Sunday, November 20, 2011

Late Heavy Bombardment: Hindsight

This game was awesome. I won it, but I can't claim that I had some masterful plan and executed it. I had a plan, and I got unlucky, and I got lucky. I was very close to losing the game at least twice. If I was aware of my peril twice, maybe I was unaware of existential peril at other points. As usual, the real winning strategy was to pursue a plan aggressively and adapt rapidly when the circumstances didn't cooperate.

I was sometimes surprised by specific tactical and strategic choices from my rivals. I looked back and saw some mistakes in my own play. I let myself run out of resources at some unfortunate moments, and I wasted an order slot in the tight endgame moving a legion that didn't stay Juggernauted long enough to kill the target it was moving towards. The biggest lessons I took away from it included that I eked out a narrow victory as an excomm, and if my rivals had coordinated better, I could have been thwarted. That likely would have required the majority of them identifying me as such a serious threat that they prioritized neutralizing me over securing their own prestige victory.

Great game from everyone, thank you all for playing.

Late Heavy Bombardment: Endgame

My excommunication starts with a bang. Someone Loots 8 cards from my Vaults. Primate of Carceri launches a demand at Pele, while Pele demands on Gaffer and me simultaneously. Even though I'm excommunicated, my turn log gives me the option to concede to Pele's demand. I start up Strategic Deception to hide my legions and target Primate's 2 legions with a PCB ritual each.

I've used Dimensional Gate to position my (Infernal Juggernauted) Gorgons within range of both Pele's and Purcarp's strongholds. They both go before me, and I want to maximize my chances of killing someone this turn and reducing the field of opponents. Purcarp has a legion he could interpose, so I march instead towards Pele's stronghold in phase 1. I launch a Planar Lock at Purcarp as a consolation prize. I don't think it was a bad plan in itself, but someone opened a new fissure in Hell to kill my Gorgons and Purcarp's legion on phase 1. This really amuses me, because they're still acting against each other. They don't realize that they'll have to work together to stop me.

I get a deluge of Corruption of Essence coming my way. They interrupt one of my PCB's and my ongoing Strategic Deception. I never get a good chance to restart it. I think CE probably is the most convenient and efficient way to hurt a rival, but it's got the restriction common to all destruction rituals: it can only be used in vendetta, against an excomm, or with ritual masking. I still manage to PCB one of Primate's legions, so I do the Infernal Juggernaut and Dimensional Gate combination again, targeting a canton that did not recently open up in a fissure, which is also within range of Pele's and Purcarp's strongholds. By placing my legions in positions that threaten multiple rivals existence, I make it that much harder to guess my immediate intentions. I target two more legions with PCB.

I get Looted and the CE's continue, this time interrupting my Gate, but not my Juggernaut. The successful Juggernaut contributes to my newly stolen Stygian Guard surviving three Afflictions thrown its way. My PCB's both succeed. I Juggernaut another new legion and march the Stygian Guard towards Dorobou's stronghold, lacking the resources to Gate them. They'll get there soon enough on foot.

The ritual hate keeps coming, but it hardly matters now. I get hit with a "successful" CE that does nothing, because I have no resources left to destroy. The constant barrage does dissuade me from trying to restart Strategic Deception, so that's something. Dorobou and Primate of Carceri get into a vendetta, and I believe its sole purpose is to allow Primate passage through Dorobou's territory to get at me. The joke's on them, as I'll kill Dorobou this turn anyway, and all of his territory will go neutral. I continue demanding resources regularly and using my income as much as possible each turn, since CE makes it silly to try saving up. I continue Juggernauting my legions as I steal them.

The conclave tokes are piling up. We're at 13/15 and I haven't captured Pandemonium or killed anyone yet. I have to get down to business. On turn 45, I've killed Dorobou. I have 4 Juggernauted legions and 4 enemies. Sowing Confusion is attempted on me, but fails. The Looting continues while I'm granted a brief reprieve from CE, but since I'm still anticipating it, I didn't even try any rituals. I start up a Planar Lock on Pele now. Maybe they've all spent their stockpiles and can't afford to CE me so much any more. I continue marching and Gating around to try to kill them. I go a turn without demanding resources, as I have several powerful legions and I can keep using my orders to move them without having to pay anything.

On turn 46, two of the worst possible events (for me) happen. Back Room Dealing brings us up to 14/15 tokens, threatening to end the game abruptly in a prestige victory for someone else. Simultaneously, the Infernal Monsoons begin, significantly frustrating my plans to march around capturing strongholds. By sheer dumb luck, I have a Juggernauted legion adjacent to Pandemonium. It just captured Purcarp's stronghold and happened to pop out in the one canton that allows it to march on Pandemonium immediately, even with the monsoons. I have to do it, or I run the risk of the 15th token ending the game. I can't even do it on phase 1, as I need to create a combat card for my legion first. Fortunately, I can also kill another rival this turn, to reduce the head count further. The monsoons incidentally benefit me, because no legion is close enough to my stronghold to threaten it at a movement rate of one canton per turn. And my Dimensional Gate is now even more valuable.

