TURN 8: Lull Before the Storm
The expected lull this turn: Allias sweeps through his lost provinces, restoring them all to his empire, and the front is quiet, though my spies see large Allias and Tantalus forces massing on all fronts. Three phalanxes, a legion and a fleet rally to my standards, and in a deal with Samuel I train two generals to Tactics-3 skill (+60% in battle) in exchange for white magic. Next turn should produce four more armies and tactics-4, enough for a fighting chance at the best of the enemy hosts. They shall not pass! and all that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, Glenda agrees to the Noble Alliance, calls off the war with Stile and agrees to send a powerful army churning into Allias's rear. That's the good news, the sort-of-good news is that he reckons he has a strong claim on Emperor, with 70 revenue (vs my 51 and the game leader's 80 - probably this is Allias). He says he's also in the running for High Priest and possibly Defender, and has a couple of point-scoring artifacts. Samuel says he's leading in Chancellor and has a good shot at Arch-Mage.
At this point a detailed explanation of the office system may be helpful. The game ends when players elect someone Emperor, using votes equal to tax revenue. However, the Emperor only gets 20% of the total victory points (and prize money). The rest are distributed 10% each to:
Esteemed High Chancellor: top explorer/spy/sage character
Imperial Treasurer: richest
Imperial Grand Marshal: most successful general
Imperial Grand Admiral: most successful admiral
Lord High Defender: best monster-killer High Priest Palatine: best White magician
Arch-Mage Palatine: best general magician
...plus 1% for each of 10 artifacts. Thus Glenda stands to get 20% for Emperor, 10% for High Priest, 2% for artifacts, and maybe 10% for Defender, for a total of 32-42%. Samuel stands to get 10-20%, reduced by 4/10 for being two steps away from the Good emperor, i.e. 6-12%. I am currently ahead for Admiral with heroine Dracona (suddenly jumped last turn: a rival must have died), 2nd for Treasurer, and not totally out of contention in the other areas: in particular, I could compete for Arch-Mage if I spent a turn training the king in all the skills of my other characters. Thus I'm fairly well set for 2nd place. Not bad after the military disaster, but the effort to rouse the world against paganism has gone so well - is there any way I could still eventually win?
Well, if the pagans really get attacked by 4-5 players, we can probably stop worrying about them walking all over us, and Id like a few more turns to have a shot at one or two of the other offices; in particular, I have hordes of powerful monsters in my territory whom I've yet to tackle, and with all the magic I've learned I should now be able to handle them. I think I'll refrain from calling for a vote for Emperor on this turn (the total is announced but not exactly who voted), and hope that the others don't get 55% without me. If they get it anyway, Glenda's victory will be assured, and I'll scramble to get what offices I can next turn; if they don't, I'll see if I can keep the military alliance going without Glenda getting too frustrated that she's not getting the promised boost to the throne. I must admit to considerable nervousness, as the pagans are exceedingly good players, and I wouldn't care to bet my life on our defeating them. If Glenda would have won with a vote this turn, but the pagans advance and push us under 55% next time, I shall have considerable pangs of doubt. (I shall have? Hell, I'm having pangs of doubt already.) Still, Eden is supposed to be a Brave character: let's face the future boldly!
TURN 9: Tiger at the Gates
Eden busily learns more magic like a good apprentice arch-mage, and Samuel contributes a 4th level of tactical expertise. My other heroes try to concentrate the scattered armies weve been raising. Migfox attempts to bring several defending armies together in Khurum, a desert province on my border with the enemy, but Tantalus/Rich Eisenman strikes first: his hero Hope surges south with four legions, four heavy cavalry and a camel corps (without which armies and halved in desert). Migfox has a miserable turn: first a lone Phalanx is cut up, forcing him to flee, then he fails to recruit another phalanx in Khurum, because he's no longer there, then he succeeds in recruiting a camel corps and garrison... and marches back to Khurum, where Hope thrashes him again.
Meanwhile, Rainulf raises two legions, one of which is promptly blown away by a magic tornado from one of Tantalus's magicians, and marches to join Migfox, just in time to see him pummelled for the second time: next season, Hope chews up Rainulf's surviving legion too. What a nightmare this turn is! And of course each battle is giving Hope's hordes extra training. I wish I'd voted for a quick game end... and in fact, because I didn't and because Glenda forgot, the vote call is well short of 55%: no vote next turn. The only consolation is that Rainulf finally sorts out that pesky dryad who charmed everyone up to now: she would have charmed him too, but a research agreement with Samuel last turn gave me Analytical Psychology, knowledge of which makes my heroes immune to charming. The Noble Alliance is now sharing research every turn, and this turn we export the Sextant (+1 in navigation skill), the Pulley and the Screw (+7% on revenue); we receive the gambling casino (+3% tax revenue) and Scientific Method (+1 in sagely research).
