Hell Or High Water: A Solium Infernum Diary (part 6)

If you are unfamiliar with Solium Infernum, you may wish to read my earlier post about the game. And you should definitely read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 first. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Last time, my archfiend pair Rufus and Big Beak completely bungled their first attempt at a praetor duel, which is especially unfortunate since praetor duels were to be their primary strategy. They then spent eleven turns trying to boost their infernal attributes and managed to get up to four order slots, and enough Deceit ability to steal another archfiend’s praetor. They put in an order to steal Beowulf’s praetor Decarabia, and hope to use him and some Destruction rituals to claw back some Prestige. If it’s not already too late.

Here is what happened.

Turn 31:

The first entry in my turn log informs me that Beowulf has demanded Inquis, capitalizing on having crushed Inquis’ invasion a couple of turns ago. But the second entry is much more noteworthy: I have successfully stolen the praetor Decarabia from Beowulf. Yes! Maybe I can arrange a duel for him and finally net some Prestige. Also, my Event card has gone through, requiring players discard a tribute card for each legion they control, and apparently this includes their personal legions, because I’m asked to discard a card. I use a 1 hellfire card.

Someone purchases the praetor Bifrons, replaced in the Bazaar by Abraxas, who wouldn’t be a bad backup duelist. There’s also another Conclave token drawn this turn, bringing us to 9 out of 15. I need to start getting some Prestige fast.

Looking at the map, I see that Baleyolfynn’s personal legion has reformed after its treacherous defeat (pictured at the top of this post). It’s weaker than before, but still has an impressive 9 Melee strength. I also see that Nameless ex-autocrat’s Fulminata have the Vasdranai Carpet attached. This means they can fly, but I’m not sure where they’re planning to go. Surely he can’t be considering an assault on Pandemonium?

In my tribute I get volume 2 of the Maneuver Training manuscript. I already have part 1, which means that I could use the manuscript to grant a legion an extra movement point. Of course, the only legion I have is my completely useless personal guard, but maybe I should buy another one? The powerful Gorgons are available in the Bazaar. But I’d need a lot more darkness to afford them. Instead, I decide to bid on the Oath of Retribution vol. 2 manuscript in the Bazaar. If I can get all of the pieces of that, it would be a useful combat move for Decarabia, and this piece is cheap. It will also get replaced by another manuscript next turn which will hopefully be useful. With my other order slots I make two calls for tribute and boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Wickedness (which powers Destruction rituals) to 3.

But then I get an email from Inquis. He wants to make one last strike against his enemies by playing an Event card that will destroy all legions that fail a loyalty check. That means personal legions are safe, but legions purchased from the Bazaar will likely be purged. But he needs 4 ichor in order to play it, and asks if I can help out. Getting rid of my opponents’ legions would certainly help me as well, so I decide to cancel raising Rufus and Big Beak’s Wickedness and send an emissary to Inquis with the ichor instead.

Turn 32:

My emissary will be presented to Inquis this turn. He’s also demanded Xaklyth, and refused Beowulf’s demand. He doesn’t seem equipped to fight off Beowulf right now, but maybe he’s relying on his Event to destroy Beowulf’s legions. It looks like everyone paid their legion tax last turn from my own Event card, so losing their legions will sting all the more.

Xaklyth has purchased the Gorgons. Wait, what!? He’s just been sitting there, ignoring the neutral Places of Power nearby, unable to stop Baleyolfynn from marching right through his territory even though he performed the Rite of Blood to boost his Destruction power. What does he want the Gorgons for? Who is he going to attack? Is he planning to excommunicate himself and strike directly at us all? To me, he looks poorly positioned for that, and would easily be stopped by ritual before he could pull it off.

Looking at the map, Nameless ex-autocrat has flown his Fulminata next to Pandemonium. I’m guessing this is just a stepping stone as he heads for the unclaimed Place of Power across the river. That would put him close to Xaklyth’s newly hired Gorgons, but Baleyolfynn’s territory will be between them, so the Fulminata should be safe.

