Value of prestige

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Value of prestige

Postby Fizish » Fri Mar 26, 2010 9:50 am

Having now played a few PBEM games, I find myself re-evaluating the value of prestige points throughout the game. You need at least a few for diplomacy, but really only a PoP or two or even a +prestige relic is needed to take care of that. The most striking thing that I have noticed is that no player that has run up a large lead has gone on to win the game.

Game A: I run up a large lead in my first PBEM game, a trailing player takes Pandemonium and then my stronghold. Two more players are knocked out, including the owner of Pandemonium. Two players remain, and the Conclave does not reconvene. One wins by (I believe) finally taking Pandemonium and holding it.

Game B: I run up a large lead, I am picked at on all sides, until I lose all 3 PoPs and my only legion in one turn. Later, 4 of the 5 players are excommunicated through masked rituals and an Expel the Heretic Event at 14/15 tokens. The fifth player wins when the last token is drawn. I could have remained prestige leader, had I not been drawing secret objectives out of boredom once excommunicated.

Game C: Massive prestige leader (300-350, second place (me!) around 100) has Expel the Heretic Event played on her. She takes Pandemonium. Pandemonium is destroyed by Orb of Oblivion. The conclave reforms. I win on prestige, without having played a game to be particularly proud of.

Game D: Two players vie for prestige lead while I amass a small number of points and player 4 craters to 0 prestige early. Late-game I am excommunicated by a masked ritual and destroyed by the (formerly) 0 prestige player, who now appears to be well on his way to a military victory.

Obviously painting a target on yourself and setting up a 5-v-1 situation is not a great idea. But so far I'm getting the sense that prestige victories are rare, and when they arrive they aren't likely to end with the longtime leader on top.

So at what point do prestige points stop being an asset and become a liability? Is it best to be in third or fourth place, with sort of a middling level of prestige so as not to look particularly strong or weak? Are these just ravings built upon a small sample size? And are the people I've played against all rotten bastards, or is that just how this game is set up?

Okay I think I know that answer to that last one.
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Re: Value of prestige

Postby Dinger » Fri Mar 26, 2010 12:19 pm

I've had experiences like yours. The only time Prestige can be a straight-out race is in a short game, and even there I had to sneak up on them.

I also had one normal-length game with five players end on turn 17, because three players cratered their prestige, and everyone thought I would beat them. So they all quit (!). They were stupid to do so.

At turn ten, you want to be unremarkable in prestige. When players lock in their rankings, you want to be "one of the pack" and not "the fiend to beat". My guess is most people set their turn 10 rankings according to:
pos. 1 -> biggest rivalry (closest archfiend, or the one blocking/occupying a tasty PoP)
pos. 2 -> prestige leader
pos. 3-6 -> distance and prestige.

so if you're the prestige leader, everyone can do nasty things to you cheaply.

After turn 10, the only time you want to be running away with the prestige lead is when you can crush all your opponents, and Pandemonium too. Remember too that making demands of other players subtracts prestige from your total, as do vendettas, so the prestige-collecting turtle will have a higher count and invite the scrutiny of other players. Finally, beware the low-prestige fiends. They could be incompetent, or have ended up with an unfortunate build, but the turns they're not spending moving legions and making diplomatic actions, they're spending amassing tribute and increases attributes. I played a 1 1 1 1 2 archfiend once for the strong starting legion, and got one with 1 2 9 and 7 hp. I couldn't cap the only pop near me, and only won when a player went rogue and started knocking off the archfiends in order of prestige.
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Re: Value of prestige

Postby Nashua » Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:35 pm

Many strategy games fall in this category. The effect power has on the psyche of the traditional player is pretty much what you describe. Get more powerful than everyone else, and I will probably attack you or try to amass enough allies for an attack. A player may explore any means necessary not to become the Antagonist Player.

Some games simply don't have any mechanisms to handle this. Note that this is not necessarily something you wish to counter because you would risk the he opposite, and a much worse fate; a game that got decided on the first defining turns. But some games present players with mechanisms that allow them to work out a better deal. SI is such one game. Let's see...