All very nice, but at turn end, the situation is grim indeed. Hope's huge and by now battle-hardened force faces a completely naked Eden motherland: I do not have one single army of any description! Meanwhile, the other Noble Alliance players say they're mobilizing, getting ready to attack, will be attacking real soon now, and so on... very nice, but too late to save me, I fear.
Time for a spot of diplomacy.
TURN 10: Charmed to Meet You
I approach Rich Eisenman, who had previously told me he didn't plan to wipe me out totally, in recognition of the fact that his predecessor as Tantalus had had friendly relations with me. He comments that my allies don't seem very active, and I sombrely agree, and offer to refrain from supporting them in their efforts to get a vote in return for a cease-fire. He has a good laugh, as I expected, and asks for a more realistic idea, like my hanging on to one province plus my home. I ask for a port so I can pursue the admiral role. He demurs... we talk, and talk, and the week-long deadline creeps around. With a day to go, I propose a deal: I won't amass large armies (fat chance) if he doesn't do anything that will rule out a deal next turn: advance yes, but nothing too drastic, eh? He agrees: I'm not sure he really believes that I won't raise some armies, but then my impression is that he's short of march ability, so he might not be able to conquer all that much in a turn anyway.
I was playing for time in the hope of this outcome, because I've seen something in my printout that gives me a faint hope of turning the tide and remaining true to my allies. I see in Sherwood, deep in my territory: Ningarl, a Dwarf held in awe for Elemental Magic, employed by Tantalus. This must be the fellow who threw the tornado last turn. If I can charm him over to my side - and Eden has Psychic Magic level 3, giving a 60% chance and up to two attempts per turn - I can use him to flood provinces (preventing any land unit advance) and throw my own tornadoes, with a 40% chance of killing each unit in Hope's army for each tornado.
Eden is ordered to pursue Ningarl from season to season and charm him when he finds him. He wants to avoid combat, as Ningarl's elemental magic could kill him (character who take 10 damage points die, and a single good elemental Fireball can achieve this) in short order. Here's part of the resulting turn report...
With the advent of the spring season, Eden rode into Sherwood, and caught up with Ningarl in Sherwood. Eden looked for Ningarl in the taverns and whorehouses of Sherwood. Ningarl, deeming discretion the better part of valor, refused to encounter Eden. Eden failed in his ineffectual attempt to cast a Charm spell.
In late summer, Eden caught up with Ningarl in Sherwood. Raising his hands high in the air, Ningarl cast a Fireball spell and inflicted 8 damage points. Eden's spell was disrupted by the event. Eden ran furiously and fled from the encounter.
With the advent of the fall season, Ningarl was magically charmed by Eden.
A near thing! Also good news is that Migfox skims through the elven woods of Oakhaven, raising bowmen and garrisons, and reaches the home province of Darkwood undisturbed: here, he raises legions, chariots and garrisons. I feel a little guilty as I promised not to raise a large army, but console myself with the reflection that it's not as large as Tantalus's, anyway. Eden rushes back to take command.
The rest of the news is less jolly. Dracona builds a goodly fleet to sail out and win battles against some neutral whales, to secure her reputation as leading admiral. Before she sets out, she uses necromantic magic to throw a plague at Tantalus's advancing army. Unfortunately, Tantalus has discovered penicillin, making him immune to plague, whereas I only get it (by trade from an ally) at the end of this turn. The plague spreads back and kills half Dracona's force: she then sails out with the inadequate remnants against the whales, who kill the other half. Dracona's admiral rating plummets.
Finally, Rich keeps his word, as he always does, but he reveals a double punch: a second army under Kari takes Vinland, one of my provinces, while Hope rolls into Sherwood. If you look at the map (see diary part three), you'll see that this now places him in a position to strike any of my remaining provinces in the very next season.
This time I called for a vote without hesitation; so did Glenda, and so, apparently, did Tantalus, making the total call 65%, more than enough. Next turn might be the last!