Two praetors, Astarte and Abraxas, were purchased this turn, replaced by Bune and Zepar. They’re both decent fighters, and Zepar also grants a small chance for his owner to gain a Curse of Deceit manuscript any time anyone casts a Deceit Ritual. I could consider purchasing one of them. I’ve won the Oath of Retribution vol. 2 manuscript, but it was replaced by Ranged Training Vol. 2, which helps legions rather than praetors. I also only get 2 darkness with my tribute, which means I can’t afford to raise Rufus and Big Beak’s Cunning to 4. With their Tongue of the Liar relic, this would have put their Deceit power at 5 and let them cast masked rituals at everyone. And I can’t afford to boost their Charisma either, which would help me get manuscripts with which to train praetors for duels. So I’m kind of stymied right now. I decide to try to bid on some more cheap manuscripts in the hope that they’re replaced with better ones. I bid on the Machine of Vengeance Vol. 1 and Infernal Training Vol. 1, and make two tribute calls.

Turn 33:

Sure enough, Nameless ex-autocrat has conquered the Altar of Abomination by flying his Fulminata there. But now the Vasdranai Carpet, which granted them the power of flight, is missing. Either he transferred it back to his vault after the attack, or someone stole it with a Deceit ritual. Xaklyth hasn’t moved his new Gorgons; maybe he just wants them for defense?

Baleyolfynn demands Nameless ex-autocrat, and Xaklyth concedes to Inquis’ demand. Inquis accepts my gifts, so he’ll hopefully play his Event this turn and help thin out the opposition. In response to Inquis’ refusal of Beowulf’s demand last turn, Beowulf has claimed a single combat vendetta. He’d presumably stolen Inquis’ praetor Furfur during their last vendetta, and maybe he’s also the one who’s been purchasing praetors in the last few turns (speaking of which, the praetor Zepar was purchased this turn, replaced by Thammuz). Since I hope to start some single combat vendettas myself, it will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

I’ve won both of the manuscripts I bid on, and they’ve been replaced by the Rite of Infernal Awe Vol. 3, and Veil of Smoke. Veil of Smoke is a single volume manuscript that teaches a defensive combat move that acts like a shield, so a praetor can focus on attacks in subsequent phases of a duel without having to commit to blocks. It could be really useful for Decarabia.

Another Conclave token was drawn, bringing us to 10 out of 15. These are coming faster than expected, and I’m running out of time. Should I make a demand now? Perhaps of Baleyolfynn, who recently lost his praetor Temeluchas and may not have a decent replacement? Alternatively I could wait to see what happens between Beowulf and Inquis. But I decide I need to take action now, or there’s no way I’ll make up any of the Prestige I need before all the tokens are drawn. I demand Baleyolfynn, bid on Veil of Smoke, and make two tribute calls. The timing should work out such that I can get Veil of Smoke and train Decarabia with the move before the duel will actually take place. Assuming Baleyolfynn refuses the demand, of course.

Turn 34:

My demand has been presented to Baleyolfynn. He will decide this turn whether to concede to my demand or refuse, which would give me grounds to claim a single combat vendetta. Also, Inquis played his Event card, sending the Infernal Inquisitors through Hell to purge disloyal legions. Looking at the map, I see that they took out Xaklyth’s Gorgons! He’s going to be upset about that. They also destroyed Nameless ex-autocrat’s Fulminata, but not before they marched south to claim a little more territory. It also looks like Baleyolfynn’s legions were cleared out. In fact the only legions to survive are Beowulf’s; his Scourge of God and The Fallen are still right where they were before. Was he just lucky? Or does he have some kind of boost to the loyalty of his legions?

Inquis has capitalized on the cleansing by purchasing the legion known as The Frozen Lords for himself. They’ve been replaced in the Bazaar by the Tormentors, who have the impressive ability to fly 4 cantons. For contrast, most legions with the flying ability can only muster 3 cantons, and a few can only manage 2. I’ve won Veil of Smoke, which is replaced by Lava Orb Vol. 2, one half of another useful combat move. This one acts like two Infernal Bursts at once, doing unblockable damage to the enemy. Decarabia doesn’t have enough Infernal Orbs to use it, but if he wins some duels he can be upgraded.

Unfortunately, another Conclave token has been drawn, bringing us to 11 out of 15. This is much faster than other games I’ve played, which went between 50 and 60 turns, sometimes longer. We’re not even to turn 35 and there are only four tokens left to be drawn. I’m starting to think that praetor duels are a waste of time at this point. I need to take more drastic measures. That means an excommunication play. If I direct a Destruction ritual at Pandemonium, the Conclave will excommunicate Rufus and Big Beak for daring to defy them. They would no longer be subject to the rules of the Conclave, able to wage open war on any opponent, and conquer their strongholds to eliminate them from the game. But with their pathetic military strength, it’s far more likely that an enemy would steamroll through and crush their stronghold instead.

