Part 24: Arco - Turns 14-20MEGA UPDATE (Well, 7 turns anyhow)
Preface : Most of what's shown here has already been seen, and the things I find interesting are further up, so I am going to be speeding through some of these turns so I can get to the better stuff sooner.
So, though it was long ago, this happens right after Lilli & I have had a nice long chat about whether I am about to invade her - it ends with me confirming all is well between us.
Obviously, this is not the case, and upon receipt of this message, Lilli goes from my 'Honorable' column to my 'Snake' column in my mental diplomacy list.
D3 is a lot like Diplomacy - there's nothing to stop backstabbing, although certain things (Don't cheat people on trades, for example) are basically taken automatically as 'This is not cool, don't do it' even though the game won't stop you.
One of the things that is perfectly fine is lying to someone's face. However, since you tend to play with many of the same people, I find it a terribly ineffective strategy - yes, it may work once, but that person learns to never trust you again.
While what Lilli said was never technically a lie, it was an obvious lie of omission - and therefore puts her squarely in the 'Must be treated as two-faced' for the future. I still like her as a person plenty, but I am going to never ever trust her in-game again without things signed in triplicate.
IoD will also later end up in this category with his reveler stunt.
So, in short, I get hit with an attack that I'm not expecting, against a nation who is arguably at the height of its power while mine is at its weakest point. Basically, this is the worst possible thing.
I lose 2 of my border provinces, which double hurts because they'd been recently site-searched and had value. Lilli gets a bunch of free undeserved gem income. This makes me doubly angry!
So, in order to stop one of the invasions, I do something simple : I stick approximately 1000 gold in PD in one province. Inefficient, yes - but its a choke point. If I can cut off one head, I can focus on the other.
This also illustrates something that is going to bite me again and again and make me hate this map forever - my empire is bisected by a river. That river has 2 crossings, one of which is into Giant's Rest, the province with a giant fuckoff dragon in it. In short, my ability to consolidate my armies has just been heavily fucked, and aside from the future Turkey incident more than anything contributes to the next dozen turns or so, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Mictlan's invasion continues.
On one front, I win.
This is why.
The mass of PD does its job - Rainbow isn't even needed here. What had let Mictlan slaughter its way in was Hannibal & his elephants. Hannibal is a merc group that typically appears in the first dozen turns or so - they cost a mere 80 gold, which for 6 elephants is absurd and getting them on Turn 1-5 is often a huge boost to expansion - or, in this case, allowed them to slaughter 90 units offscreen last turn.
Fortunately, 45 PD is more than they can handle, and the elephants + Jaguars fall to Dash's irregulars or something cool like that.
So, Pan & I had traded - I needed N gems because my original plan was 'Expand, turtle up, forge boatloads of clams' which N gems are an integral component of. This plan has been derailed, but moreso, IoD has thrown in with Mictlan.
As one can see, I've lost 2 more provinces to Mictlan, but am attempting a counteroffensive in the southwest with a merc group I picked up. Additionally, Pan's first invasion dies horribly to PD - one can see a horde of maenads up there.
I believe at this time I go on IRC and through a mix of cajoling and threatening convince IoD to - or so I think - wait things out. Basically I think the words were 'If you invade me, Rainbow wrecks your shit and you can't do anything about it' so he agreed to not attack until turn 20.
Unfortunately, I did not take care to word the agreement as 'Will not do any action that is directly hostile before turn 20' - so he begins moving revelers into my territory. Technically not a violation, but it is the sort of underhandedness that tends to bring out my spiteful side. I also suspect around now TC may be tempted to join in, and convince him to take a wait and see approach as well.
Lastly, if one looks at the capital, you can see many a mage forging - I have hit Construction goals, and with myself at war, I am throwing up gear for Rainbow, as well as researching teleport - which will allow me to strike pre-movement and thus have her murder armies by herself.
Fun stuff! First off, my capital is under siege! Secondly, lots of fights, which...
Means more territory lost. Not unexpected - I've been spending several turns regrouping - Rainbow is ready and can be seen teleporting out. She is headed to that southwest army to wipe it out. Meanwhile, Lilli's pretender is on my capital.
Now here's an important thing going on - although Smaug retains the health bonus from friendly dominion, because he's in hostile I -believe- the game considers him to have lower HP for purposes of afflictions.
Though he wins the fight, he ends diseased and limping. This makes me happy since it means he can't be a threat all that much longer.
Turn 18 : In Which Things Briefly Go My Way
First off, Rainbow has won.
Here she is nice and battle-buffed : all told she carries a hefty Awe + 7 as well as a Vine Shield - which means any unit attacking her needs to beat a high morale check as well as what I believe is a strength check from the Shield. The vast majority of human infantry cannot do this.
Secondly, she has Air Shield up, which deflects 80% of incoming projectiles - at this stage of the game, it makes her effectively immune to archery.
Those that do then have to contend with a 22 defense, etherealness, luck, mistform, a high-level mirror image, and twist fate, as well as fire immunity to negate Lilli's blessing.
