The supercharged Baraquiel dices Speedo’s praetor into tiny kibbles without even breaking a sweat. Unfortunately I get a little bit leery about fighting two arena combats in the same round with a single praetor; I don’t know if they heal between combats and I was expecting Baraquiel to take a lot more damage than he did. I think therefore it might not be a terribly good idea to send him against Sponge’s praetor, so I opt not to turn up instead. The no-show costs me some prestige, but between the prestige I got from refusing their demands and the prestige from winning the first duel, I’ve come out of the whole affair about twenty points ahead. Not bad.
Sponge is now threatening the Gates with a second legion. Both of them are fairly crap, but he’s still got his Infernal Crusade veterans and I’m sure he’ll move them over here sooner or later. I’d better take him on now while things are still in my favour.
So despite having just conceded a vendetta I send him a demand so that I can start a new one, which he predictably refuses. This one will be fought on the battlefield, not in the arena. With Baraquiel commanding the Slaves from his Throne of Skulls they’re more than a match fo-
TREACHERY! THIEVERY! PERFIDY! INFAMY! Baraquiel is stolen right out from under my very nose on the eve of battle! This is the first time a Deceit ritual has ever been used against me; up until now I had been totally ignorant of how they worked and assumed that Baraquiel’s Loyalty of 6 would be enough to protect him. Boy, was I wrong. Since Sponge doesn’t have a Deceit build I’m assuming this is one of the other players backstabbing me at the worst possible moment, and I am seething. Whoever it was had better pray I never find out who did it.
Anyway, this leaves the Slaves up the creek without a paddle. Their second attachment, the Throne of Skulls, confers amazing bonuses if used in conjunction with a praetor, but with Baraquiel gone it’s just a useless pile of bones. The Slaves are therefore entirely reliant on their base stats to win this vendetta.
Fortunately Sponge then does something very stupid. When I set the terms of the vendetta I chose “Destroy two enemy legions” as the victory condition. The Slaves aren’t capable of doing that on their own, but Sponge has thoughtfully decided to help me out by zerging one of his cheap cannon fodder legions straight into the Gates of Hell. That means I only have to kill one more to win this vendetta.
Sadly Sponge is finally bringing his amped-up personal bodyguard to bear. With them in the equation I have no chance of hanging on to the Gates, but I’m finally starting to grasp the fact that my position as-is is totally untenable; I can’t defend everything I’ve got with just the one combat-ready legion. With that in mind, I tell the Slaves to abandon the Gates and strike at Sponge’s second cannon fodder legion.
They take it out, but the Gates are lost.
However, the vendetta is won. Three cheers for me, right?
I happen to take a look at the Diplomacy screen to see what all these prestige bonuses have done for my score, and what I see chills my blood.
By fighting two other archfiends at once and coming out on top, I’ve managed to leapfrog Quinns and put myself in first place. This is suicidal. I’ve just painted a giant bullseye on my back, and I was already a tempting target thanks to my sprawling territory. I had better be extra-vigiliant from now on.
Having now experienced the power of Deceit rituals first-hand, I shove every other attachment I’ve got – including these newly-purchased Adamantine Golems – back into my vault where they’re theoretically unstealable. I also belatedly start increasing my other stats to try and get some protection against Deceit. This is what I should have been doing in the first place. This is the entire point of a Charisma build. Instead I wasted my time gobbling up more and more territory. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Quinns makes a demand to try and bait me into a vendetta. I’m not stupid enough to fight him when every other player in the game is also out to get me, so I let it slide. Seeing that I’m not about to be drawn out militarily, he then decides to try a different tack. The next turn I start getting hit by a Looting The Vaults ritual. This steals a bunch of resource cards from my vault and gives them to Quinns. With my massive Intellect stat of zero I’m helpless in the face of these Deceit-based attacks.
Next turn I have to deal with demands from both Sponge and Zah’hak.
Zah’hak’s no longer as weak as he once was; he’s finally mustered up enough strength to take the City of Dis and now he’s got forces massed on my eastern border. They’re actually pretty tough, and amongst them I notice…
Baraquiel. Zah’hak, you have just made yourself a marked man. Devil. Whatever.
Unfortunately for him he didn’t put any points into his infernal rank when making his archfiend; as a consequence he is the lowest rank, a mere Lord, to my Duke. This has ramifications for our diplomatic relations: I’m a much higher rank than he is, so he has to wait a lot longer in between making demands. Specifically, he has to wait five turns. Since it takes three concessions for somebody to be able to force a vendetta without cause, it’ll take him well over fifteen turns to ever get that far with me. That’s more than enough time for me to prepare my defence, and I think he knows it.
The next turn I get hit by another Looting The Vaults. This is awful. They’re stealing an entire turn’s worth of resources every time they are cast; right now I have no resource cards left which renders me totally impotent. I can’t even raise my Intellect stat in the vain hope of defending against these rituals, because that would require resources. This is potentially game-ending; if I continue to be bled white like this I’m eventually going to get overwhelmed militarily and there’ll be nothing I can do about it.
Sponge declares vendetta, but I’ve pulled back totally from the northern part of my territory. He can have that as far as I’m concerned; it’s just useless space, and like Soviet Russia I’m using it to play for time. I might be taking a battering from all sides, I might be facing an onrushing military force that I can’t afford to fight, I might be having all my resources stolen every turn, but I can at least console myself with the thought that it can’t possibly get any worse.
And then KG, a player who had previously been the sole occupant of the “Not actively trying to kill me” category of archfiends, decides to try his luck with an insult.
This is the last straw.