Kieron’s trawls through the dark corners of the internet have turned up this interesting strategy. In the very first update, I said that taking Pandemonium would be like killing the referee of a football match. Hitting it with a Destruction ritual is more akin to punching him in the face and screaming defiance of the rules – something you’d only really want to be doing if you were about to crash and burn out of the game. And I am. God knows, I am. I have no chance of winning the game for myself any more; all I can do is let Quinns win or try and whittle away enough prestige to allow Speedo to pip him to the post. The thing is, that’s still true even if the stars aligned and I was able to take out Quinns via this method. And while there’s a certain temptation in the idea of trying to fuck Sponge over just one more time, if it goes wrong it could cost me heavily; I could end up being the one dumped out of the game. Nobody’s tasted the ultimate humiliation of total defeat yet, and I don’t want to be the first one to sip from that bitter cup.
This is why I am initially reluctant to implement KG’s plan. However, by this point due to the after-Christmas period and people travelling and whatnot there’s a wait of several days between turns. I spend the time chewing over the plan in my head. And then I realise. I realise.
Quinns isn’t the only one vulnerable to this maneuver.
This is the Bastard Zah’hak’s Stronghold. It, like Quinns’, is one turn away from my border. Unlike Quinns’ Stronghold, though, Zah’hak’s is apparently made of spit and papier mache. It has a mighty combat rating of 1-1-1, and a whole five points of health. A stiff breeze could blow it over; even if Zah’hak supported it with every single one of his legions it still wouldn’t withstand an assault from a moderately upgraded unit. KG’s just handed me what I was wishing for just a few turns ago: a way to exact revenge on Zah’hak in a particularly brutal manner.
Having had this epiphany, the plan starts to become more and more attractive. If I can’t win no matter what I do that means that what I do doesn’t really matter; it’ll lead to the same end result as if I just sat on my hands meekly waiting for the end or continued the war conventionally in an attempt to kingmake Speedo. If I’m going to lose anyway then this at least ensures that I do not go quietly into the night; the plan has a definite element of death or glory to it which appeals to me.
Plus, Zah’hak’s head on a pike.
So I mail KG, and tell him I’m in. I’m almost certain he’s running his own agenda here but I don’t really care; the one thing I can count on is that he hates Quinns just as much as I hate Sponge, and so he’s probably not going to use the situation to further his own ends while there’s a chance that Quinns might yet be killed. The plan has a moderate chance of killing Quinns, and an excellent chance of killing Zah’hak.
No. NO. The Infernal Monsoons end, and the Angelic Host suddenly rouses itself from its lethargy and takes out the Slaves. The Slaves, with their Ranged value of 8, who could have been boosted to a ridiculous 23 with the praetor Eligos (+5 Ranged) and the Throne of Skulls (triples praetor bonuses). Since I thought the Angels were working their way down the prestige rankings I figured they’d be paying a visit to Speedo before getting round to me, so I foolishly left the Slaves in a nearby hex. It seems instead – at least, from what I subsequently observe them do – that they’re attacking archfiends in order of military power. So Quinns, with his five legions (counting Sponge), got hit first. I had four legions, so I was second. The Angels go on to strike Zah’hak, with three legions. This is incredibly bad luck, and doubly so because the Throne of Skulls/Praetor bonus, while insanely high, needs two attachment slots to work. The Slaves were one of only two legions I have with more than one attachment slot. The other is these guys, lurking next to my stronghold.
As you can see, they are total rubbish. Not only are their stats significantly lower but I’ll have to march them all the way up to Quinns’ border. That’s not necessarily a drawback, though; while there’s certainly only a few turns left in the game at this point, I want to time my strike so that I’m Regent when I attack. This will be the only point in the turn cycle that I actually get to go ahead of Quinns; being one space to his left (and two spaces to Sponge’s left) has been a crippling handicap all game. If I don’t attack then, Quinns will get one order with which to stop me – and this is where the Slaves being destroyed really hurts me. There’s no possible way he can contest an attacking legion with 23 Ranged. But 17? 17 is just about doable, if he’s smart; all he has to do is survive the first Ranged round and he’ll be able to murder me in the Melee and Infernal rounds, and if it were me I could come up with at least two different ways of achieving this. He needs that order, though. If he doesn’t get it, he’s as good as dead.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. The Burning Legion starts their march up to the northern border while I surreptitiously position another legion close to the eastern border with Zah’hak.
They’re the Hounds of Hell; their stats are workmanlike (0 Ranged is a bit of a handicap) but their big strength is their movement allowance of three hexes. Most other legions in the game can only move two hexes. I can station the Hounds a little bit further back from the border in a position that would make them harmless if they were another legion, and Zah’hak hopefully won’t twig that they’re actually threatening his Stronghold. The Stronghold itself is pathetic, but it’s usually supported by at least one and sometimes two of his legions. The Hounds need a little bit of boosting if they’re to successfully take it. The question is, how can I boost their strength when my best artifacts are going to be stuck to the Burning Legion?
The answer is something that I have neglected all game, and that I’m only just realising the potential of: Combat Cards. I scoffed at them at the beginning of the game; they’re one use only and the bonuses they give are dependent on my archfiend’s Martial stat, which at the time was pitiful. However, they have one huge advantage over other artifacts: they cannot be stolen. There are praetors that block them and rituals which destroy them, but unlike Deceit those can’t be used until you’re in a vendetta with the person toting them – at which point, it’s too late by far. The Hounds are augmented with the best card my money can buy.
It confirms my view of the praetor combat as an incredibly arcane version of rock-paper-scissors, but still. There’s not one of us who hasn’t been mugged multiple times by that fucking tyrannical brute minotaur, and to see him finally bite off more than he can chew and crash out in combat with a praetor roughly a quarter as powerful carries with it a powerful sense of schadenfreude.
The Burning Legion reaches the border with Quinns just in time. It’s turn 66, and Quinns is Regent. I need to hit Pandemonium now in order for the attack to take place next turn.
The day of reckoning is at hand.