When I went about designing the core mechanics for Solium Infernum, I was determined to allow players to be able to throw a Monkey Wrench into the grand apparatus that was their opponent’s plans. In the board game Ticket To Ride you can sometimes do this by claiming a strategically placed short track connection between two cities when you realize that one of your fellow players is trying to make a connection there. It’s annoying and often effective because if they can’t complete the route for their objective card then they lose the points on the card instead of gaining them. The hand of the monkey wrench thrower is public information and that has an effect on the player dynamics.
Solium Infernum has a bunch of mechanisms like this as well in the form of Rituals, Events, and Diplomatic Efforts (Insults and Demands). But I also wanted to include the anonymous monkey wrench in the game. I actually took it one step further and allowed for the framed monkey wrench but that is another story. The anonymous monkey wrench lets you interact with your opponents in a negative way without having to necessarily leave a calling card. If you pass a dice roll challenge for example when performing some rituals then your identity is not revealed. This helps generate paranoia and when you throw in the possibility that you can be framed for such acts then the paranoia can go right up to 11.
I’m going to discuss an example of monkey wrench throwing from the early game stage of Solium Infernum which I have come to call “The Great Land Grab” phase. When you start the game you only have a stronghold and your “body guard” legion. You control the hexes (called Cantons in the game) immediately adjacent to your stronghold but everything else is up for grabs. That means you will want to scope out the locations of the Places of Power scattered about the board and also the key geographical choke points if there are any. The map wraps in on itself so you’ll need to adjust your spatial reasoning to that concept. Don’t worry it doesn’t take a 12th Level Intellect to come to grips with the geometry of Hell. You’ll soon be looking for enemies in all directions which I hope will help heighten your paranoia as well.
Here is a snippet of a screen shot showing the results after the first turn of play:
Notice the player with the “Flame” icon has moved his legion away from his stronghold towards the Place of Power called The Tree of Woe. If you roll your mouse over the icons you get a display of the key information in the info box at the bottom of the screen. Depending on the stats of the player’s starting legion (and the stats of the Place of Power) he might be considering a frontal assault and quick capture of the stronghold. It would be a big boost for him certainly if he could take The Tree of Woe quickly. He would immediately start receiving the +1 Prestige Point that it grants and he could also move the legion to claim other Cantons or key locations. If a Canton isn’t claimed by any player then the first player to enter it gets ownership….thus the term “Great Land Grab.” Once a Canton is claimed you can’t enter it unless you have a claim of Blood Feud or Vendetta with the owner.
This is also the point where other players can ready their monkey wrenches. First of course you have to decide whether you think using one of your precious few order slots is worth the effort. You will probably only have two order slots available at this point and you have to claim Places of Power and Cantons yourself. You might also be thinking about bidding on another legion in the Infernal Bazaar if you have sufficient resources. Another legion at this early stage would allow you to cover a lot more territory. But let’s say you have decided it’s worth the risk. If you foil the attack on the Place of Power and the legion is damaged or lost then you will have slowed down your opponent’s expansion defined by a point somewhere between annoying and crippling. Sounds like fun to me. Here is one way you could go about it:
This is the dialogue box you see when you click on a “Ritual Slot” in your Ritual Chamber. You see a list of rituals that you can perform (based primarily on the levels of your Avatar’s attributes) and the respective costs in resources. The Combat Deception Ritual allows you to temporarily decrease the attributes of a legion or place of power. The efficacy and duration increases as your power level in the “Deceit” Discipline increases. Since you have just started the game your attributes are pretty low (you spend points on these when you build your Avatar before the game). In your present state you can only affect the target’s attribute by a value of d6 and for single turn. But that might be enough to alter the combat on the next turn if your opponent goes for it. It all depends on the stats of the two combatants and what you have divined of your opponents intentions. Maybe other players have noticed this aggressive move and are going to be piling “Combat Deception” rituals on as well? Now we are talking some multi-variate game theory interactions here. Feel the burn. The nice thing too is that even if your ritual fails (success isn’t automatic but depends on the level of the target and your level in the discipline) you have a decent chance of not being labeled as the monkey wrench thrower. There is no need after all to poison relations with your neighbors right off the bat