There is another, more devious option. With a Deceit power of 5, Rufus and Big Beak would be able to mask their rituals from others, and could even attempt to frame another archfiend as the caster. It’s risky, but if they hurled an Infernal Affliction ritual at Pandemonium and successfully framed another archfiend for it, that archfiend would be excommunicated instead, and could be eliminated from the game. Or maybe even left alone, since excommunicated archfiends cannot win by Prestige, only by destroying the opposition completely or by conquering and holding Pandemonium. To try this, however, I need to raise Rufus and Big Beak’s Deceit power to 5, which requires a lot of darkness. My tribute contained very little, although I did get a piece of the Machine of Agony.

I could start boosting Rufus and Big Beak’s nonexistent Martial skill and start acquiring some legions in the meantime. That might be a good idea. I could bid on the Tormentors, and once I have them, train them with my Maneuver Training manuscripts to give them an extra movement point. Their flying ability would help when trying to head for an enemy’s stronghold, in the event I can successfully frame them and get them excommunicated. I could also train Decarabia with my new Veil of Smoke move, but I decide to wait. I’ll be Regent next turn, and there’s a chance I’ll get an Event card that can bring Morax back from the Abyss, in which case I should train him instead. And if not, I still have time to train Decarabia before he’ll have to fight, assuming Baleyolfynn refuses my demand. So isntead I bid on the Tormentors, boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Martial skill to 1, and make two tribute calls.

Turn 35:

I load the turn and am greeted with the news that I’ve been hit with two Looting the Vaults rituals, each of them stealing 5 tribute cards from me. Son of a… that’s a huge blow, and I’m not even able to determine who it was. I look through my vaults to see what’s missing, and note with dismay that the Maneuver Training Vol. 2 manuscript was stolen. There goes my plan to create an ultra mobile strike force out of the Tormentors. It looks like I also lost a small amount of souls, some ichor, and a bunch of hellfire.

To make matters worse, Nameless ex-autocrat outbid me for the Tormentors. What a jerk! They’ve been replaced by the Crimson Reapers, who are not nearly as good. Although maybe someone really did steal the Vasdranai Carpet from Nameless ex-autocrat, which is why he’s so keen on getting another flying legion?

That ruins my short term plan to bolster my military. Baleyolfynn has conceded to my demand as well, so I don’t even get to have a praetor duel. Inquis and Beowulf did, however: Inquis’ Abraxas has defeated Beowulf’s Zepar. Inquis seems to be much better at these duels than Rufus and Big Beak are. He’s also hired the Grinning Legion, who are replaced by the Legion of the Damned, an entirely unremarkable legion. Oh, and another token has been drawn, so we’re at 12 out of 15. Man, this is going fast.

I’m regent, and Rufus and Big Beak’s high Intellect means they get to draw two Event cards and pick one. They’ve drawn Aether Flux, which forces all other archfiends to discard the Event cards they’re holding, and Capricious Wrath, which will destroy a random legion (not a personal guard) of a random opponent. There’s also a targeted version of Capricious Wrath, which Beowulf used earlier to take out one of Inquis’ legions during their vendetta. Even without targeting, Capricious Wrath is a very useful Event, so I take it.

It’s time to use the Demonic Premonitions ritual, powered by Rufus and Big Beak’s Intellect, to bolster their defense against Deceit rituals like Looting the Vaults. Demonic Premonitions is a durational ritual, so I can keep it going as long as I can pay the required resources each turn. So that goes in my first order slot. Then I’ll demand Beowulf; since he just lost Zepar I may have a decent shot if I can get into a duel with him. I also decide to play my Capricious Wrath Event and put in one tribute call. I’ve accumulated 13 Darkness out of the 15 I need to boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Cunning and enable masked rituals, so hopefully I can get that started soon.

Actually, should I try using some Deceit rituals on Nameless ex-autocrat’s new Tormentors? I could try Secret Manipulation, to move them myself. But it turns out I can’t use this ritual to make them fly, which kind of defeats the purpose. Oh well, I’ll just stick to my original plan.

Turn 36:

My Demonic Premonitions ritual is now active. But it doesn’t stop me from getting hit by two more Looting the Vaults rituals, taking 2 cards each. Looks like I lost one of my pieces of the Rite of Aether Rupture, and maybe another manuscript. Also a card worth 4 ichor, and another worth 2 or 3 darkness. Man, whoever this is must have some high Deceit power. Fortunately I still have my Veil of Smoke manuscript; I’d better use it this turn.