Elsewhere on the map, the good guys are mobilised at last, and Glenda moves a strong army to defend Stile against assault from Allias. The situation is now finely balanced. If the Noble Alliance holds firm, we should have the votes to crown Glenda, despite the fact that both Tantalus and Allias have a clear military edge. Alternatively, Glenda's fresh force or my new army, backed by Ningarl's pyrotechnics, might pull off an upset. Or the Pagans, who are close to three of our capitals (mine, Stile's and Samuel's), could break through and push one of us out of the game, probably guaranteeing long-term victory.
So much was clear, but I don't think any of us foresaw the extraordinary events of the following turn, which would prove the most dramatic that I've ever seen in the always-exciting Adventurer Kings.
TURN 11: Doomsday
I'm going to handle this a little differently from the preceding instalments, since to appreciate the tension of the turn you need to know what was happening elsewhere. I have the final turns of all my allies except Samuel, so can piece it together. Some of the details are speculative as I don't have every report, but the broad lines should be correct. Unlike some of the earlier instalments, this one will concentrate on the military side, since, as you'll see, turn 11 was a desperate turn indeed.
In Adventurer Kings, the throne is chosen by vote, with votes equal to the income from your lands. With hindsight, the position at the start of the turn was that the allies had 216 income and the Pagans 200, with 35 or so neutral, but the Pagans had much larger and more powerful armies and no less than three allied capitals within easy striking distance, each of them worth 10 income. A vote was due this turn, and if we could gain 226 votes, we could elect Glenda as Emperor, ending the game; if, on the other hand, the Pagans could break through, then by common consent our position was resignable, as they would then have both better armies and more income. Either way, this turn had to be effectively the end of the game, and I'll complete the diary with an account of how it went. Remember: the target is 226!
In the far south, Eden stands at bay in the home province of Darkwood, alongside the scratch army mobilised last turn by Migfox. In the spring, Eden uses his level-4 Psychic magic to cast an Oratory spell: 'all armies which travel with him are heartened by his oratory' and fight at the next higher quality level, effectively increasing his forces' strength by 50% in most circumstances. I plan to use his great skill in tactics and manoeuvre to dart out and strike at Tantalus's western army. Meanwhile, Migfox transfers the bulk of the army to Eden, retaining a small cadre to fight for Darkwood.
The charmed elemental magician Ningarl tries to flood Sherwood, to immobilise Tantalus's main attacking force: despite level 4 expertise (75% chance of success), he botches it: so much for my high hopes last turn that he'd freeze the assault! Next season, Ningarl will successfully flood another province, but unfortunately not the one Tantalus chooses to attack.
To the northwest, Robin commands a fleet-borne legion to assault Allias's mountain province of Carbonia, but is beaten off by a Crack-strength Allias legion, despite tornadoes flung into the province by Stile's elemental magician Frodo: next season, tornadoes will strike again and remove the defenders, but too late. Further northwest, Stile moves forward, taking the 3-tax Orielle off Allias: the Allied total is now 219. His lieutenant Reynald recruits two elephants and two legions in his home province to fight for the homeland: home territory is very special, yielding double recruitment potential as well as raising the quality of defending forces. Another Stile general, Alaric, recruits camels and garrisons for a flanking effort.
As spring ends, the first major battle of the turn breaks out in Quantara Roo, one of Stile's provinces. Seven Allias legions under the king himself rumble over the border, and are countered by a motley defending horde under Glenda's leader Lakes: four legions, bowmen, wargs, elephants, eagles and dragons! Allias's force is spearheaded by two Elite units (2.5 times basic value) a Crack force (2 times), and the front even in this plains area is just seven wide, so not all the defenders can deploy to full effect. Lakes tries and fails an Oratory spell. Allias hurls a challenge to Lakes to single combat, and is refused: defence morale sinks, disgusted by their leader's cowardice. Allias advances, shrouded by sudden mist, and in vicious fighting destroys the defending bowmen unit, but loses one legion: the defence is battered, but rallies to fight on next season. The decision to rally is determined by numerous factors, mainly the chance of success, though the value of the province is also important, with retreats from home provinces especially hard to force.
The Quantara Roo slugfest roars on. Allias casts the Phantasmal Armies spell, reinforcing his troops with ghostly hosts, and seizes the high ground on the battlefield. In tumultuous fighting, an Allias Legion and a Glenda Warg unit are destroyed, and, more important, the defenders are forced out of their positions and flee from the province. The Allied total is now 212, but a Glenda fleet defeats a neutral Whale province in a two-season battle, bringing it back to 217, versus the 226 needed to win.