The combination of Mistform + Ethereal makes 87.5% of nonmagical attacks that are otherwise successful miss. Fire immunity means jaguar attacks are no longer magical. Then there's image which stops more incoming attacks - truth be told, I'm not exactly sure how the game calculates MI, other than it has no effect against archery, and higher levels of air are better - and if a hit is somehow successful, first Twist Fate will negate it, and after that Mistform will make it do 1 damage maximum until it fades.
In short? Normal infantry are fucked. The battle is very one-sided and I wish they had taken longer to rout.
This is from late into the fight - Rainbow still has yet to take damage. Nor will she ever in this battle.
And what is this? This implies Smaug just lost.
So, it turns out my plan was doubly successful! That army was headed into the 45 PD, and without it, Smaug faces them alone.
He manages to escape, barely alive - but with a chest wound, he's basically down for the count. Chest Wounds means a unit without either massive reinvigoration or the undead/unliving attribute fatigue out fast in melee combat. Fatigue means crits means death.
My only regret is I didn't try to break the siege on my castle - Smaug is able to retreat there, and is basically alone. If I had done that, he'd have had nowhere to go and automatically died. A somewhat unpleasant mistake - still, he won't be a problem anytime soon as the combination of disease + chest wound means he can't heal without special circumstances.
I am still site searching like mad - I've never stopped this, because I love gems. And its possible I might find something heavily useful - I have yet to do so, but such sites are out there and the sooner you find something, the longer you may benefit. Rainbow returns home - Smaug is gone - and prepares to teleport onto another army. If I had been paying attention, the turkeys on my border should have set off massive mental alarms.
Unfortunately, I wasn't - plus there's the whole 'Though she was nigh immune due to magicboost' thing.
Still, if one looks, there are signs I'm counterattacking.
Turn 20 : In Which Fuck Turkeys
We all know what happens this turn. I'm not talking about it, other than to say Magic Duel is a stupid spell that does far more limit cool strategies than create interesting new ones.
Things of note :
1. W gems from TC - this is to Voice of Apsu, and hopefully start a W income. I haven't abandoned gemgens, but my plans have been significantly hampered by a war I never wanted. By now I've realized i really, really hate this map with a burning passion. Perhaps not as much as Demon does, but still a lot - screw this river subdividing my kingdom. It has done a ton to make defending myself extremely difficult.
2. The Seeking Arrow - this takes out a High Priest of the Sun leading an army of jags. I will get to why this is nice in a moment.
3. More site searching I guess. Okay, really only 1 & 2 matter.
This is the army led by that priest. Without him, those jags don't get F9 blessing. With that, they are far far less deadly.
Against it is my first Communion I field - its designed simply to cast Flaming Arrows, only the AI decides the enemy isn't enough of a threat to do so, and doesn't cast it. I suffer very few losses, but one mystic does die, and this displeases me. Still, I'm able to use these guys as a counterattacking force, which is good.
And now, Graphs!
Here is the world at turn 20 :
If I had to choose a single early game mistake, it's that I got too greedy in expansion - what I should have done is not go so far west, but I really wanted those forests for possible N income. Unfortunately, leading in that graph paints a giant target on your back. If I had seemed more innocuous than Lilli there's a good chance IoD would have joined me instead of her.
On forts, I have a huge lead due to random event gold. Again - target, meet back.
These two are combined - I'm doing great until invasion. Then Mictlan gains a ton of gem income. Guess who its almost all stolen from? Now at this point IMO the sensible thing to do in Pan's shoes is go 'Huh, well, that is a bad thing, maybe invading Arco isn't a smart idea because Mictlan is going to get most of the spoils.
Here I have a big lead, but then that should surprise nobody - 1 Magic Arco gets a lot of research from mystics, as well as the earlygame philosophers, and the sages I found.
Unfortunately, this is why it doesn't matter. Gold for gold, Mictlan's units are way better than my own, and with Rainbow dead currently, yea. So...
That brings us here. The Alt 3 -> Const 4 was for making my pretender crazy useful. If I could go back, I'd take slightly worse scales for +2 astral and Magic Duel never would have worked. Combined with everything I'd seen fielded up to this point, killing Rainbow wouldn't have happened without some sort of major dedicated gimmick - Lilli claims there is something else she had in mind, I am curious now to see what it was.
Then Thaum 3 was Teleport. So in short, about half my research is into powering up my pretender.
There's some gain out of it though - many of those alt spells are useful for future plans. Const 4 means Matrices, which will come into play in the next dozen turns. Ench 4 gives Flaming Arrows. This will be showcased later as well. Thaum gives Communion spells, which I obviously need.
But what I really need now is Conj 3 for Summon Earthpower & PotS, and then Evo 5. Those are what will allow me to turn my mystics into...well, all in good time.
If there's a moral to these turns, it's that you can't start plotting against other people soon enough, and that my meta-strategy of assuming people aren't trying to lie by omission sometimes backfires - but over multiple games it pays off. Here, unfortunately, I'd never really had it tested on either Lilli or IoD - so the lesson there is 'Make more formalized agreements so when the other guy breaks them you can at least get some revenge by making sure everyone knows about it'.