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.