I get Pandemonium and use my Juggernauts to kill more rivals, but IJ has a downside. Eventually, all of my legions are exhausted and I still haven't killed Gaffer. I throw as much Infernal Affliction at his legion as I can and Planar Lock him, as I only have to hold Pandemonium to win. If I can neutralize him as a threat, that's as good as killing him. After I kill his legion, I switch to spamming Looting the Vaults and Dark Augury on him. My first DA reveals his stats, and having seen them, I do not believe he can stop me. He concedes the game to me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Late Heavy Bombardment: Turns 31 - 40

On turn 31, I increase my Cunning to 5, so that I'll have 2 turns to try to steal the Cube from Pele while I can still see it. There has been some curiosity expressed about what I would have done if the Cube had never come up on the market or if I had failed to acquire it. I would have tried to take Pandemonium, maybe kill a rival or two, but mostly just try to hold Pandemonium for 5 turns. Acquiring and using the cube cost significant quantities of resources and orders, which I would have used elsewhere. Still, taking the Cube from Pele was absolutely a good call since it was an option.

I also launch one last demand on Dorobou. It's a total bluff. I wouldn't even have declared vendetta if he had refused. Fortunately, I had been hammering away on him steadily, and I played the event Evil Tax the same turn that I demanded. This is generally a good combination, forcing your opponent to give up resources, while simultaneously giving him the option to give up more. It puts him in an unenviable spot, and it seems very much like I'm trying to force a vendetta. He conceded. Double reverse unpsychology for the win.

Turn 32, I aim a Pilfer, Coerce, and Bribe ritual at the Cube and demand a lot of resources. This same turn, I receive a cryptic, defeatist message from Pele. He says he'll be more careful next time. I didn't think just surviving to this point was all that impressive, and I hadn't actually taken the Cube yet. What else did Pele know I was up to? I got the Cube on the first try, too.

I continue Looting and demanding resources like crazy while I accumulate order slots. I have 6 orders available on turn 36. I use the Machine of Omens on turn 35 and Machine of Despair on turn 37. Dropping everyone else by 2 points in each of 2 stats at this juncture is pretty brutal. It's likely that I cost many of my rivals an order slot or 2 each.

Pele sends another demand my way on turn 34. It's the third consecutive demand, so even if I concede he can declare vendetta soon. I concede anyway. No real sense in letting him fight me any sooner than absolutely necessary. Besides, this way he'll have to commit one more order slot and he'll only get a handful of 1-tribute cards out of me for my concession.

Towards the end of this turn block, the action is intense and the shape of the endgame is becoming sharper every turn. Someone played the event that doubles Destruction damage, as if we really needed that. All of my legions are dead from Pele's vendetta. I'm not the only one in this position, as I've used ritual masking to Infernal Affliction everything I can to death. I have Martial Skill 6, Cunning 6, Intellect 5, Wickedness 5, Charisma 6 (with Faust's Contract.)

I'm not certain exactly when Pele tried to rally the troops against me, but it didn't work. For one thing, most of them were already busy and/or had their legions killed. For another, I had spent much of the game appearing weak, which doesn't really mean as much as it might look like.
Clearly, I had grown quite strong in secret. Finally, I claimed that Pele was trying to involve everyone in our personal rivalry, and I think they bought it. They should have banded against me long ago, but now would have still been better than later, when they actually tried.

Turn 39, I start to consider the fine details of the endgame. I've just drawn the Writ of Rescindment, which is a hilarious plan B to my intended excommunication. It's tempting to make my move now, as there are no legions close enough to threaten me. I eventually decide to hold off for another turn or two before I excommunicate myself. I need to acquire at least one legion to use, and I still have to assign the Puzzle Cube to my Ritual Chamber. I also move Faust's Contract to my stronghold, just to free up the ritual slot it had occupied. It's more vulnerable there, but I've just used the Machine of Despair, and even if I do lose it, I can make do. I purchase the Gorgons, as they are strong and their upkeep does not bother me in the least.

On turn 40, I set my order to Afflict Pandemonium. I'll officially be a rogue. It's nice to see Gaffer is still demanding on Purcarp. They clearly don't realize they have bigger problems coming. I also start up Strategic Deception, which seems overpowered, though I'm eager to test it against human opposition for the first time. I demand resources with a couple slots and cast Infernal Juggernaut on my Gorgons. My notes indicate that I used Dimensional Gate to move them into range of both Pele's and Purcarp's strongholds. I'm not sure how I did this, as I wasn't currently excommunicated. Perhaps there was a well-placed neutral canton available? I take the risk of leaving my stronghold unsupported as I don't see any threats to it. Then all hell broke loose.