Allias strikes again at Stile's home province, flinging in tornadoes to destroy the two elephant units recruited last season. The surviving legion marches on Allias's Trilobia and takes it unopposed: up to 224!
Back at the ranch, Eden recruits two legions and two chariots from his Darkwood home, preparing to sally forth. A small Tantalus force strikes at Cretacia, a 2-tax mountain force, but is beaten off by garrisons.
Far to the east, Samuel's capital is assaulted by Tantalus: fighting rages inconclusively, and the attackers withdraw. In my area, jockeying continues. Eden marches west into Oakhaven, which might have been attacked by Tantalus's second army under Kari, but finds all quiet. The main Tantalus army under Hope invades 2-tax Maplehaven, east of Darkwood, cutting my empire in half: down to 222! Why is Tantalus delaying his attacks? I guess that he is busily casting oratory, phantasmal army and other spells to boost his strength.
The south explodes into action! Eden advances into 7-tax Vinland for the biggest battle of the war, and finds Kari, equipped as expected with phantasmal forces. Here's the full report.
The armies were drawn up into lines of battle as shown here:
Eden stood ready at the head of his thousands. Standing tall with her
warriors was Kari.
The army of Tantalus (#2) used magic to aid their cause. Magical
phantasmal armies fought with Tantalus. Kari, deeming discretion the better
part of valor, refused to encounter Eden.
The forces commanded by Kari (#81) were dismayed by her faint-heartedness. They steadfastly marched on, though with shaken confidence. The opposing
armies strived mightily for the high ground, and Eden obtained an advantage
by arriving there first. Also, he maneuvered his forces against Kari with
excellent tactical judgement and obtained an important tactical superiority.
Out on the left wing, the 25th Legion were arrayed against the Veteran 40th Heavy Cavalry. In this sector, after some fighting, the commander of the
40th Heavy Cavalry waved a white flag and offered his sword to the enemy
commander. But just as he reached out to accept it, he was treacherously
decapitated! At this signal, the 40th Heavy Cavalry charged forward in a
surprise attack. The 25th Legion battled the 40th Heavy Cavalry and could
not hold the line and conducted a fighting retreat.
Within the interior front, the 115th Chariots sang out their fiery battle
hymns, inspired with a fanatical fury by their exalted King. They were
arrayed against the 247th Heavy Cavalry. On this field, the 115th Chariots's opponents held a line along a crest. But the 115th Chariots charged them,
and because there was no counter-charge, the 115th Chariots shoved them off
the crest and gained the advantage. The 115th Chariots battled the 247th
Heavy Cavalry and overcame them with their thundering charge.
In the interior front, the 209th Legion sang out their heroic ballads,
infused with a righteous, fanatical fury by their exalted King. They faced
the Veteran 139th Camel Corps. The 209th Legion fought with the 139th
Camel Corps and aggressively knifed into them.
In the interior front, the 223rd Chariots were arrayed against the Green
233rd Garrison. The 223rd Chariots battled with the 233rd Garrison and
wasted no time in crushing their formation.
In the interior lines, the 221st Legion faced the Green 232nd Garrison.
The 221st Legion fought with the 232nd Garrison and mowed them down like
In the interior front, the 99th Chariots faced the Veteran 248th
Heavy Cavalry. Here, a few of the men of the 99th Chariots indulged in
plundering before the battle had been decided, which weakened their numbers
slightly. The 99th Chariots battled with the 248th Heavy Cavalry and the
fighting here was inconclusive.
Out on the right outside wing, the 48th Legion sang out their fiery battle hymns, inspired with a spirit of fanatical elan by their exalted King. They
faced the Veteran 159th Heavy Cavalry. In this engagement, the 159th
Heavy Cavalry first had to go through a ford. But their enemy attacked
before the crossing operation was completed. The 48th Legion fought the
159th Heavy Cavalry and could neither gain the upper hand nor could the enemy make any progress.
Having found a weak point in the line of the host of Tantalus (#2), a final savage slashing attack defeated their enemy and won the day for Eden. The
40th Heavy Cavalry annihilated the 25th Legion. The 115th Chariots slew the
247th Heavy Cavalry almost to a man. The 223rd Chariots destroyed the 233rd
Garrison. The 221st Legion demolished the 232nd Garrison.
Eden's host concluded the campaign victoriously and conquered the province
of Vinland. Kari (#81) made for the safety of Khurum with her motley army.