There is some good news: my Capricious Wrath Event has destroyed Nameless ex-autocrat’s Tormentors. Perfect! Outbid me for them, and that’s what you get. I also see that Inquis has sent an emissary to Baleyolfynn. I’m not sure what that’s about. And someone else’s Event card is blocking me from casting any rituals for four turns. I’m glad I cast Demonic Premonitions before this went into effect, since I can still pay to maintain it. The Event only blocks new rituals.

Inquis keeps buying legions, this time the Legion of the Damned. And someone has purchased the praetor Baraqiel, who has been replaced by Caim. Caim is notable for having a high Infernal strength, which is good for special moves. Perhaps I should buy him and train him with Veil of Smoke, instead of Decarabia? I didn’t get the darkness I needed to power up ritual masking, so I decide to bid on Caim as well as the manuscript Lava Orb Vol. 2, and put in two tribute calls. I really hope my Veil of Smoke manuscript doesn’t get stolen next turn.

Turn 37:

My Demonic Premonitions ritual has been maintained, but it only helps Rufus and Big Beak resist one of two Looting the Vaults rituals. The other one steals two cards, apparently worth 2 souls and 1 darkness. Losing the darkness is annoying, but at least I didn’t lose the Veil of Smoke manuscript. I won the bid for Caim, so I can train him with the special move this turn. Even better, Beowulf has refused my demand, so I can claim a single combat vendetta and send Caim into the ring. I do so, wagering all of Rufus and Big Beak’s 11 Prestige. If they win the fight, they’ll get double their wager, but their Arena Gambler perk will double that, so they’ll end up with 44 Prestige. And with a victory under his belt, Caim will be eligible to challenge the Champions of Pandemonium. These are tough duels, but there are four of them, and the winnings from each will be doubled as well. So there’s a chance I can net enough Prestige to get back into the game.

Of course, that may not pan out, which is why I’m still trying to boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Cunning so they can start using ritual masking to cast Destructive magic at their enemies, or frame them for excommunication. I get some darkness in my tribute this turn, bringing me up to 14, but I need 15 for the boost. But I’m a little concerned by other events this turn. Specifically, Xaklyth has purchased the legion known as the Creeping Doom. He hasn’t taken any military actions all game, and has been suspiciously quiet recently. I’m worrying he may be purchasing legions in preparation for his own excommunication play. If so, I’ll need to be able to defend my stronghold. The Creeping Doom were replaced by the Legion of the Maw, a decently powerful legion, but I’d have to spend 5 darkness (along with some souls) to bid on them. I decide this is worth it. If someone outbids me for them, I’ll get the darkness back and can use it to get ritual masking. Besides, I’m still prevented from casting any rituals due to that Event card someone played last turn, so even if I got ritual masking, I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.

In other news, Baleyolfynn has demanded Nameless ex-autocrat, and has refused Inquis’ emissary. I’m not sure what’s going on there. Inquis has been antagonistic towards Baleyolfynn all game, so his emissary never made much sense, but Baleyolfynn simply sent it back, rather than taking the gifts or humiliating the emissary for some extra Prestige. There must be something going on behind the scenes between those two. As I look over the map I notice that Baleyolfynn’s stronghold is cursed, lowering its combat statistics, and possibly causing it to drain Prestige. Curses were added in the free Rectification expansion for Solium Infernum, and I’ve never used them myself, but I guess my opponents are taking advantage of them. I wasn’t paying enough attention to determine exactly when this curse went into effect; it may have been there for several turns already.

I’ve won my bid for the manuscript Lava Orb Vol. 2, so if I can get the other piece of that I can train Caim with that move too. For now, I train him with Veil of Smoke, put in a bid for the Legion of the Maw and the manuscript Infernal Training Vol. 2 (to block anyone else from buying it, and to clear it out so it will be replaced by something else), and put in a tribute call.

Turn 38:

The Looting the Vaults rituals have finally stopped. But I decide to keep my Demonic Premonitions on for now, just in case. Caim is now trained up, but Xaklyth has constructed the Machine of Agony. This means all archfiends lose 2 points in their Wickedness attribute, which governs Destruction rituals. Rufus and Big Beak are resonably lucky because they only had a Wickedness of 2 anyway. Getting those points back is relatively cheap, compared to the higher levels. Still, it’s annoying, and it means Xaklyth has been collecting manuscripts in his tribute so he’s probably got tons of resources stockpiled. But I’m hoping that his Machine hurt the other archfiends more than it did me.

