It’s a Machiavellian style politics and strategy game set in Milton’s picture of Hell. Oh my. I think we knew Vic Davis’ next game would be good, given how excellent the last, Armageddon Empire’s was. Solium Infernum looks set to improve on what made that great, but also more importantly, deliver a totally unique game play experience if all goes to plan. But what is it exactly? I’ve set about here to put together the information released in blogs and interviews (such as our own here) to give a little preview for all those foolish enough to resist subscribing to Vic’s Blog.
The Prince of Darkness has gone for a well deserved rest, and his minions refuse to sit still. The underworld has been neatly divided into cantons/hexes, and it’s up to you to sieze ultimate power one turn at a time, using and abusing your card hand to face down your opponents . So far, so very Armageddon Empires. But this, it seems, is where similarities end. Where before, your starting position was governed by the hand you build, in Solium Infernum you start off by choosing your Archfiend Avatar, and customising his stats and perks to gain an advantage should you choose wisely.
Unit cards, the aptly named Legions are now gained by bidding every turn in the “Infernal Bazaar”; the agora of the Damned and the marketplace of the malevolent. But this time, you can’t simply just put together your “ultimate force” of 9 incredible cards and go on a claiming spree. You need legitmacy. And this is where diplomacy comes in; there’s a loose order of things in the plane of Hell, and you effectively have to goad your opponents into a state of war via the means of the Conclave; the council of archfiends who you must gain prestige and supremacy over in order to be chosen the new Prince of Darkness when it convenes. This is achieved via the means of hurling abuse, making claims, and generally being an argumentative arse hole. You have to undermine your opponents via any means necessary, and force the vendetta.
At this point, you can seize territory and reduce your opponent via a number of means. First, and probably least subtle, your minions, led by a Praetor can march on the enemy’s lands and fight it out. Second, you can use Rituals Destruction to rain fire and brimstone on their lands and legions. Finally, and excitingly, you can challenge them to a one on one duel between two Praetors who act as champions for your honour. The number of options available should make for a manifold array of strategy, meaning you don’t necessarily have to invest in vast legions, instead focusing on diplomacy, fire from the sky or a brute in the arena or two. When the dust settles, the loser will lie broken and battered and the winner will occupy a larger slice of the Infernal Pit.
Those are more or less the basics of the game. You play your cards in order to build or shatter diplomatic ties, provoke Vendettas, and then denigrate your unfitting opponents in battle or the arena. But there’s so much more to it, since there’s so many different strategies available. Take for example, the Blood Tie where you can petition an opponent to become his Blood Vassal, should you be reduced to great to remain an independent power. At this point you can’t win, but will come second if he does. At least that’s how it may seem – as a Blood Vassal, you can potentially earn the perk “The Power Behind the Throne”, effectively meaning you win if your Blood Lord does. Another interesting feature is the Excommunication. Occasionally, and supposedly rarely, an Archfiend can be deprived of his place on the Conclave with all its benefits, such as having your turn at being the Regent, while all your opponents turn on you. All for a little attempted invasion of the neutral city, Pandemonium in order to win the game… Essentially, what all this means is there is a huge number of methods of winning. You can brute force your way through, or carefully poke and prod diplomatic affairs to victory. Alternatively you can pretend to be someones bitch while in reality you’re wispering in their ear, calling the shots. Ultimate victory is never a sure thing, and you’d best be sure you’ve got a good enough hand before you play it. Even that is no guarantee that someone else isn’t playing you.
Solium Infernum looks set to expand on the excellent Armaggedon Empires in unique and exciting ways. Certainly it holds that same charm of character coupled with complexity of mechanics that will challenge and confuse alike initially, but under the demonic clicking of a skilled Prince will reign supreme. And the best bit? I’m going to be able to kick your pale white demony arse up and down the Abyss over PBEM come late this year. Grab the Prince, summon Virgil to guide you, my legions are champing at the bit! When Dante pays a visit he’ll be entering my infernal realm…