An Idea too good to pass up

As soon as the thought popped into my head I knew that I was in trouble. So far it’s been at least a weeks worth of trouble and I’m probably looking at another week as well when all is coded and done. And this happened despite having a very strong desire to keep a simple elegance to Solium Infernum. I worked hard to keep things elegant, symmetrical and just downright focused as far as the design elements were concerned. I didn’t have one of Soren Johnson’s design rules of thumb on the white board, but I really did vet every “addition” with a keen eye for interesting simplicity. And then the idea came along.

The idea grew out of something I noticed after doing some crude simulations for AI interactions in the diplomacy model that is currently built into Solium Infernum. As I have described in here and here, the game is designed to channel player interactions in that you must follow the Protocols of the Infernal Conclave when you want something from your rivals. You can’t just go and take something. No, there is an infernal Kabuki dance that must be observed. The focus of course is on acquiring Prestige for yourself while diminishing Prestige for your rivals. Like complimentary particles, demands and insults work to either shift the prestige directly or place you in a position where a claim of Vendetta lets you hammer your opponent in the process and thereby gain Prestige. What I noticed during the first AI simulations that I started running was that something was occurring which my limited conceptualization during the board game prototype stage had not identified. Namely, some odd times an AI player couldn’t always figure out the best terms for a Vendetta… conquer hexes, destroy enemy legions, or capture an enemy Place of Power. The reason was because although the warp around maps encourage lots of border contact sometimes your worst enemies ended up not lying exactly on your borders. Doh!

A successful Vendetta against such an opponent wasn’t impossible since there does exist a line of “Destruction Rituals” which can be used to harm and even destroy enemy legions at any location on the map (sort of like “Ring Powers” if you are familiar with the RTS genre) but that’s not an easy path and you have to have some real strength in that ritual discipline (which isn’t a trivial investment). So what I needed was a way to resolve a Vendetta… a dispute of honor short of having legions march all over the game board. A nanosecond later it hit me. “Excalibur!” Trial by Single Combat. Each Archfiend selects a Champion. Two Champions enter the arena and only one leaves. The Vendetta is resolved in favor of the winner.

The obvious choices for such an instrument of infernal justice were the Praetors. They already functioned as a type of power up for Legions and Places of Power either acting as generals or garrison commanders. I had toyed early in the design with giving them their own game board pieces to conduct “special ops” but nixed that because I really wanted to keep the board clean. Such actions were moved to the “Deception Rituals” discipline and abstracted a bit as well. But the idea of using the Praetors as Champions to resolve Vendettas was too good to pass up so the last week has been spent adding the feature.

Of course, determining the outcome of a trial by single combat necessitated some additional design work and modifications of the Praetors, who now proudly boast dueling stats, special abilities and hit points (only used for the trials and not legion vs. legion combat.) I’ve also taken the Praetor concept one step further and built in some ways to customize your Champion by using tribute cards that your minions will bring you.

So the cool idea had some serious costs but I think it has been worth it. Vendettas just got a whole lot more interesting and a new dimension to their resolution has been added. If you are taking the deception path or gluttonous accumulation (wealth & power broker) path then rather than investing in expensive legions you might consider grooming a gladiator super combatant or two… of course you can’t always control the terms of a Vendetta so it’s not a sure fire strategy by any means. You also have choices to make about how to fight the Champion in the arena. I’ve created a small game in and of itself for how the two Champions battle it out so that there is a strategy element involved. But I’ll save that for a later entry. Here’s a brief glimpse of what a single combat for the honor of an infernal house in Hell might look like. Enjoy!

There Can Be Only One

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