and often heavily delayed, but stealthy, nefarious actions (like Rituals, or building Machines from Manuscript fragments) can often be devastating (and the blame can even be pinned on your Opponents, in some cases).

The second diplomatic action, after Demands, is to "Hurl An Insult." This also requires the wagering of Prestige Points, but no Tribute is demanded. If your Insult is conceded, your Prestige Points are returned plus the same number of Prestige Points from your opponent. If the insult is refused, your opponent is obligated to declare a Vendetta on you. In effect, you might be able to trap an opponent into attacking.

The disadvantage of Insults is that you can't declare a Vendetta yourself, and you also don't get any Tribute (or whatever goodies you might score in later demands).

Your third diplomatic option is to "Send Emissary Bearing Gifts." If it's successful, it's a way to get the bully in Hell to stop making Demands of you, at least for a while. The gift requires Prestige Points (small number) and Tribute cards (between two and eight, as you choose).

If the opponent accepts your gift, he can't make demands or insult you for a number of turns (it's variable, depending on your comparative ranks and how many Tribute cards you gave hime).

If the gifts are refused, your Tribute cards are refused (but not the Prestige Poins).

It's possible that in addition to being refused, the emissary will be humiliated. In this case, the opponent gains Prestige Points, and you are required to claim Vendetta against him. If you don't, more Prestige will be lost. If you're successful in your Vendetta, though, you'll get a bonus in Prestige Points for teaching the bastard a lesson.

Again, and I can't stress this enough: there's usually far more strategic value in subversive action than direct action.

Tomorrow: a look at the remaining possible orders.

Site Meter