Late Heavy Bombardment: Turns 21 - 30

Sorry about the ridiculous delay in posting. My real life has been rather chaotic lately. I'm going to finish posting this AAR over the next couple of days, but no promises on starting anything else.

To recap turn 20, Pele and I had launched coordinated demands on Dorobou by coincidence. Dorobou was understandably wary of denying them both, so he only denied mine. Works for me. That means I'll get to capture his Temple of the Damned. To do so, I end up having to equip the Infernal Engine, revealing to all that I stole it from Primate of Carceri. I don't think I'm really in the prestige game any more, but if I can give the appearance that I am by competing for PoP's, hopefully I can take those conclave loyalists by surprise.

I've also noticed that Pele launched a demand on Purcarp before Dorobou's concession reached him. Pele is risking having two denied demands at once. Is he really that confident in his ability to warp around the map, or is he also sitting on an advanced single combat praetor? Or was he just lucky that Dorobou conceded? Pele is definitely presenting a lot of self-confidence, and that puts me on the defensive. I concede to Pele's 4 card demand on turn 22, not knowing what he could be planning.

On turn 22, I've already got Diabolism 6 from Charisma 5 and Faust's Contract. That's a great position to build from, but it doesn't mean anything if I get killed. I'm seriously worried that Dorobou will use his mountainwalking, combat-card-carrying legion to kill my only remaining legion before it can take his Temple. That would have left me only my stronghold, and then anyone would have been free to declare Blood Feud and take me out. This screenshot is from turn 23, after Dorobou declines to do so. I guess his card wasn't that strong after all. My Lords of the Pit get hit with a successful Combat Deception ritual, reducing their melee stat by 6, but they're able to take the Temple without sustaining damage, thanks to the old Infernal Engine. I still don't have a lot of room here for comfort.

I bid on the Hell Blades legion around now, trying to muster some kind of defensive force. I win the auction thinking that they'll pop out in a canton adjacent to my territory (there's even a neutral one just north of the Temple) but I'm surprised to find out that it doesn't work that way. I simply don't get them. My bodyguard legion also fails to reform, for lack of an empty space next to my stronghold. Next turn, Dorobou moves his legion away, and my bodyguard appears there.

The diplomacy is fast and furious. There are too many demands (but very few insults) to list those that don't involve me personally. Praetor single combat gets serious. The bazaar is also very active. Now that I've stabilized with 1 PoP, 2 legions, and no cantons to spare, the others allow me a moment to breathe. Big mistake. I start using Demand of Supplication and on the off turns, I Loot Dorobou and Pele (my highest threats.) I hide the Infernal Engine back in my vaults to allow the Lords of the Pit to fly again. I claim another canton from Dorobou with Evil Revanchism Target, though I'm disappointed not to take more.

On turn 25, Pele has Eligos and the Hellfire Ballista on his main legion, with the Puzzle Cube in a ritual slot. The legion's ranged stat is 17, with all ranged damage doubled. It wouldn't have taken much more than that to capture Pandemonium, and I was honestly surprised it didn't happen. I thought I would be too little, too late to stop Pele. I mention this fact in the public chat log, but there is no consensus to stop him now, before he begins. My general policy of misdirection and smack talk still payed off in the end, I think. Pele would later try similarly to rouse public opinion against me, but I portrayed it as a personal squabble and no one else joined in.

Turn 28 is a real tipping point in the game. I just increased my Charisma to 6, giving me Diabolism 7 total. That allows me to keep 5 cards per demand, which I doubt any one else can touch. I've got an incredible flow of resources, allowing gradual but sustained increases to all of my stats. Independently, I began launching Dark Augury at Pele the previous turn, to see the Cube in his Ritual Chamber. It worked on the first try. I buy more time on turn 29 by conceding to another demand from Pele, but I'm lining myself up to explode soon. I actually don't quite have Cunning 5 yet, so I can't steal the Cube. Getting it is currently my highest priority.

This block of turns concludes with me rearranging my threat list. I had Dorobou on top with Pele second. Now I put Pele on top with Purcarp second and shuffle Dorobou to the bottom. I've punished Dorobou a bit these last 20 turns, and since he's the prestige leader, I expect him to feel disproportionately much hate from the general public. He hasn't messed with me since I took the Temple, so I don't need to mess with him. I want to put a little hurting on Purcarp now, mainly because he's so close to my stronghold and Pandemonium. I'm totally committed to an Usurper run now, and I'm starting to plan for it. If Purcarp's going to be in the thick of the action, I want to soften him up beforehand.