Or not. With the Slaves stuck four or five turns of movement away I do have to worry about that legion of Infernal Crusade veterans Sponge is toting, and they can reach the Gates of Hell faster than the Slaves can. It’s probably a good idea to concede for now; it’s only three tribute cards and it postpones any vendetta for a few turns, giving me time to move the Slaves into a defensive position.
However, I apparently thought it was a good idea for the Slaves to take the pretty route back up north. I know why I did this; there was a lot of unclaimed territory in between myself and Quinns/Zah’hak and I wanted to claim it as a buffer zone. However, what I didn’t realise at the time was that territorial holdings in Solium Infernum are absolutely useless. Worse than that, in fact – by staking out a territory that’s twice as large as everyone else I’ve given myself too much to defend and made myself into this huge, bloated target.
Observant readers may notice the second legion in the screenshot above. Those are the Fallen, a cheap legion from the Bazaar with middling stats that were nevertheless sufficient to convince Zah’hak to cough up some tribute a couple of turns back. In a real fight, though, they wouldn’t last a second. My military power still lies mostly with the Slaves. On the other side of Hell, Quinns has managed to wrest the Tree of Woe from KG. It’s fairly anaemic as far as PoPs go, giving just one prestige per turn, but it serves as a warning that Quinns isn’t averse to throwing his weight around. And with that legion of his, he weighs a lot.
Now this is interesting. Not content with taking my tribute cards, Sponge is now insulting me. There are two crucial differences between demands and insults. The first is that where demands are made for material reward, such as resources or artifacts, insults are done entirely for prestige. If I accept the insult, I lose prestige and Sponge gains it. The second difference, though, is that if I don’t accept the insult I’m the one that gets to pick the terms of the vendetta. This means that while Sponge might be militarily powerful I can just circumvent that entirely by challenging him to a single combat of champions.
Which is what I do. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite pan out the way I’d hoped.
Bugger. It turned out Sponge also had a praetor who was fairly handy in a scrap. Praetor combat is basically glorified rock-paper-scissors, but it does help to have a praetor with nice stats. Sponge’s praetor, Orias, had slightly better pure combat stats than Zuul, but Zuul had the ability to cast a magic attack, Infernal Burst. Infernal Burst does a random amount of between one and six points of damage in a combat phase, so I was hoping Zuul would roll highly with her Infernal Bursts. Instead she whiffed with a one and a three, and consequently gets to spend an aeon of torment in the Abyss. Serves her right for being rubbish.
On the plus side the Slaves have finally trudged back up north to a defensive position behind the Gates of Hell, so I no longer need to cave to any of Sponge’s demands. In fact I’m thinking of making some of my own.
But! Sponge pre-empts me the next turn. I also get a demand from Speedo Demon; since I don’t share a border with him he knows that any vendetta he declares will have to be resolved via praetor combat, so it’s no coincidence that I received it the turn after losing one of mine in an arena duel. I tell the pair of them to go to hell (figuratively speaking). Both of them choose arena combats to settle the resulting vendettas. This could be tricky. But I have A Plan.
A few turns ago I drew In Dreadful Deeds Fearless as my event card. In Dreadful Deeds Fearless does for praetors what the Order of the Black Ring does for legions; it’s a super promotion that boosts their stats to sickening levels of power. With two arena combats looming it seems like now is a good time to bring it into play. Baraquiel, a praetor I bought a few turns ago as my backup in case Zuul died in the arena, gets the upgrade. The result?
The combat stats are merely high rather than spectacular, but the obscene number of hitpoints ensures he’ll be more than a match for anything Sponge and Speedo demon put against him. Meanwhile, Quinns opportunistically makes a demand of me, which I have to concede to, and I buy a new lounge chair from the Infernal Bazaar.