Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Solium Infernum Beginner's Guide (Part Three: Understanding Frames)

If you haven't downloaded the demo, please do so here, and start with part one and part two  of this guide.

After you create a new game, this is the first screen you'll see:

The messages you see are in a frame in front of the main game screen. This is something called the "Turn Log" (notice the label in the top left of the inner frame) and at the beginning of each turn, this is what you see first. It gives you a summary of what happened during the last turn (everything you can know, anyway, because some things are secret).

Some of these messages just have information. The ones with the red wax seal beside the image, though, require action on your part.

Let's look at the news. First, we see that "The Sceptre of Regent of the Infernal Throne has passed to Mammon this turn." When a player is regent, they are able to draw event cards, single-use cards that can trigger powerful and disruptive events.

Next there are two "Tribute from your minions has arrived and is waiting your inspection" messages, and these messages require action. Clip on the first wax seal and this overlay pops up:

The four types of tribute (Souls, Ichor, Hellfire, and Darkness) function as resources, and different actions require different amounts of each type of Tribute. Souls are the most valuable. Here's how to tell them apart:
Souls--a ghost image
Ichor--a drop of blood
Hellfire--a flame
Darkness--a hockey puck (not exactly, but you get the idea)

You might also be lucky enough to receive a Manuscript fragment in tribute, which we'll discuss later.
At the most basic level, your ratings (Charisma, in particular) determine how much tribute gets generated and how much you can keep. In this case, three tribute cards were generated, and you can see in the image that I'm allowed to claim two. I try to keep a balance in terms of Tribute, with a slight emphasis on Souls, so I'm going to click on the Souls card and one of the Ichor cards, then click Claim, and they will be added to my inventory (which you can see at the top of the game window--each resource icon is shown, along with the number you currently have).

The second message is also a Tribute message, and I select a Souls card and a Darkness card.

Now, for reference purposes, before we take our turn, let's look at the screenshot again:

The number of screen options in the game can be quite overwhelming at first, so let's simplify things. First off, think of the game as happening in two major frames. One is a persistent frame that shows the map and can also be used to select the Bazaar (where you can buy items). This frame might be in the background (as it is in the screenshot), but it never goes away. I think of it as the "real" frame, because it shows the map and the location of Places of Power and Legions. It shows what exists in the game world.

The second frame, which overlays the persistent frame as necessary, I think of as the "action/information" frame. In the game, it's referred to as the Ministerium. The Ministerium frame gives you information on what happened in the last turn (Turn Log), plus allows you to issue orders as well as showing a wealth of information that is not available from the "real" frame (there is some information overlap, but starting out, it's much easier to understand if you think of them as mutually exclusive).

Also useful is to know that the Ministerium frame is called up as needed by selecting the "Ministerium" highlight in the lower left of the real (outer) frame. To close it, hit "X" in the upper right hand corner of the frame.
Now let's briefly discuss how the Ministerium frame works.

To understand the Ministerium frame in its simplest terms, think of the selectable tabs at the top of the frame (Turn Log/Orders/Tribute/Rituals/Diplomacy/Forces/Avatar) as major categories. At the bottom of the frame, you'll see filters for the category you've currently selected.

So, for example, if you select Turn Log, you'll get the full data dump of everything that happened on the last turn (that you're allowed to know). However, if you look at the bottom of the frame, you see a set of filters:

Each of those filters will isolate only the events related to that category.

Another example of this is the "Forces" tab. When you select that tab, you'll see these options at the bottom:
Legions/Places of Power/Praetors/Artifacts & Relics/Events.

Remember: category on top, filters on bottom.

Very briefly, here's what you can do and learn in each of the tabs in the Ministerium frame:
TURN LOG: review all information relating to the previous turn. Some items will require you to take action.
ORDERS: We'll be discussing this in detail in Part 4 of this guide, but this is where you issue your orders for each turn, and it's where you'll spend most of  your time.
TRIBUTE: this is where you can see all your Tribute cards as well as Manuscript fragments. To sort all your tribute cards, right-click in the gold storage area (very, very useful).
RITUALS: perform rituals here (discussed in greater detail when we discuss orders).
DIPLOMACY: see your opponents, their current prestige, and other helpful information (particularly if you have a high Prophecy rating). You can also adjust the Threat Order here, which is basically a ranking of your opponents. There are reduced Tribute costs to perform certain diplomatic actions against opponents ranked high in the Threat Order.
FORCES: Forces include Legions, Praetors, Places Of Power, Artifacts, and Relics. Review them all here.
AVATAR: See your character ratings here. In addition to your high-level attributes (which you selected when you created an Avatar), you can also see the linked sub-disciplines (Wrath, Deceit, Prophecy, Destruction, and Diabolism) here, as well as information on how many Cantons you control, how many Legions you can command, and how much Prestige per turn your're earning.

That's a lot to digest, but there's quite a lot you can do in (and from) the Ministerium frame. Take a few minutes to click on each of the tabs and familiarize yourself with what the sub-screens look like. It won't all make sense yet, but it should give you an idea of how much information you can obtain.

Tomorrow, we look in-depth at the Orders tab, which will also give me an opportunity to discuss basic game strategy. There's so much that can be done in the Orders tab, actually, that we'll probably discuss it in two parts.

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