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.