Someone has played an Event card that initiated the Infernal Monsoons. They will last for 3 turns, reduce all legions’ movement to a single canton per turn, and prevent flying. This is likely a good thing, since I’m worried that others might excommunicate themselves and turn their military might towards conquering their opponents’ strongholds. For example, Xaklyth, who has just outbid me for the Legion of the Maw. He’s now assembled a small army, and he’s had ample time to boost his attributes for powerful rituals as well. But he’s not the only one buying legions; Beowulf has just purchased the Crimson Reapers. The Darkwing Legion is now in the Bazaar, and will likely be in high demand due to their flying ability. For now, however, the monsoons may make archfiends wait before starting any wars. Hopefully it will buy me enough time to get ready.

My vendetta has been acknowledged, so I could commit Caim now, but I decide to wait and see what Beowulf does. We both have until next turn to commit a praetor. Nameless ex-autocrat has refused Baleyolfynn’s demand, so maybe they’ll get into a fight soon too. There are more purchases as well: someone bought the Hellfire Ballista, an artifact that gives a significant boost to the Ranged attack statistic of a legion, and soneone bought Naphula, the praetor that came in to replace Caim last turn. She’s not a terrible duelist, and is also useful as a legion commander because she can block enemy combat cards (single-use, secret combat bonuses that can be attached to legions or Places of Power).

A Conclave token has been drawn, putting us at 13 out of 15. I need to start taking some drastic action. Beowulf has legions within marching range of Pandemonium, so it would be easy enough to use Deceit to get them to march on the city and get Beowulf excoummicated. If I wasn’t still prevented from casting any rituals, that is. I also didn’t get any more darkness, so I still don’t have ritual masking. So I’m not sure what to do. I could try buying another legion, or consolidate some of my darkness so when I get more I’ll be ready to boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Cunning. I decide to make two tribute calls, consolidate some darkness, and boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Wickedness to 1 so they at least have some basic Destruction ability after getting hit by Xaklyth’s Machine.

Turn 39:

My Demonic Premonitions is still on, but there are no more Looting the Vaults thrown at me, so maybe I can let it lapse. Another Event has gone through, this one banning all rituals above level 3 for 5 turns, but excommunicated archfiends are exempted. This is on top of the previous ritual ban (which may have only targeted me?), but I think that expires after this turn. The most notable news is that Xaklyth has purchased the Darkwing Legion, which I’m guessing involved outbidding some other archfiends. His army is even larger now. I’m also informed that Baleyolfynn has claimed vendetta on Nameless ex-autocrat, and that someone has purchased the Fountain of Ichor, an evil relic that doubles the Prestige generated by a Place of Power, and gives a small chance to produce a curse every time any archfiend makes a tribute call.

Looking at the map, I see that Baleyolfynn has put the praetor Baraqiel on his personal legion, and has them poised to take Nameless ex-autocrat’s Testament of Tyrants. I don’t see how Nameless ex-autocrat can defend against the assault. I also notice that Beowulf’s Crimson Readpers have the Hellfire Ballista attached. What is he planning?

I commit Caim to his duel with Beowulf’s champion. I have him open with Veil of Smoke, which will help block incoming damage while he attacks. His attack score is low, so mostly I’ll be relying on two Infernal Bursts to take out the opponent. I put them (plus a weak physical attack) in the middle few phases, opting for defense early on and at the end.

I’ve finally gathered enough darkness to boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Cunning so they can use masked rituals and frame other archfiends. I’m wondering if I can frame the three Prestige leaders — Beowulf, Baleyolfynn and Nameless ex-autocrat — for excommunication. That would take them out of the Prestige game, and as long as I could defend my Stronghold, they might take each other out for me. Then I could challenge the champions of Pandemonium for a bunch of Prestige right at the end to try and put Rufus and Big Beak over the top.

Yeah, that plan sounds like it has a very low chance of success. But things are desperate, so here goes. I make two tribute calls, boost Rufus and Big Beak’s Wickedness again, and boost their Cunning. Next turn, some archfiends are going to get excommunicated.

Turn 40:

I’m greeted with this in my turn log:

Xaklyth apparently had the same idea I did. He just tried, and failed, to frame other archfiends for excommunication. Three times. No, wait… after scrolling down, I see he tried it four times. They all failed. Maybe I’m lucky that I wasn’t the one to try this. As a result, Xaklyth is excommunicated and can wage open war on everyone. But we can also wage open war on him.

Well, well. Things are about to get interesting.