  • First and foremost, as you already realized it, it's important to evaluate one's position, their opponents positions and the ability to predict the game board in the turns ahead. This is also a component of the Strategic mind we are required to exercise on strategy games. Some players, myself included many times, simply forget what this means. We grow too fast, thus not being particularly smart strategists. Because the outcome of that is... well, losing. So, in SI, like in many other games, players need to make their expansion a real part of their strategy and not simply look at it as "More is Better". It rarely is.
  • Diplomacy is surprisingly one of the least played aspects in strategy games. It's however the most powerful weapon. Beats any cards, beats any PoP, beats any amount of prestige, beats the largest army on the game board (if nothing else for the ability diplomacy has of turning that army against someone else). I'm still inexperienced with my first game starting this Saturday, but for most other strategy games I've played in nearly 3 decades, I've learned that players often use diplomacy as a means to reach immediate goals but the most successful approaches often result from long term diplomatic talks. Gamers often pick sides when the first few turns are over and the game board takes its shape. The rest of the game becomes a succession of alliances and betrayals until a winner emerges. This winner ends up often becoming a product of chance. But diplomacy is exactly the means by which we tame that chance, by trying to gives us some control over that which we do not control; other players actions. It's rare the strategy game that doesn't give players the ability to conduct diplomacy. So we really need to explore it more and smarter, so we don't let our gameplay become prisoner to chance.
  • SI offers objectives. Public and private. Well played out, these can define a surprising winner on the last round. I wouldn't entirely dismiss the power of these to shape the game in either way.
  • SI adapts itself very well to Team vs Team play. The fact there's not one winner and everyone else, but instead a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on places, with clearly defined prestige points, makes also for very interesting Team vs. Team competitions and a type of game that, while involving less diplomacy, allows players to exercise their strategic and tactical abilities.
  • Vic noted on some interview recently (I can't recall where exactly) that he worries about his games maintaining a balance between the mechanics and the number of players. More players on SI could end up in too much chaotic gameplay which progresses through ally->backstab constant cycles. So the decision was to made to limit it at 6 players. This in itself should serve us as a tip that for players wanting to experience a more controlled environment, a game with less players is the place to go.
  • SI offers prestige sinks while allowing the player to keep all his prestige fountains. So a player can indeed loose prestige points while not loosing any of his PoPs or relics. Through carefully planned diplomacy, prestige can be transferred to other players without risking military action.
  • The game offers strong relationships beyond the concept of alliance (and enemy). But this is where I would like to see it improving. In addition to the Blood Lord/Vassal, there could be other relationships forming between any two players that could explore different types of advantages for that relationship. In any case, this is another game mechanism that should be considered by players when facing the possibility of becoming leader of the pack during the mid game and risking everyone's attention.

A little tired by now. There could be more to be said, but stopping here. I think this sums the most important points, in my modest opinion though. Essentially that indeed racing for 1st place is a poor strategy. But the game does offer some mechanics that can make ousting a smart top player a little more challenging (SI definitely rewards smart players). The game also provides alternative styles, so players can explore other types of gameplay, different from the traditional "Everyone against everyone else and let the devil chose".
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Re: Value of prestige

Postby Maxim » Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:46 pm

Fizish wrote:
Game C: Massive prestige leader (300-350, second place (me!) around 100) has Expel the Heretic Event played on her. She takes Pandemonium. Pandemonium is destroyed by Orb of Oblivion. The conclave reforms. I win on prestige, without having played a game to be particularly proud of.

For me, this is the key to playing SI. I want to play the game

a) in a way that I can be proud of

b) in a way that I and the other players have a good time

In one of my current games, I have an ineffectual (from my now - earned knowledge) build. I will try to make the most of it though and even if I do not come up on top, I will have had fun in that game and will hopefully have created a memorable narrative for me and other players to remember.