Seven more taxes in the bag! At this point the Allies reached 229, over the winning margin for the first time, and I'm starting to feel hopeful as I read the report. I can't understand the delay in Tantalus's attack on Darkwood: Migfox has recruited what garrisons he could, and crouches nervously, trying ineffectively to practice tactics.
In the east, Tantalus pauses in the assault on Samuel and takes a neutral province.
The final season, and all hell breaks loose. Tantalus storms back into Samuel's homeland with a huge force, and shatters the bulk of his army, but the remnants hold on: 'one more turn and he'd have wiped me out' comments Samuel (Marty Horn). Stile plunges into Carbonia, where my Robin had earlier been beaten off by a single legion who has since been destroyed by tornadoes, but Allias's armies react in to fight for the mountains: for once, however, Allias is using green troops, and Stile's crack-led warriors sweep the field: +5 taxes to 234.
Eden's blitzkrieg races on into Khurum, where he finds Kari again. Khurum is desert terrain, so Kari has an edge due to camel units, which can supply her forces better than my conventional units, but again Kari refuses combat and this time Eden captures a key bridge in a double-crossing tactics under a flag of truce. The battle 'blazes with a murderous frenzy', says the report, but step by step Kari is forced back: +1 tax again to 235! We now have 9 votes in hand: Tantalus must take my home province now: will he hang back again?
Flip the report frantically to Migfox. And yes, in the dying hours of the turn, here he comes...
An army coming from the empire of King Tantalus (#2) entered Darkwood, hoping to subjugate that province owned by Eden and made up of extensive Forests. Hope (#94) commanded the invading armies. The defenders were commanded by me. The armies were drawn up into lines of battle as shown here:
Hope stood ready at the head of her thousands. Standing tall with my warriors was I.
The army of Tantalus (#2) used magic to aid their cause. Magical phantasmal armies fought with Tantalus. Hope (#94) gambled on infiltrating some scouts behind the lines to set fire to their supply wagons, and the plan succeeded completely. Also, in this chess match, she appeared to gain the tactical edge.
On the right wing, the Crack 249th Legion faced the 29th Garrison, who sang their heroic ballads, inspired with a holy, fanatical fury by their exalted King. In this sector, the battle pennon of the 29th Garrison was taken in a bold attack. Some men lost heart, yet a few redoubled their efforts to regain their trophy. The 249th Legion fought the 29th Garrison and moved ahead grimly, battled for every foot of their advance.
In the interior front, the 36th Legion were arrayed against the 15th Garrison, who sang their fiery heroic ballads, infused with a spirit of fanatical fury by their exalted King. On this field, the 15th Garrison's commander led his troops badly because he had opium-smoked all through the previous night, not having foreseen a fight with the enemy on the morrow. The 36th Legion fought with the 15th Garrison and was able to make some measure of progress.
On the left flank, the Veteran 183rd Legion were arrayed against the 61st Garrison, who sang out their battle hymns, inspired with a spirit of holy, fanatical elan by their exalted King. Here, the men of the 183rd Legion had lost sleep because of the local food and fell slightly ill. They went into battle at a slight disadvantage. The 183rd Legion battled the 61st Garrison and the fighting here was indecisive.
Having found a vulnerable point in the line of the host of Eden, a final savage thrust finished off their opponent and won the day for Hope. The 249th Legion annihilated the 29th Garrison. The 184th Legion pursued the enemy and destroyed the 15th Garrison.
Smashed! So the Pagans won the day after all! No, wait, one more message from Migfox...
Although Hope's forces were triumphant, I rallied my forces and decided to contest Darkwood.
...and here's the final result:
Glenda 235 votes
Pagans 192 votes
Neutral 23 votes
...crowning Glenda with exactly 9 votes in hand. Tantalus and Allias get consolation prizes of an office each, and I in fact emerge empty-handed, but with the satisfaction of having organized the winning alliance for my fellow-Good Queen Glenda.
In post-mortems, the Pagans agreed they had played the final turn too cautiously: my capital should have been attacked twice, as one more push would certainly have dislodged the battered Migfox, and Tantalus should have ensured the fall of Samuel's home province; in the same way, Allias failed to press home his advantage after beating the allies at Quantara Roo. But the turn illustrates the nerve-wracking nature of the game: there were numerous little events making each battle sway in the balance, and umpteen decisions by each player could have made a difference. If Ningarl's flood had worked... if Kari had helped Hope attack Darkwood... if Eden hadn't counterattacked... if... if... if...
Within two days of the game ending, five of us were already signed up for our next game!