The infernal monsoons are over, so legions can now march and fly as normal. I’m betting Xaklyth timed his strike for that, so that he’d be ready for military action no matter the outcome. My ritual ban has expired as well, although the global ban on rituals higher than level 3 is still active. Xaklyth has an army of legions now, and he might send them after me since I’m nearby. If he captures my stronghold, I’ll be eliminated from the game. But then again, the others are bigger threats to him, so maybe Xaklyth will take some of them out for me instead? If I can act innocuous enough it might work. But I should muster some kind of defense if I can.

While I mull over what to do, I check the rest of the turn log. Caim has emerged victorious against Beowulf’s Naphula, although the victory is bittersweet coming so late. Still, Rufus and Big Beak have finally won a praetor duel, and with the Infernal Census this turn as well, they’ve now accumulated 57 Prestige. It seems Naphula went all out with Infernal Bursts and attacks early, but Caim’s Veil of Smoke was able to absorb them, and then his own Infernal Bursts and attack wore her down. This bodes well; maybe Caim can gain some extra Prestige by challenging the champions of Pandemonium. He’s also gained a level from his victory, which means I can choose how to power him up. My choices are +3 shields, +3 orbs, or +2 health. I pick the orbs, which will help him against the second champion of Pandemonium if he gets that far.

In other news, Beowulf demands Nameless ex-autocrat, who in turn has just purchased the legion known as They Hunger. And someone has purchased the praetor Mulciber, who specializes in recovering enemy artifacts after a legion battle. I also look over the map. Nameless ex-autocrat has attached the Black Monolith — which makes Places of Power impossible for enemies to capture — on his Testament of Tyrants, which has stopped Baleyolfynn’s invasion short. Ha! I thought it was a sure thing for Baleyolfynn. He won’t be pleased.

Now, what to do about Xaklyth? I could march my personal legion such that it blocks the way to Rufus and Big Beak’s stronghold. It can’t hope to win a battle against any of Xaklyth’s legions, but it will stop them before they can reach the stronghold and take Rufus and Big Beak out of the game. But, since Xaklyth is excommunicated and can never be Regent, the turn order is such that I will always get to act first. So maybe I don’t need to rush yet. Buying a more powerful legion would be better (Xaklyth can no longer make purchases from the Bazaar now that’s he’s excommunicated).

I send an email out to everyone except Xaklyth, and ask if we should coordinate against him. Responses are guarded, but Inquis emails me privately to say that Xaklyth is planning to come after me, and promises to send me some resources. He also says that he tried using Deceit to force Beowulf’s legions to march on the city of Pandemonium (resulting in Beowulf’s excommunication), but he was not allowed to give such a marching order. Apparently legions are smart enough not to attack Pandemonium unless they’re absolutely certain that their orders are coming from their lord. So much for that method. Then Baleyolfynn, who has faced Xaklyth in Solium Infernum games before, chimes in and tells us Xaklyth will likely try to capture Pandemonium through some underhanded rituals, or he will lash out at all of our strongholds. That would not go well for me.

I have an idea. With Rufus and Big Beak’s Deceit at level 5 now, they can try to steal relics from other archfiends. Relics like Nameless ex-autocrat’s Black Monolith, which I could attach to my stronghold to make it immune to capture. Unfortunately, because Nameless ex-autocrat is low on my threat list, it will cost a whopping 4 souls and 7 darkness to make the attempt. So I decide against it for now.

Instead, I opt to hurl an Infernal Affliction ritual at Xaklyth’s personal guard, who never healed from our Destruction battle way back in the early turns of the game. They have a single point of health left, so they’d be destroyed if the blast hits, and it would net me some easy Prestige. I also bid on the Burning Legion to defend my stronghold, ask for some tribute, and send Caim in to challenge the Butcher, the first champion of Pandemonium. The bonuses from Caim’s level up won’t take effect until next turn, but I decide I need to do this now, before all the tokens are drawn. The Butcher has some nasty special attack moves, including Crippling Strike which will negate Caim’s own physical attacks. But since Caim will fight with Infernal Bursts anyway this isn’t a problem, and his Veil of Smoke should absorb the damage. That should hopefully net Rufus and Big Beak another heap of Prestige, and with any luck some of the other archfiends will fall in their wars with Xaklyth the heretic.

Xaklyth’s gambit may yet play into my hands. Maybe, like vultures circling a battlefield, Rufus and Big Beak can swoop in and seize victory from the ashes.

Next time: THE DRAMATIC CONCLUSION.

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