In my first finished game, I fought tooth and nail, eliminating 2 arch fiends through war and almost taking out a third one. I could have taken Pandaemonium, but I decided not to, because I wanted to win by means of my massive pile of prestige. Guess what: someone else had a the kingmaker-perk - so he ended up winning, as he chose me as his king. When I read it, I actually cried out in joy about what a cool game SI is, to be able to create such a good narrative. There he was, helping me once in a while with his rituals and me not even realizing it. I knew that I played a good game, and I knew that the other players played a good game - what´s more to expect?

Games are also about winning, sure. But the moment of winning is a fleeting and almost impossibly small moment in time - compared to the time we spend actually playing the game. I recently won my second game in literally the last 5 turns, after facing almost certain defeat. When I opened up the board and the other players were gone - I had won by taking Pandaemonium and eliminating the remaining 2 other players - I felt sad that the game had ended. Although I had won.

As for prestige specifically: someone else here on the forum wrote that "Prestige is just a game, we play along the way." I tend to agree to this view. It is a game mechanic that is important, as the prestige victory IS possible, if unlikely and as prestige IS needed for diplomatic actions. But it´s just as in the real world - the dog that barks the loudest, does not necessarily have the strongest bite or the most tenacity.
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Re: Value of prestige

Postby frost_maze » Fri Mar 26, 2010 5:51 pm

Fizish wrote:Game C: Massive prestige leader (300-350, second place (me!) around 100) has Expel the Heretic Event played on her. She takes Pandemonium. Pandemonium is destroyed by Orb of Oblivion. The conclave reforms. I win on prestige, without having played a game to be particularly proud of.

I'd like to point out that the "Expel the Heretic" event targets a random opponent.

And also, I agree with everything that everybody said. I'm just an unhelpful nitpick. (Although it is a pretty big nit, this one. And many people seem to have this nit too. ;) )
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Re: Value of prestige

Postby Casaubon » Fri Mar 26, 2010 6:04 pm

I, too, have changed my evaluation of prestige's importance after playing a few multiplayer games.
My current opinion is that prestige is important (and not just a meaningless game to distract the players in the early-middle game), but that it can be a liability as well.

First of all, you shouldn't go for a massive prestige leadership before the endgame, or you'll give the other players time to adjust their strategy and go for a military win. Hidden objectives are very useful should you find yourself in that kind of situation.

Second, if you achieve a prestige leadership, you must also have something - wrath or destruction - to back it up. If you know you can't back it up, stop focusing on prestige and concentrate on building the prerequisites that make it useful to have in the first place.

Third, you can't - well, you can, but it's risky - neglect prestige completely: you will need it for diplomatic actions and to avoid standing out among other archfiends. Your enemies will pay attention not only to the guy with a huge prestige lead; they will also concentrate on the strange fellow that doesn't seem to care about prestige, because they know he's up to *something* (kingmaker? military dominance? puzzle cuber?).
Prestige is also useful for deceiving your enemies into thinking that winning by it is your main strategy. Or maybe it could really be your main strategy (especially in short-to-normal games), or it could be an option that you can keep open for yourself.

Finally, when the time for the last chaotic struggle comes - and it always comes - being the prestige leader (or the runner-up with some trick up your sleeve) is a nice advantage: it put the burden of proving their military superiority on prestigeless players, allowing for an easier defensive war.
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Re: Value of prestige

Postby darkelf732 » Mon Mar 29, 2010 6:39 am

Fizish wrote: And are the people I've played against all rotten bastards, or is that just how this game is set up?

Stop, your making me blush. Now I need to see if I can pull something game changing and unpredictable this game.
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Re: Value of prestige

Postby imirk » Tue Apr 13, 2010 9:19 pm

Another observation about prestige is that its value is directly related to the length of the game, the shorter the game, the more important, by turn 50-60 it becomes largely irrelevant because the strength of the players(player?) is so high that taking pandemonium, or wiping out other players in 1 or 2 turns becomes a real possibility (probability?)
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